Hawk's Nest: Fired up over McIlroy, a playoff and a penalty

By John HawkinsSeptember 10, 2012, 1:20 pm

IF I HAD a dollar for every stupid shot I’ve hit this year, I’d quit my job and buy a big house in some fancy golf community, then hit more stupid shots. Physical limitations come with middle age. Mental mistakes get old in a hurry, however, and some of the stuff I do on the golf course has gotten absolutely disgusting.

My favorite is when I grab two clubs, say a 7- and 8-iron, then get to my ball and find out I really need the 6. Instead of returning to the cart, I turn into Lee Trevino. “Oh, I’ll just hook the 7 in there,” I tell myself, as if my ability to shape a shot is any more reliable than a babysitter with boyfriend issues.

But enough about my little problems. Let us proceed to the men and women with full-time caddies and far more command – exempt on the PGA Tour but not from the occasional cerebral lapses that plague us all – in this first edition of Hawk's Nest, a new Monday staple.


MUCH WILL BE made of the upcoming bye week, which brings the FedEx Cup playoffs to a halt after an awesome weekend leaderboard and McIlrunaway finish at the BMW Championship. In this case, second-guessing = undue consternation. I need a break just to recover from an overdose of early-round bubble projections – now a close second on my list of peeves behind the long-putter invasion.

Don’t get me wrong. The shuffle of players moving back and forth in the standings brings an added, relevant dimension to the Sunday action. On Thursday and Friday, however, it’s dizzying overkill. No one with more than a few ounces of common sense projects a guy to hit 70 homers if he hits three in the first week of the baseball season.

The PGA Tour’s ceaseless efforts to promote its playoff series have led to an abundance of computer-generated clutter; too much information translates to utter drivel. A vast majority of golf tournaments change dramatically over four days. When Bill Haas bogeys four of the last five holes to forfeit his spot in the top 30, his performance up to that point becomes largely insignificant.

When Vijay Singh goes from holding a share of the 54-hole lead to not even qualifying for the Tour Championship, it’s worth remembering that Dewey didn’t actually defeat Truman. That a 64 on Thursday can mean a lot of things – a T-51 at Crooked Stick if you’re Webb Simpson.

In an age of real-time data, a lot of instant info is real meaningless. Nobody ever won a FedEx Cup postseason tilt on a Friday. Heck, unless you’re a curly-haired lad from Northern Ireland, you probably shouldn’t ask your GPS for directions to Atlanta until Sunday afternoon.


GO AHEAD and wonder about the LPGA playing the same hole eight consecutive times in Sunday’s playoff between Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin. It made total sense for three reasons. The ladies saved a considerable amount of daylight by returning to the 18th tee over and over. Fans who stuck it out didn’t have to move. And perhaps most importantly, neither player had an advantage in terms of shot shape.

At the 2008 U.S. Open, it was pre-determined that any tiebreaker needed beyond Monday’s 18-hole playoff would begin at Torrey Pines’ seventh, a pronounced, dogleg-right par 4. Rocco Mediate is almost exclusively a right-to-left player, leaving Tiger Woods with a clear edge as one of the most memorable major championships of the modern era drew to a close.

Of course, this was also back when Tiger didn’t spend much time in the fairway. He beat Mediate with a tap-in par.


AS OPPOSED TO, say, 2006, when the U.S. Ryder Cup squad included Brett Wetterich, J.J. Henry and no one under the age of 30, this year’s team is the strongest I’ve seen since 1993. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson are now major champions. Matt Kuchar won The Players. Tiger Woods is “back,” if not the player he once was, and while there are lingering questions regarding several U.S. veterans, this roster is balanced and accomplished.

Consider: Hunter Mahan was fourth in the world ranking going into the Masters and didn’t make the team. You could argue that Mahan deserved a captain’s pick ahead of Brandt Snedeker or Dustin Johnson, but when I asked readers for their thoughts on Davis Love III’s selections during a recent live chat, the response was abundantly positive.

None of this means much if the top players on either side don’t perform to a certain standard, which brings us to Phil Mickelson. No question, he is the biggest X-factor on the American side. And at each of the last four Ryder Cups, Mickelson’s success/failure has served as an apt barometer for the U.S. fortunes overall.

In 2004, Lefty’s infamous partnership with Tiger Woods resulted in a pair of first-day losses. Europe won big. Two years later, Philly Mick earned just a half-point over the first two days. Europe rolled again. In ’08, Mickelson carried Anthony Kim to a crucial victory in the Friday fourball session and halved two other partnered matches. The Yanks won going away.

In 2010, Mickelson went 0-3 prior to singles, helping the U.S. into a hole it couldn’t quite climb out of. Pinning all the blame on Phil for the cumulative shortcomings is silly, but his energy and bravado are key components to every U.S. team’s competitive disposition. Always a vocal leader, Mickelson is invaluable to his side when he leads by example.


NOT THAT ANYONE asked, but….

Mahan and Rickie Fowler, the two men generally perceived as having come up short in Love’s captain’s-pick sweepstakes, were a combined 16 over par on the weekend at Crooked Stick. Mahan went 80-77, two strokes higher than my own Saturday-Sunday combo. The four guys DL3 did choose were an aggregate 20 under.

Singh picked up 3.14 strokes on the field with his putting in the first round. On Sunday, he was 2.34 strokes worse than the final-round standard. Anyone looking to salvage the future of the anchored putter might consider submitting news of that 5 1/2-shot swing to the U.S. Golf Association. It’s a different game when the game’s on the line – no broomstick of any length will ever change that.


WHAT’S WITH GUYS brushing their club against a leaf while they attempt to strike a shot from a hazard? We saw it in the final round of the PGA Championship with Carl Pettersson, whose faint hopes of catching Rory McIlroy were damaged by the two-stroke penalty on the first hole.

Graeme McDowell was guilty of the same infraction in a bunker Thursday, grazing some unattached growth that had fallen into the sand on the ninth hole – his last of the day. After a half-hour of deadsville, my live-chat scroll suddenly lit up like an AC/DC concert. The rules freaks wanted clarification. The McDowell fans wanted retribution. And I just wanted to go shoot baskets with my daughter.

Here’s the deal: McDowell wasn’t sure of the rule. Which sounds crazy, but not half as insane as the penalty for committing such a misdemeanor. TWO strokes? What’s the matter with adding one shot to a guy’s score? Isn’t two shots about twice as harsh as is necessary, especially in situations (bunker play) where the R&A and USGA have become more lenient on the removal of loose impediments?

No need to stop now, fellas. While we’re tossing away those stones, let’s hurl that extra stroke into the garbage can. If the violation clearly is unintentional, there’s no reason why the penalty can’t fit the crime.


WHEN I RAN into my buddy Johnny Pet 3 ½ months ago in the first round of the member/member, he was a 13 handicap. When we teed it up a couple of weekends ago, he was down to 8. I’m no mathematician – and Johnny Pet is no sandbagger – but I will say, that is quite a drop.

I’m not flabbergasted by his five-stoke improvement. What amazes me is that Johnny Pet has broken seven clubs in that stretch, none of them by accident. He is a perfect gentleman, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever play with, but when J-Pet hits a really lousy shot, something snaps.

Doesn’t matter if it’s steel or graphite. I can’t wait until he breaks seven more. I’ll be getting one a side.

Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry