Press Pass A Coachs Worth Popularity Contest

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
 
Hot Topic
This week is the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. What is your favorite memory of the late Byron Nelson?
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
That's easy. It was interviewing Nelson, in his late 80s at the time, while Nelson sat for a haircut with his regular barber, Shelton Givens, in downtown Fort Worth. Nelson fussed while the photographer worked on the lighting. But once we started talking he would have sat there all day long. His recall staggered the imagination. Oh, and there was the matter of him driving by himself, in his own car, from his farm to downtown Fort Worth for the interview. He parallel parked on the street, fed the meter, got out of his car and walked, with his cane, into Shelton's establishment.
 
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
I met Mr. Nelson for the first time at his event in 2002. It was amazing to watch how gentle he was and how much time he took for almost everyone. Each day I'd watch strangers walk away from shaking his hand with a smile on their face. He was always friendly.
 
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
In 1996 I was working for ABC, which covered Byrons tournament. After Phil Mickelson won that year I emceed the awards ceremony with Phil and Mr. Nelson. While we were waiting to go back on the air, Mr. Nelson looked at me and said I think you are a wonderful golf announcer. Ill never forget that.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
I never had the honor to meet Mr. Nelson in a one-on-one setting, but I did attend his 2001 tournament. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that he watched everyone finish up on 18 and then shook their hands and said a few words to them as they went to sign their scorecards. It didn't matter if it was Tiger Woods or Robert Damron, he treated each player the same and thanked everyone for playing in the tournament.
 
Hot Topic
Phil Mickelson is now working full time with Butch Harmon. How much of a role do instructors play in a players success?
 
Hewitt:
Obviously, it varies from player to player. The key is communication. And that can work in different ways. Some players need a kick in the butt (and want a kick in the butt) and wind up with very good teachers who are too gentlemanly. Other players are very sensitive and don't respond to the occasional tongue-lashing. In short, some players need to be told how good they are and others need to be told how good they ought to be. It's also important for the teacher to determine what kind of stimuli--auditory or visual--the player best responds to. Then there is the familiarity thing. You don't see his name on too many lists, but Henry Reis has been with Annika Sorenstam for 20 years now. And he rarely needs to look at more than five swings to determine the trouble when Annika comes to him with a swing flaw problem. For a player to know that there is that availability is hugely important.
 
Sands:
Whenever I see a player believe in what he's working on with his instructor that confidence seems to translate to his scoring.
 
Rolfing:
I believe the instructors role has increased in this era of new technology. Forty years ago the game was played much more by feel, which is a difficult thing to teach.
 
Baggs:
Instructors are a very important part of the game, but I think many of the younger players rely too heavily on their coaches and become too mechanical in competition. I think a player should know his swing well enough to figure out what is not working on his own -- and should have a coach as an extra set of eyes to help point out any flaws and help fix them.
 
Hot Topic
Speaking of instructors, Justin Roses says that the Englishman will win more majors than Nick Faldo. Will ANY current European-born player win six or more major championships?
 
Hewitt:
Nick Bradley (Rose's coach) has forgotten more about golf than I will ever know. But winning more majors than Nick Faldo means Rose will have to capture seven before his career ends. That's a tall order for anybody. One of the most interesting things about Faldo's record is that of the nine official PGA TOUR events he won, six were major championships. That's a pretty strong percentage. Rose has the goods to win multiple majors but he's still looking for his first.
 
Sands:
No. There could be some Europeans who win multiple majors like Rose or Paul Casey. But with Tiger just 31 years of age, anyone winning six or more in the next 10-15 years is unlikely.
 
Rolfing:
No. First of all there are many more good European players to spread the majors around than during Faldos time. And secondly, Nick did not have to deal with Tiger Woods in his prime.
 
Baggs:
No chance. I'd be very surprised if any of the current crop of European-born players got even half-way to that mark. For one, there is Tiger Woods (and even Phil Mickelson). For another, winning multiple majors is about more than just talent. It takes a great deal of desire to win one major then have the drive to not settle but to want to win more and more and more. I don't think there are 10 players in the world with that drive and the ability to do it.
 
Hot Topic
Lorena Ochoa and company are in Mexico this week. Who is the most popular player in his/her country outside of the U.S.?
 
Hewitt:
Ochoa isn't a bad choice. She has done a lot to raise the level of consciousness of golf in her country. And Seve Ballesteros will always be a sporting icon in Spain. Same with Greg Norman in Australia. Jumbo Ozaki is a cult figure in Japan. But the most popular player in his country, outside of the U.S., is, hands down, Mike Weir in Canada. The Canadians have a passion for golf that is fed by the intensity of their relatively short season. They live and die with Weir's triumphs and defeats. And, add on to that, Weir's equanimity in the face of all this national pressure. We, at GOLF CHANNEL, constantly are asked who the 'good guys' are in golf. Weir is a first ballot top-5 in that category. If he wants to be elected to public office in Canada when his playing days are through, all he has to do is run.
 
Sands:
I've covered the Canadian Open three times and was in Ireland for the WGC-CA Championship and Ryder Cup. Padraig Harrington is huge in his home country, but I have never heard a crowd as loud and warm to a home country hero as Canadians are to Mike Weir. He is a legend who after his Masters win in 2003 was almost as big as Wayne Gretzky in hockey mad Canada.
 
Rolfing:
I really believe it is Lorena Ochoa. Her popularity in Mexico is mind-boggling. Camillo Villegas in Columbia would be a pretty close second.
 
Baggs:
I've never seen anything quite like the LPGA Q-school finals two years ago, when nearly 100 credentialed Japanese media were on hand to witness Ai Miyazato medal. LPGA Q-school normally gets about 10 media members total covering the event. I was told by more than one Japanese writer that she is (at least was at the time) as popular as MLB players Hideki Matsui and Ichiro.
 
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.