Hawk's Nest: Love lost, but plenty gained this week

By John HawkinsMay 26, 2014, 2:20 pm

A word to the wise: If Colin Montgomerie accepts your invitation to play in the member-guest this summer, you might want to warn your opponents about Monty’s antics when things slow to a crawl. The big fella does not like to wait. Unlike most tour pros, he has virtually no tolerance for tortoises, and that includes Bernhard Langer, a man whom Montgomerie has been competing against for more than a quarter-century.

“Bernhard is different,” Monty assessed after the third round of the Senior PGA Championship. “You have to adjust your own pace. There’s no point in playing faster to make up for someone who isn’t as fast.”

Of course, Monty’s idea of an adjustment isn’t the same as yours or mine. He goes into a tizzy, or at the very least, he gets quite demonstrative. His body language suggests that someone recently dumped a nest full of hornets down his trousers. As Langer goes to take a third look at that 7-footer for par, there is no letup. Have you ever seen a 9-year-old boy who really, really needs to use the bathroom?

When it’s finally his turn, Montgomerie barely comes to a standstill before slamming his putt into the back of the hole. He turns and heads to the next tee in that lumbering march of his, looking a lot more like a guy on his way to shooting 85 than leading the tournament.

I find his behavior rather hysterical, especially when he gets to the media center and talks about Langer in almost reverential terms. I’ve seen Monty lose the U.S. Open because he came unglued. I’ve also watched him dominate Ryder Cups, where the pace of play is often glacial, holing everything he stood over and maybe missing one fairway each day.

All these years later, I still can’t figure the dude out. How can such a brat be such an outstanding player? Would he have been even better if he’d exercised a little more composure? In victory and defeat, Montgomerie is the puzzle no one ever managed to solve, and in that respect, few players in the modern era have been more fascinating.

AND JUST LIKE that, golf’s two best young players turn their seasons around, winning tournaments six time zones and five hours apart. The Adam Scott-Jason Dufner playoff at Colonial was ultra-riveting, but Rory McIlroy’s triumph at Wentworth was a much bigger deal – over a premium Euro field in his first start since breaking up with fiancee Caroline Wozniacki.

Really? That’s all it took? I know McIlromantic is sincerely bummed out about losing his steady, but it’s hard not to read between the lines on this one. Distractions can be a serious problem for a 25-year-old kid with two major titles and more money than he knows what to do with.

From the very start, Tiger Woods had an ample support staff to handle anything that didn’t involve striking a golf ball. Not that McIlreality is doing his own laundry, but there are plenty of signs that indicate he hasn’t pursued greatness as a single focus. There has been a lot of change in his professional life since he crushed the field at the 2012 PGA – it’s hard enough to win when that’s all you’re thinking about.

Hey, if Thomas Bjorn doesn’t stumble to a Sunday 75, McIlroy grabs another top 10 and doesn’t resolve any issues as to which direction he’s heading. He hasn’t been playing poorly in 2014, but when a guy with his talent goes winless for 21 months, there clearly has to be a reason.

AS FOR THE tournament McIlrebound won, there is no reasonable explanation as to why the Euro Tour’s PGA Championship isn’t a WGC event. They launch one in China and and play it in November, which makes no sense, but Camp Ponte Vedra can’t see the credibility value by staging one in the United Kingdom?

Too bad. Wentworth is one of the game’s great venues. London might be the world’s coolest city, and to leave Europe out of the WGC equation altogether is just plain silly. It helps explain why every high-profile American player passes on the event year after year, but then, our guys only travel overseas when there’s a big fat appearance fee involved.

When the WGC series began in 1999, the third and final event of the season was played at Valderrama GC in Spain, which simply wasn’t a good idea – too remote a location, too underdeveloped as a golf nation, too goofy a layout. American Express was the title sponsor, however, so Valderrama it was, although the tournament soon began moving around until AmEx surrendered its host status in 2006.

A couple of those WGCs were played in Ireland, and in ’06, the AmEx was held in England. Other than the Open Championship, that was the last time a PGA Tour event was held on British soil. For all the interest shown in Asia by the game’s governing bodies, the motivation there is purely commercial.

That grow-the-game stuff is all well and good, but you’d think the neckties would sense an obligation to the part of the world where golf holds the most cultural significance.

NOT THAT I have any reason not to believe him, but it will be interesting to see if U.S. Ryder Cup skipper Tom Watson adds Woods to the team regardless of how he plays upon his return from back surgery. Watson has made it clear that he intends to use a captain’s pick on Sir Eldrick, but things can change, and we’re still a long way off before a decision has to be made.

There are several things to consider here other than Woods’ health and on-course performance. Tiger and Watson are not exactly buddy-buddy – the captain hasn’t been bashful about expressing negative opinions regarding Woods’ behavior over the years. And Tiger, as we all know, is one of the great grudge-holders in the history of golf.

Instead of thinking out loud, let’s turn to Paul Azinger, who knows both men well and was the last U.S. pilot to actually win a Ryder Cup. And Azinger did it without Woods, who missed the 2008 matches at Valhalla while recovering from knee surgery.

“I wouldn’t be giving Tiger a whole lot of thought at this point,” Azinger said. “You have no control over how he stands physically. I would have a hard time not picking him. I would put it to him as, ‘Do you want to help us avenge what happened last time [2012]’

“If you’re Watson, you go right to Tiger and ask him point-blank: Do you want to play? It becomes a terrific leadership option for Watson. Pick him or not, he becomes assertive either way. The day he makes that decision is the day he truly becomes the leader of that squad.”

An educated guess? Woods will want to play. His return remains the source of great speculation, but there’s a decent chance he’ll play in at least one major, perhaps two. He’s still Tiger Woods. He could win both and make it a moot point.

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.