Mike Weir Press Conference - The Players Championship
Q. Certainly you are a more confident player than, say, when you won in Vancouver a couple of years ago. Are you also a measurably better player?
MIKE WEIR: Yeah, I'm a much better player than I was. You mentioned Vancouver -- even from a year ago at this time at this tournament, I feel like I'm a much better player. More experience. My game is more solid, a little bit more well rounded and much more consistent. All together, everything is -- all of the work I've been doing the last four or five years is starting to come together.
Q. Any one particular aspect of your game that is observably stronger than, say, a year ago?
MIKE WEIR: I would say mentally I'm more than anything much stronger. That's what carries me through. When I am not swinging as well, I'm still able to score well; whereas, in years past I might have missed a cut or struggled with a round or maybe trying to -- now I shoot a 70, maybe not a good round. Back then, maybe it might have been a 75. That's just managing my game better and being a little bit mentally better.
Q. I understand the two practice rounds you've got deuces at the 17th on each this week. Can you give us some thoughts about that hole and the kind of challenge that it presents when the real game starts tomorrow?
MIKE WEIR: It's such a difficult hole because of the way the wind swirls around there, with the grandstand and the trees behind. It's difficult to pick the ball back up on the tee, exactly which way the wind is going. It might feel a certain way, but it swirls around, and when it swirls around just enough, a 5- or 10-yard difference, it can mean in the water or being close to the hole. That's what makes it so difficult is picking a club and trusting yourself. With the wind blowing left-to-right, it sets up really well for a lander. The right-handed guys I played with today on that hole struggled on that hole, but for me it set up really nicely. As the week goes on, on Saturday and Sunday, it becomes a little more intimidating with the pins tucked kind of in some precarious positions.
MIKE WEIR: I don't know if I would or not. The way I would design the course, I probably would, my design would be probably more of a linksy type because that's the kind of golf I really enjoy the most. But it definitely adds a lots of flavor to it down the stretch of this tournament, and I don't mind it at all. It's a real challenging hole. It's just different than other courses we play.
Q. Excitement aside, do you think it is a fairway to end a tournament when there is so little margin -- the little mis-hits can be punished as bad as the worst?
MIKE WEIR: I think it's very fair, because it really tests your resolve and your nerve, and if you have everything together mentally. Still, if you hit a solid shot and you are on top of your game, you're going to be okay. I think the real challenge is when -- if you're a couple behind, you really have to fire at the flag. That's when it really becomes interesting and you can make a 2 and really get back in the thick of the tournament. I think that's really exciting.
Q. You sounded as if you are interested in getting into course design or management. Have you thought about that?
MIKE WEIR: I've been approached before about it. I've thought about it and that's why I mentioned that, because the type of golf courses that I'm really drawn to are, you know, British Open-style type golf courses. I just like that. If I was going to have my first choice for my first design sometime down the road, that's what I would kind of like to do and that's what I have in mind. Probably some day.
Q. When you come to a course like this or to an Augusta where the tournament is held the same place year-in and year-out where local knowledge can be very important, is there or are there any particular other players that you like being paired with, either in practice rounds or during the tournament, maybe they had a little local knowledge or maybe there are guys that you played off of well in terms of competitiveness or friendliness or any of that stuff?
MIKE WEIR: For me, it was important to play two practice rounds. Maybe I play nine holes and then a Pro-Am during a regular tournament. This week, we don't have a Pro-Am, so it gives us the opportunity to play extra practice rounds and really get a feel for the place. And that's really important down here because it is such a demanding golf course. And visually, it is demanding because you really can't see the fairways and it is -- or you can on some holes, but some holes are very deceptive off the tee and they are difficult visually. Not only with the rough and everything else, they are difficult visually, so you have got to be specific on your targets. That's why I want to play a couple practice rounds and get all of those set before the week starts and get a solid game plan for the golf course.
Q. In general, are there other players that you are comfortable with or enjoy playing with or bring out the best in you maybe?
MIKE WEIR: Not particularly. I like playing with most guys out here. I don't really have a preference. You know, they are the same guys I usually play practice rounds with, but I don't feel like it feeds off my game.
Q. What are some of those, if you don't mind?
MIKE WEIR: Every once in awhile I play with Justin Leonard or Notah. Yesterday I played with Carlos and Steve Flesch and Harrison are good friends of mine. Today I played with Sergio, who I play with quite a bit, and Jesper and John Daly. So a lot of different styles there.
Q. Would you say it's fair to say that whoever wins this week, would you consider it somewhat of a factor at Augusta because of the quality of golf that's required to win?
MIKE WEIR: Well, definitely the quality of golf here is at its highest level. You are not going to have a champion who wins here, it is not going to be a fluke, because the course is so demanding and it tests all aspects of your game. So the player that wins here is obviously going to be playing well. This is obviously a week to be very focused this week or the course will eat you up.
Q. Is it a good tune-up? And from your perspective, I realize you guys don't look at this as a tune-up, but is it a great tune-up because it has great a major championship type atmosphere and the strength of the field, everything that goes into it?
MIKE WEIR: I never really looked at it like that. I think they are two totally separate tournaments and totally different golf courses. I think that, you know, a player that plays well is obviously going to be playing well going in through Augusta. But a player playing well here doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to play well at Augusta. It's totally different. You could be off your game and still score well, I think. Where here, it tests everything, because Augusta, obviously there's no rough. Here, there's rough. You have to chip the ball well. The greens were -- I guess the greens are pretty similar in the contours and the speeds and stuff.
Q. Are you saying that a guy who might not be hitting the ball great could still do okay at Augusta, but if you are not hitting the ball great, you can forget it here?
MIKE WEIR: Exactly.
Q. Could you say what I just said? (Laughter.)
MIKE WEIR: (Smiles).
Q. Are there any holes that set up particularly well for you as a left-hander that we might not think of because mostly right-handers have been successful here?
MIKE WEIR: I think for me, obviously a lot of the -- I draw the ball a little bit so the left-to-right holes, No. 1. 11 a little bit off the tee. 12 sets up pretty good for me. The course sets up pretty well for me. 15, 16 is a little bit difficult and 18 is a difficult tee shot for me. So I think it balances out. Dogleg-lefts are my favorites.
Q. Out over the water?
MIKE WEIR: Being a left-hander, you are starting the ball down the left side and bringing it back. That's a more difficult shot.
Q. What did you hit on 17 today?
MIKE WEIR: 7-iron. Pretty close.
Q. As close as yesterday?
MIKE WEIR: Yeah, about the same. Probably about four feet.
Q. Second shot at 14 and 15?
MIKE WEIR: 14, today I hit a 3-iron, I believe, on 14. Yesterday I hit 3-wood. 15, I hit 4-iron again. So those holes --.
Q. Really long?
MIKE WEIR: Really playing long, as wet as it is out there. But then, the greens are receptive to those clubs right now. I would not want to go into those holes with really firm greens. It would be difficult.
Q. On 17, didn't you play them like 1-under last Thursday and Friday a year ago?
MIKE WEIR: I think I found aqua one day. It was a quick trip for me.
Q. That move you make in your preshot routine, can you tell me about it, how it developed, what it is about?
MIKE WEIR: My coach and I came up with that a few years ago as a drill on the range to kind of stop a little bit of lateral movement that I had on my swing. Keeps my right arm against my chest and I set the club face open with my right hand. To get a little technical, I cut my right wrist, which gets the club face a little bit more open and I try to maintain that in my backswing. So, it is a technical thought, but it gives me the feel for what I want to do on my swing. So it is very feel-oriented, so I just try to repeat that when I make my full swing.
Q. So it is not a slot you are trying to go through; it's a sensation in your right wrist?
MIKE WEIR: It's a little bit of both. It does a lot of things. It also does set the club on plane on the backswing, as well. It's just almost like a rehearsal swing.
Q. The coach you referred to there is David Leadbetter?
MIKE WEIR: No. Mike Wilson is my coach.
Full Coverage of the Players Championship
Hensby takes full responsibility for violation
The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.
“The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”
Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.
To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.
“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.
Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.
Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.
Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.
“Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”
Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.
According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.
A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.
A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.
“I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.
Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.
“I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”
It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.
“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.
Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.
And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.
The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.
In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.
“To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”
Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.
“I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”
He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.
Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief
A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.
The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.
The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.
Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.
Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.
"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."
LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse
The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.
While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.
The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).
The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.
An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.
The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.
The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.
“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”
While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.
Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:
Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million
Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million
Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million
March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million
March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million
March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million
March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million
April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million
April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million
April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million
May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million
May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million
May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million
May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million
June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million
June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million
June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million
June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million
July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million
July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million
July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million
Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million
Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million
Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million
Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million
Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million
Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million
Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million
Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million
Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million
Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million
Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million
Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million
Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth
Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.
And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.
Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.
Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent.
Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.
Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.
Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.
In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.
Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)
U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)
The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)
PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)
TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS
AT&T Pebble Beach
FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE