Notes: Phil says cellphones 'getting out of hand'

By Doug FergusonJune 5, 2012, 10:51 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – The biggest distraction Jack Nicklaus ever faced on the golf course was from a helicopter.

It's an old story, but Nicklaus chuckled while recalling the time he lost his concentration when a chopper flew over Cherry Hills in the 1960 U.S. Open, and he three-putted for bogey. Two years later, Nicklaus had gone three rounds without a three-putt in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont when a helicopter approached as he played the first hole of the final round.

''I reverted and thought right back about it,'' Nicklaus said over the weekend. ''It was the only three-putt I had in the whole tournament.''

The issue at Memorial was cellphones, which contributed to Phil Mickelson withdrawing after an opening round of 79. Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler mentioned the vast number of fans taking pictures with their phones, to the point players had to back off their shots.

Mickelson is not afraid to send a message to the PGA Tour - in this case, literally.

According to four people with direct knowledge, Mickelson sent a text message to Tour commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield Village suggesting that a lack of policing fans with cellphones was getting out of hand.

Mickelson withdrawing for what he called ''mental fatigue'' is not a Tour violation. Players can withdraw for any reason after completing a round.

Using a phone to send the commissioner a text is another matter, though the Tour doesn't disclose any disciplinary actions.

If nothing else, one official said it got the Tour's attention.

Mickelson doesn't mind taking criticism, even for pulling out of Nicklaus' tournament. He skipped the Tour Championship during a debate over the length of the Tour season and decided not to play a FedEx Cup playoff event in the inaugural year to protest the inequity of the pro-am policy.

Those close to the tournament host said Nicklaus wasn't bothered by Mickelson's decision to leave and never brought it up.

Last year, the Tour began allowing fans to bring phones to the tournament so long as photos weren't taken during competition. There are designated areas to make calls. That's not going to stop fans from taking pictures, and most annoying are the people who don't switch the phones to silent.

Banning the policy isn't an option. The Tour is moving forward in the digital age with programs to enhance the gallery's experience. Plus, the increase in attendance has been tangible this year. Nowadays, if fans can't bring their phones, they're more likely not to come at all.

The solution is to add security or volunteers to the two or three marquee pairings and to take away phones from fans caught taking pictures (giving them a claim check to retrieve the phone at the end of the day). That's what happened on Friday, and there were no big incidents the rest of the way.

Q-SCHOOL PROGRESS: The Tour is trying to move quickly to identify the best model to combine PGA Tour players and Nationwide Tour players for a three-tournament series that will determine who gets full PGA Tour cards.

This is the last year for Q-School. Starting in 2013, all PGA Tour cards will be awarded through a three-event series.

Three ideas were presented at a Player Advisory Council meeting last week at the Memorial, though progress was best described by Stewart Cink.

''It's very much fight and fall back,'' he said. ''I'm a little frustrated the way the PAC is going on it. It seems like we come to a meeting, and everyone has new ideas. The staff has done what it can do. But the players have new ideas every meeting, and we're not getting anywhere.''

The three-tournament series combines the top 75 on the Nationwide money list with Nos. 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour money list. Fifty cards would be distributed. Q-School held late in the year would be only for Nationwide Tour access.

The Tour brought two proposals to the Memorial.

One of them is not going anywhere - using a formula to convert PGA Tour earnings to Nationwide Tour earnings because the three tournaments would be $1 million purses. That was quickly dismissed.

The other Tour plan was for everyone to start from scratch except for the top 25 on the Nationwide money list, who would be assigned prize money depending on their position to give them a head start. The top 15 on the Nationwide list would be assured of getting one of the 50 cards.

The PAC offered a third option: The top 15 on the Nationwide would be guaranteed cards and would have a separate money list during the three-tournament series to determine their priority ranking. Everyone else would start at scratch and compete on a separate money list for 35 cards.

The Tour hopes for something from the policy board meeting at the end of the month during the AT&T National.

''We're about halfway there,'' said Steve Stricker, who is on the board. ''We determined there's going to be something different, but that something different isn't close yet. It's tough. No matter what system you come up, everybody pokes holes in it. We're trying to make sure we think about every possible person or category.''

The key is to keep it simple. Golf already has too much math.

''That's what it's getting down to,'' Stricker said. ''Let your score be the judge where you're going to go.''

What has emerged over two months of study is that the tour is leaning toward automatic PGA Tour cards for the top 15 on the Nationwide Tour.

Now, the top 25 on that money list graduate to the big leagues.

DONALD'S ROAD: Luke Donald won an NCAA title at Northwestern, earned his degree, met the woman who became his wife and eventually rose to No. 1 in the world. His path, personally and professionally, nearly went a different direction.

''I knew nothing about the American college system,'' the Englishman said last weekend. ''I thought I was going to go to Stanford. They had one scholarship, and it was between me and this other guy named Jimmy Lee. (Stanford coach) Wally Goodwin could only get one of us in.''

Stanford went with Lee. Donald went to Northwestern.

''They told me it was academic stuff,'' Donald said. ''I would have thought Northwestern had a high standard.''

Donald does not know what became of Lee, though he did mention him and the story of how he got to Northwestern during a recent trip to his alma mater to be honored.

''My biggest 'thank you' goes to Jimmy Lee,'' he said. ''If I got the nod, who knows?''

ISHIKAWA TO AMERICA? Already a special temporary member, Ryo Ishikawa is virtually a lock to earn his full Tour card for next year.

He tied for ninth at the Memorial and earned $167,400, pushing his season earnings to $763,631. He is exempt into the U.S. Open and British Open and is guaranteed to make about $36,000 even if he finishes last in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

To become a full member next year, Ishikawa has to finish the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list. The player at No. 125 has finished at more than $800,000 only once in Tour history, and that was in 2008.

DIVOTS: U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy needs someone to play golf with at the U.S. Open. The U.S. Golf Association typically puts the defending champion with the U.S. Amateur champion and British Open champion. Kelly Kraft is ineligible because he turned pro, and Darren Clarke withdrew with an injury. Before Clarke withdrew, USGA executive director Mike Davis considered putting Graeme McDowell in the group. The pairings will be announced this week. ... Tiger Woods has led the field in greens in regulation in both of his Tour wins this year. He has led in GIR in 20 out of his 70 stroke-play wins on Tour. ... I.K. Kim has become a Special Olympics Ambassador. She presented Special Olympics a donation of $100,000, half her earnings from the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Nearly half of Tiger Woods' wins on Tour (36 of 73) have come on six courses - Torrey Pines (7), Bay Hill (7), Firestone (7), Muirfield Village (5), Doral (5) and Cog Hill (5).

FINAL WORD: ''I think the Open is where most people come unglued. I don't think there's any championship as nerve-racking as the U.S. Open.'' – Johnny Miller.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).