A Controversial Week in Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.
MY TEAM, MY PICKS: European captain Nick Faldo surprised many Sunday when he finalized his team by skipping over Darren Clarke in favor of Ian Poulter and Paul Casey for his two Ryder Cup wildcards.
Backspin The real surprise is: Why would anyone be surprised? Faldo gets his kicks on chapping everyone elses hides. He loves to show that hes in control, even if it could be to his detriment. Clarke deserved the spot, but Poulter got it. If Europe wins again, it wont matter. However, if they dont

END OF AN ERA?: Also left off the European team was Colin Montgomerie. The Scot, who has a 20-9-7 career Ryder Cup record, was not selected by Faldo, and did not qualify on his own merit, thus ending his streak of eight consecutive Cup appearances.
Backspin Monty is a smart man, and given his history with Faldo he had to know that he stood no chance of being called. Faldo could have had 12 picks to form his team and Monty might not have gotten one. To add a bit of insult to injury, Faldo felt the need to take a swipe at Montgomerie at his press conference Sunday, saying he was watching football or shopping when asked if Faldo had tried to contact Montgomerie to give him the bad news. Classy.

ENGLISH STANDARD: The big news early last week came out of the LPGA camp, where it was reported by Golfweek that the tour was going to require all of its current members to be proficient in the English language by the end of 2009. Players will have to pass an oral evaluation or face possible suspension.
Backspin As expected, this set off quite a firestorm. In an online poll, GolfChannel.com readers believed 57% to 43% that this was a necessary step for the LPGA to take, given the dominance of the South Korean players recently. Were not disagreeing; in fact, it makes business sense. But even Count von Count couldnt reel off the number of things wrong with the way Carolyn Bivens and company went about things: 1) Why did the LPGA invite only Korean players, and not all international players, to their initial meeting to reveal its plan. 2) What are the parameters of the oral evaluation? 3) Why suspend a player who has the talent to compete (and probably win) on tour instead of fining them? 4) What happens to someone with speech impairment should she earn her card? What if Nell could play golf?

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Tiger Woods was in Dubai on Monday, saying that he wasnt sure if he would be able to return to defend his title in early 2009, but that his $1.1 billion golf course project was right on track. He then flew back to the States to host a release party for his Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09.
Backspin The projects chief, Abdulla Al Grug, wouldnt say how much Woods is being paid for lending his name and ideas to this plan, but it probably includes fuel costs to and from Dubai. Seriously, how much is Tiger Woods really worth right now? Does he even know how much money he has? Where does he keep it all? If Tiger gave every person who read this weeks feature $10,000 he wouldnt even miss it. If we, the Backspin, gave everyone who read this weeks feature 10 cents we wouldnt be able to eat for a month.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?: Ben Curtis will have a new caddie on his bag for the Ryder Cup. Veteran looper Tony Navarro, who has worked for Greg Norman and most recently Adam Scott, will get his first taste of the biennial competition since 1987.
Backspin Curtis regular caddie, Englishman Andrew Sutton, said his loyalty was with his countrymen (and continentals) and not his employer. Said Navarro: Im sure I would have caddied for my player. I want the person I am caddying for to win every match. Navarro has twice caddied for Raymond Floyd and once for Ben Crenshaw in the Ryder Cup. Unfortunately for the U.S., the Yanks have a 0-2-1 record when he participates.

PICKING ON POULTER: Prior to Nick Faldo revealing his captain's picks, there was a bunch of verbal sparring going on between the hopefuls. England's Nick Dougherty accused countryman Poulter of knowing that he had already secured a selection when Poulter opted to skip the Johnnie Walker and compete in the Deutsche Bank Championship, all-but guaranteeing that he would not qualify for the team. Montgomerie then said Poulter had a 'hotline' to Faldo, which really rubbed the latter the wrong way.
Backspin Poulter railed on Monty and Dougherty ' and the media ' after missing the cut in Boston. He blamed all the negativity on his poor play. 'I'm sick and tired of all this nonsense,' he said. Hey, Ian, look at the bright side: you're the big winner because you got the nod over both your detractors ' and thanks to the Deutsche Bank being your 15th PGA TOUR event of the season, you don't have to play in the Fall Series in order to secure your membership.
DON'T FORGET ME: Amidst all the Ryder Cup talk in Scotland, Gregory Havret walked away with the Johnnie Walker Championship title, defeating Graeme Storm by one stroke.
Backspin Also not to be overlooked are the performances by Justin Rose, Soren Hansen and Oliver Wilson. All three men were in jeopardy of losing their automatic spots on the European Ryder Cup team entering the week, and all three men did enough to earn a trip to Valhalla for their first Cup experience.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee said he intends to stay an amateur in order to play in the 2009 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship Sergio Garcia, taking advantage of the Deutsche Banks Friday start, played some tennis with French Open and Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open Adam Scotts lingering health problems may lead to getting his tonsils removed when he returns to Australia Jeff Sluman won the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach by five strokes.
Backspin I got to play those major tournaments before I die, Lee said Nadal has won five Grand Slam titles, including four at the French. If they ever play golf on clay, watch out for Sergio! Lets hope the surgery doesnt affect his speech or he may never get to play on the LPGA Even if its on the Champions Tour and not on the PGA TOUR, winning at Pebble is really cool.
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”