Notes Keeping the party in Maui small

By Doug FergusonJanuary 10, 2010, 4:10 am
SBS Championship

KAPALUA, Hawaii – The 28 players at Kapalua matches the record for the smallest field at the season-opening SBS Championship since it moved to Maui in 1999.

Too small?

That’s been a topic of debate for several years.

It started when Tiger Woods stopped coming to the season opener in 2006, citing a need to spend time with his ailing father. Phil Mickelson, who never has been a fan of the Plantation Course, stopped playing in 2002. Among other things, he mentioned that the wind messed up his swing early in the year.

The field looked even less appealing the years Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia failed to qualify by winning a PGA Tour event. That led to talk about a couple of options. One was to give PGA Tour winners a two-year exemption to Kapalua, just as winners get a two-year exemption on Tour. The other was to invite all past champions of the SBS Championship.

The latter would mean Els, Garcia, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and David Duval would be eligible for Kapalua this week. Along with a few others, such as Stuart Appleby and Daniel Chopra, the field would have 35 players this year (assuming Garcia showed up– he didn’t last year), and growing as the years went on.

The two-year exemption might double the size of the field, considering only nine players (including Woods and Mickelson) won tournaments in consecutive years. Considering a tough economic time, that would mean the tournament would have to pay for twice as many rooms at the Ritz-Carlton, along with arranging more courtesy cars and other perks.

Players are treated better at Kapalua than any other PGA Tour event.

To include past champions would diminish the elite feeling of a tournament in which there is only one way to qualify. Players talk all the time about winning not meaning as much as it once did, especially with so much emphasis on the world ranking and how volatile the FedEx Cup playoffs can be. This year, someone could have captured the FedEx Cup without ever winning a tournament.

“I think it’s great the way it is,” Steve Stricker said. “It’s one of the very first things I think about when I win the tournament, is that you get to start the year here. Not everybody feels that way. I think if you start including other categories … that diminishes the value of winning. It gives a guy a little bonus for winning and gets him started in the right direction for the new year.”

The field this year includes all four major champions, along with Stricker, Geoff Ogilvy, Kenny Perry, Zach Johnson and Sean O’Hair. It doesn’t have Woods and Mickelson, who prefer to start their seasons later. They move the needle more than any other players. Is having a few extra champions, such as Els and Singh, going to make that much difference?

Probably not.

Making the field too big also could mean two-tee starts in threesomes, which is never ideal. Players essentially have the golf course to themselves when they want to practice with so few other players.

Yes, they get a head start on the year with $5.1 million up for grabs and FedEx Cup points. They earned it. They won.

“I like the winners only from the previous year,” Ogilvy said. “It’s a rare year when you don’t have Els and Garcia. It’s a really good perk for guys who win tournaments. It’s always been this way. I think it’s pretty good. It’s like the Tour Championship is top 30 (on the money list). If someone drops out, No. 31 doesn’t get in. I think there’s something nice about that.”

HAWAII SWING: Of the 28 players in the SBS Championship on Maui, all but eight of them are going over to Oahu for the Sony Open next week, the first full-field tournament of the season.

Those headed home: Paul Casey, Geoff Ogilvy, Kenny Perry, Nick Watney, Heath Slocum, Michael Bradley, Ryan Moore and Martin Laird. Casey is the defending champion the following week at Abu Dhabi, which essentially is halfway around the world. Ogilvy also is playing in that European Tour event.

Perry, who also has Middle East plans, is skipping Sony after doing some homework.

“I’ve played in 20 times and my best is like 32nd,” Perry said with a laugh.

Not quite, but he was close. Since his rookie season in 1987, Perry has played 14 times at Waialae and his best result was a tie for 16th in 1998. He was 16-under par and finished 12 shots behind John Huston.

Among veterans who are coming over to Honolulu for one week are Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, David Toms, Davis Love III, Justin Rose and Luke Donald.

ADVANTAGE, KUCHAR: Matt Kuchar won two trophies last year, one a little more meaningful than the other, both impressive.

Kuchar won the Turning Stone Resort Championship for his second career victory, a beautiful silver trophy topped by a tree. He also has a silver ball, even though it was a consolation prize.

And it was in tennis.

Kuchar’s wife, Sybi, played tennis at Georgia Tech and they married long after they left college. Kuchar played tennis as a kid until he devoted himself to golf, although he still has some game.

The couple decided in October to play in the U.S. Tennis Association’s National Husband-Wife Championship on clay courts in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., winning the consolation draw.

“We lost in the first round to the eventual champions, went to the consolation bracket and won the next four matches,” he said.

His wife left Georgia Tech and taught tennis in California, and after they began dating, they started playing more.

“I thought it was fun for the two of us,” Kuchar said. “And we’ve had a great time. It’s kind of a fun activity the two of us can play at equal level. She’s a better player when we play matches. I’m kind of scrappy enough in playing a style I don’t think many people enjoy. I just cover the net with every opportunity. She wears me out with baseline rallies.”

Kuchar also played in the nationals on grass at Newport, R.I., and his brother-in-law talked him into playing the open doubles division.

“I told him I don’t belong there,” he said. “We got a good draw. Her brother is an incredible player and we lost in the finals.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.