Whos Up Next

By Mercer BaggsJuly 13, 2009, 4:00 pm

SHE'S OUT; WHO'S IN?: Carolyn Bivens' tumultuous four-year tenure as LPGA commissioner officially came to an end Monday. The tour announced Board of Directors member Marsha Evans as the new interim commissioner. She will serve in the role until a full-time replacement can be found.
Backspin Well, the players got their wish. So who's up next? Jan Stephenson says she wants to be commissioner. Not going to happen (see: Asians are killing the LPGA). Some are calling for Judy Rankin. Not likely to happen (see: Why in the world would I want that job?). I'll throw Dottie Pepper's hat into the ring. She is still an integral part of the tour and has great connections with the old-time sponsors. But that, too, is unlikely (see: choking freaking dogs).

FORGET ME NOT: Eun Hee Ji birdied the 72nd hole to avoid a playoff with Candie Kung and capture the U.S. Women's Open. The 23-year-old South Korean finished at even-par 284, one shot clear of Kung. It was her second career LPGA victory (2008 Wegmans).
Backspin It was a tough week for the women's premiere event, and one that will likely be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The first two days of play were overshadowed by the Bivens saga. Round 3 saw Paula Creamer, the most popular American player in the field, take a brutal nose dive out of contention. And Sunday, despite the U.S. Golf Association's best efforts to create birdie opportunities, lacked any drama. In time, Eun Hee Ji's name will be harder to recall than Inbee Park's.

MAJOR DIFFICULTY: Cristie Kerr held the lead from late Friday to late Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open, but couldn't hold on and finished tied for third, two back of Ji. The 2007 Open champion had only one birdie in a final-round 4-over 75.
Backspin This major was Kerr's to win ' as was this year's Kraft Nabisco, where she was in the lead until hitting her tee shot OB on the 15 hole. Kerr has been working to employ a Zen Buddhist approach on the course when under pressure. I never saw Buddha kick his golf bag. Then again, I never saw Buddha.

CREAMED AT THE OPEN: Paula Creamer was one off the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Women's Open, but shot 8-over 79 in the third round. She closed in 69 to finish four shots behind the winner. It's the second year in a row she has tied for sixth. Last year, she was one off the 54-hole lead but shot 78.
Backspin Aside from Kerr, no one leaves Saucon Valley more frustrated than does Creamer. (The two should take out their anger by reprising the final scene in 'Rocky III.') Creamer, an eight-time winner on the LPGA but still without a major, is fortunate the tour doesn't receive the same level of media scrutiny as does the PGA Tour. If it did, she would face a wrath that would make Sergio Garcia quit the game.

JUST ONE OF THE GIRLS?: Lorena Ochoa failed in her bid to win her first U.S. Women's Open, tying for 29th. Ochoa opened in 2-under 69 but was ultimately undone by a second-round 79.
Backspin Ochoa has won only two events this year, and none since April. For the first time in a very long time there appears to be no distinct No. 1 player on the LPGA. Annika Sorenstam is gone and Ochoa hasn't been dominant since early in the 2008 season. Parity, unfortunately, does not create public interest. Dominance does.

FAMILY FIRST: Phil Mickelson officially announced that he would not be playing in this week's Open Championship, ending his consecutive majors-played streak at 61. He is instead staying Stateside to be with his wife, who recently underwent surgery related to breast cancer. It was revealed last week that Mickelson's mother, Mary, has also been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was scheduled to have surgery last Friday.
Backspin The Mickelson's aren't alone in their need for prayer. Kenny Perry's mother is dying of blood cancer. Angela Stanford's mother has breast cancer. And Jonathan Byrd's father passed away due to a brain tumor. If you haven't talked to your parents in a while, give them a call and say 'I love you.'

OH, DEERE: Steve Stricker won his second PGA Tour event of the season, shooting 68-64 on a 36-hole Sunday to capture the John Deere Classic. The final two rounds were compacted into one day when Friday's second round was postponed due to inclement weather.
Backspin With the delay, the British Open this week, the U.S. Women's Open last week, and the whole Bivens ordeal, the John Deere could have been played in North Korea and received less attention. But they played ' and finished before Monday ' and Stricker picked up his sixth career Tour title. All that's missing is a major. He has back-to-back top-10s at the Open. If he's not worn out, he could be a legitimate contender at Turnberry.

TIGER'S TURN: Speaking of Turnberry, the site of the 138th Open Championship, Tiger Woods got his first look at the links venue Sunday. For the first time since 2004, Woods will enter a major championship without one of golf's four top prizes in his possession.
Backspin If history holds true, that will change come Sunday. Turnberry has hosted only three Opens, but each time the best player in the world has prevailed: Tom Watson (1977), Greg Norman (1986), and Nick Price (1994).

YOU WISH YOU WERE ME: Martin Kaymer won his second straight event on the European Tour, capturing the Barclays Scottish Open. He finished two ahead of two others, while Adam Scott tied for fourth, three back.
Backspin Congratulations, Kaymer. Now let's get to the real news of the week: Scott's special guest in Scotland. It seems tennis star Ana Ivanovic is Scott's latest girl ... friend ... or something. Scott will likely never have to worry about money, but if he should one day face financial ruin he should figure out a way to rent his life to others. Being Adam Scott would be much better than Being John Malkovich.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Tiger Woods will compete in Notah Begay's charity skins game next month in central New York. ... Tickets for the Australian Masters sold out quickly with Woods scheduled to make his first start on the continent since 1998. ... John Daly received a sponsor's exemption into the Canadian Open. ... Bernhard Langer eagled the last hole to win the 3M Championship on the Champions Tour by one shot over Andy Bean.
Backspin Cheers for Tiger. Jeers to the tournament officials who made tickets $330 a pop. ... Woods receives an estimated $3 million just for showing up, which means he can buy about 9,091 tickets to Begay's skins game. ... This will be Daly's second start on the PGA Tour this year. He tied for 59th in Memphis, but has missed his last four cuts on the European Tour. ... Langer has four wins on the senior circuit this year. Too bad he's not in the field for the Open Championship. Too bad it's not 1986.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' John Deere Classic
  • Full Coverage ' U.S. Women's Open
  • Full Coverage ' Barclays Scottish Open
  • Complete News Headlines
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    Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.