Notes Problems with the Players Lefty and Ollie

By Doug FergusonJanuary 26, 2011, 4:48 am
Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Rory McIlroy won’t be at The Players Championship this year, making his intentions known in Twitter banter with Lee Westwood, who said last week he wouldn’t be going to golf’s richest tournament, either.

“I’ve decided no holes at sawgrass is better than my usual 36!” McIlroy tweeted, referring to his missed cut last year.

It appeared to be another slap at the PGA Tour from two European players who have decided not to take U.S. cards. Westwood said it would not make travel sense for him to go to The Players Championship without being able to play the week before in Quail Hollow because he is limited to 10 events on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy hinted two months ago he might skip The Players, mainly because he doesn’t feel he plays well on the TPC Sawgrass.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said he was disappointed, but not troubled by the decisions.

“I feel we’ll have an excellent field again,” Finchem said Tuesday. “It’s a premier tournament on a great golf course with a great pedigree of champions, the highest purse of the year. We’ll have a fantastic tournament. My only message to those guys is, you’re always welcome, and we’d love to have you back.”

There have been some suggestions in recent weeks that all tours should abandon policies that restrict how often players can compete if they are among the top 10 or even top 50 in the world.

Finchem sees no need for a change, and he doesn’t feel the PGA Tour is hurt by European players – Westwood, McIlroy and PGA champion Martin Kaymer are the most visible – who don’t join the U.S. tour.

“Candidly, I’m disappointed about players not playing here … because it helps our field,” he said. “But on the other hand, I feel like we have the right mix of international players on the tour. I see no need for us to have more international players. I also feel strongly that the European Tour needs to be a strong tour. It’s a very good thing for golf globally.

“They have struggled more than we have with this (economic) downturn,” he said. “They’ve had to morph their schedule into the Middle East and now Asia to find markets to support their tour. I applaud that. Candidly, it’s probably more important on the European Tour that some of those players play over there than it is for us that they play here.”


SINKING SINGH: The biggest news from the latest Official World Golf Ranking might have been found far from the top. Vijay Singh slipped to No. 105 in the world, the first time in more than 21 years the Fijian has not been in the top 100.

To last that long among the top 100 is an astounding testament to consistency and longevity.

Singh was No. 102 in the world on Nov. 12, 1989, just a few days after the Berlin Wall began coming down. He was a 26-year-old rookie on the European Tour. Rickie Fowler had just celebrated his first birthday.

Singh, who turns 48 next month, has not won since the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008 that carried him to the FedEx Cup.

“I’m just going to take it one tournament at a time and try to get better each week,” Singh told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the Sony Open, where he tied for 57th. “At this point in my career, it’s all I can do.”


LEFTY AND OLLIE: Phil Mickelson is not alone in his praise for Jose Maria Olazabal, the two-time Masters champion who was selected as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. Asked to explain what he meant by calling the Spaniard a “class act,” Mickelson shared a story.

They were part of a five-man playoff at the former BellSouth Classic outside Atlanta in 2005, but only because Olazabal missed a short birdie putt on the final hole in regulation. On the first extra hole, Olazabal had a 4-foot birdie putt to win, and he missed again.

“If you remember, Jose Maria throughout his career is one of the best putters the game has ever seen, so to see him miss a second one was shocking,” Mickelson said.

Lefty went on to win the playoff, then headed to Augusta National as the defending champion.

At the Champions Dinner, Mickelson served for dessert some vanilla ice cream with several of Olazabal’s favorite toppings.

“As he was scooping up the last bit, he kind of looked at me and said, ‘Thank you,”’ Mickelson said. “I said, ‘Are we even?’ He says, ‘No, no. You still owe me one. I gave you two.’ I think it’s his ability to have a sense of humor about some of the tough times, as well as be able to take the joy of his success that has made Jose Maria a class act and a guy that you enjoy being around.”


RILEY REBOUNDS: Chris Riley played in the Tour Championship back-to-back years, and followed that in 2004 by making the Ryder Cup team. But he hasn’t been the same since, failing to keep his card for five straight years until he finished 90th on the money list in 2010.

He believes he is getting his game back to where it was. His concern, of all things, is his putting.

“I don’t putt like I used to,” Riley said. “I putt scared, like tentatively, instead of letting it go.”

Riley spent the offseason watching old videotape of himself putting, hopeful of finding a key. What he noticed was a lack of fear.

“I didn’t care. I just rolled it to the hole,” he said. “I think the older you get, it’s like, ‘Oh, this putt is big. I don’t want to blow it past the hole.’ Whereas before, I would putt like I did when I was a kid.”

Riley just turned 37, although he still talks like a kid.

“I’ve been out here 13 years. Can you believe that? Am I old? That’s a long time, right?” he said, not waiting for answers. “A couple of years I only played 17 times. But that’s like a full schedule for Tiger, right?”


DIVOTS: After being at Loch Lomond for the last 15 years, the Scottish Open is moving to Castle Stuart Golf Links, which is located between Inverness and Nairn in the Scottish Highlands. … It didn’t take long for David Fay to find part-time work since retiring as executive director of the USGA. He is joining Golf Digest to write a monthly column starting in April. … The Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico entered the Guinness Book of World Records by hosting the largest golf lesson at El Camaleon Golf Club. The tournament hosted 1,073 people on Sunday for one of its monthly “Golf PARa Todos” sessions, which translates to “Golf For Everyone.” Guinness officials attended to see the group lesson beat the previous mark of 1,032 people last October in Beijing. … Lorena Ochoa has renewed her endorsement contract with Ping to serve as its global representative, even though she retired from the LPGA last year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Americans had won 11 straight official PGA Tour events until Jhonottan Vegas of Venezuela won the Bob Hope Classic.


FINAL WORD: “The reason why I changed putters is because I ain’t been making nothing.” – Boo Weekley.

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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.