Notes Miller not ruling out Tiger this week

By Doug FergusonMay 12, 2011, 2:41 am
The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – This time, Johnny Miller came to Tiger Woods’ defense.

At least he tried.

Miller, the two-time major champion and NBC Sports analyst who has been critical of Woods over the years, said on a conference call Wednesday that he wouldn’t rule Woods out at The Players Championship because of his iron play.

His comments followed more blistering comments from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

“I’m going to take the positive spin here,” Miller said. “I really believe that if he has a good first round and plays a little bit like did at the British Open and sort of deals down and hits a long of stingers and just gets the ball in play … he hasn’t lost his iron game. Nobody gives him that credit. He still is a good iron player. It’s just that other things aren’t working out quite as well.”

Woods has not finished better than eighth at the TPC Sawgrass since winning here 10 years ago.

“The bottom line is that he could be a factor,” Miller said. “Of all the places … this is the unlikely one, but this course is unpredictable, so you never know.”

Chamblee said there was a “really good chance” Woods will be gone before Sunday. Woods is playing for the first time since the Masters, skipping last week because of a minor injury to his left knee and Achilles’.

“It’s very likely that he’s going to re-injure himself playing this course and maybe just hobble out here,” Chamblee said. “It’s kind of sad. We watched Tiger age so rapidly before our eyes and maybe right before our eyes we’ll watch Tiger Woods play where he’s literally shuffling off the course.”

CLARK TO PLAY: Defending champion Tim Clark noticed enough of an improvement in his left elbow to start hitting balls over the weekend, and he plans to compete in The Players Championship.

Clark was runner-up at the Sony Open in January, but upon returning home, noticed a problem in his elbow. The only tournament he has played since then was the Masters, where he missed the cut. 

“I’m just really excited to be here,” Clark said. “I feel like I’m going to be able to play, which two weeks ago I wasn’t sure if that would be the case. So just really happy to be able to play.”

Clark estimated his strength at no more than 80 percent, still a big improvement from recent weeks. He still feels a twinge in the elbow, although he feels good enough to play.

Exactly what caused the injury remains a mystery.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to pinpoint what happened,” he said. “Looking back at the tournament at Sony, I really didn’t play very well, particularly off the tee. I was hitting low, duck hooks off the tee, and I just couldn’t figure it out. I think something was already going on, although I didn’t feel the pain.”

CADDIE CONTEST: Anthony Knight won the “Closest to the Hole” contest among caddies Wednesday on the 17th hole. 

Knight, who works for Aaron Baddeley, hit a 9-iron from 130 yards to just inside 10 feet.

Their were plenty of laughs, a little pressure, balls that went everywhere and a day filled with entertainment. That included Steve Williams, the caddie for Tiger Woods. 

Williams took a 7-iron and hit a towering draw, as his boss sat on a bench and said, “Bite! Bite! Bite!”

It did, landing on the back of the green, then spinning viciously back down the slope and off the front of the green into the water. Williams, in mock anger, tossed the club some 20 yards off the tee, a few yards from the edge of the water.

“That almost went in the water,” Woods said. Then after a pause, he added with a laugh, “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

That reference was to the 2006 Ryder Cup, when Williams stooped to dip a towel in the water at The K Club, lost his balance and saw a 9-iron fall into the pond. Woods won his match without it.

WOODLAND’S WEAPON: Gary Woodland is among those at The Players Championship for the first time, and it didn’t take him long to realize his awesome length isn’t a big advantage.

He only plans to hit driver on three holes.

Even so, the Innisbrook winner made an equipment change he thinks will help. Woodland had Titleist make him a strong 3-wood, which he plans to use on most other tees. This one has a 12.5-degree loft, compared with the 15-degree loft on his regular 3-wood.

The difference is about 20 yards. Woodland said the range is 280 yards up to 300 yards.

It’s a big week for Woodland, who is No. 48 in the world and No. 8 on the PGA Tour money list. He needs to be in the top 50 in the world ranking or the top 10 in PGA Tour money after the Colonial next week to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

FEAR THE BEARD: Lucas Glover began growing a beard in the offseason with too much time on his hand, and it has become quite a topic. Earlier this year, Justin Rose took a picture of him and posted it on Twitter, adding, “Winning the U.S. Open. So easy even a caveman can do it.”

Glover brought even more attention to it by winning the Wells Fargo Championship last week, his first title since the 2009 U.S. Open.

He says he has received positive comments in person, not so much from his friends. How long it will stay remains to be seen. Despite stifling temperatures this week, Glover says it hasn’t been too itchy.

And he doesn’t need his friends telling him how it looks.

“I get scared in the mirror every morning,” he said. “That’s enough.”

PECKING ORDER: Lee Westwood, the No. 1 player in the world who is not at the TPC Sawgrass this week, once referred to The Players Championship as about the eighth-most important event in golf, behind the majors and World Golf Championships.

It’s understandable, as Westwood is not a PGA Tour member.

Geoff Ogilvy believes that would be the case for several international players who don’t belong to the PGA Tour, although he thinks it would be hard to find a tournament that ranks higher than The Players at No. 5 (behind four majors).

If there were, Ogilvy would pick the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

“Akron is the only tournament in the world that maybe has an argument of being more historic and more important than this one,” he said. “Everybody won it who’s supposed to win it. And it was a world championship before the World Golf Championships.”

FINAL WORD: “Nobody owns this course.” – NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller.

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.