The Social: Playing nice after The Players

By Jason CrookMay 16, 2017, 6:00 pm

Ian Poulter fires back after being criticized (shocker!), there was a Tiger Woods sighting and it wouldn’t be a week in golf if someone wasn’t on vacation. All that and more in this edition of The Social.

Three weeks after losing his PGA Tour card and then getting it back because of a points miscalculation, Ian Poulter found himself in a position to win The Players Championship late on Sunday.

However, his play down wasn't his absolute best and he eventually finished in a tie for second, leaving some, including Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, to openly question if the Englishman was playing for the win or playing for points and status, especially given his volatile Tour card situation.

This is going to shock you, but someone criticizing his play did not sit well with Poults, and he hit back, even going so far as to (gasp) use the dreaded A-word.

Poulter eventually figured out he was blocked by Chamblee and the spat died a quiet, fairly amicable death.

Not the biggest feud on the Poulter scale, but it's probably safe to say these two probably won't be exchanging Christmas cards this year.

On a related note: Poulter calling someone out for blocking him on Twitter. That’s rich.

I get it … Poulter isn’t always the easiest guy to root for. He’s not exactly relatable, you know, with the Ferraris and the nannies and the trying to get anyone who doesn’t like him fired from their job.

But check out these bros on the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday, who just happened to be standing where Poulter shanked his shot right of the fairway.

Those two dudes were rooting for his ball to get out of bounds harder than anyone’s rooted for anything in the history of rooting.

The one guy got airborne.

So yeah, Poulter’s not exaggerating when he says he’s got some haters out there.

We haven’t seen much of Tiger Woods since he underwent yet another back surgery last month.

So it’s nice to know that while his game is on the shelf, he’s still out in his community getting all his arts and crafts needs taken care of at his local Michaels.

If he needs somewhere to put all those supplies, I think I know where he can find a spare pocket or two.

Golf ball in the wall, eh? Ok now you're talking my language.

You want to bring in a third golf ball? I'm thinking maybe four.

When you've given up on getting your security deposit back @foreplaypod #AlwaysBeGolfing

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If a week in golf goes by and someone doesn’t take some sort of tropical vacation, did it actually happen?

I know, that’s deep.

This week’s lucky vacationer is former Big Break winner and Golf Channel’s own Blair O’Neal, who hit Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for her birthday.

Heaven.#neverleaving #Cabo #caboconlocos17

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It looked like a good time if you’re in to sun-soaked resorts on the beach and tacos in the pool.

If you’re not in to those things, well … that sounds like a you problem.

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99% tacodiet #notmadaboutit #caboconlocos17

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Also, if her posts are to be believed, she’s never leaving paradise so don’t be shocked if you see her in this section again next week, and every week thereafter.

Si Woo Kim became the youngest winner in the history of The Players on Sunday at just 21 years old, and cashed a $1.9 million paycheck in the process.

And while that kind of money might immediately go to some 21-year-old's heads, Kim quietly left town on a commercial airline ... in a middle seat ... in coach.

Si Woo Kim. A man of the people.

It was a rough week for members of the animal kingdom venturing on to golf courses.

First, we have this fish, who probably thought it was a very big fish, until it met this alligator on a South Florida course. He gone.

Dad was not impressed with my National Geographic skills

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Then there was this bird, who was just minding its own business, enjoying its day and ability to fly and … wham. He gone.

‪Now teeing off, Randy Johnson @foreplaypod (via ‬@todd_shannon)

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And lastly, there was this massive snake that was slithering around a course in South Africa. It didn’t kill anything (while the video was rolling), but you got to eat something to grow that big. This super smart guy touching the snake was just begging to be its next meal.

Ryan feels like he's taking crazy pills.

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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.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.