Controversy Anger Lots of Talk

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 14, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
 
GOING ISLAND HOPPING: K.J. Choi led wire-to-wire to capture this week's Sony Open in Hawaii. Choi just held on for victory Sunday at the Waialae Country Club with a 1-over 71, good enough for a 14-under-par 266. Rory Sabbatini made a run late, but eventually fell short at 11 under.
 
Backspin The PGA TOUR is officially underway after this week's first full-field event, and we couldn't be more excited. It was another great week of golf with another exciting finish. Sabbatini almost let his clubs do his talking for him, getting within two shots late, but couldn't close as the ever steady Choi won for the fifth straight time leading after 54 holes.
 
CUT CONTROVERSY: The PGA TOUR has changed the way the cut line works. The new policy allows for top 70 and ties, but when the number of players who make the cut exceeds 78 players, only the closest number to 70 players return for the final two rounds. In this week's case, 69 players finished at 1 under and 18 players were sent home early with $9,699 in official money, 46 points toward the FedExCup, but no tee time for the weekend.
 
BackspinMany of the players were unaware that the rule had even been changed. John Daly was particularly unhappy being sent home after 'making' the cut. Daly said, 'I don't understand the rule. I grinded my butt off to shoot even. Then I find out on 18 you may not be playing. I just wish we would have known.' The thing is, they did know ... or should have known. The TOUR doesn't just make rules changes in secret. Players just don't take the time to pay attention to what is being said.
 
KELLY TILGHMAN: Wed be remiss if we at Backspin didnt include the hottest story of this past week, Kelly Tilghmans comments concerning Tiger Woods and her subsequent two-week suspension from GOLF CHANNEL. Tilghman made the gaffe while chatting with co-host Nick Faldo on how the younger set could compete with Woods.
 
Backspin Public reaction was slow to develop, but eventually spread like wildfire. News agencies, far removed from the golf world, weighed in on the story. Viewer reaction varied from those extremely supportive of Tilghman to those penning grossly offensive remarks. Tigers people called it a non-issue. Well see if the embers languish after the flames die down.
 
THE NEXT TIGER WOODS? Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa turned professional this past week at the age of 16. Ishikawa became the youngest player to ever win on the Japan PGA Tour, doing so as an amateur last May.
 
Backspin So who cares, right? Well, when you are called your countrys Tiger Woods, it tends to draw attention ' especially when you consider the inevitable boon of Japanese golf. Ishikawa may want to talk to Ai Miyazato, who is one of Japans top-3 athlete/celebrities. Miyazato was bigger than Godzilla when she left Japan for the LPGA Tour, but, despite routing the field in the 2005 Q-school, she has yet to win in the U.S. The bigger the bowl, the easier it is to drown. Also, does this mean there is a Tiger Woods in every country ' a Lithuanian Tiger, a Sri Lankan Tiger, a Turkish Tiger?
 
CHALLENGING TIGER?: 19-year-old Australian Jason Day thinks he's ready to challenge the world's no. 1. Said Day, 'I'm sure I can take [Tiger] down.' The PGA TOUR's youngest player is full of cofidence and talent, making the cut in five out of the seven TOUR events he played last year. His best finish was a tie for 11th at the Reno-Tahoe Open, and he was the youngest player to win a Nationwide Tour event.
 
Backspin Maybe Jason Day should ask Rory Sabbatini or Stephen Ames how giving Tiger Woods bulletin board material worked out for them. Maybe Day should let his clubs do the talking, at least at first, because the last thing we'd want is to give the best golfer on the planet any motivation to play better against us. For the record, Day made as much money playing this week's Sony Open as did Tiger.
 
HARMON TELLS DALY TO SHAPE UP: There was a lot of talk in the off-season of John Daly working with swing coach extraordinaire Butch Harmon. But as reported by our own Brian Hewitt, when it came time for the two to start working, Harmon told Daly he needs a comitment. If Daly wants to work with him, he's going to need to recommit himself to the game of golf both on and off the course.
 
Backspin After falling off the earth in terms of world rankings, 525, Harmon is right. If Daly wants to work with the best, he's going to have to give his best effort. It is easy to forget that Daly has two major championships to his name, but we're all for a re-energized John Daly. But is Daly up for it?
 
SABBATINI vs. WOODS: The Rory Sabbatini-Tiger Woods controversy heated up once again this past week when Tigers camp told GolfChannel.com Insider Brian Hewitt that if Sabbatini should qualify for this years Target World Challenge, We would certainly encourage him not to accept his invitation.
 
BackspinThe issue stems from Sabbatini dropping out of Decembers Target, Tigers limited, personal event, before the final round. Sabbatini and his people gave multiple excuses as to why he up and ran, but apparently none were satisfactory for Woods. This wasnt the first time the two butted heads and it likely wont be the last. If Tiger cant have a rival on the course, at least hes got one in the media; though, Sabbatinis New Years resolution appears to be: become a Mime who plays golf.
 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Big Break VII: Reunion champion Tommy Gainey made his debut as a card-carrying member of the PGA TOUR at the Sony Open; Todd Demsey made his first start as an official TOUR member in over 10 years in Hawaii; The European Tour picked up on its 2008 season with its first tournament in the calender year. Richard Sterne birdied the second hole of a three-man playoff to win the Joburg Open in South Africa.
 
Backspin Gainey made the cut in Hawaii - but missed it, too. He was a part of the group at even par, who made some money, but didn't get to play over the weekend; Assuming Steve Stricker wont win Comeback Player of the Year for a third straight season, Demsey is the early favorite for the award. He was sidelined for a spell due to misdiagnosed back problems and a golf ball-sized tumor in his brain; the Euro Tour's quiet start to '08 didn't keep from an exciting finish as Sterne walked away with the victory in his native South Africa.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open in Hawaii
  • The Japanese 'Tiger'?
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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm