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Rosaforte Report: Holmes apologizes and defends self

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 30, 2018, 4:18 pm

In this week's Rosaforte Report: J.B. Holmes responds to criticism of his final-hole approach at Torrey Pines, Jason Day discusses a huge victory, we get to know a little more about the most unknown man in the OWGR top 20, and Brittany Lincicome talks about night golf.

Two days later, there is more commentary about J.B. Holmes’ slow play than there is Jason Day’s first PGA Tour victory in a year-and-a-half, which I get. Four minutes and change is way too long to hit a shot – even with the wind gusting on the 72nd hole of a tournament.

I talked to Holmes on Monday, and he told me he didn’t realize how long it was taking for him to play an approach shot into the 18th hole during Sunday’s final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. He apologized to playing partner Alex Noren but defended himself and offered explanation as to why it took so long to play the shot that lit up Twitter by his peers.

Watching the replay, it looked like Holmes had zoned out.

“I didn’t realize how long it was taking,” he said. “We (Holmes and caddie Brendan Parsons) were just trying to make the best decision to play.”

In other words, Holmes was waiting for the gusts to die down, so he could take the head cover off a 5-wood he didn’t trust, and play a shot to the green. Ultimately, he hit a poor wedge shot and made par to finish fourth.

“If it bothered Alex, he could have said something and he could have hit,” Holmes said. “If I messed him up, I apologize. He still made a good swing. He smoked it. (Hitting 3-wood over the green and through the tunnel, next to the CBS booth.) I don’t understand what the big hoopla is all about. I was just trying to give myself the best chance to win the tournament. I didn’t want to mess anybody up.”

What messed up Holmes is that he hammered a drive, but with his cut and a crosswind, the ball ended up traveling 296 yards instead of the 330 yards he expected. This left 235 yards to carry the water, 240 to the flag. With the conditions, he felt like a career 5-wood was the play, but he lacked trust, which added to the indecision.

Ryan Palmer, the third player in the group, had already laid up with a wedge. He and caddie James Edmonson could hear the gallery get restless, but were more amused than bothered by the delay. “We kind of giggled at times,” Palmer said.

Most didn’t take it as being funny. Mark Calcavecchia called it horrendous sportsmanship to Noren and Palmer. Daniel Berger, Luke Donald, Ken Duke and Steve Elkington weighed in.

Steve Flesch made the point that instead of four minutes and 10 seconds, J.B. “could have taken six minutes and nothing would have been done. Last hole. Last group. Something should have been said way earlier.”

And that “something” should have come from a Tour official. There were no statements released by the PGA Tour and no response when I reached out late Monday afternoon.

Even though the final group took 6 hours to complete their round, they weren’t put on the clock all day – and had consistently been waiting to hit shots – a reason why Tour officials would not have approached them in the 18th fairway.

Holmes, who had a reputation for being a slow player, feels like he’s changed that habit, and doesn’t want to be incriminated.

“I used to be slow. I’d agree with that,” he said. “But it’s been years and I’m not slow any more. I don’t get timed more than anybody else.”



A New Day for Jason

Jason Day couldn’t sleep on Sunday night. Even after a full day of golf at Torrey Pines that included five playoff holes, the 30-year-old Australian couldn’t quiet his mind. Shows you how much pressure he was under, on many fronts.

There was much at stake for Day on Monday morning in the Farmers Insurance Open. A win would be his first since the 2016 Players Championship, and signal that he’s serious about regaining the No. 1 ranking that he held for 51 straight weeks.

There was also the ongoing issue of his back. Unable to bend down and hit a golf shot, Day revealed he had an MRI during his stay at The Vintage Club to get ready for the California swing, and while it came back negative, the tinge of pain was enough to withdraw from the Farmers pro-am.

“The back’s OK,” Day said after shooting 64 on the North Course in the second round of the tournament. “I mean, it’s just sore. I just have to deal with it. It is what it is.”

Day would be the first to say he’s been injury prone, with various wrist and thumb ailments that have cost him playing time and competitive traction. None of them was potentially career ending. He seems more concerned about a bulging disc or the facet joints that that MRI showed were getting closer to his nerves.

“It’s hard to get it off my mind,” Day said of the injuries that keep popping up.

Power lifting has been Day’s way to strengthen the muscles around his back. In a Q&A he did for Men’s Fitness, Day explained that the power lifting he’s been doing focuses on his legs and core. “I do a lot of squats, do a lot trap-bar deadlifts and a lot of sumo deadlifts. You can’t get too big.”

With the speed back in his golf swing, Day admitted he felt different this year than last year, that a year ago he felt mentally stressed, rundown and burned out.

“It was hard for me to be on the golf course, but this year my whole mindset’s different,” he said. “I'm very motivated to get back to the No. 1 spot and I know that the only way to get back to the No. 1 spot is win and that's what I've just got to do.”



The Not-So-Invisible Man

In this country, Alex Noren may be the most unrecognized top-20 player in the world. But with all the TV time the Swede earned in the gloaming of Sunday night’s five-hole playoff with Day at Torrey Pines, Noren experienced a breakthrough moment at 35.

“I’m pretty realistic about it,” Noren told me last year in Abu Dhabi. “If somebody says you’re unknown, it doesn’t really matter to me that much. Maybe that’s why you keep trying.”

Tendinitis on both wrists, along with blisters and callouses on his hands, are signs that Noren has been guilty of trying too hard. Having a family has brought out his best golf. “I think Alex found a very good balance in his life with other things to occupy his mind,” offers European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

Bjorn seemed to be blessing Noren after his win in last year’s BMW PGA Championship, posting a Tweet that said, “A 62 final round on the West course to win @BMWPGA is beyond impressive! Congrats @Alex_Noren quickly turning into one of the world’s best!”

In America, where he played college golf at Oklahoma State, Noren is best known at The Bears Club, where he practices during the winter months, absorbing the advice of Jack Nicklaus and watching Rory McIlroy crush balls. As Noren told me for a column I wrote last year, “If I was hitting it like Rory, I wouldn’t have these callouses.”

So where does he go from here? To Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with his family in tow. “I came over here to try to play these golf courses and try to get used to playing against these guys,” he said before leaving Torrey Pines. “I learned a lot and played probably best ever tee to green for me, so it’s big; it’s big for me.”



Lincicome’s Shots in the Dark

It wasn’t just Day and Noren playing great golf in the dark on Sunday night. Brittany Lincicome experienced the same type of lighting closing out the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Championship and finished birdie-birdie for her eighth career win.

Lincicome went over it on Monday, explaining that it was a little different than the nine-hole, night-golf, glow-ball contests that she plays with Angela Stanford.

“It couldn’t have been more stressful,” Lincicome said.

With no leaderboards, Lincicome was praying that she was only fighting against the players in her group. Pumped up with adrenaline, her drive at 18 left an awkward yardage from a divot. Luckily she had been practicing half-wedge shots.

“It helped, for sure,” Lincicome said. “In a divot, last hole, under pressure with no lights wasn’t where I wanted to be. I hit one of the best shots I’ve ever hit in my life.”

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Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

“If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

“I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”


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So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

Horschel told GolfChannel.com last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

“I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

“Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

“I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

“We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

“We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

“But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

“They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

And now?

Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

“Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

“Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

“I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

“That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

“It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.