Hawk's Nest: Masters wins in the end

By John HawkinsApril 15, 2013, 2:31 pm

Upon winning the 2004 Players Championship, where he knocked his approach into the water on the 18th, then holed a 10-footer to beat Padraig Harrington by a stroke, Adam Scott hurled his golf ball into a grandstand behind the green, as champions occasionally do. While standing at the foot of those bleachers, I saw Scott’s ball soar over my head, then heard the commotion you might expect when a bunch of people are fighting over a $3 Titleist.

For some reason, I turned and looked up. The ball bounced off a wooden plank, then another, before falling to me like a Snickers bar in a vending machine. I briefly thought about throwing it back into the crowd, but I stuck it in my pocket instead and approached Scott after he’d wrapped up his interview in the media center.

“Hey, you want this?” I asked.

“How did you get that?” he replied, looking a bit more annoyed than perplexed.

I should have told him I beat up a 6-year-old and pushed an old lady off the top row, or that I planned to sell the ball on eBay after he signed it for me, but Scott is way too nice a guy to mess with. A genuinely good-hearted person. Excellent manners. Clearly, he was raised properly, but there is a gentlemanly quality to him even beyond the positive effects of a good mother and father.

The parallels between Scott and Davis Love III have always been striking to me. Not just the ultra-similar personalities, but the textbook golf swing, the teaching-pro dad – and the notion that both were high-profile underachievers because they lacked a mean streak or a killer instinct. Neither was particularly sharp on and around the greens, leading to almost identical labels.

It may not have been the fairest way to appraise the two players, but nobody exactly disputed the notion, either.

Now Scott is an undeniably worthy Masters champion, holing clutch putts and striking the ball exceptionally well to outlast Angel Cabrera in a two-hole playoff. In a week that featured a Tiger Woods overdose even before the two-stroke penalty, at a tournament where the youngest kid ever to make the cut at a major was penalized a stroke for slow play, a Masters to remember had a happy ending.

When Scott fell apart down the stretch at last summer’s British Open and blew a four-stroke lead with four to play, I processed everything I knew about him and figured he’d have a difficult time overcoming the collapse. Not just in the short-term, but for the duration of his career. It was an epic meltdown – the kind that leaves a permanent mark on many.

For him to rebound two majors later and win the way he did speaks volumes about Scott’s competitive character. His PGA Tour career began over a decade ago amid considerable fanfare, although it quickly became clear Scott’s short game wasn’t nearly good enough to help him win tournaments on a regular basis. He’ll never be a Seve but, no question, he has gotten a lot better.

As was the case with Love, Scott consistently failed to factor at the majors throughout his first eight seasons – just three top-10s in his first 36 starts – which can be blamed on his inability to get up and down. At the 2008 Byron Nelson Championship, which Scott won on a brutally chilly May afternoon in Dallas, I remember him being in a particularly reflective mood. He had just climbed to third in the world ranking, meaning he’d be paired with No. 1 Tiger Woods and No 2 Phil Mickelson at the upcoming U.S. Open.

We talked for a while, most of the time with just a couple of other people around. As likeable as he was, as well-grounded as he sounded, Scott was about to become a 28-year-old in serious transition. He would buy a private jet, break up with Marie Kojzar, his live-in girlfriend, and part ways with longtime swing coach Butch Harmon.

To me, it didn’t add up. Had Scott made enough money to afford his own jet? Who was giving him advice? Sergio Garcia goes into the tank after a busted relationship with Greg Norman’s daughter. Now Greg Norman’s protégé appears to be flying blind. Golf’s two most capable post-Woods phenoms were getting nowhere fast. Had life for Adam and Sergio gotten too easy?

Scott would go two full years (2009-10) without doing much. Since finishing second at the 2011 Masters, then hiring former Woods caddie Steve Williams that summer, the Aussie has become a much tougher, more visible big-game competitor. He may never evolve into the five-major, 25-victory superstar many people envisioned a decade ago, but on a cloudy, rainy Sunday at Augusta National, Scott slayed the demons and seized the moment with a strength some didn’t know he had.

A more likeable Masters champion, you will not find. Oh, and by the way? Scott didn’t want that ball he’d thrown into the stands after winning The Players. I gave it to a kid who was waiting for his autograph outside the clubhouse that evening.

IT WAS A very interesting Masters before Scott’s dramatic triumph, shaped in large part by the two rules-related incidents that just happened to involve the tournament’s most newsworthy participants. A one-stroke penalty slapped on Tianlang Guan, two strokes issued to Woods. And approximately 60 million words of reaction, give or take a syllable, as any high-profile ruling (and subsequent sanction) is sure to generate.

Some thoughts:

We can talk forever about whether they were picking on the 14-year-old from China, but pro golf has a serious slow-play problem – and European Tour official John Paramour seems to be the only person willing to do something about it. Paramour has been around for a long time, and if there’s one thing you should know about him, it’s that he never looks the other way.

The PGA Tour is full of really nice officials who never call penalties, who reflexively give players the benefit of the doubt and do whatever they can not to affect the outcome of a tournament. Paramour is old-school – the tough cop who doesn’t care about the identity of the player committing a violation or why it was committed.

I seriously doubt the penalty assessed to Guan will lead to more stringent enforcement of the pace-of-play policy, but at least Paramour reminded us that somebody’s paying attention.

THERE’S SOMETHING RATHER humorous about Rule 33-7, which basically allows golf’s lawmen to fix something they screwed up or missed earlier. On that note, I think it was implemented to fine effect in regard to Tiger’s drop at the 15th Friday. Understandably, my weekend chats were dominated by voices of protest, which means absolutely nothing.

About half of golf’s universe despises Woods, period. The other half adores him, so public opinion on this matter is even more irrelevant than usual. To me, the two-stroke assessment felt like a backhanded compromise. Disqualification became a non-option after Woods was cleared of any wrongdoing before signing his scorecard. Yet, he unwittingly admitted to taking an illegal drop in a post-round interview, so the green jackets felt like something had to be done.

There’s no question in my mind: Tiger didn’t know the precise specifics of the drop rule. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have said what he said on TV. What’s funny is, he tried to be candid and honest about what happened – and it ultimately cost him. Did it ultimately affect his performance on the weekend? Come on. The guy’s a lot tougher than that.

Woods didn’t win the 2013 Masters because he didn’t play well enough. Once again, his putting at Augusta National was slipshod. I’ve never seen him leave a putt 15 short, as he did on the fifth green Sunday. He made 15 birdies for the week, seven of them on the par 5s, but his inability to score on Augusta National’s back nine has been a problem for several years, never more so than this past week.

When the world’s best players gather at Merion in two months for the U.S. Open, it will mark the five-year anniversary of Woods’ last major title. The only consistent trait he has displayed over that period is a penchant for putting himself in excellent position through 36 holes, then doing nothing with it. With each passing failure, Mount Nicklaus gets a little higher. Nineteen major victories? I’ve got an idea. How ’bout we get to 15?

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.) 

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Full-field scores from The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.