Hawk's Nest: Half empty, half full for Tiger and Rory?

By John HawkinsMarch 3, 2014, 4:00 pm

Tiger’s back!

Tiger’s back?

Tiger’s back.

From career-threatening chasms to pesky muscle spasms, few two-word sentences reverberate across golf’s landscape to more widespread interpretation. Just when some were getting comfortable with the idea that Eldrick T. Woods might start winning majors again, he misses a Saturday cut at Torrey Pines, a course he owns, and then walks off PGA National with five holes to play.

Not so suddenly, the “T” stands for trauma. But before we go overboard with Woods’ latest injury-related withdraw, it stands to reason that he’ll show up at Doral this week. Sunday marked the fourth time in less than four years that Red Shirt has pulled out of a tournament with health issues. Only once has he failed to make his next scheduled start.

Inconclusive data, mind you, but I don’t doubt for a minute that Woods’ back is bothering him. The weight of expectations hasn’t gotten any lighter. The burden of outrageous competitive standards has always been a 500-pound knapsack on the climb up Mount Nicklaus, and the man isn’t getting any younger.

So a week that began with Tiger griping about slow greens ended with him 5 over through 13 holes. A final round that began with him on the fringe of contention quickly capsized with a double bogey at the par-5 third. And a man who once bristled over “slump talk” has just one top-10 finish in the last seven months.

He’s made just six starts over that stretch, of course – less than one tournament per month on a tour where the seasons never really end. Less production or more inconclusive data? Half empty or half full? All I know is, that glass of water can break pretty easily.


LAST YEAR, IT was a toothache. This year? Heartbreak. Somewhere between quitting on the 2013 Honda Classic after 26 ½ holes and losing the same tournament in a playoff Sunday evening, Rory McIlroy repaired his golf swing, bought an engagement ring and figured out the fame thing.

When you win two major titles by eight shots apiece before your 24th birthday, acting like a kid is no longer an option. And as much as we beat on the Irish Lad for looking nothing like one of the world’s best players in ’13, it makes sense to cut him some slack for crumbling down the stretch at the Honda.

McIlraunch threw up on himself with a four-stroke lead after 54 holes at the 2011 Masters, and then rebounded to crush the field at the very next major. He played very poorly at the U.S. and British Opens the following summer, then dusted himself off and won three of his last five starts, including the PGA Championship.

The fact that McIlroy gave NBC a few minutes of his time after losing to Russell Henley, and then met with the media for a full-length interview, says something about his maturity and ability to deal with failure. A lot of top-tier players aren’t willing to discuss such matters so soon afterward, and the PGA Tour isn’t all that persistent when it comes to pressing the issue with agitated runner-ups.

“I counted myself very fortunate just to be in the playoff,” McIlrighteous admitted. “I didn’t play well enough at all to deserve to win this tournament. I wasn’t in control of my golf ball coming down the stretch.”

Those are the type of money quotes that make a golf writer’s job a lot easier. More importantly, it’s hard to imagine a player extracting more value from a blown final-round lead than McIlroy did Sunday. He looked wobbly all afternoon, but because almost everyone else was moving backwards, he held at share of the lead until making a mess on the 16th.

His second shot into the par-5 closer was one of the best fairway woods you’ll ever see, but McIlroy missed a 12-footer to win after Henley gave him a read. Some will see a guy who needed a win and let a big one get away. I see a guy who drove it wonderfully all week, fought his nerves on Sunday and will be armed and dangerous the next time a similar situation arises.

Glass half full.


MY EARLY MASTERS line, although keep in mind, my wagering window does not open until April 1. No credit cards accepted.

McIlroy (12-1): He’s going to win this tournament three times before all is said and done. Next month would be a good time to start. Swinging the long clubs with an awesome blend of fluidity and speed.

Henrik Stenson (16-1): T-17 is his best finish in seven Masters starts, but this is a very different guy now. Hits it a mile high. Distance has never been an issue.

Phil Mickelson (17-1): He’ll be ready, I assure you. Reserves highest level of focus for second week in April. Twelve top-10s at Augusta National in the last 15 years.

Woods: (20-1): Hasn’t done anything to suggest nine-year Masters drought is about to end. Short game still turns 73s into 69s, but the putts haven’t been falling in Georgia for quite a while.

Bubba Watson (22-1): Victory at Riviera puts him back on the map. A streaky, high-strung player who could use another high finish in Florida. Bubba reminds us – we’re all day-to-day in this world.


LOST AMID THE commotion of that better-late-than-never West Coast swing, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson named Raymond Floyd as one of his assistants for the big matches this September in Scotland. Floyd joins Andy North on the skipper’s staff, and if the choice of Watson himself was a notable diversion from the formula used by the PGA of America to select its captains, neither of Watson’s appointments was exactly conventional.

Floyd is 71 years old. North turns 64 next week. And though North is a member of ESPN’s coverage team at three of the four majors, neither guy is an active Tour pro, as is usually the case with most assistants. It would not annoy me if Watson added someone like Jim Furyk to his staff – someone who still competes against the big boys on a regular basis.

At this point, I’d like to totally contradict myself by saying the Ryder Cup captaincy is one of the most overrated elements in golf. I loved the Watson pick for cosmetic reasons – outside-the-box thinking, a fresh start, etc. – but will it really make a difference at Gleneagles? We’ll see.

I suppose this old-school administration will simplify things, which could reduce the pressure on the players, but I’ve talked to a bunch of U.S. Ryder Cuppers over the years, and when I’ve asked them to name their favorite captain, even off the record, no one answers. Every skipper did a great job, they will tell you. Not one of them did a single thing wrong.


FINALLY, A ROBUST shout-out to the good folks who run the Honda Classic. For all the once-prominent tournaments that now struggle to draw premium fields and move the needle, this PGA Tour event has become the exact opposite.

Over a span of about two decades, the Honda was basically the can-miss stop on the Florida swing. It struggled through five venue changes – a couple of them pretty bad courses – while the title sponsor remained loyal to the cause. Honda has been the Tour’s corporate partner here for 32 years, displaying amazing loyalty to Camp Ponte Vedra when you consider the actual parameters of the product.

The 2007 move to PGA National, and the involvement of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, has turned everything around, and in that respect, the Honda Classic is very unique. During the WGC/FedEx Cup era, no other Tour stop can come close to matching the Honda’s rags-to-riches profile.

Now if they can just get that guy with the bad back to come back next March …

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.