Significant others have significant effect on players' games

By Kelly TilghmanFebruary 28, 2012, 7:52 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – While in Arizona covering the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, I spent all day Tuesday chatting with players off-camera and uncovered some fun, interesting stories.

Let’s begin with the finalists. In the last couple years we’ve watched Hunter Mahan grow up. He went from one of golf’s most eligible bachelors to a content married man, landing a dream girl former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Before Hunter met Kandi, he was the single guy at the Ryder Cup. His teammates would rib him because he was the only one at the opening ceremony without a significant other. For a laugh, they bought him a doll named ‘Monique’ to accompany him down the aisle.

A shy guy with a quiet sense of humor, wife Kandi brings out the best in Hunter and in turn, Hunter brings out the best in Kandi. A few weeks ago, after Mahan’s trip to compete in the Middle East, Kandi went to Uganda on a charitable mission with Nick Watney’s wife, Amber. They visited an orphanage and worked at a food bank. He said it was a life changing experience for his wife.

Another part of Hunter’s transformation is revealed through his involvement with the Golf Boys. A goofy foursome of PGA Tour-players-turned-singers who recently became an Internet sensation with their ‘Oh Oh Oh’ video, Hunter is the one with two left feet, donning a long fur coat exposing his bare chest. When asked why he wanted to put himself out there like that, he said he wanted to share his “dancing prowess with the world. It’s a Bruce Wayne, Batman thing” he said. The Golf Boys are in the planning stages for their next video titled “Mama Said We Could Be Anything.”

As for Rory McIlroy, he too has a significant other who’s bringing out the best in him. He shares a high profile relationship with tennis world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Rory told me she has everything to do with his new motivation levels in the gym. He’s gone from a youngster who had cheeks a grandmother would want to pinch, to a chiseled young man who some say can bench press 300 pounds. He told me he out-lifts Caroline but she can still outrun him. Tiger Woods once told me the same thing about Elin when they were married.

Regarding Tiger, Rory said they had a long talk about fitness when they were grouped together in Abu Dhabi. Woods told McIlroy he shouldn’t listen to the critics who say bulking up is bad for your golf swing. He said to look at athletes in other sports. If you want to get ahead and be taken seriously, you have to get the most out of your body. It’s obvious that Rory completely agrees.

Other notes:

Fowler’s Fuzz: If you’re not a fan of Rickie Fowler’s new facial hair, don’t tweet him about it. Rickie told me the Internet bashing about his goatee is only motivating him to keep it longer. The head pro at his new home club of the Medalist nicknamed him “Jack Sparrow” and it’s beginning to stick. At the Northern Trust Open at Riviera a couple of weeks ago, Gary McCord referred to him by that name on the air.


Westwood’s World: Lee Westwood may not be a household name here in the U.S. but he’s a treasure in his native England. Outside of golf he owns 16 racehorses, the most successful one named Hoof It. He’s also recently been honored with an Order of the British Empire by the Queen and lives in a house that’s fit for a king. Westwood told me he owns a 55-acre lot in Nottinghamshire that has six houses on the property including an 18,000-square foot mansion he and his family call home.


GMac’s New Pad: Graeme McDowell is in the final stages of building his new home in Lake Nona. He said it’s an 8,500-square foot spread complete with a “man cave” that features a snooker table and a wet bar with an endless supply of Guinness on tap. It also has a cinema. As a gift, his caddie bought him 20 movies he’s never seen that are considered American classics. Flicks like “The Shining,” “Risky Business” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are included. Graeme told me he loves suspense thrillers and action films but he’s not afraid to pop in a romantic comedy. That’s well played by the man officially named Northern Ireland’s most eligible bachelor.


Ishikawa’s Fake ID: Twenty-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa told me his favorite thing to do when he’s not playing golf is to play interactive video games. He, like Watney, uses an anonymous name to compete online against total strangers. The next time you’re engaged in an interactive soccer game, you could be competing against Japan’s biggest star.


Robert’s Rock: Currently ranked 57th in the world, Abu Dhabi surprise champion Robert Rock is still fighting to climb into the world’s top 50 and qualify for the Masters. He’s never played Augusta National. Growing up in England, Robert told me he’s recorded and watched every Masters tournament since 1988. It’s a dream for him to get there but he said “it almost seems like a tournament I’m destined to watch on TV.” He’s going to play the WGC-Cadillac Championship to try to improve his world rank, then assess from there.


The Most Interesting Man in the World: Before Miguel Angel Jimenez’ first-round match against fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, I asked him to compare the two. He said “Sergio and I are like a Euro coin: Two faces, different. Same value.” He added that the 32-year-old Garcia is entering his prime golfing years and he feels certain that he can still win a major.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''