The Highs and Lows from the Week in Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 30, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Front 9 and Back 9, our staff will showcase the highs and lows from the world of golf. We start with the Front 9, which offers up the top moments and stories from this previous week, and then make the turn for the lowlights.
Front 9 Hole 1
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: A player wants nothing more than to win a major championship. Second on that list - individually speaking - is to win at home. Scott Verplank accomplished the latter Sunday, winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. The Dallas-born Verplank was competing for the 21st time in his hometown tournament. It was especially sweet considering Verplank had a close personal relationship with Nelson, who passed away last September.
Hole 2
MR. CONSISTENCY?: Phil Mickelson spent most of last week caught in a firestorm after being allowed to compete in the Byron Nelson despite having missed the pro-am. And if he wasnt answering questions about that, he was talking about his new swing coach, Butch Harmon. After a couple of classic Phil rounds in which he made nine birdies, but still found himself at 1 under, Mickelson shot 9 under on the weekend. He had one eagle, nine birdies and only two bogyes in the third and fourth rounds, finishing tied for third.
Hole 3
BELATED HONOR: The late Byron Nelson became the first golfer to be awarded the U.S. Congressional gold medal, the highest honor which can be bestowed on a U.S. citizen. His widow, Peggy, was presented the award Saturday at a ceremony held during the third round of the Byron Nelson Championship.
Hole 4
NO. 1 AND NO. 2: Lorena Ochoa has never been one to shy away from stating her goals. She accomplished a big one this past week by becoming the No. 1 female player in the world, ending Annika Sorenstams reign, which began with the rankings inception in February 2006. She also put forth a good effort in her title defense at the Corona Championship, contested in her native Mexico, tying for second after shooting 14 under on the weekend.
Hole 5
REMEMBER ME?: The lady who took away Ochoa's Corona title was Italy's Silvia Cavalleri. The 1997 U.S. Women's Amatuer champion earned her first LPGA Tour victory by shooting 7-under 66 in the final round to clip Ochoa and Julieta Granada by two. Cavalleri was fantastic all week, making 23 birdies to only three bogeys.
Hole 6
REMEMBER ME, TOO?: It's been a tough road for many of the recent U.S. Amateur champions, including 2003 winner Nick Flanagan, who became the first Aussie winner of the championship in 100 years. The 22-year-old may finally be pointed in the right direction. He captured this past week's Henrico County Open on the Nationwide Tour, doing so in a four-man playoff.
Hole 7
A RARE FEAT: June Weiners two artificial hips dont seem to have affected her golf game. At least they didnt prevent the 75-year-old from making a hole-in-one recently in northern England. Thats a pretty good story itself. But it gets even better. Weiners playing companion, 61-year-old Sue Baskin, aced the same hole, the 152-yard, par-3 24th at the 27-hole course at Moor Allerton Golf Club in Leeds, on the very next shot. The odds of two players recording holes-in-one on the same hole in succession: 1 million to one.
Hole 8
A REALLY RARE FEAT: Think thats impressive? How about this: Jacqueline Gagne has made eight holes-in-one ' in the last 14 weeks. From Jan. 23 ' April 24, the 46-year-old has holed tee shots in the California desert using a 7-iron (twice), a 9-iron, a pitching wedge, and a 13-wood (four times). She is said to have different witnesses for each of the aces. Odds were calculated after she notched her seventh hole-in-one at nearly 14 million billion to one ' or 1 in 113,527,276,681,000,000.
Hole 9
THE DUKE: Ken Duke entered this season with one career top-10 finish on the PGA TOUR. The 38-year-old now has three in a row. Duke tied for seventh at the Byron Nelson to go along with his T-10 at the Verizon Heritage and his runner-up showing at the Zurich Classic. Duke, who was 166th in earnings in his rookie season on TOUR in 2004, is now 25th on the money list with over $1 million. Now, it's not just good to be the king; it's good to be the Duke.
Back 9 Hole 10
SOUR GRAPES?: Under PGA TOUR regulations, players are required to take part in the pro-am if they plan to participate in that week's event. Phil Mickelson, due to what even TOUR officials described as 'circumstances completely beyond his control,' did not make it in time for his pro-am tee time Wednesday morning in Dallas and was still allowed to play the Byron Nelson. That did not sit well with several of the rank and file players on TOUR, most notably internationals players who brought up the fact that Retief Goosen was DQ'd in 2005 at the Nissan Open. The main difference between the two instances - Goosen overslept; inclement weather prevented Mickelson from flying out of Arkansas, where he was doing a charity event Tuesday. Mother Nature trumps alarm clock.
Hole 11
DONALD DUCK: It looked like the Byron Nelson was Luke Donald's to lose on Sunday. And he did just that. Leading by three after a birdie on the sixth, he saw his lead dwindle to one as Verplank birdied Nos. 7 and 8. Donald then watched his lead evaporate altogether when he double-bogeyed the ninth to fall one back. Donald trailed by as many as three on the back nine, eventually finishing one back of Verplank.
Hole 12
KIND OF A BROWNISH GREEN: The TPC Las Colinas will undergo a reported $6.8 million overhaul next month and will serve as the full-time host of the Byron Nelson beginning in 2008. That's a year too late for many in the field this past week. The greens at Las Colinas gave players fits. They were crusty, bumpy, patchy and downright ugly. Many players polled by a local paper seemed undecided on whether or not they would return to compete in the tournament next year.
Hole 13
NEED A BAND-AID FOR THAT WOUND?: Three major championships, a top-5 world ranking, and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. If you're the coach of a player with that resume you will ultimately be rewarded with ... your walking papers? Rick Smith, long-time coach, friend and business associate of Mickelson, endured a tough week after the much publized coaching change left him out in the cold and Butch Harmon again with another prized pupil. For the record, Lefty hit 55.36% of his fairways. Nothing great, but he did tie for third place. Beware Dave Pelz, putting guru Stan Utley is lurking somewhere.
Hole 14
MAJOR LOSS? OR PAR FOR THE COURSE?: Greg Norman has suffered a bevy of major losses on the golf course. Now he's taking another major hit on the home front. It was reported this past week that Norman, who is going through a nasty divorce with his long-time wife Laura, has put his Juptier Island estate on the market. The seven-acre spread is valued at close to $40 million.
Hole 15
SPEAKING OF TOUGH PARS: Daniela Ortiz, an amateur in the field at the Corona Championship in her native Mexico, started her second round on Friday with birdies on two of her three first holes - a positive beginning, to say the least. Then came a pair of back-to-back par-3s that, well, derailed that positive start. What seemingly was just a hiccup at the first par-3 - a double-bogey 5 - turned out to be the beginning to an end. Ortiz then proceeded to take 11 strokes on the following par-3 en route to an 11-over 84. Coupled with her Thursday 83 the amateur finished last in the field.
Hole 16
MY BACK MADE ME DO IT: Annika Sorenstam finally saw her reign -- at least according to the world golf rankings -- come to an end. But the worst part about it all may be the fact that she won't have the chance to earn her No. 1 spot back in the near future. Sorenstam has been sidelined due to back problems for at least a few more weeks. She is hoping to return for her own Ginn Tribute in late May, but may not be back until the U.S. Women's Open a month thereafter. Comforting thought for Sorenstam: even Tiger has had the displeasure of losing the No. 1 ranking.
Hole 17
PULLING THE WRONG CLUB: According to a report from the Associated Press, Delisa Schubert of Oak Ridge, Tenn., has had enough with golfers, ahem, taking care of business behind her house. The offenders, she claims, are drunken golfers playing at the city-owned Tennessee Centennial Golf Course. After contacting authorities about the problem she was told to perhaps shame the golfers by videotaping the perpetrators. Word to the golfers at Tennessee Centennial Golf Course: YouTube is not the place you want to make your acting debut.
Hole 18
AY, CARAMBA!: Things were looking good for little known Luis Claverie in the first round of the European Tour's Open de Espana. The Spaniard opened with a bogey-free 4-under 68 to get within two of the early lead. He then proceeded to shoot 12-over 84 in Round 2, complete with three double-bogeys and six bogeys, and no birdies, to miss the cut.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship
  • Full Coverage - Corona Championship
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    Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

    PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

    At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

    “The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

    Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

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    Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

    Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

    “Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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    Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

    The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

    “Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

    After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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    Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

    “Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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    Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

    He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

    Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

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    McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

    “I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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    A performance fit for a King

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:08 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Five hundred and 40 days had passed since Rory McIlroy last won, and since golf lost one of its most iconic players.

    So much has transpired in McIlroy’s life since then – marriage, injury, adversity – but even now he vividly recalls the awkward end to the 2016 Tour Championship. He had just captured the FedExCup and $11 million bonus, but afterward, in the scrum, he was asked instead to reflect on the passing earlier that day of Arnold Palmer, at age 87.

    “Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the big scheme of things, that didn’t matter,” he said. “The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us. I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t passed away.”

    But there was McIlroy on Sunday at Bay Hill, at Arnie’s Florida home, summoning the kind of charge that would have made the King proud. With five birdies in his last six holes, he broke away from a stacked leaderboard to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first victory on Tour in 18 months, since that bittersweet evening at East Lake.

    “Kind of ironic,” he said Sunday.

    But the connection between McIlroy and Palmer runs deeper than that.

    Palmer and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, shared a birthday – Sept. 10.

    Palmer wrote letters to McIlroy after each of his many victories.

    Palmer had lobbied for years to get McIlroy to play this event, even threatening him. “If he doesn’t come and play Bay Hill,” Palmer said in 2012, “he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next.”

    McIlroy kept all of his limbs intact but didn’t add the event until 2015, when Palmer’s health was beginning to deteriorate. That week he sat for a two-hour dinner with Palmer in the Bay Hill clubhouse, and the memories still bring a smile to his face.

    “I was mesmerized,” McIlroy said.

    And entertained, of course.

    Palmer ordered fish for dinner. “And I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A.1. Sauce?’” McIlroy said.

    “And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ And he said, ‘No, for me!’"

    McIlroy chuckled at the exchange, then added somberly: “I was very fortunate to spend that time with him.”

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    McIlroy has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s close to playing his best golf, but even he was surprised by the drastic turn of events over the past 10 days.

    During that 18-month winless drought, he endured an onslaught of questions about his wedge play, his putting, his health and his motivation. Burnt out by the intense spotlight, and needing to rehab a nagging rib injury, he shut it down for four months last fall, a mental and physical reset.

    But after an encouraging start to his 2018 campaign in the Middle East, McIlroy was a non-factor in each of his first four Tour starts. That included a missed cut last week in Tampa, where he was admittedly searching.

    “The best missed cut I’ve ever had,” he said.

    McIlroy grinded all last weekend, stumbling upon a swing thought, a feeling, like he was making a three-quarter swing. Then he met for a few hours Monday in South Florida with former PGA Tour winner and putting savant Brad Faxon. They focused on being more instinctive and reactionary over the ball.

    “He just freed me up,” McIlroy said.

    Freed up his stroke, which had gotten too rigid.

    And freed up his mind, which was bogged down with technical thoughts and self-doubt.

    “The objective is to get the ball in the hole,” he said, “and I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All McIlroy did at Bay Hill was produce the best putting week of his career.  

    Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and then grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole.

    Tiger Woods was making a run, moving within a shot of the lead, but McIlroy answered with a charge of his own, rattling off four consecutive birdies – a 16-footer on 13, a 21-footer on 14, a chip-in on 15 and a two-putt birdie after a 373-yard drive on 16 – that left Woods and everyone else in the dust.

    Then McIlroy finished it off in style, rolling in a 25-footer on the last that was eerily similar to the putt that Woods has holed so many times at his personal playground.

    “I know what the putt does,” McIlroy said, “so it was nice to make my own little bit of history.”

    Justin Rose has played plenty of meaningful golf with McIlroy over the years, but he’d never seen him roll it like he did Sunday.

    “He turned on the burners on the back nine,” he said. “He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    It’s little wonder McIlroy pulled ahead of a star-studded leaderboard, closing with a bogey-free 64 and winning by three shots at 18-under 270 – he led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained-putting.

    “It’s so nice that everything finally came together,” he said.

    Over the next two weeks, there figures to be plenty of conversation about whether McIlroy can channel that fearlessness into the major he covets most. The Masters is the only piece missing from a career Grand Slam, and now, thanks to Faxon’s tips, he’s never been in a better position.

    But after a turbulent 18 months, McIlroy needed no reminder to savor a victory that felt like a long time coming.

    There was a hug for his parents, Gerry and Rosie.

    A kiss for his wife, Erica.

    A handshake for Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, and then a fitting into the champion’s alpaca cardigan.

    The only thing missing was the King himself, waiting atop the hill behind 18 with his huge smile and vice-grip handshake.

    “Hopefully he’s up there smiling,” McIlroy said, “and hopefully he’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine.”