Golfers Who Give Back: Morgan Freeman

By Golf DigestNovember 30, 2012, 7:35 pm

Way back when teenage caddie Morgan Freeman was earning a dollar or two 'carrying a heavy bag for 18 holes,' all he really wanted to do was be in the movies. So now that he has starred in films with most of the greats, names like Redford and Newman, Hackman and Hoffman, Eastwood and Nicholson, now that he has an Oscar and a Golden Globe and, most recently, the 2012 Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment ... what he really wants is to become a better golfer. For the time being, he'll have to rely on just one hand, the result of a car crash in 2008 that essentially paralyzed his left hand from the wrist to his fingernails. At 75, Freeman is certifiably obsessed with golf. He plays at Bayou Bend when he's home in Mississippi, and he watches the Golf Channel and tour events as much as anyone he knows. Interviews and photo shoots aren't among his favorite assignments, but for golf and Golf Digest, Freeman was in a giving mood, so he drove 90 minutes in his BMW 7 Series to meet us for a couple of hours in Memphis. 'That was painless,' he said when we wrapped.

Q: Good to see you're alive and well. Did you read the Internet hoax in August that Morgan Freeman had died?

A: It wasn't a hoax. I think it was just misinformation. A friend of mine, an actor named Al Freeman Jr., who was a professor at Howard University, died in August. So ... Freeman, an actor ... well, that was enough for whoever got wind of it. It's the era we live in.


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Q: You're 75 and still working nonstop. What are your latest projects?

A: I did three movies this year. First one's called 'Now You See Me,' an interesting story about magicians making money disappear from banks. Did one with Tom Cruise called 'Oblivion,' a science-fiction, futuristic film. And I just did one called 'Olympus Has Fallen,' an action-adventure about a takeover at the White House. Now I'm getting ready to do one with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline, called 'Last Vegas.' It's about these four old guys who've been friends since childhood going to Vegas for one of the guys' bachelor party.

Q: What's harder: playing God, playing Mandela, or playing golf?

A: Playing God is the easiest of all. Mandela I found to be very, very easy, and an awful lot of fun. Golf is hard. Very, very hard.

Q: How much golf can you play with that work schedule?

A: I've easily played more than 20, 25 rounds this year. When you're making movies, you have a lot of time off, days they're shooting scenes you aren't involved in. Those are all golf days for me. Whatever city I'm in, I get to the golf course. When I was in New Orleans, we played just about every other day.

Q: Do you play with other actors? Maybe Cruise or Nicholson, your co-star from 'The Bucket List'?

A: No, I haven't played with either of them. I play with my stand-in; he's a longtime golfer. My driver likes to play. And you always meet somebody on these courses who wants to play. I also spend a lot of time with my son in Southern California, and we play on a public course out there near Torrance. I've played down in San Diego at Torrey Pines. And I really enjoyed Seven Canyons in Arizona.

Q: And you're playing with only one hand.

A: That's right; I swing the club with just my right hand. I was in a horrendous car accident four years ago. I don't know what happened, whether I passed out, went to sleep or what. But I left the highway, and the car just rolled and rolled and rolled ... and the left side of me was pretty much torn to pieces. The upshot is a paralyzed left hand. I literally can't use it. It won't work.

Q: Yet you still play golf?

A: I don't seem to be any worse than I was with two hands. [Laughs.] I can't hit it 240 or 260 yards like some of these guys I play with, but I enjoy trying.

Q: Who knew Morgan Freeman loved golf so much? When did this happen?

A: I remember caddieing in Greenwood, Miss., when I was 13, 14 years old. But that didn't get me interested in golf. I didn't get turned on to playing until 10 or 12 years ago. Sometime after the advent of Tiger Woods.

Q: You and the Plan!t Now Foundation partnered with Michael Douglas & Friends earlier this year, and that's only one example of how you've given back through golf. What else?

A: I don't pat myself on the back all that much about giving back, but if life's been good to you, you should be good to life. And that's really as far as I go with it. Playing golf in charity tournaments is the easiest, most pleasant way to - and I put this in quotes - 'give back.'

Q: Is there a Morgan Freeman foundation?

A: It's called the Rock River Foundation. I set it up because I realized once I got out in the world that I really got a good education at my segregated school in Greenwood. Now I go back, and it's the worst school system in the country. Literally. Somehow, that has to be dealt with. So I set up a foundation to do that.

Q: Describe your greatest moment on a golf course.

A: It has to be the time I parred holes 17 and 18 at Sawgrass. Vijay Singh had wandered over to say, 'Hi, I'm a fan,' and blah, blah, blah. So he joined us for the last five holes, and he started giving me swing pointers. And they worked! We get to the 17th, and I knocked it on the green. Must have been a 9-iron for me. Then on 18 I hit a good drive and a good approach and made my par.

Q: And your most embarrassing moment?

A: That would have to be at the Humana Challenge in January. The first day I couldn't hit the ball at all. I'd either hit two inches behind it or I'd top it. All kinds of dreadful stuff.

Q: Nerves?

A: Of course!

Q: Not to mention, you were playing one-handed. Think you'll ever play in that again?

A: Oh, yeah. It's more about the charity. You aren't there to look good playing golf. I mean, I'd like to, but it isn't about that.

Q: You watch golf more than almost anything else on television, and you've immersed yourself in the game and want to get better. Why do you love it so much?

A: Golf is the only sport I've been able to take part in as an adult. I used to bowl, and I used to roller-skate, but that was years and years ago. Golf is something you can do until you drop dead. Hit that last drive and just keel over. And I wouldn't mind doing just that.


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.