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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    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.