From analyst to alternate, Flesch's crazy PGA day

By Jason SobelAugust 7, 2014, 8:19 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Standing on the Valhalla driving range Thursday afternoon, Steve Flesch alternately laughed at the price sticker still attached to the driver in his hands (SALE: $300), the white towel he used to wipe his face turning an ugly shade of orange from makeup residue, and the entire situation that had gotten him into this predicament in the first place.

Flesch had started the week in 93rd place on the official alternate list for the 96th PGA Championship – not that he had any clue. Fresh off a T-21 finish at last week’s Barracuda Championship – his best result in just four starts this season – playing golf was far from his mind. Instead, his job here was to serve as an analyst for Golf Channel’s “Live From” coverage.

He’d just finished on the set when PGA of America official Kerry Haigh came looking for him.

Because of back spasms just before his tee time, Matt Kuchar was a late withdrawal from the field. The highest alternate on the list, John Huh, swept in to take his spot.

What followed was equal parts unpredictable and inconceivable.

Robert Garrigus was the next alternate on the list, but he wasn’t on site at the course. Then Justin Hicks, but he wasn’t, either. Haigh checked, but nobody else was at Valhalla who could take a spot in the field should there be another withdrawal.

Until he got all the way down to No. 93.

It wasn’t an easy decision for Flesch. Just minutes removed from talking about the tournament on television, with remnants of makeup still caked to his face and – most importantly – his clubs at home an hour away, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to put himself in that position.

“The last thing I wanted to do was go out there with a rental set, drive it in the rough all day and shoot 85,” explained the Kentucky native. “But then I’m thinking, you never know. You go out there and scramble around, shoot even par, catch lightning in a bottle and then you can use your own stuff the rest of the week.”

Steve Flesch

Steve Flesch is notified by PGA officials that he's first alternate

It’s happened before. Back in 1991, John Daly was ninth alternate before getting into the field and winning this very tournament at Crooked Stick.

So Flesch said yes – and the mad scramble was on.

He set out for the locker room, hoping he could borrow a pair of size-9 shoes and maybe a few sleeves of balls from another competitor. He also called Chris Hamburger, the head professional at Valhalla, who put golf assistant Kevin Drenth in charge of finding lefthanded clubs for the pro.

Drenth did what anyone charged with such a task would do: He drove three miles to the nearest Golf Headquarters store.

“I walked in there and said, ‘I need all the lefty stuff you’ve got and we’ll go from there,’” he later recalled with a laugh.

When he returned, Flesch picked one of the two sets of store-bought irons, but left them covered in plastic so they could be returned. He rolled some putts with a standard-length Scotty Cameron wand, needing “about 40” tries before holing one on the practice green. Then he went to the range, hitting some wedges and that driver with the price sticker attached.

All the while, he was laughing about the improbable turn of events which led to this scenario.

“If the opportunity arose, I’d be crazy to not at least give it a shot,” he said. “I’m the only guy here who can play. It’s better to at least go out there and give it a shot rather than the field play one man short. If you’re here and eligible and someone says you have a shot at a $10 million purse, why not go play?”

The last tee time of the opening round was 2:45 p.m. ET. About 30 minutes beforehand, Flesch headed to the 10th tee, where three more groups were scheduled to tee off. (He picked it over the first tee because it was closer to the parking lot.)

Alas, there were no last-minute back spasms. No players late in the day who decided to withdraw, leaving the last spot in the field to the 93rd alternate.

When the final tee shots of the day were struck, Flesch simply stood nearby and watched helplessly.

As one of those last competitors bashed a drive down the fairway, he smiled and whispered, “This is the very last thing I ever thought I’d be doing today. I mean, never even considered this. Never.”

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: