Punch Shot: Behind the scenes in 2013

The 2013 season provided golf fans with many controversies and storylines, but some stories are always left untold. GolfChannel.com writers take you behind the scenes providing us with their best tales from the road this past season.


By JASON SOBEL

Two of my lasting memories from covering the game in 2013 include the (almost) first shot of the year and the (almost) last shot of the year – and both involve Matt Kuchar.

As you probably recall, the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions was delayed for a few days due to heavy winds around the Plantation Course. At one point, officials attempted to begin the event with a two-tee start, so I trekked up to the 10th teebox, where it’s usually breeziest. Prior to the first shot of the year ever being struck, I watched Kuchar place his ball on a tee, only to have it blow off before he ever swung at it.

It was a tweetable moment if there ever was one, considering I was one of about seven people in attendance when it happened. So I took out my phone and began thumbing a tweet, but within seconds was reprimanded by a marshal. This came despite the sticker on my credential allowing a phone, despite anyone being allowed to tweet from the course and despite the season not even having begun yet. A scolding about tweeting before the first shot was ever hit? That’s gotta be a record that will never be broken.

Eleven months later, I stood just off the 18th green at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge as Zach Johnson improbably rinsed his second shot, then holed out with a wedge for par to force a playoff with Tiger Woods. Amidst the chaos that ensued, I ran into Kuchar, who had played in the group in front of them, as he was leaving the scoring area.

The usual irrepressible Kuchar smile was even bigger than normal – not because he was rooting for Johnson or against Woods, but because he had just witnessed the same thing that everyone else around the 18th green had seen. “Wow,” he said to me. “What a par!” It was a cool reminder that despite the impeccable golf swings and the multitudes of zeroes in the bank account, the world’s best players are still fans of the game and love seeing the improbable take place. Just like the rest of us. 


By RANDALL MELL

Hearts swell around the 18th green late on Sundays in major championships. No heart swells there quite like a parent’s with a competition ending.

I’ll remember the elation hovering in the wings in majors this past year. I’ll remember it in the hearts and faces of the parents of all three major championship winners in the women’s game.

I’ll remember Dale and Carol Lewis watching their daughter, Stacy, overcome five bogeys in the final round to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open with a birdie-birdie finish at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. There are few sights as heartwarming as watching parents marvel over their child. We saw it there in Dale’s eyes and heard it quivering in his voice, emotion springing up from all the memories of his daughter’s battle with scoliosis.

“Today was like her whole life,” Dale said under the shadow of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews clubhouse. “She is never down. She always has a chance.”

That same sense of parental wonder was in the eyes of Sung Kim as she watched her daughter, Inbee Park, hoisting the U.S. Women’s Open trophy at Sebonack in her historic third consecutive major championship triumph. Sung Kim shared a story that surprised us there, a story about how on the eve of the final round her restless daughter confided to her that she was worried about letting down her family and her country with so much at stake. Inbee struggled to sleep in the house the family was renting with the weight of history pressing down.

“Don’t worry,” Sung Kim said she told Inbee. “If you win, it’s OK. If you lose, it’s OK. We are just so happy either way.”

With that, Inbee found the sleep she needed.

I’ll also remember the pride in Mona Pettersen’s eyes as she watched her daughter, Suzann, draped in their native Norwegian flag, hoisting the Evian Championship trophy. Mona saw a life’s thread running through the moment.

“She’s always been so determined,” Mona said. “When she gets her mind on something, there’s no stopping her.”

Parents have their blind spots with their children, but nobody sees through to the core quite like they do. I'll remember that from the 2013 majors.


By REX HOGGARD

After 186 tries the scoreboard, and a beaming smile, said it was Ken Duke’s turn.

The veteran had toiled at nearly every level of professional golf with varying degrees of success, but a PGA Tour title had eluded him at every step.

Having finished runner-up three times on Tour he knew how quickly fortunes can change on a championship Sunday, but after a closing nine of 32 for a final-round 66 at last season’s Travelers Championship there was a hint of anticipation etched into his face as he entered the scoring trailer.

At 12 under, there was only one player, Chris Stroud, who could catch him, and his only spoiler had missed the green at the last hole and needed to chip in to force overtime.

Before Stroud’s downhill birdie chip reached the cup, Duke was already out of the scoring trailer. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he smiled as he made his way to the first playoff hole in a mixture of appreciation and anticipation.

Duke outlasted Stroud in the playoff, making birdie at the second extra hole, to claim that elusive Big League victory and immediately endear himself to the media masses.

Journalists are taught to root for the story, not the player. With Duke, however, it was hard to separate the two.


By WILL GRAY

There are several memorable moments that stick out for me from my travels in 2013, but the scene that created the widest array of storylines came at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio.

With spots in the season’s second major on the line, well-recognized professionals lined up toe-to-toe with otherwise anonymous amateurs. Rory Sabbatini stood on the putting green at The Lakes Country Club in the early morning hours, one of many PGA Tour pros to go with shorts for the day’s 36-hole journey. He practiced next to Justin Thomas, at that point still an amateur, whose plane had landed just hours earlier after he helped lead the University of Alabama to a national championship. His father was with him on the putting green, coffee in hand, still wearing the smile from the day before.

Scott Gardiner drew much of the morning buzz that day by showing up to the course without his clubs, which were lost in transit. The subsequent scramble led to the Aussie playing with a mixed set of sticks from the staff collection and using balls emblazoned with “SNAP,” since the assistant in the shop that had a few eggs to spare tends to move his shot from right to left. Remarkably, he used the rag-tag assortment to shoot an opening 65 without hitting so much as a single ball on the range.

As morning became afternoon, future Presidents Cupper Brendon de Jonge could be seen sitting alone in a corner of the course’s outdoor patio. He was eating a to-go burger from the grill before being shuttled to Brookside Golf & Country Club for the day’s second round, appearing very much like a club member grabbing a quick bite before resuming his $5 Nassau match.

As the sun began to fade, an 11-for-7 playoff included veteran Steve Flesch, whose teenage son, Griffin, served admirably as caddie, despite the fact that it seemed at times the weight of the golf bag might be enough to send him sideways.

Such are the sights of a sectional qualifier – easily one of the more memorable days I spent on the course in 2013.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...


2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia


And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.