Backspin Troubled Waters for Shark

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 20, 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.
HITTING THE PAUSE BUTTON: Citing exhaustion, Tiger Woods announced he would be skipping The Barclays at Westchester Country Club, the first event in the new FedExCup playoff.
BackspinExhaustion, huh? Isn't this the same guy who says he's just as fresh after a round in 100-degree heat as before it? With Woods winning the WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship in back-to-back starts, the PGA TOUR was ready to ride that wave of momentum into their first-ever playoffs. Then Tiger took his golf ball and went home. You can add another name to the long list of phrases used to describe the world's No. 1: party pooper.
GOIN' LOW IN GREENSBORO: Brandt Snekeder started five off the lead Sunday in Greensboro, but birdies on his first two holes were a harbinger of things to come: nine birdies total for a final-round 63 to capture his maiden PGA TOUR title at the Wyndham Championship.
BackspinSimply put: it was the all-time greatest final round in the last event of a regular season in PGA TOUR history. Granted, it was also the first such thing, as the TOUR has labeled all the events leading up to the FedExCup playoff as their 'regular season.' Snedeker wins the pennant! Snedeker wins the pennant! Snedeker ... well not quite.
YOU'RE OFFICIALLY INVITED: Jeff Overton, Shigeki Maruyama and Anders Hansen all wisely played in the Wyndham Championship and were rewarded with their good finishes by vaulting into the top-144 on the FedExCup points list.
BackspinThe Greensboro event suddenly has a real good thing going - just like tailgating before the big game, er, playoffs. The fans are treated to birdies and eagles dropping from all over the Forest Oaks Country Club and the players - well, some players, like Overton, Maruyama and Hansen - are treated to a shot at $10 million.
MAJOR HEADACHE: As reported by the Associated Press and according to her lawyers, Greg Norman has cut off his wife's credit cards and held 'hostage' other disputed money and property in a contentious yearlong divorce.
BackspinOne can imagine that Norman probably yearns for the days of yore. Like, say, the final round of the 1996 Masters; his wonderful afternoon spent at Augusta with Larry Mize back in 1987; and maybe even ol' pal Bob Tway showing him some pointers on how to get out of greenside bunkers at Inverness. Even those experiences must be better than this current one.
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: Mexico's Lorena Ochoa won the Canadian Women's Open by three stokes over American Paula Creamer. It was Ochoa's second straight win and her fifth of the season.
BackspinAlthough Ochoa took over the No. 1 world ranking from Annika Sorenstam back in April, she wasn't necessarily viewed as the real No. 1 until she finally won her first major three weeks ago at the Women's British Open at St. Andrews. After this win, there will be little doubt from anyone as to who is the new grand dame of women's golf.
COPY THAT: Nick Flanagan won for the third time this year on the Nationwide Tour, shooting a Snedeker-like 63 (7 under) to win the Xerox Classic. The win moved Flanagan to second on the 2007 Nationwide money list. But, more importantaly, moved him to the PGA TOUR.
BackspinThree wins and you're in. Flanagan might not be able to play for the next four weeks on the PGA TOUR, but he should have plenty of opportunities to play the seven Fall Series events. The Aussie is finally living up to all the promise that came along with his 2003 U.S. Amateur triumph.
TRADITION: Mark McNulty pulled away from the field early in the final round to win the JELD-WEN Tradition, the fourth of five majors on the Champions Tour schedule. It was the Zimbabweans first career major victory.
BackspinVying for attention in a week that saw Ochoa win her second straight event and a wild shootout at the PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship, the JELD-WEN Tradition kinda flew under the radar. McNulty's win may have been a bit more exciting if Tom Watson could have been in the mix. Or had it been remotely competitive on Sunday.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: John Daly played in the Scandinavian Masters this past week but missed the cut; Phil Mickelson participated in his foundation's annual back-to-school shopping spree; Michelle Wie missed another cut; and Tiger announced plans for his first course design project in the U.S.
BackspinNo worries about the missed cut for Daly. He probably made more money for just showing up than everybody but the winner; Some call Mickelson a phony. Pretty good bet that 1000s of kids in the San Diego area would beg to differ; Wie missing a cut is fast becoming the norm and not a surprising news story; It'll be interesting to see if Woods' new course will be open to the public given his past stance on making golf available to everyone.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Wyndham Championship
  • Full Coverage - Canadian Women's Open
  • Full Coverage - JELD-WEN Tradition
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)