Backspin FInchem Getting Beat Up

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 10, 2007, 4:00 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.
COG THRILL: Tiger Woods shot 8-under 63 Sunday to claim his fourth career BMW Championship title, and in the process move into first place on the FedExCup Playoffs points list.
Backspin It's not surprising that Tiger could skip the first Playoffs event and still have the overall lead going into the finale. What may come as a bit of a shock, however, is the fact that Tiger is now only two victories behind Arnold Palmer on the all-time PGA TOUR wins list. This was Tiger's 60th career TOUR title -- before the age of 32. He also moved his official TOUR earnings to over $75 million.
STAYING ALIVE: Steve Stricker continued his amazing comeback this past week finishing solo third to give himself a chance to win the $10 million bonus. Stricker will enter the finale 3,133 points behind Woods, with 10,300 points going to the TOUR Championship winner.
BackspinTechnically, there are five players still alive to win the big pot, but Rory Sabbatini and K.J. Choi would need separate meteors to fall on Woods, Stricker and Phil Mickelson in order to finish first. It will ultimately come down to those three players, which should make for a compelling finale.
FINCHEM FIRESTORM: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem had to weather quite the firestorm last week after enduring Phil Mickelsons withdrawal from the BMW; a sudden avalanche of complaints from other TOUR players about the perceived lack of communication between the two parties; and the weekend announcement that heat had wrecked the putting surfaces at East Lake, site of the TOUR Championship.
BackspinFinchem is one cool cat and has done a solid job as commissioner of the PGA TOUR ' well, with a little help from a guy named Eldrick. Sports fans once hated the idea of expanding the Major League Baseball playoffs from four teams to eight. They also initially hated instant replay in football. But Finchem and Co. are without a doubt on the right track with the end-of-the-season playoffs. Tweaks? Sure. Lots of tweaks? Probably so. Going in the right direction? No doubt.
PHILLING LEFT(Y) OUT: After dropping his Finchem bombshell just moments after his impressive win over Woods at the Deutsche Bank, Mickelson officially announced his withdrawal from the BMW Championship on Tuesday.
BackspinOnce again, Mickelson showed that things are never dull when he is in the picture. Mickelson did his best to shoot down FInchem in his post-victory interview, and then acted as if the bullets weren't intended for the commisioner when announcing his BMW withdrawal. Overall, the only person who was wounded in this battle was Mickelson. His absence may have cost him $10 million -- and some good PR.
UMBRELLA, PLEASE: The LPGA Tour's 54-hole NW Arkansas Championship was cursed from the get go. Massive rains left the course unplayable for most of the weekend, forcing the tour to shorten the event to just 18 holes and label it a 'non-event.'
BackspinIt's a small miracle this kind of stuff doesn't happen all the time in golf. When you play a sport that is literally in the hands of Mother Nature, it's a blessing when a full tournament is completed. Just a hunch, but we suspect the 'golfing gods' and Mother Nature must run in the same social circles.
USA! USA! USA!: Jonathan Moore hit a pure 4-iron to 4 feet for eagle on the 18th hole to give the Americans the final point they needed Sunday to capture the Walker Cup, the first time in 16 years they brought back the Cup from across the pond.
BackspinThe victory, bolstered by NCAA champ Jamie Lovemark from USC and Colt Knost, the U.S. Amateur champ, showed their mettle down the stretch, becoming the first U.S. squad to bring home the Cup from foreign soil since a certain team with the likes of Phil Mickelson and David Duval won at Portmarnock back in 1991. Which leads us to this: USA! USA! USA!
YOU WANT DRAMA?: Brett Rumford drained a 30-foot chip from off the green on the first playoff hole to beat Phillip Archer at the Omega European Masters. It was Australian's first victory since the 2004 Irish Open.
BackspinPerhaps lost in the shuffle because of the FedExCup going on in the States is the fact that the European Tour rarely lacks for excitement. The past four weeks are a case in point: Mikko Ilonen birdies the 72nd hole to win the Scandinavian Masters; Ross Fisher wins the KLM Open on the final hole with a birdie; Marc Warren captures the Johnnie Walker Championship with birdie on the second playoff hole; and then Rumfords heroics on Sunday. Shameless plug alert! All this action is seen live each week on the GOLF CHANNEL!
THE LIGHTER SIDE: Sue McMeekin of Satsop and Les Bell of Montesano, Wash., had an usual partner for seven of their nine holes at the Oaksridge Golf Course -- an Emu. Yes, thats right, an Emu. That would be the flightless bird, second only in size among avians to the ostrich, that can grow to more than 5 feet in size.
BackspinIf youve ever ventured out by yourself to play some golf, youve no doubt encountered plenty of odd characters along the way. Some you have enjoyed playing with, while some have made you wish you would have stayed at home and finished mowing the lawn. But an Emu? Who wouldnt love to have that golfing story? The giant bird apparently followed the ladies for quite a while, watching each swing and sometimes walking between them or standing directly in front of them.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Tadd Fujikawa missed the cut last week at the Omega; Fiddlesticks C.C. landed the 2010 USGA Senior Women's Amateur; Robert Allenbys caddie, Matthew 'Bussy' Tritton, quit during the middle of Fridays second round of the BMW Championship.
BackspinFujikawa may have missed the cut but he went out in grand style - making an albatross on his final hole, holing out a 3-wood from 285 yards on the par-5 18th; Normally, the announcement of the site of a future U.S. Senior Women's Amateur event wouldn't garner a spot in the 'In Case You Missed It' files, but when the name of the golf club is called Fiddlesticks, well, you can see why; Allenby seemed to be quite proud of the fact that yet another caddie had quit on him. Heres thinking the Aussie will never be up for a Boss of the Year award.
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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “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, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. 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.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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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.