To the Victor Go the Spoils

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
In Backspin, takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.

RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE: Winning Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was honored by his hometown of Tampa, Fla., by throwing out the first pitch before the second game of the Tampa Bay Rays playoff series against the Chicago White Sox.
Backspin Said Azinger of the tribute: 'This is very special for me. Ive been a Rays fan since the inception of the franchise and attend games at Tropicana Field as often as I can. This years Rays club shows what a team with talent, character and faith can do. In other news, Welwyn Garden City, England, the hometown of losing Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo, had a similar honor, but with a twist ' they actually threw him out. Oh, we love to kid.

TOUR HAS HEART: Erik Compton, who four months ago underwent a second heart transplant, has been granted the right to use a cart during PGA Tour Q-School.
Backspin The Tour let Casey Martin use a cart during Q-School in 1997, but got all bent out of shape when he actually made it through to the Nationwide Tour, and eventually the PGA Tour. It will be interesting to see what the Tour decides if Compton should make it to the final stage.

CALIFORNIA DREAMER: Paula Creamer withstood a small, but strong field, rolling in a putt to win on the 72nd hole at the Samsung World Championship. It was the fourth victory of the year for the 22-year-old Creamer and eighth of her career.
Backspin With the win, the California native became the first American to win four or more times in a season since Juli Inkster had five victories in 1999. The LPGA is probably doing cartwheels over this fact ' like Creamer at last years Womens British Open.

SINGH SIDELINED: Vijay Singh announced this past week that he will put his clubs on the shelf for at least two months to rest an ailing left forearm. Singh has dealt with tendinitis for a good part of the 2008 season and was instructed by doctors to take off some time in order to be fit for 2009.
Backspin Singh not playing golf? Singh not even practicing? It just doesnt seem natural. Here are some suggestions for your time off, Vijay: 1) Create your own language and give all press conferences in this tongue. 2) Go to Tigers house and ask him if hed mind if you two hung out for a while. 3) Spend some of that $10 million FedEx Cup bonus money on the Backspin staff.

TURNING POINT: PGA Tour rookie Dustin Johnson picked up his first career victory at the Turning Stone Championship with birdies on the final two holes to top Robert Allenby by one stroke.
Backspin The victory, while perhaps lost on many people in this football-crazed country, was no doubt huge for Johnson, who erased a two-shot deficit entering the final round. The South Carolina native stunned the Aussie Allenby, whose birdie chance at the last came up inches short. 'Dusty' ' as we're sure Tiger would call him ' has now locked up his Tour card for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. No doubt Dusty loves the PGA Tour Fall Series.

FIELD OF DREAMERS: Tiger Woods announced the field for his Chevron World Challenge. It includes: Singh, Padraig Harrington, Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, K.J. Choi, Kenny Perry, Justin Leonard, Mike Weir, Luke Donald, Stephen Ames, Hunter Mahan, Boo Weekley, Paul Casey and Fred Couples.
Backspin Of course, the field wont include the tournament host. Tiger reiterated during his press conference that he has no timetable for a return. Somehow we dont think that anyone he invited to play in his event is anxiously awaiting his return.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: John Daly said he is entertaining the thoughts of playing more on the European Tour in the 2009 season Boo Weekley made a guest appearance on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' on Friday evening ... Robert Karlsson won a three-man playoff to capture the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
BackspinSaid Daly: I saw guys hitting it by me that never hit it by me before. I was like, theres definitely something wrong here. Showing he has the moxie to keep up with JD in the weird department, Boo told the national late night audience a story about fishing his keys out of a toilet The tall, quiet Swede is not-so-quietly becoming one of the best players in the world. His win moved him past Harrington on the European Tour's Order of Merit list.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, PART DEUX: The Open Championship will exempt the top 30 from the FedEx Cup standings and top 30 from the European Tours money list According to the Associated Press, Official World Golf ranking points will be given to players who compete in Tiger Woods year-end World Challenge event beginning next year . The European Tour will make players compete in a minimum of 12 tournaments to earn tour membership, beginning in 2009
BackspinThe criteria used to be top 20 on both tours money lists Tiger wants something; Tiger gets something. Its that easy The lucrative Race to Dubai is grabbing players attention across the world. This will require those who want a shot at the millions on offer to play one more event on the European Tour.

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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”