Hawk's Nest: Vets resurface to contend at Nelson

By John HawkinsMay 19, 2014, 1:30 pm

IRVING, Texas – Of all the gifts Adam Scott has received since marrying Marie Kojzar last month, none could be more unique than the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. An electric can opener might be more practical. A nice hors d’oeuvre tray would probably go unnoticed, but No. 1 on the planet?

Who can miss that?

Few did when it was learned Scott would unseat Tiger Woods at the top despite taking last week off. Serious golf fans want a man to play his way to No. 1, but as Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson recently pointed out, this is hardly an unusual occurrence. Seventeen players have reigned atop the ranking since its 1986 inception, five of whom got there for the first time without teeing it up the previous week.

“Never been a fan,” decorated veteran Jim Furyk said of the OWGR in a text exchange. “Has a few flaws that are easy to pick on. Tough to rank guys that rarely play against each other.”

Call it a flaw, call it a loophole – not much can be done to prevent idle tour pros from rising in the ranking. In that sense, the system is much like an NBA officiating crew: nobody notices it unless something weird or unjust happens. You could rightfully wonder how Woods held onto the top spot for this long, seeing how he hasn’t posted a top 10 since last August.

You could scratch your head in equal bewilderment over Scott, who hasn’t won in 2014, whose most notable performance this year remains the seven-shot lead he blew to finish third at Bay Hill. That’s the thing: you can’t leave the No. 1 spot vacant because nobody deserves it.

Somebody has to have it. Hey, some Miss Americas are prettier than others, but they don’t cancel the beauty pageant because all the ladies are wearing too much makeup.

“I [follow] the world ranking, but I don’t know enough about the system to offer solutions,” says Charles Howell III. “I do know it would be very difficult to come up with a way to rank players who never compete head-to-head.”

That is, and will always be, the chief complaint among the constituency. How do you compare a T-3 in Malaysia with a T-7 in Charlotte? There is a formula, but so many variables come into play. You could finish tied for seventh, three strokes behind the winner, while the T-3 on the other side of the world finished 10 behind.

All of which makes the OWGR nothing more than food for thought. On a nice hors d’oeuvre tray, of course.

I SPENT THE week at the Dallas Tour stop named after Byron Nelson, a tournament I have always liked very much, although the rise of the Charlotte event and moving The Players to May hasn’t done this one any favors in terms of field strength. The crowds here are still large and enthusiastic. On my way to the course Sunday, I saw a sign that read: PARKING $60.

Never mind that when I ran out to find an ATM a couple hours later, the price had been lowered to $20. More than the announced attendance of 75,000 for each of the last three rounds, the Nelson has always seemed to attract a greater percentage of women and children than other tournaments.

That’s just a personal take, not something based on actual data, although my favorite observation came Saturday when I saw 17-year-old Scottie Scheffler signing autographs for a bunch of 45-year-old men. The kid would finish the week T-22 at 4 under, an exceptionally impressive performance, but to me, the week was all about the re-emergence of Mike Weir and several other gone-wrong vets trying to resuscitate dormant careers.

At one point Friday afternoon, Weir, Paul Casey, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington were all on the Nelson leaderboard. Only Weir would stick around, driving home the point that a middle-aged man can play superb golf for one or two days. Doing it all four days, however, is often too much to ask.

CASEY IS CONSIDERABLY younger than the other three, but his struggle to regain the form that made him one of the world’s best has been no less bumpy. A rocky divorce and various injuries derailed him for the better part of two years (2011-12). A T-16 at the Nelson was his third consecutive top-20 – it featured a ridiculous 27 on the back nine Friday that took him from the cut bubble to contention.

“I’ve done that on par-3 courses,” Casey cracked. “We were actually struggling to add it up. My caddie’s like, ‘I think you just shot 28,’ but it turns out the par 35 threw him a bit. I genuinely had no concept of what I was doing out there.”

As nice-guy tour pros go, Casey has always ranked at or very near the top of my list. Unfailingly polite, great sense of humor, and though everyone who plays golf for a living has moments when they don’t want to talk to reporters, Casey is by far one of the more approachable players when things haven’t gone well.

A 73 Saturday killed any chance he had of making a huge splash in Dallas. “Go get ’em tomorrow,” I said, searching for something positive. “You post a 63 early, you never know what will happen.”

Casey smiled and began telling a story about the 2002 Omega European Masters, where his closing 64 was the lowest round of the day. This feat earned him a brand-new wristwatch from the title sponsor, which would be presented to him by none other than supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Casey had begun the day tied for 53rd, so he had to wait around forever. “No way I’m leaving,” he says. “It’s Cindy [bleeping] Crawford!” So I get my watch and a couple weeks later, I take it in to have it appraised. The [jeweler] looks at it, then looks up at me and says, ‘Where did you get this?’ I didn’t really want to provide a bunch of details, so I just tell him I won it.

“He says, ‘This watch isn’t even out yet.’ He really wants to know where I got it, so I say, “You won’t believe me even if I tell you – I’m a professional golfer and I won it … and Cindy Crawford gave it to me!”

I don’t believe Casey won anything for shooting a 27, but at this point in his life, a bolt of confidence is probably worth more than anything he’ll put on his wrist.

THE COOL THING about veterans on the revival trail – they appreciate the good times after so many bad ones and are a joy to have in the media center. Weir is a perfect example. In his prime, he was always friendly but not terribly forthcoming. An intense competitor, the Canadian lefty always struck me as a guy who seemed burdened by his role as the longtime ambassador for an entire golf-crazed nation.

At this point, I should probably apologize to all the Canadians who have joined my live chats in recent years – mainly to ask me if Weir had anything left as a presence on the PGA Tour. My answer was consistent: I didn’t think so. Too many poor seasons had come and gone, and with Weir approaching his mid-40s, I just didn’t see him doing something like finishing solo second in a regular-season event.

My bad, and I’m glad. In Dallas, Weir looked, acted and played like a man without a care in the world. “No doubt, early in my career, I felt [the pressure] of my situation,” he told me Sunday night. “It was a pretty difficult and unique situation. Tiger [Woods] had his deal, being the most visible player in the world and having to meet everyone’s expectations, and to a certain extent, I had mine.”

And when he began struggling, Weir points out now, the push of his fellow Canadians became a motivational source. In 2012, when he missed the cut in all 14 of his starts, he had discussions with his wife, Bricia, and his two daughters about the direction his career had taken – and whether he needed to find a new line of work.

Time will tell us if this past week was the start of something new or just a cameo, but for several reasons, I believe Weir can become a competitive presence once again. I remember a guy who became obsessed with mechanics once things began to slide in the mid-2000s.

For a couple of years, Weir bounced back and forth between the stack-and-tilt team of Mike Bennett/Andy Plummer and his prior set of eyes, Mike Wilson. He reiterated a number of times this past week that he’s without a coach now – and will continue to work on his own.

Beyond that, Weir was never a long hitter. His best career rank in driving distance was 44th in 2001, so he knows how to score without killing it, and that’s a real good quality to own when you’re 44 years old. Great putting comes and goes, but Weir was one of the better putters in his heyday and on certain courses, he can still contend or win if his ball-striking allows him enough scoring chances.

Lastly, Weir is one of the grittiest golfers I’ve ever covered. As his daughters grew from babies to elementary-school kids, then teenagers, I think he came down with a case of the Kenny Perry disease – chronic guilt over his not being home to see his children grow up.

They’re 16 and 14 now, old enough to understand the lay of the land. I’m not saying Weir will win a second major title or have another three-victory season like he did in 2003, but guys with his DNA squeeze every last drop out of what they have, and he has more than a few drops left.

A PARTING THOUGHT on European Tour commissioner George O’Grady’s handling of the tragic situation in Portugal two weekends ago, when veteran caddie Iain McGregor died of a heart attack during the tournament – and play resumed about an hour later.

It was one of the most dreadful, regrettable decisions made during my 19 years as a full-time golf writer. The fact that heavy rain turned the Madeira Open into a 36-hole event only makes the decision more ridiculous, an impulsive act of insensitivity from which no good could be salvaged.

The event should have been canceled. To his credit, however, O’Grady publicly apologized for the debacle and met this past week with members of the European Tour Caddies’ Association to discuss the matter. Tempers flared, harsh words were spoken, but when the meeting adjourned, the caddies and Euro brass politely agreed to disagree.

During the 2008 PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, veteran caddie Steve Duplantis was struck by a car and killed the day before the tournament started. Play went on without any notable outcry, and though the two situations were very different in some respects, there were also some obvious similarities.

A man died, and then golf was played. Sometimes, the reaction to tragedy is as powerful as the tragedy itself, although the two should never be confused in terms of significance.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.