Notes: Job security a 'big deal'; Horses for courses

By Doug FergusonMarch 13, 2013, 12:30 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Scott Brown feels as if he grew up at Augusta National.

He stayed with his grandfather, whose house was about a half-mile away from one of the main gates to the home of The Masters. They had season badges, and Brown for years camped out behind the 16th green. He missed out on the U-turn chip by Tiger Woods that hung on the lip for a second and dropped in 2005.

''That was the first year I didn't go,'' he said. ''I was old enough to realize those galleries were so big that I couldn't see anything.''

Then again, that was the first year Brown was invited to play Augusta National, one week before the 2005 Masters.

So if anyone had reason to be disappointed that not every PGA Tour victory comes with an invitation to the Masters, it would be the 29-year-old Brown.

But he's not.

''It doesn't bother me,'' Brown said Tuesday. ''If I play well, that gets me in what I want to get in. It's a freedom thing for me. Job security is a big deal.''

Brown was hoping to get into a playoff Sunday in the Puerto Rico Open when he was one shot behind Fabian Gomez playing the par-5 18th, with Gomez in the fairway. What happened next is still hard for him to believe. Gomez hit into an awkward spot in the bunker, flew over the green into another bunker and made bogey. Brown laced a 3-iron to just short of the green, chipped up to 4 feet and made the birdie putt to win.

Augusta National doesn't give invitations to winners of Tour events held the same week as a major or World Golf Championship.

Playing in the Masters is still his dream. His job is reality.

Brown was 148th on the money list a year ago in his first season on Tour. With a short season, he figured he would be playing on the Web.com Tour this year, except that he already was in Chile for a Web.com event and Puerto Rico was on the way home.

Even playing the final hole, he felt he had nothing to lose. Second place wouldn't offer enough FedEx Cup points to qualify for the playoffs.

Now, his year has taken a dramatic change.

He is playing this week at the Tampa Bay Championship, next week at Bay Hill and the week after the Masters at Hilton Head. He's also in The Players Championship in May and makes his major debut - unless he qualifies for the U.S. Open - at the PGA Championship in August.

''It's a relief more than anything, knowing you can win out here,'' Brown said.


HORSES FOR COURSES: With his two-shot win at the Cadillac Championship, Tiger Woods now has won 40 times - or 53 percent of his PGA Tour wins - on seven courses.

Exactly what that means is a matter of interpretation.

One might suggest Woods only plays well on the golf courses he likes, which would not make him different from many other players. Phil Mickelson has won 19 of his 41 titles on the West Coast Swing. Mark O'Meara won nearly one-third of his titles at Pebble Beach.

Then again, Woods has won 27 percent of all his PGA Tour events, meaning he wins at an absurd rate, and he wins anywhere when he's playing well.

While he is a five-time winner at Muirfield Village, Woods once went five straight times without winning the Memorial. He won for the fourth time at Doral on Sunday, but he had not been in serious contention the last four times he played. Woods also is a four-time winner at Augusta National. He has not won his last seven tries.


ZACH GOES GLOBAL: Zach Johnson will lose a distinction in May when he plays the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea. Johnson in the only American from the top 50 in the world ranking who has not played anywhere overseas except the British Open over the last two years.

And he was aware of that.

''I haven't gone overseas that much,'' Johnson said. ''It fits in my schedule. It's a good opportunity and I want to do more of it. I don't want to be labeled as the guy who won't leave the country. For one, it's inaccurate.''

Johnson has had plenty of chances, especially after his 2007 win at the Masters. His son was 3 months old when he won his first major, and he had another son in the summer of 2010 and a third child last November. The time to travel was at the end of the year when he was tired and wanted to be with his family.

''It's never really meshed with my schedule,'' he said. ''I'm taking Charlotte (Quail Hollow) off for the first time, so I'll go to Korea.''

Johnson said the one European Tour event he has always wanted to play is the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

''But it's the same week as Colonial, and I can't not play there,'' he said. Johnson is defending this year at Colonial, a tournament he has won twice.


AUSSIE MASTERS: The Australian Masters typically is played on the sand belt courses of Melbourne, perhaps the finest stretch of golf courses in any city in the world. It gets even better this year by celebrating its 35th anniversary by going to the composite course at Royal Melbourne for the first time.

Royal Melbourne has hosted the Presidents Cup twice, and it formerly had the Heineken Classic, where Ernie Els won.

The Australian Masters most recently has been held at Kingston Heath and Victoria.

IMG is running the tournament, and said it was committed to bring at least three of the top 25 players in the world.


PADRAIG'S SPECS: Padraig Harrington has been wearing glasses for the last month, and now he's wearing them on the golf course. The most peculiar part of this look is that the three-time major champion technically doesn't even need glasses.

''I've got 20/20 vision without glasses,'' he said. ''But I have struggled for a number of years with reading the greens. What I see and what it is are not the same thing.''

Harrington's eyes are too dry to wear contact lenses, so he's opted for eye glasses. He was on his fifth pair at Doral, and he's getting closer to the right frame.

The trouble for Harrington is that he grew up with a slight right-to-left bias with how he reads. After a number of laser surgeries, his bias is now left-to-right.

''I'll wear them all the time to relax my eyes,'' Harrington said. ''Your eyes change as you get older, and certainly mine have. This is better to read the greens. Because if you can't read the greens, it leads to indecision. And indecision leads to bad putting.''


DIVOTS: The women's world ranking, which began in 2006, now has added players from the Ladies European Tour Access Series and the China LPGA Tour into its list. The addition will create more opportunities for golfers around the world to qualify for the Olympics in 2016. ... James Dodson was won the USGA's Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for ''American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf.'' Dodson also won the award in 2004 for a book on Hogan. ... Brian Gay is the only player to compete in every Tampa Bay Championship since the tournament began in 2000. His best finish is a tie for fourth in 2007.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Lee Westwood dropped out of the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since October 2009.

INFLATED STAT OF THE WEEK: Steve Stricker has made $1.82 million in three tournaments this year. Arnold Palmer made $1,861,857 in 734 career tournaments.


FINAL WORD: ''When a course is short, they end up having tricky pin positions. This is what we'll all be worried about at Merion. We prefer a big, solid golf course made easier rather than a short golf course made trickier.'' - Padraig Harrington.

 

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.