Toast of the Town

By Jason SobelJuly 17, 2011, 8:30 pm

SANDWICH, England – In the gloaming of Royal St. George’s, following Darren Clarke’s marvelous march toward victory at the Open Championship, his manager Chubby Chandler was being interviewed not far from the 18th green.

The reporter queried Chandler on certain aspects of his client’s win for a few minutes, then concluded the interview by telling the former European Tour golfer, “I know you have a lot to do…”

That’s when the robust Chandler interjected, jabbed an index finger at the reporter and with a broad smile, added, “A lot of drinking to do!”

This was not just a victory for Clarke or his native Northern Ireland or all of Europe. This was a victory for fun-loving folks everywhere. This was one for the guy who always buys a round and the guy who never has to. This was for everyone at the 19th hole. This was for all of you who have taken a sip and mimicked Frank the Tank: “Once it hits your lips, it's so good!”

When asked to assess why he’s such a popular player amongst the masses, Clarke surmised, “Because I’m a bit of a normal bloke, aren’t I, really? I like to go to the pub and have a pint, jump on Easy Jet, fly home, buy everybody a drink, just normal. There’s not many airs and graces about me.”

It’s no secret that European players tend to enjoy the fruits of their labor more than their international counterparts, but there’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum at play, too. Do they celebrate more because they are winning or – and ponder this carefully – are they winning because they celebrate more?

The newest strategy to winning major championships these days has less to do with minutiae like decreasing wrist supination or mastering Zen golf and more to do with partying hard – or at least partying more than hardly.

That’s right. The key to playing better golf may just be … having fun.

Think about it: Do you play better golf when you’re grinding away, sweating over every single shot? Or when you’re out with some buddies – calm, relaxed, smiling and maybe even throwing back a few cold ones?

That’s not to say every pro should replace his vitamin-filled energy drinks with pints of Guinness, nor is it suggesting that a player’s success is directly correlated to his alcohol consumption. It’s more about attitude. Throughout the final round, Clarke could be seen smiling and cavorting as if competing in a practice round rather than the most important 18 holes of his life.

It’s a lesson some American golfers could stand to learn. If you haven’t heard, the red, white and blue hasn’t won in six straight majors. You needn’t look at a final leaderboard on Sunday to know that, either. When contenders such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were cruising along, there were grins and fist pumps galore, but as their games went south, their contorted body language did, too, with slumped shoulders and bowed heads their lasting images down the final stretch.

Almost immediately upon Clarke’s clinching putt, the words of his peers, through post-round comments and personal tweets, were uniform in their theme: Couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

And so he won’t lack for celebration partners in the aftermath of his win. If the journey toward a major title took 42 years and his Sunday victory march absorbed just over four hours, then the revelry will last, well, somewhere in between those two.

Make that a double for his countrymen back home.

“They’re probably all getting pissed,” Clarke guessed, “which means they’re drinking too much. They’re probably all having a drink in Portrush. If they’re not, I hope they are. They’re having parties all the time – party for GMac [Graeme McDowell] and party for Rory [McIlroy] a couple of weeks ago, and I’m sure I’ll have another one this week.”

This isn’t a party that will end anytime soon. If it appeared Clarke owned the right frame of mind prior to winning The Open, he’ll now be deliriously drunk on success – and other things.

When asked if he’ll still compete in the Irish Open in two weeks, Clarke maintained, “I will be in Killarney. I may not be sober for the Irish Open, but I will be in Killarney.”

And the good times will keep on rolling.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm