Normans Best Days Seem Far Back
Norman, who not so long ago was the greatest golfer on the planet, was giving a clinic for kids this week at his Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples, Fla. A youngster had a typical ' if somewhat bizarre - childs question: is Norman as good as Happy Gilmore, the fictional character in a movie of the same name? Happys particular gimmick was that he was a big hockey fan, and he would hit the ball with the same run-up and wristy slap-shot style as a hockey player.
Norman was somewhat startled. No, he confessed, he hadnt seen the movie. But then instructor Rick Smith, who was participating in the clinic also, talked Norman into trying a shot or two. Smith teed the ball up on a three-inch tee, then stepped back to let Norman have a go.
Norman tried once, running up to the ball ' and missed. Smith teed the ball up higher. Norman approached again ' and missed. Finally the third time, after Smith teed it higher still, Norman carefully approached and got a piece of the ball, dribbling it 100 yards down the fairway with his driver.
You know, theres only twice in real tournaments (in some 35 years as a professional) that Ive had back-to-back air swings, Norman said later with a laugh. I think I just tied my record! Thats probably why I didnt get picked for the Happy Gilmore movie.
Norman has been one big mass of injuries since about the time Tiger Woods came on the scene. Hes had shoulder injuries, hip surgery ' and untold back problems. Hes 48 years old, too young to be such a walking M.A.S.H. unit, but truth be told, his best golf is long behind him. The latest injury ' the one that will be with him the remainder of his life ' is his back.
This year has been a bad year ' my back has been probably the worst its been, he said. I hope thats not a bad sign. I hope I can find a relief for it ' I dont think I can find an actual cure. I am not going to go and have surgery. Ive just got to find my comfort zone ' I dont know how much I can go out there and play.
Greg was able to play only six times this year. He was forced to withdraw after the first round of The Players Championship, and his inactivity resulted in missed cuts at the PGA Championship and the John Deere Classic. But when he is right, he can still perform at a pretty high standard ' witness his tie for 18th at the British Open.
The lack of good, worthwhile practice is the killer. Normans back just wont stand up to the constant pressure. There was a time that golf was an eight-hour job, even when he was home. Now, its considerably less.
I can probably practice about two to three hours in the morning and then play 18 holes ' if Im lucky, he said.
At times, I just hit balls for about 30 minutes and then go out and play. There are times when the most I can do is chip and putt for two or three hours. Its not the schedule I used to have - but then again, I have to adapt to what Ive got.
If he had it to do over again, would he change the swing, maybe attack the ball with a little less vigor, in order to get a little more functionality out of the spine?
No, he said without hesitation, I dont think so. Its just rotation, thats all it is, and its just a degeneration with it. Some people get it, some people dont. Its just flat-out wear and tear - thats all it is.
He says it without regret. He is a very wealthy man, and ' at least at the moment ' he is ready to move on.
Where am I right now? Probably the best place Ive been in my life, he said. Im very lucky that I have a lot of other things going on in my life.
His businesses include golf course design, apparel, wines, and many others. He just purchased a yacht over 200 feet in length, and a jet and a helicopter await his beck and call. Life has been very good ' and so have the various businesses.
Before long, though, he will have to face reality. How much can he play next season?
Ill probably go through that process over the next couple-three months, he says. Im going on a week-to-week basis - I really cant set a schedule. Its not like Im going to play five weeks in a row. I couldnt commit to five weeks in a row. I will just take it week to week. If I get 10-12 in, Ill be extremely happy.
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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion
Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.
Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.
“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.
It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.
“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”
The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.
“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”
Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey
Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:
Tiger sighting on the range! pic.twitter.com/rcJYLCes7R— Morning Drive (@GCMorningDrive) January 23, 2018
Back on TOUR.pic.twitter.com/OPmjaXFo1l— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 23, 2018
Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open
The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.
Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.
Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:
1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.
2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.
3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.
4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.
5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.
6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.
7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.
8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.
9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.
10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.
Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'
It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.
Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.
"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."
Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.
That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.
"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.
"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."