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
  • Complete News Headlines
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    Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

    Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

    The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

    Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

    “I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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    Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

    Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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    Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

    Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

    Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

    Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

    New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



    FALLING

    Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

    Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

    Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

    Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

    Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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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.”