A big break, a broken dream

By Jason SobelJune 8, 2014, 3:49 am

If there’s ever been a professional golfer who needed a big break, it’s Jason Millard.

Two years ago, he missed reaching the final stage of Q-School by one measly stroke. This year, he owns conditional status on the developmental Web.com Tour, but hasn’t gotten into a single event. He’s tried to Monday qualify, but is 0-for-7 so far.

That’s hardly the extent of his heartache, though.

Last year, his father, Eddie, passed away at 60 after a year-long battle with leukemia. “He was my best friend,” Jason says of the man who introduced him to the game.

That left the 24-year-old to care for his mother, Debbie, all alone. Right around the time Jason was born, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. About two or three years ago, her condition worsened to the point where she can no longer walk. He still lives with her in his childhood home and though she has a daily caretaker, his responsibilities include buying her groceries, paying her bills and ensuring her medications are filled.

“He’s got a lot more on his plate than any 24-year-old should have in regard to the things he’s been through with his family,” says Whit Turnbow, head coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where Millard was a two-time All-America selection. “But his mom and dad did a wonderful job raising him. He’s got a strong sense of family and he’s a high-character, high-moral kid.”

So yeah, this is a kid who could use a big break. And he finally got one this past week, shooting scores of 68-68 at the Memphis, Tenn., sectional to earn a spot in the upcoming U.S. Open.

Until five days later, when that big break turned into another big disappointment.

After nearly a week of constantly thinking about it, nearly a week of guilt, of questioning himself, of not wanting his big break to come under false pretenses, Millard disqualified himself from the biggest tournament of his life.

Playing the 18th hole on the North Course at Colonial Country Club – his 27th of the day – he hit an approach into a greenside bunker. As he played the shot, doubt crept into his mind as to whether he’d grounded his club in the hazard.

“I got in the bunker and looked up at the flag and back down, then back at the flag,” he recalls. “I looked down the last time before I took my swing and I think I feel the club hit the sand. I may never know. I think I see a little indentation from where the club hit it, but it happened so fast. I was actually in the act of making my swing when I thought I saw it. It was like a blur. That image keeps popping in my head.”

Millard notified playing partner Tommy Gainey, but he was on the other side of the green and didn’t see anything. He told a rules official, who informed him that it was his call and his call alone.

It was a decisive call. When the 36-hole qualifier was over, he’d earned a spot in the field by one stroke. If he’d given himself a two-stroke penalty, he would have missed a playoff by one.

For five days, he thought about it. All the time.

“I literally thought about it for every single second of the day,” he says. “I just kept asking myself what to do. I kept saying, ‘I’m not 100 percent sure,’ so I never did anything. But it kept on eating at me inside.”

On Saturday morning, Millard packed up for Pinehurst and started driving from his Murfreesboro, Tenn., home with his caddie. They’d driven about an hour, halfway between Murfreesboro and Knoxville – “in the middle of nowhere,” he calls it – when he had a change of heart.

He called a USGA official and explained that he couldn’t compete with the uncertainty weighing on him.

Those who bemoan the impact that television replays have had on professional golf should take note of Millard’s lasting desire toward the situation.

“I wish there was a camera there,” he says, “so I could see it.”

Instead, the guy who can’t catch a break dealt himself another cruel blow.

Instead of playing alongside the game’s best players, he’ll be watching from afar – as much as it will pain him. Instead of trying to make the cut and play a U.S. Open final round on Father’s Day, one year after his father died, he’ll be mourning at home.

The story should recall that of Blayne Barber, who two years ago needed eight days before disqualifying himself from Q-School for a similarly undetermined infraction. And it should be noted that Barber – in a karmic twist of what goes around comes around – will be a full-fledged PGA Tour member next season.

“His break is coming, man,” Turnbow insists. “He’s too good a player to not rebound from something like this.”

After calling a USGA official and disqualifying himself and turning around from the middle of nowhere, Millard returned to his childhood home and told his mother about his decision. Despite her physical limitations, Debbie’s mind is still as sharp as ever.

A tear fell down her cheek as she listened to her son’s story. Then she responded.

“She said she was proud of me, proud of the decision that I made,” he says. “Then she told me, ‘You’ll get ‘em next year.’”

Let’s hope so. He could use a big break. 

Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.