Hawks Nest: Where's the Match Play madness?

By John HawkinsFebruary 18, 2013, 2:00 pm

Midway into the first quarter of my 9-year-old daughter’s basketball game a few weeks back, I got up to use the men’s room, then waited until play had stopped at the far end of the gym before jogging across the court and returning to my seat. As soon as the quarter ended, the referee came over and scolded me for crossing the floor while play was in session.

“Don’t ever do that again,” he said with undue emphasis, which still would have bothered me if my older daughter, my wife and a good friend of ours weren’t sitting right there. Still, I let it slide, at least for a couple of minutes, until the awkward silence threatened to transform me into the little-league dad I so despise.


Bracket Challenge: Make picks for WGC-Match Play


The guy had downsized me in front of my family. In an unnecessary tone, no less, as if this were Game 7 of the NBA Finals. At moments like these, a man is forced to make a couple of crucial decisions in a short period of time. Does my reply come in the form of a five-knuckle, four-letter-word combo? Am I strong enough to not reply at all? And why does my wife always get mad at me, regardless of how these situations turn out?

I saw an open left lane on the high road and walked out, regretting only that I didn’t cross the court again while exiting the building. Some guys, you give them a whistle and they want to rule the world. You might also say that one overreaction deserves another.


ELSEWHERE IN THE department of Much Ado About Nothing, I’m thinking no big PGA Tour event has undercut the swell of pre-tournament buzz more often than the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Wednesday’s 32-match opening round might be the most interesting weekday on the schedule, but in general, things seem to get more anticlimactic as the week goes on.

After a rough start in terms of getting the game’s biggest names into the late rounds, each of the last four finals have featured marquee matchups. None of the four were all that compelling or close. We’ve seen a couple of insufferable blowouts – not once have we seen a late charge by someone to win the thing, or a stretch of spectacular golf even the most devout cynic would have to classify as memorable.

Too bad. Match play is a format with a lot of cool qualities, and the Tour does it only once a year. From a business standpoint, Accenture has been a terrific title sponsor – the only company still around since the WGC series was instituted in 1999. I like the event a lot and look forward to watching it, but when it comes to riveting, talk-about-it-around-the-water-cooler stuff, it simply hasn’t produced.

Maybe this week will be different, but I’ll admit to having very little interest in filling out a bracket. More than any other tournament, it’s total guesswork. I remember the first couple of Match Play gatherings at La Costa – people were giddily calling it pro golf’s version of the NCAA basketball tournament, aptly dubbed March Madness, but those notions were quickly dispelled.

There were way too many upsets, which isn’t a bad thing from a competitive standpoint, but commercially, the random nature of the results led to an unappealing absence of rhyme and reason. At the majors, we’re very likely to have one or two superstars in the hunt. At the Match Play, we can get Jeff Maggert and Andrew Magee.

One of these years, we’ll get an instant classic. At this point, however, the tournament is 0 for 14.


OTHER THAN FREDRIK Jacobson himself, nobody was more surprised than me to see him miss a 5-footer on Riviera’s 18th green Sunday evening – a putt that would have gotten him into the playoff with eventual winner John Merrick and Charlie Beljan. The Junkman, as we call Jacobson, is a good guy to whom I was introduced years ago by fellow Swede Jesper Parnevik.

We were standing on a practice green somewhere – it usually doesn’t matter with Jacobson. “Which side of the hole do you want him to make it on?” Parnevik asked me. I was perplexed. The Junkman was grinning. “Seriously, this guy is the best putter in the world,” Parnevik added. “Now which side of the hole do you want it to go in on?'

Jacobson was about 8 feet from the hole. “Right side,” I responded, and sure enough, Jacobson dispatched his ball to the right lip, where it gently curled into the cup.

“Pretty good. Left half,” I requested.

Bingo.

“Straight in the heart.”

Swish.

“If the guy could hit a fairway,” Parnevik announced, “he’d be the best player in the world.”


UPON READING MY recent lament on slow play last week, a player texted me with an intriguingly valid point: why would the Tour feel compelled to make these guys play faster when the Sunday telecast routinely runs long – and into the giant audience owned by “60 Minutes,” a CBS franchise for 45 years?

I don’t know how television ratings work, but I do know there is a separate number for the final hour of an extended-length sports presentation – and that nobody extends the length quite like the PGA Tour. Intentional? Can’t see that being the case, but a deterrent to enforcing slow-play policy with the game on the line? Not only is it possible, it makes a lot of sense.


WHILE CLEANING OUT my computer last week, I was quickly sidetracked by the large collection of Tiger Woods stories I’ve written over the years. I think I wrote the lead piece for Golf World at 11 of Woods’ 14 major-championship victories. Among the three I missed was Tiger’s beat-down of history at the 2000 U.S. Open, where he won by 15 and I was about to become a father for the first time.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the smartest and dumbest Woods-related things I’ve done as a golf journalist.

Dumbest – Lots of candidates here, but one clear winner: a 2005 column I wrote proposing that Tiger’s father, Earl, should be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. My intentions were honest, my reasoning two levels below shallow, and the “you’re an idiot” mail I received in response from readers did a superb job of pointing that out.

Smartest – In collaboration with my longtime editor, Geoff Russell, we conceived a cover for the 1996 year-end issue of Golf World that had Tiger’s face on Mount Rushmore, along with those of Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones. Again, we got a ton of mail, almost all of it negative, but 16-plus years later, I think it’s fair to surmise that the dunce cap didn’t fit.


WHEN I GOT home from my daughter’s basketball game that Saturday in January, I was still pretty angry over some fourth-grade ref giving me the business about walking across the court. So I called the guy who runs the rec center – he could not have been more courteous or understanding when I told him what had transpired.

Privately, he was probably thinking I’m a little crazy, but then, I think the people who run the basketball league are a bit off themselves. The one thing they make super-duper clear when you walk in the door, whether it’s as a parent or a coach, is that winning and losing mean absolutely nothing.

Maybe that’s another reason this country is going to hell in a haywagon.

When I attended the clinic for first-time coaches a couple of years ago, that point was driven home, oh, seven or eight times. I’m no John Wooden, but I’ll tell you this: Most 9-year-old kids want to win as much as Michael Jordan. Don’t believe me? Have yourself a 9-year-old, then get back to me.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry