Finally, Masters will have two Stadlers

By Jason SobelFebruary 3, 2014, 1:43 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Craig Stadler remembers being at Pebble Beach for the 1982 U.S. Open, two months after his Masters victory. His son, Kevin, was just over 2 years old, oblivious to the rigors of preparing for a major championship. He just wanted to play.

“Kevin’s diaper was sticking out of his shorts or whatever and we were hitting balls,” recalled the man known as the Walrus. “He was down there for three hours straight hitting balls, and I went to pick him up and go back and he just screamed bloody murder. You hope you get a 2-year-old to focus on something for three minutes, but he was down there for almost four hours. It was awesome.”

Five years later, the son was bounding around Torrey Pines when his father placed a towel on the ground to hit a punch shot from his knees. Found in violation of the rule against building a stance, instead of finishing second he was disqualified. “I was only 7 at the time,” Kevin said, “but I remember afterward he was one pissed-off dude.”

Kevin Stadler was a PGA Tour kid who’s blossomed into a PGA Tour champion. This week marked his 239th career start, but his first victory – a one-stroke triumph over Bubba Watson and Graham DeLaet – has been a lifetime in the making.

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It’s a feel-good story, too. For years, Craig has continued teeing it up at Augusta National in hopes that Kevin would soon join him. When son finally tees it up in the field with dad this coming April, it will be the final time for the past champion.

“It’s really my last one,” Craig said by phone minutes after Kevin’s victory. “I kept saying, ‘You know, when he gets in, that’s my last one.”

“He probably would have liked it better,” Kevin added with a smile, “if I had gotten there five years ago, so he could call it quits then.”

The son is a proverbial apple who hasn’t fallen far from the tree – at least on the course. He shares an inherited ball-striking ability with his dad, though not the hot temper. And now he becomes just the ninth son to join his father as a PGA Tour winner.

When Craig maintains, “We don’t look even remotely close to each other,” everyone within earshot laughs, because, well, of course they do.

There can be a lot of pressure on the son of a Masters champion who is trying to walk in those footsteps, but Kevin contends that he’s never had any issue with such a burden.

“It's the only last name I have ever had, so it's just normal for me,” he explained. “Everybody asks me that question and I don't even think about it.”

Here’s where the feel-good story takes a left-hand turn.

That common bond between father and son, from hitting balls together at Pebble Beach to the still-infamous violation at Torrey Pines, has taken its toll over the years.

Kevin bristles at being called Baby Walrus. He doesn’t suffer comparisons to his father. And when asked to describe their relationship, he demurs.

“It's fine,” he said coolly. “I’d rather not talk about that, but it's fine.”

The cryptic comment can only leave us guessing at past conflict, but we can guess that it’s much better than nonexistent and something less than perfect.

Craig was out of the country until Saturday, but left Kevin a few text messages during the week, telling him he was playing well and needed to make more putts. “Standard messages I get from him,” Kevin disclosed.

During the course of Sunday’s final round, he was thinking about his dad. From gaining the lead on the ninth hole to losing it on the 11th and eventually clinching when Watson missed a 5-foot putt on the final green, he thought about how time is catching up to his father and how special it would be for them to compete in the Masters together.

“That was in the forefront of my mind when I was out there,” he admitted. “He's been telling me for a couple of years I need to hurry up and get there before he calls it quits.”

As for Craig, he couldn’t be prouder.

“I'm his biggest fan,” he said. “He probably doesn't know it, but I love watching him play on TV and on the Internet. I don't get to watch him play live too often.”

Then he adds an off-course thought about his son: “He's a great kid.”

When apprised that his father said those words, Kevin alters his previous statement of not wanting to speak about their relationship.

“I get along with him fine,” he said. “I'm just not as close with him now as I used to be, but he's still my dad. I love him.”

Father and son together at the Masters. The first father-son duo to ever compete in the tournament together.

Even if everything about Craig and Kevin Stadler’s relationship isn’t perfect, this part still counts as a feel-good story.

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Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 8:07 pm

Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.

Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie with via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

Woods' hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

One hole later, Woods would added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”