Hawk's Nest: Snedeker a stand-up guy, but among the elite?

By John HawkinsSeptember 24, 2012, 2:47 am

THE BALL IS going farther, the clubface is getting hotter – and my handicap keeps going up. Maybe the computer knew I was a lousy 3 and decided to invoke some GHIN-related provision that would help prevent me from losing $120 every weekend. In any case, I’m more convinced than ever that a guy playing off low single digits is really a 6 on his way to the ATM.

Especially at my club, where the 13s are liable to shoot a 75 on you. Now more than ever, it’s a low-net world ... and I just applied for citizenship. Back when I hit my 6-iron 155 yards, lost one ball a month and could shoot a 73 with my putter’s consent, I also lost five ways on any given Sunday.

This way is much easier. A little pride can take you a long way, but a total absence of it can make you some decent money.

Speaking of decent money …

IT WAS PRO-AM Wednesday at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course – the perfect time and place to work a practice green full of Tour players. A tall guy in an old-school visor walked up and asked if I had a few minutes. Of course, I said to Brandt Snedeker, although I had no idea why he’d come out of his putting stance and want a word with me.

Situations like this usually arise because a guy didn’t like something I’d written or said. Snedeker was annoyed about a spot I’d done seven weeks earlier for a radio show – he’d beaten Kyle Stanley in a playoff at Torrey Pines after Stanley triple-bogeyed the 72nd hole, then arrived in Scottsdale and heard me yapping about how Stanley had given the tournament away.

What specifically bothered Sneds was my assessment that he was a good player, although not likely to become a top-tier performer by PGA Tour standards. I didn’t see him reaching double digits in career victories or claiming a couple of major titles. There was a slight difference of opinion on what I’d actually said that Monday back in January, which is fairly common, but it didn’t come into play here.

All that mattered was that a Tour pro had a gripe over the way I’d done my job, and I wanted to resolve it. My strongest lasting impression of the conversation was that Snedeker couldn’t quite summon a level of anger sufficient enough to drive home his point. Clearly, this was a kindhearted dude who wasn’t fond of taking exception to an honest appraisal, certainly not to the point where it would escalate into a confrontation.

And it didn’t. Other than replying, “Look, Brandt, I just don’t think you’re gonna be a superstar,” which didn’t come out of my mouth, there wasn’t much I could (or wanted) to say. We eventually agreed to disagree, although I did go out of my way to clarify Snedeker’s point that I was “ripping” him for beating Stanley, which simply wasn’t the case.

Never in my life have I ripped anyone for winning a golf tournament. I’ve never ripped anyone who didn’t present themselves to me as a piece of paper, with instructions to use both hands. And when I’ve seen Snedeker at events since, which has been only a couple of times, I’ve walked over, said “hello” and wished him luck.

Now he’s the 2012 FedEx Cup champion – a worthy winner in that he has played excellent golf for an extended period of time, since the British Open, actually. Three high finishes (sixth or better) earned him a captain’s pick from U.S. Ryder Cup skipper Davis Love III. His victory at the Tour Championship obviously validates the selection.

Maybe he’ll prove me wrong on my career assessment, which wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Maybe this is as good as it gets for him, which has nothing to do with my opinion of the guy. Not only do I like Snedeker, I appreciate his willingness to leave his comfort zone that day at Innisbrook and address the issue man to man. From conflict, a strong positive impression was formed.

WHAT SCARES ME about the points reset before the Tour Championship is that the farfetched scenario – no matter how far or whom it might fetch – is even possible when determining the overall winner. Snedeker certainly played his way to the grand prize, but with a little bit of give and take from the projections board, we could have ended up with Ryan Moore, who was squarely in the hunt until faltering down the stretch Sunday.

Moore had four top-10 finishes during the regular season, his best being a T-4 at Bay Hill. He came to East Lake off back-to-back T-10s at the Deutsche Bank and BMW, which is good golf, if not the stuff FedEx champs should be made of. Most alarmingly, Moore played in just one major (PGA) all year. He wasn’t in the field at any of the three WGCs, meaning he failed to qualify at six of the eight biggest tournaments on the schedule.

Commissioner Tim Finchem can talk all he wants about how the postseason accomplishes its mission, but it’s nothing more than necktie nonsense. This isn’t a season-long process by any rational stretch. The bottom-heavy nature of the current playoff format simply has to be tweaked before the concept can achieve an appropriate level of competitive credibility.

If the St. Louis Cardinals lead the New York Yankees 12-3 in Game 7 of the World Series, before the Yanks score five runs in the eighth and ninth to lose 12-8, they’re still popping champagne corks and hoisting a trophy in the Cards’ clubhouse. The solution in our game is fairly simple: if you insist on a reset prior to East Lake, don’t flatten the landscape so that it looks like Iowa.

I’m not asking for Colorado, just a little topography to distinguish those who have climbed to the highest altitude.

IT’S OLD NEWS by now, for sure, but any storyline featuring Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and claims of intimidation can’t get too dated. Greg Norman’s Tiger-fears-Rory theory had a bit of revisionist history in it, but the real afterword on the matter has nothing to do with 15-year intervals or whether Jack passed it to Greg.

Woods shot a 66 while playing with the Irish Lad in the opening round at East Lake, then ballooned to a 73 when the two were separated in the second round. As for Tiger and Rory looking like best buds in recent weeks – giggling on walks down the fairway together and doing a post-round interview as a tandem – I don’t think it has anything to do with a kindler, gentler Woods passing the torch.

I’m more inclined to believe the persistent whispers that McIlrich is about to sign a huge endorsement deal with Nike. If the two are on the verge of becoming Swoosh bunkmates, Red Shirt had to have been told of the impending deal. Perhaps Nike even asked Woods for his willingness to share the commercial stage with golf’s newest superstar.

That makes more sense than the notion that a 14-time major champion walks to the first tee shaking in his work boots. Norman has been poking a stick in Tiger’s cage for well over a year now – at least since Woods moved to the same Jupiter Island, Fla., neighborhood – and Woods still hasn’t dropped in for a cup of coffee at Chateau du Shark.

Norman’s candor should be greatly appreciated, his opinion respected, but there are times when a man’s outspokenness leaves you to wonder about a motive. As for McIlroy’s handling of the situation, he couldn’t have done a better job of defusing the issue with some sarcastic humor during his pre-tournament news conference last week. No question, the Irish Lad is learning how to play the game.

EVERYBODY LOVES the Ryder Cup. The transition from individual stroke play to a team-match format creates can’t-miss competitive drama and tons of compelling strategic buzz in the cafeteria line. I won’t be in the team room, but I’ve seen enough to know which U.S. matchups I like. Even if the captain couldn’t care less what I think.

Snedeker and Dustin Johnson (fourball): Johnson’s partnership with Phil Mickelson didn’t work at Celtic Manor, as the two were waxed in both matches together. I pair Big D with the hottest putter on my squad in an attempt to get him some early confidence mojo.

Mickelson and Keegan Bradley (fourball): A no-brainer if there is one. Lefty’s overall upside includes a willingness to pair up with a Ryder Cup rookie, and Bradley loves Philly Mick. The kid is long, steady and ultra-emotional.

Mickelson comes off a weak performance in Wales but shined with Anthony Kim (remember him?) at Valhalla in ’08.

Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson (foursomes): A successful tandem at last November’s Presidents Cup, as Simpson carried Bubba through some rough patches. Watson’s jumpy, risk-taking disposition works with this guy, and besides, you don’t mess with positive recent history.

Woods and Steve Stricker (foursomes): I’m going back to the scrapbook here. Woods has driven the ball exceptionally well this year, and though Stricker hasn’t played to his highest standard of late, he still makes putts, which has earned him Tiger’s highest level of trust. I can’t leave ’em together if they lose early, but this pairing definitely is worth another try.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.