Backspin Tiger Host Watson Toast

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In our new feature, Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
 
ANOTHER CHOI-CE VICTORY On a mistake-filled Sunday at Congressional Country Club, K.J. Choi made just enough birdies -- including one from a greenside bunker on 17 -- to win his second event of the season. Choi finished two clear of Steve Stricker to capture the inaugural AT&T National.
 
BackspinChoi first wins Jack Nicklaus' event, the Memorial. Now he has Tiger's title. Will the similarities between Tiger and Jack ever cease?
 
HOST WITHOUT THE MOST: Tiger Woods played this past week for the first time since the birth of his daughter, and for the first time as a tournament host of an official PGA TOUR event. Woods struggled with his putter the majority of the week. He opened in 4-over 74 -- a round complete with four three-putts and 34 overall -- yet still managed to tie for sixth,
 
BackspinWoods didn't look particularly good in his first event since the arrival of Sam Alexis, but we're pretty sure fatherhood won't completely ruin his career. For once, winning wasnt at the top of Tigers priority list at Congressional. We're also pretty sure 'winning' will move up a couple of notches on said list when he plays again at Carnoustie.
 
DR. DIRT IN THE HOUSE Brad Bryant became a major champion Sunday when he captured the U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits. Bryant shot 4-under 68 to defeat Ben Crenshaw by three in the Champions Tour's third major championship -- of five -- of the season.
 
BackspinBryant has made the most out of his career mulligan. He had only one top-20 finish in 20 career major championship starts on the PGA TOUR, and had only one career victory in 20 full seasons. He is now a four-time Champions Tour winner over the last year-and-a-half, and a major champion. The $470,000 he collected was more than double his largest TOUR paycheck.
 
STRAIT DOWN THE DRAIN Ultimately, however, the 2007 U.S. Senior Open will be remembered by many for Tom Watson's loss rather than for Bryant's win. Watson led by three after 10 holes of his final round. He then completely fell apart. Watson double-bogeyed 11, bogeyed 12 and 13, double-bogeyed 16 and double-bogeyed 18. That added up to a back-nine 43 and a fourth-place finish, five behind Bryant.
 
BackspinWatson talked like a man of destiny after taking the 54-hole lead. 'Maybe it's my time,' he said. But some times, some things just aren't meant to be. Watson, a three-time Senior Open runner-up, went from the Watson of old to the old Tom Watson in just one hole Sunday. Fortunately for him, nothing he does as a senior will overshadow what he accomplished in his prime.
 
ALLEN DOH!-YLE: Bidding for an unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Senior Open title, Allen Doyle opened in 11-over 83 at Whistling Straits. He followed with an even-par 72, but missed the cut by seven strokes.
 
BackspinDoyle wasnt the only notable player to take an early flight out of Wisconsin. Hale Irwin missed the cut for the first time ever in a Champions Tour major. He needed an 8-foot birdie on the final hole to keep alive his major cuts made streak on the senior circuit, but pushed it. The 62-year-old then said he was taking off three weeks to sort out whatever was ailing his game. Perhaps he should just look at his drivers license. His ailment may be his age.
 
LEFTY JUST NOT RIGHT: Phil Mickelson shot rounds of 73-74 to miss the cut by two at the AT&T National. Mickelson failed to make a birdie in the first round and finished double bogey-double bogey in Round 2. It marked the first time since 1995 that hed gone three straight TOUR events without making it to the weekend.
 
BackspinMickelson was riding high after his PLAYERS Championship win. And then he injured his left wrist in a practice round at Oakmont. He's now off to play the Scottish Open, but, more importantly, prepare for the Open Championship. Given his Open history and his current condition, it would seem unlikely that he will challenge at Carnoustie.
 
HOW 'BOUT THEM APPLES: Stuart Appleby led by two strokes entering the final round of the AT&T. Four holes in, however, he found himself two down. He was 6 over for the day after just seven holes and eventually shot 6-over 76 to tie for third, six back of Choi.
 
BackspinEntering this year, Appleby had won four of five PGA TOUR events when leading after 54 holes. Then came the Masters, where he led through three rounds, but closed in 75 to tie for seventh. Now, he's 0 for his last 2. Sundays have not been kind to the Aussie in '07. He ranked 151st on TOUR in final-round scoring average -- before this week.
 
OPEN INVITATION: A pair of qualifiers were held this past week for the Open Championship. Some of the notable names to get through out of the American site, Oakland Hills, were Sean OHair, Duffy Waldorf, Ryan Moore, Charley Hoffman, Jerry Kelly and Matt Kuchar. Englishman Nick Dougherty, who led after the first-round of the U.S. Open, and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez made it out of Sunningdale in Berkshire, England.
 
BackspinHopefully, the R&A will avoid the major mistake they made at Sunningdale, where play had to be suspended to change a hole placement on the par-3 fourth. The hole, which was placed on a slope, was deemed 'unplayable' after Ricardo Gonzlez five-putted and Brett Rumford four-putted after hitting his tee shot to within two feet. Eight players had to play the hole over. The R&A apologized, but according to one player in The Times, they couldnt run a bath.
 
MONTY'S HAPPY -- FOR NOW Colin Montgomerie made seven birdies and two clutch pars Sunday en route to winning his first European Tour event in nearly two years. Monty closed in 5-under 65 at the K Club to defeat fellow Ryder Cupper Niclas Fasth at the Smurfit Kappa European Open.
 
BackspinMonty survived a pair of iffy tee shots on the par-3 17th and par-3 18th holes. The nerves were apparent, but so was his championship grit. The K Club is the site of last years Ryder Cup, so there must have been a little magic for Europes Cup hero. Too bad Carnoustie has never hosted a Ryder Cup.
 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Jean Van de Velde opted not to try and qualify for this years British Open at Carnoustie due to a ongoing illness; Mickelson nearly hit Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with an errant approach shot on Friday at Congressional; Hank Kuehne was seen cheering courtside for girlfriend Venus Williams during her run to a fourth Wimbledon title; A Tennessee man carded two hole-in-ones during one round; And a golf course in the Poconos is being investigated for allowing strippers on the course during a golf outing.
 
BackspinDoctors believe the mysterious illness befalling Van de Velde could be a rare form of Barry Burn Syndrome; Lefty has provided plenty of thrills through the years and getting tackled by a group of Secret Service personnel would have ranked high up on the list; Kuehne saw more green on the courts of Wimbledon than he has seen this year in the form of cash - he currently ranks 177th on the Nationwide Tours money list with just $8,518; the two aces made by Mark Converse didnt come on some muni or executive course, but rather on the formidable Harbour Town Golf Links; And reports about strippers on the course said passersby could see the alleged hijinx with the naked eye.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T National
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Senior Open
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.