Backspin Out of Focus

By Dena DavisJune 1, 2009, 4:00 pm
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WIND BENEATH HIS WINGS: After five top-10s this season, including some heartbreaking near-misses, Steve Stricker finally won, defeating Tim Clark and Steve Marino in a playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. The critical point to Stricker's round was his chip-in birdie on No. 17. In his press conference following the victory, Stricker said a 'man in the stands' told him to chip it in there on the 71st hole and hearing that encouragement from a stranger actually helped him focus.
 
Backspin Now, that's what you call 'the 12th man' right there. Strick, a Wisconsin native, should consider sending the guy a wheel of cheese for being an inspiration, or letting the fan wear his Tartan jacket for a week. Or both. How cool would one look in a Tartan jacket wielding a wheel of cheese?
 

 
CLOSING TIM(E): Clark, who has won the most money on the PGA Tour without winning an event, blew a two-shot lead with five holes to go Sunday. He left short a 9-foot putt that would've won it on the final hole, then pulled a 7-footer that would've ended the playoff on the first hole. Afterward, he bailed on the press room, not wanting to deal with the media, but did offer this to an on-course Tour rep: 'I can't take anything positive from today. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to closing out golf tournaments.'
 
Backspin Well, he also may have some work to do when it comes to being a professional athlete. Somewhere in Cleveland, LeBron James doesn't feel so alone. However, we'll give the affable Clark a pass on not facing the media. After all, he didn't have a great supporting cast ' that broomstick putter is doing him no favors. It's too bad the 33-year-old South African wasn't able to stay focused and finish this one, just to get that monkey off his back. The good news is that while Clark isn't the closer he wants to be yet, he is getting closer each time he puts himself in position to win. He should really focus on that.
 

 
UNBREAK MY SHARK, ER, HEART?: Earlier in the week at the European Open in Ash, England, Sergio Garcia said his game has suffered due to his breakup with Greg Norman's daughter Morgan-Leigh in March. While the world's No. 4 did win a European Tour event in November, he's notched only one top-10 finish ' at the Qatar Masters in January ' since then.
 
Backspin It's never easy getting over heartbreak. Just ask Greg Norman. Oh, wait. Maybe Sergio shouldn't go there ... Actually, it's for the best that Garcia, somewhat a modern day version of the Shark (without actually having won a major) is not spending time with the Norman family anymore. Maybe he should consider spending time with Arnold Palmer's granddaughters ' or dating the relatives of any other Hall-of-Famer who could actually close. That good karma is bound to rub off on the hard-luck El Nino, right?
 

 
PRETTY IN PINK: Tour players at the Colonial made a vibrant statement in the fight against breast cancer, and in support of Amy Mickelson, by donning an array of pink garb on Saturday at Hogan's Alley. David Feherty even got into the act. Amy Mickelson expressed her overwhelming gratitude for the gesture on Phil's Web site: 'It has been a very humbling day... We are determined to overcome this. Today's 'PINK OUT' will help all people, whether they're fighting breast cancer or helping a loved one, know that they are not alone. '
 
Backspin Once again displaying the positive attributes and humility many have come to expect from Amy, Phil Mickelson's wife showed great class in her reaction to the day ' and in her deflecting the attention off of her and focusing on raising awareness for the disease and all of the other women affected. We just wish someone could have brought less focus to funnyman Feherty's facial hair. Nobody needs to see that.
 

 
'BEAUTY!': On the 20-year anniversary of his victory at Colonial, Ian Baker-Finch played the Crowne Plaza Invitational, only his second time competing in the last 12 years. The 48-year-old Australian, best remembered for his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale in 1991 and his subsequent psychological problems that would eventually be the demise of his golf career, had not played tournament golf in eight years. He missed the cut in Fort Worth going 72-77, and returned to covering the tournament for CBS and using adjectives like, 'beauty!' and 'juicy!' to describe other player's golf shots.
 
Backspin You could make an argument that perhaps Finchy took a spot that would have been better for a younger player ' a viable competitor. But at least the Aussie didn't blow up with a round of 92 as he did at the 1997 British open when he was lured back into competition. We hope this helped him between the ears, allowing him to shed some of the psychological demons from his past. Let's just hope this doesn't inspire other past champions to want to play on the 20th anniversary of their various PGA Tour wins. Old guys embarrassing themselves in tournaments out of their league is best saved for the first two rounds of the Masters ' where IBF can tell CBS watchers that Ray Floyd put that one 'right in the Mayor's office.'
 

 
NOT GOING ANYWHERE FOR A WHILE? TWEET: LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens announced she was open to having her tour members use Twitter, the popular social networking site, during tournaments so they can express their emotions and interact better with fans. 'I'd love it if players Twittered during the middle of a round,' Bivens said. 'The new media is very important to the growth of golf and we view it as a positive, and a tool to be used.'
 
Backspin Paula Creamer just joined Twitter last week. Natalie Gulbis, Christina Kim, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel are also all frequent tweeters. What I would point out here, is that the hands-down most popular PGA Tour tweeter, Stewart Cink, started consistently tweeting around the time he finished third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February. Since then, he's missed two cuts and had only one top-25 finish. There's something to be said about focus that Ms. Bivens should consider. Having the ladies connect with their fans is one thing. But if they're preoccupied trying to pen clever 140-character tweets in the middle of tournaments, then some serious questions should be raised: wouldn't this breed slow-play and wouldn't it undermine the credibility of the tour? We'd rather see Paula Creamer win a major than read her tweeted feelings on the 18th hole at the LPGA McDonalds after she misses a 3-footer that would've given her that elusive win.
 

 
NOT ON HIS WATCH?: Little-known European Tour player Christian Cevaer, 449th in the world, beat England's Steve Webster, Scot Gary Orr and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros by a shot to take the European Open at the London Golf Club in Ash, England. Cevaer's 74 was the highest final round by a winner all season. While the aforementioned likely produces yawns from those in the U.S., across the pond, the event caused a stir as the Frenchman's slow-play was the most discussed topic among the galleries.
 
BackspinApparently, Cevaer has a serious history of the slow-play affliction, and even has the dubious distinction of being the first European Tour member to be penalized back in 2002. But now that he's notched a victory ' after agonizing and deliberating over every single one of his shots and barely making it to dusk-time ' the question sluggishly looms: Will George O'Grady punish the triumphant tortoise? The European Tour commissioner handed Cavaer his trophy and a fancy Rolex watch for his win Sunday. We're thinking O'Grady should have slipped the slow-play fine into the watch's box as a symbolic reminder. We are also thinking that if this hare-brained (pun intended) 'twittering-during-a-round' notion catches on on the Euro Tour, Cavaer doesn't stand a chance of even finishing a tournament.
 

 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The LPGA will contest their Tour Championship as the season finale, with or without a sponsor, in Houston. ... Peter Hanson qualified for the U.S. Open, earning the final spot by making a hole-in-one in a sudden-death playoff. ... Davis Love III made it through qualifying to earn a spot in the Open Championship. ...
 
Backspin The LPGA now contests zero tournaments in the state of Florida ' or three fewer events than they play in Mexico. ... That is the ultimate walk-off moment. ... Give Love credit for not only earning a spot in the field, but for putting aside his pride and going through qualifying. ...
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Crowne Plaza Invitational
  • Full Coverage ' European Open
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''