Slam Hopes Dead Alive

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 9, 2008, 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.
TSENG IS BELIEVING: Taiwan's Yani Tseng became the first rookie in a decade to win a major, topping Maria Hjorth on the fourth hole of a playoff with a 5-foot birdie on the 18th hole to win the McDonalds LPGA Championship. Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa both finished one shot back in a tie for third.
Backspin After charging up the leaderboard on Friday to take the 36-hole lead, it looked as if Ochoa would win in a runaway. It wasn't to be though; the Mexican star was stuck in neutral for the rest of the way. Tseng, on the other hand, looked calm under pressure after opening her week with a 73. Tseng, the 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links champ, picked up her first major having only made the cut in a major once before.

MEDICAL NEWS: GOLF CHANNEL reported last week that world's third-ranked player Adam Scott has been playing with a broken pinky finger on his right hand. Scott broke the finger three weeks ago in an incident that involved his hand and the slamming of a car door.
Backspin The injury draws into question the health and readiness of two-thirds of the USGAs premier group. According to Butch Harmon, Scott's coach, the young Aussie has not played since THE PLAYERS and the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods' left knee have been well documented. The man who benefits the most from all this? Phil Mickelson.

ST. JUDE WINNER: Justin Leonard won his second Stanford St. Jude Championship in four years, defeating Masters champion Trevor Immelman and Robert Allenby in a playoff.
Backspin It took just 4 under par to reach the playoff. That shows that the good people who run the St. Jude tournament have made their event a good prep for the U.S. Open. But does anyone really want to play two very difficult weeks in a row? Obviously, Leonard doesnt mind. Meanwhile, Immelman finally resurfaced near the top of the leaderboard for the first time since winning the Masters. Pretty good timing.

TO QUALIFY OR NOT TO QUALIFY?: Davis Love III made it through 36 holes last week to qualify for his 18th consecutive trip to the U.S. Open. Loves streak of 70 consecutive majors ended when he failed to qualify for the Masters. However, Fred Couples and Tom Lehman were not as fortunate at DL3 as both failed to qualify for this week's major.

Backspin Couples and Lehman weren't the only two major winners who will be watching this year's Open as opposed to playing, as former PGA champ Steve Elkington fell short as well. The 156-man field is set for this week's U.S. Open. Eighty-three players qualified at one of the 14 different sectional qualifiers, while nine players will try to become the first amateur win the Open since 1933.

DAY AT THE MUSEUM: After more than three years of renovation, expansion and new construction, the United States Golf Association Museum christened the grand opening of the USGA Museum and the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History last week. The museum is located at the USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
BackspinThe new expansion is headlined by the 16,000-square-foot Palmer Center, that houses more than 5,000 square feet of public exhibition galleries and signifies the first time a USGA building been dedicated to a single individual. The museum is sure to be revered as hallowed ground for members of Arnie's Army and golf fans alike.
HOLY ROMO!: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and singer Justin Timberlake won't be playing in this week's U.S. Open, but both proved they could at least break 100 at Torrey Pines South Course. The duo joined Today host Matt Lauer and a regular guy from Omaha, Neb., in a foursome determined to debunk Tiger Woods theory that only professionals could possibly beat the course.
Backspin Any person to ever pick up a golf club has wondered what it would be like to play on a U.S. Open course with greens faster than a speeding bullet and dreamed of reaching the green from the second cut in a single bound. While no one will mistake any of the foursome as Superman, Romo's 84 and Timberlake's 98 to disprove Tiger's claim was nonetheless heroic for weekend golfers everywhere.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The PGA TOUR announced that a title sponsor has been procured for it's annual event in Tampa at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. The Transitions Championship, formerly PODS Championship, will be held March 19-22....Jeev Milkha Singh pared all 18 holes in the final round to win a rain-shortened Bank Austria Golf Open...Scott Gutschewski won his second career Nationwide Tour title Sunday, closing with a 5-under 66 for a two-stroke victory over Chad Ginn and Esteban Toledo in the Rex Hospital Open
Backspin With this new deal, the PGA TOUR has secured a full 'Florida swing' for at least the next 4 years...18 straight pars doesn't exactly read as flashy way to win, but it sure isa model of consistency for JM Singh...If Scott Gutschewski's victory did nothing else, it certainly increased the use of the spell check function for sports editors across the country.

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    Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

    Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

    “I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

    “We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.