Trahan Has Unfinished Business at Clemson
D.J. Trahan returned to Clemson for his senior year with a purpose...win a national championship. It really is that simple.
Trahan's list of accomplishments during his first three years with the Clemson golf program already qualify him for the Clemson Hall of Fame. He has already won the Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan Awards, honors presented to the National Player of the Year. He has represented the United States in the Walker Cup and the Palmer Cup matches, high profile international team competitions that signify the pinnacle of amateur golf.
He is already Clemson's career leader in stroke average (71.58 entering the spring of 2003), has been a first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year. He was won the United States Public Links Championship. In the summer he was even named one of the 50 greatest golfers in the history of the ACC, the only active golfer to make the list.
There is just one item missing from his resume. 'D.J. Trahan has some unfinished business,' said coach Larry Penley. 'He wants to win a national championship for Clemson University. He certainly has the maturity and the leadership qualities to take us there. He's as talented a leader as you will find.'
Penley knows what he is talking about. He is now in his 20th year as Clemson's head coach. During that time he has taken Clemson to the NCAA national tournament every year and has finished in the top 10 each of the last six years, including a No. 2 final ranking in 2001 and a No. 3 rating in 2002 last year. He has come close to a team title on many occasions, but has never won the top prize.
'This team is certainly capable of winning the national championship and that is our goal. That is our goal every year for this program. But, this year in particular we have the talent, the leadership, the ball striking ability, and the motivation to win a national championship,' said Penley.
So far this year Clemson has shown it has the mettle to compete for the top honor. The Tigers won three tournament championships in the fall, a first in the program's history, and finished second in two others, including the Ping Preview at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., the site of this year's NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the nation as a team in all three polls entering the spring season. 'We have gotten off to a good start,' continued Penley. 'We knew we would be tested in Japan at the Topy Cup in the very first tournament. The Japanese teams were outstanding competition, as were the United States teams. That was an important tournament because it showed we could win without D.J. being our low man.'
That has been the key for Clemson through the first half of the schedule. The Tigers are more than just four guys and D.J. Trahan. Through two tournaments Clemson already had five different players record an individual top-10 finish. Clemson finished second in the 16-team Collegiate Match Play Championship in November while Trahan was recovering from leading the United States team to the World Amateur Championship.
'And, we have some outstanding players who have not gotten into a tournament yet,' said Penley. 'The top five spots on this team are competitive. The sixth, seventh and eighth players could just as well be our third, fourth and five players. If the NCAA counted eight players in a tournament I would really be confident about our chances.'
Clemson concluded the fall schedule with a 70.95 team stroke average, best ever for a fall season. The five players combined for nine individual top-10 finishes. All five players had at least one round in the 60s and four players had at least three. Thirty-two of the 55 individual rounds were at par or better.
Clemson has a different motivation this year as compared to this time a year ago. Clemson was ranked ninth in the preseason poll for 2001-02. You could not blame that poll for that rating because Clemson had just lost two first-team All-Americans in Lucas Glover and John Engler, a pair of four-year starters who are now playing professionally on the Nationwide Tour. Penley's team was allowed to sneak up on the other teams, something it did when it won the Preview in the fall of 2001 at Ohio State.
But, this year Clemson won't sneak up on anyone. 'We can't use that motivation in 2003. We are ranked number-one and we won't let that consume us. We are just going to concentrate on getting better every tournament. That sounds simple, but that is our approach. Every player will examine their game week to week, find the weakness and improve on it. That consistent work ethic will be a key for us this year,' said Penley.
Trahan provides that example to the younger players with his long hours on the range at the Robinson Practice Facility or at the Walker Course. The hard work has paid off for the senior, who was an Academic as well as on the course All-American last year.
Trahan enters the fall as Clemson's career stroke average leader. That is quite a statement considering 12 Clemson golfers were on the 50-player All-Time ACC team (no school had more). He already owns the Clemson record for rounds in the 60s and should establish the mark for under-par rounds. The sky is the limit for this player, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur and the No. 1 college player when the season began.
Gregg Jones is a returning second-team All-American from a year ago. Jones has a career average of 72.44, now fourth in Clemson history. A year ago the junior had four top-10 finishes in his 12 tournaments and had a 71.81 stroke average. His season included a ninth place finish at the Ping Preview and a second-place finish at Augusta State. His 17th place finish at the NCAAs, a 1-under 283 score, was a key to Clemson's top three finish. He finished the fall strong by recording a 3-0-1 record at the Match Play Championship.
Ben Duncan is the early favorite for the team's most improved award. The senior played in nine tournaments last year and posted a 73.54 stroke average, third best on the team. But, his final season has gotten off to a quick start with a 70.83 stroke average through his first two events, including the first two top-10 finishes of his career. He was Clemson's top golfer at the Carpet Classic with a 211 score. That victory was the 50th of Penley's Clemson career.
Matt Hendrix was a reliable performer last year as a sophomore with a 73.70 stroke average as a competitor in all 12 events. He got his junior year off to a great start with a 65 in the first round at the Topy Cup, the low round by a Clemson golfer in two years. His 207 54-hole total in Japan was a key to Clemson's team victory. He had a 71.09 stroke average for the fall of 2003, tied for second on the team.
Jack Ferguson had perhaps the best summer of any Clemson golfer. He won an amateur event in Birmingham, Ala., then had top-10 finishes at the Rice Planters (6th), Southern Am (3rd), South Carolina amateur (2nd) and The Cardinal (2nd). To begin his sophomore year at Clemson he finished second among collegians at the Topy Cup with a 204 score, one of the top five 54-hole scores in Clemson history. He also had a 71.09 stroke average for the fall and enters the spring ranked in the top 15 in the nation, according to the Sagarin rankings.
Martin Catalioto was a starter in eight events as a freshman last year and posted a 74.6 stroke average. His NCAA Tournament performance included a 293 total, third best among Tigers and his score counted all four rounds, a solid performance for a first-year freshman. However, Catalioto will red-shirt the season, giving him three more years to lead the Clemson program starting in 2004.
Brian Duncan, a red-shirt freshman, and Nick Biershenk, a true freshman, were semifinalists at the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championships this past summer. Both are brothers with ties to the Clemson golf program. Brian, brother of Clemson senior Ben Duncan, got his first action at the Match Play Championship and defeated his opponent from Arizona and registered a tie against Oklahoma State. Both could see action this season.
Biershenk is the brother of Nationwide Tour veteran Tommy Biershenk, a starter for Clemson in the mid-1990s. Nick will likely red-shirt this season. Michael Sims and Stephen Poole are two other veterans who could break into the lineup at any time.
What pleases Penley the most about his team is its mental approach to this season. 'After last year's finish (third) they didn't pat each other on the back. They worked hard over the summer to get better. They know there are strong challengers out there, a lot of great teams. They all want the same goal and they understand the work it will take to get there.'
Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener
South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.
Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.
Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.
Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.
Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.
Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder
He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):
12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson
Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.
11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson
At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.
11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker
Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.
1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas
Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.
Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone
HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.
It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.
Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.
It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.
''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''
The reward now?
''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''
He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.
During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.
''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''
Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.
''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''
During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.
''Bones, don't ever do that again.''
It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.
Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.
And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.
It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.
''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''
Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.
And not the Masters.
He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.
''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''
There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.
Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.
''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''
He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.
''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.
He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.
''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''
Except for that first week in April.
The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't
The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.
All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.
By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.
Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.
As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:
This is unreal,hiding in kitchen beachside missile attack from North Korea. Alarm went out all over Hawaii, and it’s no test...— Jesper Parnevik (@JesperParnevik) January 13, 2018
In a basement under hotel. Barely any service. Can you send confirmed message over radio or tv https://t.co/qHLeQSecnd— JJ Spaun (@JJSpaun) January 13, 2018
Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in laws. Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 13, 2018
While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:
Yeah, you heard that right.
“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”
Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.
Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.
Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.
As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.
Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.
Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.
With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.
First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.
“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”
Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.
We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.
These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.
Here's two more just for good measure.
Focus on a different face every time and this 15 second clip turns into 10 minutes of pure entertainment pic.twitter.com/JJeVV5eaVh— Laces Out (@LacesOutShow) January 15, 2018
Farts ... will they ever not be funny?
Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.
Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.
Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"
Yeah Tommy, we all got that.
Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.
But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.
We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.
Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.
PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.
Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.