Tiger never ceases to amaze, even his caddies

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2012, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It only took Mike “Fluff” Cowan one tournament as the caddie for Tiger Woods to see a shot he had never seen.Joe LaCava had that moment in his third week working for Woods.

Cowan was the first caddie Woods hired when he made his professional debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. He doesn’t remember which round, or even what hole they were on, just the club selection off the tee.

“It was his stinger, his 2-iron,” Cowan said, looking around until he locked his eyes on the waist-high mesh around the practice green at Sherwood Country Club. “It didn’t hardly get over that green net. But it stayed in the air forever. It went out there 270 yards or something. That was the one that got me.

“It was just a different kind of shot that I had ever seen anybody hit.”

LaCava, hired by Woods in October, had spent plenty of time around the 14-time major champion during his 20 years on the bag with Fred Couples, with whom Woods often played.

Even so, a 3-wood on the par-5 15th at Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup got his attention, and a few weeks later, he still had trouble describing what he saw.

“He hit it such a way that it was trajecting like this,” LaCava, using his hand to show a flat line with the slightest downward arc. “But it wasn’t coming down. It wasn’t rising, either. It’s hard to describe. It was gaining speed, but it wasn’t going up. That’s when I thought, ‘This guy is making the ball do something I’ve never seen anyone else do.’ I had never seen a trajectory like this on a 3-wood or any other shot.”

LaCava said the pin was cut in the front right portion of the green, and the ball finally stopped in the back left corner. The shot was into the wind, and in firm conditions, and he estimates it went just under 270 yards.

Just then, Woods walked up on the discussion. And when he sensed the conversation ending, he said, “Keep going.”

“Look at that little grin on his face,” LaCava said. “He knows what I’m talking about. But he won’t say anything about it.”




MATCH PLAY: This is the final week to qualify for the Match Play Championship, making the world rankings relevant for the first of several times this year.

Among those on the bubble for the 64-man field are Ernie Els (No. 62), followed by Kevin Na, Robert Allenby, Ryan Moore and Charles Howell, who at No. 66 is currently just beyond getting the final spot at Dove Mountain in two weeks.

That depends on Paul Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding. Casey is on the mend, and there is an outside chance he could play. Phil Mickelson already has said he is not playing.

Na tied for fifth in the Phoenix Open, moving up nine spots to No. 63. He can nail down his spot in the World Golf Championship at Pebble Beach this week, as can Ryan Moore at No. 65.

The others can only hope they hold their positions. Els, Allenby and Howell are not playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Dubai Desert Classic.

Eight of the next 10 players beyond No. 66 are playing this week - Joost Luiten, Rory Sabbatini, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alex Noren, Spencer Levin, Sean O’Hair, Vijay Singh and Chez Reavie. The exceptions are Toru Taniguchi (No. 70) and Johnson Wagner (No. 73).

Last week’s winners, Paul Lawrie (Qatar) and Kyle Stanley (Phoenix), both locked up spots in the Match Play.


INKSTER OUT: Even when she took time off the LPGA to have two children, Juli Inkster never went more than a month without playing golf. Now comes her biggest challenge.

After trying to cope with pain in her right elbow, Inkster had surgery Jan. 27 to repair a torn tendon. The 51-year-old Hall of Famer will be in some form of a cast for the next month and might not be able to return until the middle of summer at the earliest.

That’s OK with her.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I want to go out on my terms,” Inkster said. “This is the first injury I’ve ever had. Before the surgery, I was kind of floundering. I wouldn’t say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least this is the start of the tunnel.”

The tough part will be finding something to do, except for the physical therapy. Inkster is all about competing. It’s been in her blood since she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three straight years and then went on to the career Grand Slam.

“Me? How do you think Brian is feeling?” said Inkster, whose husband is the head pro at Los Altos Country Club. “I’m sure there’s going to be some ‘Sorry, I’ve got another meeting today, honey.’ I think once I get started with physical therapy I’m going to be fine. But I’ve been watching a lot of ‘NCIS.’ It got to the point where I was watching so much football I started calling the plays.”


RYDER CUP: Kyle Stanley has shot to the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings with his playoff loss at Torrey Pines and win in Phoenix.

But there’s a long way to go.

Thanks to Paul Azinger’s captaincy, Ryder Cup points are based on all PGA Tour earnings this year, with the majors counting double. There are still four majors, three World Golf Championships ($8.5 million purse), The Players Championship (at least $9.5 million) and three other events with at least $6.5 million in prize money.

Here’s another way to look at it.

After the Phoenix Open in 2010, the top eight in the standings were Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ben Crane. Only four of them – Stricker, Johnson, Mahan and Mickelson – qualified.

Three others who made the team – Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Jeff Overton – were not even among the top 25 in the standings. The other was Matt Kuchar, who was 13th at this time and wound up getting the final spot.


DIVOTS: Daniel Chopra had a day to remember at Pebble Beach during a practice round Monday. He made a hole-in-one on the seventh hole and then made another ace on the 17th. … Karrie Webb, the only woman to capture the LPGA’s “Super Slam” of five majors, was awarded honorary membership at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. … The U.S. Golf Association will award exemptions to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open to the players who win the Mark H. McCormack medal as the leading amateur. That would be Patrick Cantlay (already eligible as the U.S. Amateur runner-up) and Lydia Ko, the 14-year-old from New Zealand who recently became the youngest winner of a tour event. … Valero has signed a six-year extension as the title sponsor of the Texas Open. The new deal takes the sponsorship through 2018. … The LPGA added another marketing partner Tuesday by signing Volvik, a Korean golf ball company.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott is the only player from among the top 20 in the world who has yet to play a tournament this year.


FINAL WORD: “I fear we would be eating our own children if we went to two sets of rules.” - USGA president Glen Nager.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''