Notes: Webb faces uphill battle for Olympic dream

By Doug FergusonJune 29, 2016, 1:43 am

AKRON, Ohio – One of Karrie Webb's greatest thrills was carrying the Olympic torch on the eve of the Sydney Games in 2000. She had a cousin who played for the Australian women's basketball team in the 1984 Olympics, and she has been a huge fan since then.

It's the reason Webb, a Hall of Famer with nothing left to prove, keeps a full schedule at age 41. Golf is back in the Olympics for the first time in 112 years, and Australia's greatest female player wants to be there.

But in a sudden shift in the world ranking, Webb now faces an uphill battle.

Minjee Lee is the highest-ranked Aussie at No. 13 and a winner in Hawaii this year. Webb appeared safe to earn the second spot until Su Oh was runner-up at the Kingsmill Championship and then tied for eighth in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Sahalee.

Oh is No. 42 in the world, while Webb has slipped to No. 60.

Webb is playing the Cambia Portland Classic this week (Oh is not playing), and the final tournament before the July 11 deadline to qualify is the U.S. Women's Open.

''The Olympics is pretty much why I'm still playing full time, so I guess that's a pretty big driving factor for me to be working as hard as I am,'' Webb said in March.

She started the year by finishing third in the Women's Australian Open, but has not had a top-10 finish since then. Oh, who won the Australian Ladies Masters in 2015, is helped by being an LPGA rookie, meaning she has fewer tournaments on her ledger that gives her a built-in advantage.

Lee and Oh, both 20, were on the Australian team that won the World Amateur Team title in 2014. They also were members of the Karrie Webb Scholarship team while growing up in Australia's junior golf program.

MICKELSON IN THE FALL: Phil Mickelson hasn't played a domestic PGA Tour event in the fall since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. He was on the Ryder Cup Task Force that came up with a new points formula, and the fall events were left out because Mickelson said it would be giving ''the bottom half of the tour'' a head start.

He will be joining them in October.

The Safeway Open, the first event of the 2016-17 season, announced Tuesday that Mickelson will play at Silverado Resort in Napa, California, on Oct. 13-16. It will be the first time Mickelson plays a PGA Tour event in America since 2005 in Las Vegas.

The Safeway Open is in its first year as title sponsor, replacing

''When we made the decision to be the title sponsor of the Safeway Open, Phil is one of the players we hoped would play and support our new event,'' said Bob Miller, chairman and CEO of Albertsons Companies, the parent company of Safeway.

Mickelson referred to Miller and the grocery company as ''one of our best PGA Tour sponsors for over 25 years.''

''Amy and I love going to Napa and now we have an even better reason to spend a week with the players and their wives,'' he said.

The Safeway Open is run by the golf event management division of Lagardere Sports and Entertainment, which also manages Mickelson.

HURLEY'S CHOICE: Billy Hurley III won the Quicken Loans National on Sunday and earned a spot in the British Open. That left him in a tough spot because his sister, Megan, is to be married in Virginia on the Saturday of the Open.

It wasn't a tough decision.

Hurley called R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers to tell him he would not be coming to Royal Troon.

''I wouldn't miss my sister's wedding for the world,'' Hurley said Tuesday. ''And I think that at this point in time for me and my family and the trajectory of our family, it's very important for me to be there to support her and her husband.''

The Hurley family has been through a lot in the last year. He sought public help a year ago at the Quicken Loans National finding his father, who had gone missing. His father was located, but then died of a self-inflicted gunshot a short time later. Weddings are emotional enough.

''It was a pretty easy decision at the end of the day,'' Hurley said.

He said the topic didn't come up on Sunday night. Hurley was still trying to soak up his first PGA Tour victory. He played a practice round at Firestone on Tuesday and called her from the golf course.

''She started crying,'' he said. ''So she was pretty thrilled that I'll be there.''

TIGER'S SON: Tiger Woods was asked during the telecast of his Quicken Loans National if he was close to returning, but before Jim Nantz of CBS Sports could finish the question, Woods replied, ''Close to what? Yeah, I'm close to beating Charlie?''

That would be his son, Charlie. And there might be some truth to that.

The 7-year-old son of the 14-time major champion tied for second in the Boys 7 division of a U.S. Kids Golf event. It was his first tournament.

''It was pretty neat, very special to get to watch that,'' Woods said.

Charlie Woods shot a 55 in the nine-hole event at Mayacoo Lakes in West Palm Beach, Florida. He finished five shots behind Henry Crowe.

WORLD CUP: Bubba Watson loves playing for the flag, and he would really like to do that three times this year.

He is set to qualify for the Olympics and said he was committed to going to Rio. He is No. 6 in the Ryder Cup standings and has played on every team since 2010. The tough one might be the World Cup at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

Jordan Spieth is the highest-ranked American and can choose whoever he wants as a partner. Watson is No. 3 on the American list behind Dustin Johnson. Spieth and Johnson have not indicated whether they plan to play, although Spieth will be Down Under for the Australian Open.

''I'm pleading my way into the World Cup,'' Watson said.

Spieth said how he feels that late in the year depends on whether he stays in Australia for an extra week to play in the World Cup.

''I don't know what my schedule is going to be right after the Ryder Cup, if I'll play before the Aussie Open,'' Spieth said. ''There's a chance I'd play one of the Fall Series events. ... I'll probably have to make a decision somewhat soon on the World Cup.''

Meanwhile, Jason Day and Shane Lowry both plan to play in the World Cup. They withdrew from the Olympics on Tuesday citing concerns over the Zika virus.

DIVOTS: Keegan Bradley picked up his first victory of the year on Tuesday when he teamed with fellow New Englander Jon Curran for a playoff victory in the CVS Charity Classic over Bill Haas and Billy Andrade. ... The PGA Tour is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross to help those affected by the West Virginia floods. The flooding forced The Greenbrier Classic to be canceled next week. ... The PGA Tour Champions is off this week, but not John Daly. He is playing the Barracuda Championship, only his second PGA Tour start of the year. ... The 61-man field at the Bridgestone Invitational is the smallest since 2001, when the World Golf Championship was only for current Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup players and had a 39-man field.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Only 13 players in the World Golf Championship at Firestone are eligible and still planning to play in the Olympics.

FINAL WORD: ''There's not going to be an asterisk, I don't think. You go win a gold medal, you're going to win a gold medal.'' - Jason Day, on the weakened field at the Olympics with 10 players having withdrawn.

Getty Images

McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

Getty Images

Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.