One More for the Road
Also, I would like to take a few minutes to thank my sponsors: Saxon Capital; Alpha Golf; 4GEA.com; Accuflex; and the folks at The Golf Channel. None of what I have been able to do would have been possible without them.
My fifth of six exemptions was the Lake Erie Charity Classic at Peak 'n Peek Resort in New York. It went about like the rest of them. The only difference is I had a career changing experience after Friday's (my last) round.
My last nine on Friday, I realized I wasnt going to make the cut and pretty much just packed it in and started whacking driver on every hole and not giving two cents about where my ball went. Im not sure if its just not caring or if its a defense mechanism to take some of the blame off my poor golf. I didnt act like a terd or get all mad; I just didnt try. After signing my scorecard and a few autographs for the kids, Sissi introduced me to a guy from Cookeville (30 minutes from our home town) that she had met on the course that wanted to meet me.
This guy and his fiance had traveled all the way to New York using one of his vacation weeks just to watch me play golf. He also took additional time to watch me play in Richmond making that drive also, but never let me know he was there. He said he didnt want to bother me but just wanted to let me know how much he enjoyed watching me play golf. As he walked away, all I could think about was how I had just played my last nine holes with zero passion for what I was doing. How could I have been so inconsiderate. You just never know what impact you are having on other people.
Even though I shot a million in Lake Erie, the family and I still had a blast. They had tons of activities for them to do during the day and lots of night events, too. The most fun we had was playing night golf -- glow ball Putt-Putt. Me and the girls got paired with the men members of the Foltz family, Jerry and his 9-year-old son, Action Jackson.
Jacksons t-shirt pretty much sums up his worries: IF MOM SAYS NO JUST ASK DAD. Jackson has never heard the two letter word 'no' from his dad. When Foltzy No. 2 figured out he could take his left-handed putter and turn it around and swing it right handed it pretty much became a lob wedge with all-be-danged to the people on the hole in front of us. No one lost an eye and we all nearly peed in our pants the whole eighteen. On the outside looking in, Jerry and his son seem to have a beautiful relationship.
On to the Pete Dye Classic in Bridgeport, West Virginia for my last exemption -- unless I do something special. And nothing special happened. I hit the ball pretty decent for two days but my short game has just completely come unglued. I shot 76-74 and missed the 1-under cut by seven shots.
Heres an example of my putting prowess for the week. During Friday's round on No. 1 I putted claw-style and three jacked from 20 feet on a dead flat putt. Nos. 2, 3 and 4, I putted conventional, feeling the heebie geebies the whole time. Nos. 5 and 6, I putted left hand low and barely shook it in on 6 from 6 inches. No. 7, back to conventional and made a 20-footer that I thought I had pulled 2 feet. No. 8, conventional grip with right index finger pointing down the shaft trying to yipe it in on purpose instead of by accident. Failed. Back to conventional on No. 9, missing about a 10-footer for par -- but looking real cool doing it.
With tons of time to reflect on what has happened in the past year, there have been so many special moments with just a few disappointments score-wise along the way.
* The reception I received in Richmond was unsurpassed. I really feel I made many life-long friends during that event.
* The wonderful note Jason Gore took the time to leave in my locker the first week out and before he became a huge rock star at the U.S. Open. With each tournament, more and more players went out of their way to let me know they were feeling my plight and wishing me well.
* Peter Jacobsen and Sign Boy (Matt Grieser) bringing me up on stage at the CVS Pro-Am banquet acknowledging my success on The Golf Channel.
*The crowd of mostly my old members from Fairfield Glade taking a bus to the Knoxville Open. Sissi counted at one point 93 people watching me shoot 83 on Thursday.
*Getting it up and down on the 18th hole out of the bunker to extend the match and hitting the driver and 5-iron of my life on the 20th hole to one up my buddy DD in the 'Big Break II' final match.
*Getting to watch the video of my families' reactions as they saw the final shots during a party at Famous Daves restaurant given on my behalf.
*And many more special times that I will mention in future writings.
Although my confidence and golf game were badly bent, they were not broken.
My first week home I basically chilled and then regrouped and left for Nashville this past weekend. Sunday afternoon, I played a practice round with my PGA buddies Zeb Patten, Mike Bennett and Kelvin Burgin for the National Club Pro Qualifier at the Legends in Franklin to be played Monday and Tuesday.
The first round I pured it, but continued with my putting woes, shot 1 under and was three shots back, tied for seventh with four spots advancing to the 2006 CPC . Spent the next five hours on the putting green with UT Chattanooga golf coach Mark June. We worked on a good setup and pre-shot routine which I had gotten away from. It paid off big time. Tuesday I hit the ball not quite as well but just swished it from everywhere. I had seven birdies, shot 5 under and won by three shots.
My plans are to make the first alternate a happy boy when I get through tour school this fall and am ineligible for next year's event. In the meantime I am playing in a few Hooters events along with several corporate outings. I hope to come on from time to time to keep you updated on my happenings.
Signed: One of the 40 best Big Break players in the world, Kipper.
P.S. I cant wait for the BBIV to start. I know its going to be a homerun, enjoy the ride guys
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early
The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...
Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.
McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.
Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.
“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.
And that was an offseason event.
“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.
As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.
So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.
“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”
Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson
Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.
His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.
It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.
There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.
There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.
While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.
There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.
Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.
He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.
Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.
CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.
How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):
Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)
Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.
Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.
* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.
* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.
* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.
* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.
* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.
* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.
* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.
* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.
* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.
* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.
* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.
* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.
* This is his first start of 2018.
* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.
(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)