Unsung But Not Untalented

By George WhiteJune 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
I tuned in to the last half of the Memorial Sunday and my wife, surprisingly enough, sat down for a few minutes to watch. She stunned me when she asked me an embarrassing question: who the heck is Carl Pettersson?
 
Well, I mumbled, hes from Norway - (wrong ' hes from Sweden.) He played in Europe for awhile ' (actually, he belonged to the European Tour for only two years, the last one 2002.) And hes already won once in the U.S. (righto ' last fall at the Chrysler Championship.)
 
If I were a little more up-to-date on my Carl Pettersson profile, I could have told her that he has played in the U.S. for four years now, since 2003. I could have told her that his father was an avid golfer and an executive for Volvo Trucks in Sweden. I should have noted that, because of his fathers occupation, the family first moved to England, then to Greensboro, N.C., for Carls final two years of high school. And, Pettersson attended North Carolina State University, where he was an All-American for four years.
 
In short ' European-born, yes, but now thoroughly American. He speaks thoroughly American English, not English with a Scandinavian accent. Today he lives in Raleigh, N.C., which, if I remember correctly, isnt that far from the hometown of Barney Fife and Aunt Bea.
 
How many more Carl Petterssons are there who have won on the PGA Tour this year? Several ' and just like Pettersson, these guys can really play. Its gotten to the point that if you are going to really be cognizant of who the possible winners are, you have to conversant with about 100 or so players.
 
Rod Pampling has won this year on the big tour. So has Aaron Oberholser. Rory Sabatini, Stephen Ames, Brett Wetterich, Geoff Ogilvy, J.B. Holmes, Chris Couch, Aaron Baddeley ' theyve all won this year. If youre still living in the tour of two or three years ago - and maybe I have been ' a lot of these guys will seem like Nationwide Tour players to you. But they arent ' theyre now PGA TOUR stalwarts, the backbone of the PGA TOUR of today. A win from any of them no longer ranks as a surprise.
 
OK, I went to the PGA TOUR media guide to find out an interesting tidbit on each of them. These are things you already know if you are a true golf nut. And these are things you SHOULD know if you are at least a casual golf fan:
 
Rod Pampling is an Australian who is married to a clinical psychologist. Oberholser has helped out as an assistant golf coach at Santa Clara University. Sabatini is a South African who travels around the tour in an RV and has helped contribute almost $200,000 last year to soldiers and their families.
 
Ames is the first native of Trinidad and Tobago to play on the tour, though his father is English, his mother Portuguese, and his wife a former flight attendant from Canada. Wetterich, whose father started him swinging a golf club at 2, was granted a major medical extension carryover from 2001 when he underwent wrist surgery in January. Ogilvy is an Australian who has quite an interesting family tree ' he is a distant relative of Sir Angus Ogilvy, a member of Britains royal family, and is kin to a former king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce.
 
Holmes, second on tour in driving distance, grew up playing baseball until he won the first junior tournament he played' then proceeded to win his next three junior tournaments. Couch is the ultimate grinder, an extremely gifted junior who made the field at age 16 in the Honda Classic, but who once had to borrow $3,000 from Brendan Pappas in 2003 to keep playing. Baddeley? Hes an Australian who won the first of two Australian Opens at age 18. Baddeley was actually born in New Hampshire ' his father was chief mechanic for Mario Andrettis racing team ' but his family moved back to Australia when Aaron was 2.
 
Note that theres no Vijay Singh, no Ernie Els, no Retief Goosen named here. They havent yet won. But these guys have. And I havent even mentioned Lucas Glover, who hasnt won yet but who has finished in the top 10 six times and who currently stands No. 9 on the Ryder Cup list; or Vaughn Taylor, who has five top-10s and is No. 8 on the Ryder Cup. Wetterich, incidentally, is No. 7 on the Ryder list.
 
Heres the bottom line to all this: the PGA TOUR is presently in the throes of a major upheaval which is bringing unsung players to the front, players that you probably know little about.
 
But Els was in this same situation in the early 90s, same with Singh and Mickelson. Goosen was here 10 years ago. Tiger Woods was well-known as a teen-ager, so he probably wouldnt fit in here.
 
So the long and short of it is, a confusing influx of outstanding unknowns is making their presence known on the PGA Tour. And just because you ' or I ' arent familiar with them doesnt mean that they arent excellent players. They are winners at the highest level. Get ready because you will be hearing from them time and time again.
 

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.