Woods and Wie: Is love what they're missing?

By John HawkinsFebruary 28, 2012, 6:08 pm

More than perhaps any current or former tour pro I’ve known over the years, Brandel Chamblee is a thinker, a man of introspect and observational intellect. Now that he’s a Golf Channel analyst, your opinion of his opinions is none of my business, nor do I care for it to be, but as a colleague of Chamblee, I consider his voice a refreshing departure from many of those who once played the game for a living.

Something Chamblee said after Tiger Woods’ second-round loss at Dove Mountain has stuck to me like a tribe of cactus thorns: “There’s a difference between doing something for the joy of it and doing it to prove yourself right.” If it was nothing more than a snapshot assessment of Woods’ current string of woes, Chamblee’s take on the New Tiger was profound – more than heavy enough to spur my own thoughts as to whether loving the game is requisite to playing it at the highest level.

I certainly would believe so, although I have never fired a final-round 63 or cashed a winner’s check large enough to purchase a six-bedroom house. What I do know is, the Guy Who Never Missed a Putt He Had To Make pushed a 5-footer on the 18th green to lose to Nick Watney, and a day later, Michelle Wie shot 81 in the second round of the LPGA gathering in Singapore.

Wie would finish the week 22 over par, 32 strokes out of a four-woman playoff. For those who don’t see the connection, I see two of the world’s most famous golfers – one of them historically successful, the other a monumental underachiever – struggling not so much with expectations, but a sense that the relentless burden has surpassed their desire.

That isn’t to say the battle can’t be reversed, although I am far more inclined to believe Woods will find his way back to greatness before Wie discovers her competitive inner fire. Having met the young lady in Honolulu a couple of months after her 13th birthday, one thing clear from the outset was that she played golf because she was supposed to, because she was so good at it, not because she had this overwhelming urge to play. Her success would become a means to an end and define her life with a purpose, which isn’t a bad thing unless that purpose is defined by someone else.

Sure, lots of kids feel the avalanche of parental pressure, but in Wie’s case, there was a fleeting rise to fame – a head-spinning peak of performance when potential was all she had. Before we knew it, she was competing against grown men at the game’s highest level, trying to climb a mountain that couldn’t be scaled. Nowadays, even the plateaus have become difficult to navigate.

So she turned pro and went off to college, an oxymoronic career path which stated Wie’s independence and satisfied the business sensibilities of all the pilots around her. Perhaps this is the best of both worlds, so to speak, with one providing a built-in excuse as to why she wasn’t excelling in the other. It makes perfect sense that Wie loves the Solheim Cup. In a team event with emphasis on the group, not individual performance; Michelle found comfort in the crowd. She found a place to hide.

A longtime member of the Wie camp once told me the girl didn’t play a round of golf without her parents watching until shortly before she enrolled at Stanford. It’s hard enough to wrestle the alligator that is greatness. Imagine trying to do it while mommy and daddy control your limbs with strings from above. In retrospect, I don’t think B.J. and Bo Wie had any idea their constant presence was feeding the beast that has become the anti-champion in their daughter.

They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I say no mulligans, partner.

In Tiger’s case, golf isn’t so much a chore as it is a proving ground – a forum. If you won 14 major titles in 12 years with two of the game’s most renowned swing coaches, what on earth would compel you to blow up the bridge? More than ego, Woods seems to consider it his God-given privilege to be “correct.”  He’s too preoccupied with technique, otherwise known as the Wrong Side of Town for a guy with perhaps the greatest competitive instincts in golf history.

And what’s even worse, people still seem to buy into every explanation Woods offers. Many couldn’t stop drooling after Eldrick got up and down from a bunker to salvage his first-round match against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Are you kidding me? A short-sided 9-iron into the sand with the game on the line, and we’re heralding his grit?

By the end of his match against Watney, Tiger was a cat with all nine lives in the rear-view mirror. He said he’d been pushing his putts all day. Why not aim a little more left? The irons he keeps hitting too far – is it the vengeful emergence of several random factors or the somewhat obvious perception that he’s just not sharp? Still, plenty of folks buy in. They anticipate the reappearance of Tiger 2000 or even 2006 while loading their shotguns with rounds of I-Told-You-So.

Maybe golf made Woods famous, and maybe that fame bit him on the backside. Maybe his backside still hurts. Maybe Chamblee was right. Arnold Palmer, an icon for whom high-profile failure became a significant element in his career, still plays giggle golf with the fellas, forever embracing the challenge of a game that didn’t always hug him back. Jack Nicklaus, meanwhile, headed in another direction, not so much bowing to his uncompromising competitive standards, but finding other ways to appease it.

There’s no law that says you have to love golf to be the best at it, but then, “love” is one of those four-letter words that means a lot of things to a lot of different people.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.