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.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

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.