Golfers Who Give Back: Michael J. Fox

By Golf DigestNovember 30, 2012, 7:25 pm

Of all the golf lovers in this collection of game changers, Michael J. Fox might be the biggest giver. In 12 years, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has directed about $300 million to research on the disease. 'We have no agenda other than to cure this,' says, Fox, 51, the 'Back to the Future' star who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and announced it in 1998. Fox still loves to make people laugh, and he cracks up when recalling his start as a golfer in the early to mid-2000s, when his 'golf uncles' would urge him to stay still over the ball. 'Be still over the ball?' he'd say. 'If I could be still over my soup, I'd be happy.'

Q: It's been more than 20 years since your diagnosis. How are you doing?

A: I've been feeling pretty good lately and felt like I could work a bit more, so I did 'The Good Wife,' and I did an episode on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' and I've been speaking around the country and connecting with folks in a way I haven't since I did 'Spin City' and the 'Back to the Future' movies and 'Family Ties.'


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Q: Next is a sitcom for NBC, for fall 2013, loosely based on your life.

A: And I'm sure my character will be a golfer, and golf will be featured.

Q: We loved your willingness to display the effects of Parkinson's with Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'

A: When you have a disability, you have two things to deal with: your own experience, and everyone else's attitude toward your experience. That's what was fun about 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.' It was kind of like saying, Look, I know what I've got, and I know how to deal with it. I appreciate your support and concern, but I'm OK. I have a great family and a great life, and while I'm working toward a cure, I accept and understand my condition. But acceptance doesn't mean resignation. I can deal with the facts of it, but beyond that, I have a life to live.

Q: And golf has become a big part of your life.

A: I remember walking the course a few times with my dad when I was probably 5 or 6. I didn't play; he brought me to find balls. I'd scramble into the bushes that no one else would get into and get scratched by briars and bitten by bugs.

Q: You played hockey and lacrosse growing up in Canada. Why not golf?

A: I didn't have the wherewithal to play. There was no First Tee, and I wasn't from a well-off background. The money I did save for recreational sports I put into hockey and skiing. Then in my 20s, I had this kind of contemporary actors' attitude about golf that, There's plenty of time for golf - when I'm dead.

Q: But you picked it up.

A: Tiger was a big part of it, and Annika Sorenstam was really an inspiration. When she played in that first men's event, I thought, Wow! This is cool. This is a sport for risk-takers.

Q: How did you start?

A: I have these guys I call my 'golf uncles.' People like Tim Simpson, Cam Neely - and my friend Ted Davis, who would bring me out when it was embarrassing. But he persevered until I had a game when I could tee off at the first tee and actually get on the green in two. I said to my wife, Tracy, 'I've been thinking about all of my golf uncles and how they put up with me when I couldn't play that well. And, now, finally, I can play a little bit and it's great, and she goes, 'Yeah, they're crack dealers - and they got you addicted!'

Q: How well can you play with Parkinson's?

A: I'm a horrible golfer. [Laughs.] I've been so lucky to be celebrated for what I do and really kind of humbled about that. It's great to do something where I really suck. My best score for 18 holes is 46 out and 46 in, and I'm a 22-handicap.

My friend Clark Gregg, from the 'Avenger' movies, has a great description of me teeing off: He says I look like I'm between two subway cars with a foot on each platform. Then he says, 'And you hit the ball 220 yards, and I don't know how you do it.'

Q: How tired are you after walking 18 holes?

A: Oh, I'm on an IV! [Laughs.] It's hard for me to walk because I get too tired, but I got to play the National [Golf Links of America] this summer, and I had to walk. When I got off the 18th, I couldn't lift my Arnold Palmer.

Q: Do Tracy, your son or three daughters play?

A: There's a theater named after me in Burnaby, British Columbia, and they have a tournament I play in with my brother and his son. My son came last time; my sister who passed away used to play with us. My mom is 82 years old, and she was in the golf cart, and we got to where we weren't going to win, so we were just having fun. Anytime our putt was within 12 feet, we'd have my mom come out and putt it. And she drained six in a row! I've got pictures of us falling on the ground. It was hilarious.

Q: You watch a lot of golf. Who's your favorite?

A: Tiger. Ever since he was a kid. Rory is pretty exciting to watch, and I definitely root for Phil, too. But anytime anyone's been through something, whether they brought it on themselves or whatever, I love to watch them come back. I know what it's like to be 22 years old and go from just being a kid to having a Ferrari and girlfriends all over the place, and you can't pay for dinner in a restaurant. It's heavy stuff and hard to handle.

Q: What about your foundation makes you the most proud?

A: I always say when people affected by Parkinson's wake up in the morning and say, 'Who's trying to find a cure for this? We are!' What's been really impressive to me is people with Parkinson's who say, 'I hid this until you came out, but now when people ask me, 'What do you have?' and I say 'Parkinson's,' they say, 'Oh, like Michael Fox.' ' Now I feel like I belong to something. I'm not alone.

Q: Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, are helping in huge ways.

A: Sergey and Anne have been tremendously generous. Sergey has a connection to one of the genes that's an indicator Parkinson's is possible in that family, so he and Anne set up a challenge fund where for every dollar we raise from new donors through Dec. 31 this year, they'll match it. Nike auctioned off a limited series of the Mag shoes from 'Back to the Future II' on eBay, and we raised over $4 million. Sergey and Anne matched it, and it turned into almost $10 million.

Q: What can readers do?

A: One of the huge needs is for people to get involved with clinical trials. I'm talking about people who have Parkinson's and, especially, people who don't have Parkinson's. If you're a male in your 40s or 50s, this is a group we really need to tap into. If you want to do something good and feel good about yourself, check into the clinical trials at foxtrialfinder.org.


Interview conducted by Craig Bestrom; Click here to visit GolfDigest.com

Photography by Walter Iooss Jr.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.