When Talent Doesnt Equate to Wins

By George WhiteMay 8, 2006, 4:00 pm
In 1993, 23-year-old Jim Furyk was a rookie on the Hogan-Nike-Buy.Com-Nationwide-CallItWhatYouWant Tour. He didnt have a WhatYaMaCallIt Tour card ' in fact, the first 10 events, he was forced to go through Monday qualifying. But a little over halfway through the season he won ' in a playoff - at Gulfport, Miss.
Young Furyk birdied the last three holes of regulation to make the playoff against Bob Friend, then sunk a 25-foot putt for birdie on the first extra hole to win. And yes, he won with that long, loopy swing. And yes, he won putting cross-hand. And yes ' he was warned for slow play before the sizzling four-hole finish.
That was the beginning a long relationship Mr. Furyk has had with playoffs. Two years later he had his first on the PGA TOUR, and won again, this time in fairly hum-drum fashion.
Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk's playoff win was only his second positive outcome in eight overtime sessions.
Since then, Furyk has been anything but normal in getting through eight more playoffs. Six he has lost. He won one at Sun City in South Africa. And finally he won again in America after going though 10 years of failures. Yes, he won last week in extra holes at Wachovia.
Greg Norman once hit the Grand Slam of losses when he failed in playoffs at all four of the majors ' the U.S. Open in 1984, the Masters in 1987, the 1989 British Open and the 93 PGA. He, along with oldtimer Craig Woods, stands alone in that rare feat. But if theres a category for playoffs lost in a most interesting manner, you would have to consider Jim Furyk.
It all began in 1996 when he faced a man who had failed to make a cut in three tries that season ' Paul Stankowski. Furyk went into a playoff and on the third hole everyone was conceding him the title at Hawaii with Stankowski needing a 35-foot putt to take it further. But sink it he did, and then added a winning birdie the next hole to leave a dazed Furyk wondering what happened.
Not to worry, though, Furyk was still 1-1 in playoffs on his PGA TOUR resume. And in 1998 he made an eagle at the final hole at Westchester to get into a playoff against J.P. Hayes. Hayes at that time was a Whos-He on tour, ineligible for the U.S. Open which was the next week. But he birdied the first playoff hole ' and Furyk didnt.
Now Furyk was 1-2 in playoffs. And in 2001 he hooked up with Tiger Woods in the WEC-NEC Invitational for two hours and seven holes. Furyk should have been out of it on the first playoff hole when he left his first shot in a bunker. Playing his fourth shot from the sand, Furyk holed it to continue the drama.
But alas, Tiger threaded his approach on the seventh to within inches of the cup, made birdie and close out the luckless Jim. Alas, the record was 1-3 and counting.
It took Furyk two years to lose the next playoff. He and Scott Hoch were knotted at Doral in 2003 after regulation, and still knotted after one hole of the playoff. Thats when Hoch called for a cessation of play as the two reached the green of the second playoff hole. It was too dark to continue, Hoch said ' a decision that Furyk conceded was the right one the following day.
But on the following morning, Furyk missed his birdie putt, Hoch made his ' and Furyks playoff record was now 1-4.
Now on to Wachovia last year, when Furyk needed a birdie at 18 ' and got it ' to get into a playoff with Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia. Actually, this tournament appeared to be all Garcia after the youngster started the final round with a six-shot lead. But Garcia couldnt stand up to the withering pace of Singh and Furyk, and in the playoff, neither could Furyk. After Singhs birdie, Furyk was saddled with a 1-5 tour playoff record.
And the drumbeat continued at Las Vegas last year with Furyk trying to win in that city for the fourth time. He got into a playoff this time with one Wes Short, and in the playoff launched his tee shot left and into a lake. Then three putts later he was saddled with a bogey, while Short birdied and won. The ledger now showed Furyk at 1-6.
Furyk began to turn it around in Sun City at the end of last year, winning the four-way playoff with a birdie in the mega-bucks 12-man exhibition. But it was only after he had surrendered the lead on 18 in regulation with a bogey. However, he won it on the second extra hole by holing out a chip shot.
And Sunday, Furyk was rock-solid in defeating Trevor Immelman. Now, Furyk is known as a gritty match-play competitor, but hes had lousy karma in the playoffs.
I don't know the reason, really, he said. I've had some bad shots, I've gotten beaten by some really good shots. Really, I don't have an answer for that.
He didnt have many playoff positives to draw upon, so he just thought back to the Sun City experience. And it obviously worked.
I tried to remember back to that, Furyk said, and just go out there and do whatever I needed to do to try to get it done.
Furyk, though, is not the only exceptional player to have a less-than-spectacular playoff record. Ben Crenshaw was 0-8. Raymond Floyd 5-10 ' remember that reputation of the Floyd Stare? Davis Love III is 2-7, Norman 4-8. Gary Player was 3-10. Kathy Whitworth, she of the 88 wins on the LPGA, was only 7-16 in playoffs. Colin Montgomerie is a winless 0-7-1 in Europe.
Furyk now is 2-6 in tour playoffs. Of course, he could be 1-7 if one shot had aw, stop that! Furyk has. Win or lose, he doesnt think back about the one shot that could have gone either way.
Yeah, he says, I learned not to do that a long time ago, to look back and think about all the times you could save one shot out there. That would be easy.
Nothing, it must be said, has comes easy for Jim Furyk.
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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.

Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.