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.


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. 


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.


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.


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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Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.