Hawk's Nest: Welcome back, Boo Weekley

By John HawkinsMarch 18, 2013, 12:56 pm

A bunch of my buddies just got back from a golf trip, and though I wasn’t actually invited, I couldn’t and wouldn’t have gone, anyway. Having not touched a club in three months, a four-day bogey bender at PGA National isn’t how I want to start my season. I realize we’re not playing for a green jacket or even a hundred bucks, at least under normal circumstances, but my competitive psyche is fragile. My self-esteem is far from bulletproof.

There’s always the camaraderie factor, but I’m not much fun when I’m waking up in the company of seven men, drinking gas-station coffee and losing three or four balls every nine holes. Besides, that camaraderie thing can be a total mirage. Everybody arrives on the first tee with high hopes and a huge smile. By the fifth green, at least one guy in the foursome is very unhappy, wondering the whereabouts of the nearest ATM and if they’re mature enough not to ruin everyone else’s day.

Of course, PGA National features numerous bodies of water and a three-club breeze more persistent than the bag-drop crew, neither of which goes well with rust or horse manure. So I’ll just wait another month and play a bunch of bad golf close to home. It’s a whole lot cheaper. And so much easier to rationalize.

MAKE NO MISTAKE, there was a Boo Weekley sighting at Innisbrook last week. Largely absent from leaderboards of any size since helping the United States to a lopsided triumph at the 2008 Ryder Cup, Weekley’s closing 63 was easily the round of the tournament – maybe the best anywhere in 2013, all things considered.

To shoot three strokes lower than anyone else on a Sunday is very rare. On a golf course that continues to prove itself as one of the best on the PGA Tour, no less, that 63 carried Weekley into sole possession of second place, two strokes behind first-time winner Kevin Streelman.

But enough on the details. Boo’s emergence as golf’s favorite folk hero six years ago was as cool as stories get – and certainly not an accident. Among the dozens of tour pros described at one point or another as “one of the game’s best ball-strikers,” nobody’s clubface produced a more effective level of percussion than Weekley’s.

I stood on the practice range in Charlotte for 15 minutes one spring, watching him hit it with such purity that he basically stopped traffic. Grown men with a lot of money and things to do were turning their heads to see where that sound was coming from – Boo was flushing long irons like a robot with a pot belly.

His low-trajectory flight would serve him very well at breeze-friendly venues such as Harbour Town, where Weekley won back-to-back titles (2007-08), but a shoulder problem and an eternally inconsistent putter would take him off the map. Perhaps the clearest sign of Boo’s demise came in 2011, when he led the PGA Tour in greens hit in regulation but missed 12 of 23 cuts and had just one top-25 finish.

We’ll find out how “back” he is in due time, but regardless of how Weekley plays from here, he secured a spot in my personal Hall of Fame years ago. I spent a day with him in Milton, Fla., his hometown, where we managed to get through a couple of hour-long interview sessions on his grandparents’ porch, when we weren’t noodling around and doing absolutely nothing.

At one point that morning, Weekley and I were standing at the water’s edge, looking out over the river abutting the family property. “I’ve seen alligators come right up out of here and go after our cows,” he said matter-of-factly, to which I immediately suggested we go to lunch. The Weekleys owned 80 acres, every inch of it traversed by Boo as a kid – he hunted and fished hundreds of times before ever picking up a golf club.

If the setting wasn’t quite a Norman Rockwell postcard, it was down-home idyllic in a lovably plain sort of way, and Boo was purely a product of that environment. Even then, he talked about pro golf as if it were fifth or sixth on his list of things he liked to do. It was a job and he was really good at it.

When you quit school to spray the gunk out of tanks in a chemical plant, as Weekley had done in the early 1990s, you find that basting 3-irons for a living can have a distinct upside.

One of my favorite moments from the seven Ryder Cups I covered for Golf World occurred in the sixth singles match in 2008, when Weekley stuck his driver between his legs and playfully galloped off Valhalla’s first tee. The burst of laughter from the surrounding throng would symbolize a week of unabashed American joy – Weekley would clobber Oliver Wilson that afternoon and claim 2 ½ points in three matches to play a key role in the U.S. rout.

Alas, the horse would soon develop a little hitch in his giddy-up. Maybe he’s ready to run again.

DAN JENKINS IS an American treasure. Sometimes, you have to rummage through the chest to find a real gem, but Jenkins is one of them, and as the recipient of the 2013 Red Smith Award – without question the highest indigenous honor a sportswriter can receive – all I can say is: What the hell took so long?

Actually, that’s not all I can say. Jenkins has been on my short list of heroes for three decades, give or take an hour, a typist of unparalleled wit and uncompromised brilliance. His work has made me laugh out loud more than that of any other person, living or dead (Eddie Murphy, primarily because of his performance in “Delirious,” ranks a distant second).

At the ripe young age of 83, Jenkins still covers golf with equal parts intellect and attitude, swerving through the happy talk and B.S. like a Manhattan cabbie in 5 p.m. traffic. He has combined humor and candor like no other in my industry, which is why his personal inscription on my copy of “Slim and None” makes the novel one of my most cherished possessions.

Jenkins’ uncluttered style has always worked particularly well in long form. “Dead Solid Perfect” and “You Gotta Play Hurt” are two of the best sports book ever written, but I have yet to find a Jenkins offering I could put down easily. If you’re a serious golf fan over the age of 45, you know exactly what I mean. And if you’re a young golf nut, you need to head to amazon.com immediately.

Back when a pack of Marlboro Lights helped me get through a 2,200-word British Open game story, I’d step outside the press tent to have a smoke with Jenkins, a man of whom I was truly in awe. “When I grow up, I wanna be half as good as you,” I said to him once.

“You got something funny in that cigarette?” he replied.

THE MASTERS IS now squarely on the horizon, just 3 ½ weeks away and, in my estimation, the finest sporting event known to mankind. Because I am so fond of the tournament, it holds a reserved spot in every Hawk’s Nest for the next month. We begin with a little recent history and how it might factor into the not-so-distant future.

For all the trigger-happy projectionists looking to dominate the office pool, let it be known: The last six Masters champions had not won a PGA Tour event that year, prior to arriving at Augusta National. Phil Mickelson was the last to do it – he demolished the field at the 2006 BellSouth Classic, then claimed the green jacket for a second time the following week.

In fact, of those six winless winners-to-be, only Bubba Watson (2012) came to the Masters as a “hot golfer.” He’d finished T-4 at Bay Hill two weeks earlier – two weeks after a solo second at Doral. It’s worth noting that Bubba took a three-stroke lead into the final round in Miami and quickly became unglued, then pulled himself together and almost forced a playoff with Justin Rose.

Here’s a killer stat for you: Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera, Mickelson and Charl Schwartzel combined for 33 pre-Masters starts in the years they won the title. How many top-10 finishes did they amass in those 33 events?


As Jenkins might tell you, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''