Backspin Wie Woods Making News

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 22, 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.
WEIR NO. 1: Mike Weir captured the Fry's Electronics Open Sunday, making a 6-foot par putt on the final hole to defeat Australian Mark Hensby by a stroke. The victory was Weir's eighth on the PGA TOUR, but his first since the Nissan Open in February 2004.
Backspin It's been a wonderful month for Weir. First he knocks off Tiger Woods in singles play at the Presidents Cup. Then he wins an official PGA TOUR event for the first time in well over three years. He's now up to 30th in the world ranking, with an eye on a return to the top 10.
SHORT TRIP HOME: Phil Mickelson returned to action in his former hometown of Scottsdale and missed the cut. Mickelson, who was using new Callaway irons this past week, made a triple bogey on his 16th hole of the second round en route to missing weekend play by a stroke.
Backspin Mickelson only competed because of his association with Grayhawk Golf Club. He certainly wasn't doing it for the money or the practice. This isn't the last we will see of the world's No. 2-ranked player, however. He will be playing -- and taking the whole family with him -- in Singapore and China. That would count as a hectic silly season for Lefty, which means it's not likely he will be playing in the 2008 season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championships.
LPGA TOUR: Thirty-six-hole leader Suzann Pettersen was declared the winner of the LPGA Tour's Hana-Bank Kolon Championship, when high winds and cold weather conspired to make the course greens unplayable. Pettersen became the first non-South Korean to capture this event in its 6-year history.
Backspin Fans vehemently protested the tour's decision to cancel the final round. This is the only LPGA event in the country (one that has produced a host of tour winners over the last few years) and fans had come from all corners to see some of the tour's best. There is no arguing, however, that Pettersen is the game's second best player. This was her fourth win of the year and her second in three weeks.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: John Cook, competing in just his second career event on the Champions Tour, won for the first time since the 2001 Reno-Tahoe Open on the PGA TOUR by capturing the AT&T Championship.
Backspin Cook beat good friend Mark O'Meara, Tom Kite, Loren Roberts and Fred Funk. As good as it was for Cook to taste victory again, this week might have been better for the tour. No offense to the Lonnie Nielsens of the world, but the senior set is in dire need of more finishes in which past, notable PGA TOUR winners are battling for the title -- and finishing first (like last week's Champions champion Bernhard Langer).
GRAND FINISH: Angel Cabrera won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in a playoff over Padraig Harrington. The U.S. Open champion defeated the British Open champion thanks to a birdie-eagle finish in regulation and another birdie on the third extra hole.
Backspin Nice comeback for Cabrera, who began the final round triple bogey-bogey. Even nicer was the fact that he received $600,000 for winning a two-day, four-man tournament, played at a luxury resort in Bermuda. Tough life.
TIGER GATORADE: It was announced this past week that Tiger Woods and Gatorade have formed a power alliance. Gatorade said it will introduce 'Gatorade Tiger' in March, with more products to follow. Woods even picked out the flavors himself, with the drink available in a cherry blend, citrus blend and grape.
Backspin Woods didn't compete in the Grand Slam. What's 600 grand when people will pay you millions just to use their product and make a few commercials? Woods reportedly will receive in the neighborhood of $100 million over the next five years from the sports drink company. That helps Woods move closer to the billionaires-only neighborhood.
AGENT ZERO: Greg Nared resigned as Michelle Wie's agent after less than a year on the job. Nared also resigned as the vice president of golf at the William Morris Agency, who hired him to manage the 18-year-old.
Backspin Sources close to the situation told Insider Brian Hewitt that the main reason Nared quit was because of disagreements with her parents. What a total disaster this year has been for Wie. This is only like the 8th worst thing that has happened to her professionally in 2008.
INFLATION CONCERNS: Poor Brett Quigley. He had surgery on his right knee to repair torn cartilage after the Deutsche Bank Championship in September. At the time he was 109th on the PGA TOUR money list. He's now 126th, about $20,000 outside the cut number -- but physically unable to play in the final two events. Even TOUR officials are astounded at the amount of money it will take for players to get their cards for 2008.
Backspin It may take a quarter-of-a-million dollars to play fully exempt golf on TOUR in 2008. It's easy to see how players can become so complacent carving out a nice life for themselves that they don't do what's necessary to become a TOUR winner. Too bad for Quigley; he all-but willing to go out there on one good leg to try and make enough money to finish inside the top 125. The good news is that he will get a Medical Extension next year to try and make up whatever his ultimate deficit will be.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Steve Webster claimed his second European Tour win in Portugal; Ron Whittaker won on the Nationwide Tour; Playing on the PGA TOUR for the first time since 2004, Brandel Chamblee missed the cut by three strokes; The PGA TOUR is reportedly considering moving the 2008 TOUR Championship to two weeks after the Ryder Cup instead of one week before it; The former Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club has a new sponsor.
Backspin Has the European Tour already started its 2008 season?; Whittaker lost in a playoff the week before. He's now up to 11th on the money list and assured a spot on the 2008 PGA TOUR; At least Brandel's still got his day gig; Why don't they just play the events at the same time? Finchem loves opposite-field events; The Northern Trust Open -- catchy.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Fry's Electronics Open
  • Full Coverage - Hana Bank-KOLON Championship
  • Full Coverage - PGA Grand Slam of Golf
  • More Headlines
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.