Backspin 13 Years in the Making

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
O ... YES: Lorena Ochoa overcame a quadruple bogey in the first round and a near meltdown in the final round to win the LPGA Tour season finale at the ADT Championship. With cuts being made and score being wiped clean after the second and third rounds, Ochoa shot 66-68 over the weekend to win by two and claim the $1 million first-place prize. Her 'best shot ever,' an approach from the rough on 18 to 3 feet -- on the heels of a double bogey at 17 -- sealed the deal.
Backspin Just as Tiger Woods did on the PGA TOUR, the women's No. 1 capped off a stellar season with a playoff victory; though, Lorena did manage to make it a little more exciting by nearly blowing a four-shot lead with two holes to play. For the record, Ochoa notched 8 wins, including one major, and nearly $4.365 million. Her money total smashed the old single-season record by $1.5 million.
O ... NO: Annika Sorenstams season came to a conclusion Friday afternoon when she lost in a three-way playoff to advance to weekend play at the ADT Championship. With two spots available to round out the top 16 for round three, Sorenstam bogeyed the second extra hole to give way to Natalie Gulbis and Ai Miyazato.
Backspin Fourteen starts, no wins. Its been nearly 14 years since shes been blanked in the victory department, dating back to her rookie season of 1994. Annika appeared almost defiant in her post-round assertion that she would be back in 2008. Its going to take that kind of attitude ' and a bit of good fortune in the health department ' to reclaim her throne atop the LPGA Tour.
PLAYOFFS?!?: The LPGA playoff format worked to perfection this past week. After the second round, Sorenstam, Gulbis and Miyazato highlighted a playoff to reach round three. After round three, four more players, including Christina Kim, Nicole Castrale, Sophie Gustafson and Mi Hyun Kim, played off for two spots. The final included a Hall of Famer (Karrie Webb), the reigning U.S. Open champion (Cristie Kerr), two of the most popular players (Gulbis and Paula Creamer), and the world's No. 1 (Ochoa), among the group of eight. And No. 1 won.
Backspin If the PGA TOUR could be guaranteed this kind of excitement, they'd probably abandon the FedExCup format immediately and shift to the LPGA version for 2008. This couldn't have worked out much better for ladies -- particularly Ochoa.
WINNING UGLY: Miguel Angel Jimenez won his second career UBS Hong Kong Open title despite making bogey on his final hole. Tied for the lead alongside Robert Karlsson, the Swede made double-bogey to hand the championship over to the grateful Spaniard.
Backspin Through two events on the 2008 European Tour schedule, we have two notable winners. First, Phil Mickelson won the HSBC Champions in China. And now, Jimenez has won in Hong Kong. We have also had two achingly awful finishes. Both involved the winner making bogey at the last, while his closest competitor made double-bogey. Mickelson had to win in a playoff over the unfortunate Ross Fisher. Jimenez got to smoke that victory cigar a little sooner.
WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY: The PGA and LPGA tours finally announced their drug policies for 2008. The LPGAs system will be implemented at the beginning of next season, while the PGA TOUR will have an education period until enforcing the policy in July.
Backspin There were some similarities between the two policies, like a player being suspended for one year for his/her first offense and a possible lifetime ban for three offenses. But the LPGA will not distinguish between performance-enhancing and recreational drugs (the PGA TOUR is still debating the issue). LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens is taking a hard stance with multiple offenders as well, saying that two violations will equal a two-year ban and players will be allowed to return, but with no status. Two violations will also prevent a player from Hall of Fame consideration.
SCHEDULED AFFAIRS: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem also announced this past week that the TOUR Championship would be moved back on the 2008 schedule to allow players a chance to rest before the Ryder Cup.
Backspin Initially, the Ryder Cup was to be played the week after the PGA TOUR Playoff finale. Now, there will be a week off between the third (of four) Playoff event and the Ryder Cup, and the TOUR Championship will take place the week thereafter. The move was lauded by U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, who, in his usual manner, managed to praise the decision and mock it at the same time. Somehow, we still think players will find something to complain about, like having to travel all the way from Louisville, Ky., to Atlanta, Ga., without a week off for rest ' and all for a lousy $10 million.
MORE SCHEDULING NEWS: The PGA and LPGA tours released their 2008 schedules. The men will start their season immediately after the turn of the calendar with the Mercedes-Benz Championship. The LPGA will open with the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, Feb. 14-16
Backspin Not much is different on the mens side, except the inclusion of a new event in Puerto Rico, the week after Bay Hill. And thats whats upsetting to some pundits. The Playoffs will pretty much stay the same; though, the winner will receive $9 million in cash and $1 million deferred, instead of the entire bonus deferred. On the LPGA side, there are still a few holes to fill, but with at least $55 million in total prize money, the ladies will be playing for their most money ever.
POULTER RISES AT PHOENIX: Ian Poulter won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan by holding off Spain's Gonzalo Castano. Luke Donald shared third place, while defending champion Padraig Harrington finished six back of Poulter.
Backspin Poulter has a knack for winning late in the year. Four of his seven career European Tour victories have come from the month of September on. This win was on the Japanese Tour, but no doubt will give him plenty of confidence for 2008. But will he be able to get off to a good start or once again stall until the end?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Former MLB pitcher Rick Rhoden was a co-medalist at the Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament; Butch Harmon will be lending an extra set of eyes to John Daly next year; Tommy Armour III won the Pebble Beach Invitational.
Backspin What a gyp -- the 31 players who qualified didn't even get tour cards, but only a chance to qualify Monday for nine spots in full-field Champions Tour events next season; Will Dr. Phil be Daly's life coach?; Armour beat Rocco Mediate and Ronnie Black. This is the kind of field you get when players have to earn their post-season money instead of getting paid up front.
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    Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x