Tiger all the talk at Chevron World Challenge

By Doug FergusonDecember 2, 2009, 6:48 am
Chevron World ChallengeTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – His interview over, Padraig Harrington was leaving the media center at the Chevron World Challenge when he passed Lee Westwood and offered some tips.

“Would you like to know what questions are being asked?” Harrington said.

Westwood smiled and said, “I imagine there’s only one.”

Tiger Woods’ presence is larger than ever, even if he isn’t coming to his own tournament. As most players were getting ready to practice Tuesday, TV sets were tuned to a press conference in Florida, where state troopers declared the investigation into his Nov. 27 early morning crash was over and that Woods would be cited for careless driving and fined $164.

Then came an Us Weekly story with a woman claiming to have text messages and voice mails from an affair with Woods that began more than two years ago. That magazine cover story comes less than a week after the National Enquirer published a story alleging that Woods had been seeing New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, who has denied it.

“There’s lot of questions that we’re never going to get the answers to, and the fact that he is the No. 1 sports star in the world means that there is going to be a higher profile to those things,” Harrington said. “It is what it is because of how good he is, and he’ll have to deal with it. I don’t know exactly what the truth of it all is, and the thing is, I don’t think anybody is ever going to know exactly what’s gone on. And that’s probably a good thing.

“But it won’t stop people from guessing and questioning things like that,” he said. “That’s human nature. We’re intrigued by other people’s lives.”

Most players, even those who are close to Woods, have not heard from him and don’t know what to think, much less say.

“I haven’t talked to him,” said Mark O’Meara, who took him under his wing when Woods turned pro at age 20 in 1996.

Steve Stricker went undefeated with Woods as his partner at the Presidents Cup, and their wives walked together in some of those matches. He usually gets a quick answer when he sends a text message from Woods. This time, not a peep.

“Since I haven’t heard back, I imagine he’s in – I don’t know the right word – a lot of pain,” Stricker said. “And I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know what it’s all about. I just feel bad for the guy. He’s getting hammered in the media.”

The tournament now has taken a supporting role to the drama being played out inside the gates of Isleworth, where Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree, and in celebrity magazines.

NBC Sports will be televising the tournament this week, and executive producer Tommy Roy said he could not say how the network will cover Woods’ absence.

“We’ll have to see what further happens in the story,” Roy said. “Between now and when we come on the air Saturday, that’s a lot of time. We have a golf tournament to cover. It’s too early to determine what we’ll do.”

Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation and tournament director, said sponsor Chevron would have liked Woods to be part of the tournament, “but they respect his decision, they support his decision.”

Asked if he had spoken to Woods, McLaughlin paused and said, “It’s not appropriate for me to talk about Tiger.”

The players don’t want to talk, either, although they anticipated such questions when they came to California.

“It’s difficult for me to comment, because I only know what you know – probably less than what you know,” Westwood said. “I was shocked when I heard it was a serious accident, then relieved to here he had been released from the hospital. Other than that, the rest is speculation and people putting their own assumption to things. I have no time for all that, and I don’t want to be part of it.”

Even in such an individual sport, there is a camaraderie that exists – Americans and Europeans, the No. 1 player and No. 120 player – because ultimately, the competition is between the player and the course.

British Open champion Stewart Cink pointed out that it still can be a lonely game, far different from football and baseball teams.

“It’s hard when you don’t have that built-in framework of the team, when you can sort of absorb yourself into a jersey,” Cink said. “Out here, you’re an island. When you play great, you’re an island. When you play poorly, you’re an island. And when you have some attention off the course that you’d rather not have, then you’re an island.”

Woods is not likely to play again until the San Diego Invitational at Torrey Pines, which starts Jan. 28. Some players still have the Shark Shootout next week in Florida, others will open their season the first week of January in Hawaii.

Chances are, Woods will remain a topic of conversation.

“When you’re the biggest sports star in the world, that goes with the territory,” Harrington said. “You create these stories, and in six weeks’ time, it might be somebody else’s story. We’ll have to wait and see what evolves. But the one thing that’s for sure, we’ll all be watching. As I said, that’s human nature.”
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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.