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.


“Straight in the heart.”


“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.

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.

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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.''