Hall of Famer Webb Lets Clubs Do the Talking
Karrie Webb has been described as reserved, standoffish, even unemotional. Her wrap-around Oakleys hiding the tears of joy, or flashes of frustration, in her young eyes. But if you look, really look, those mirrored sunglasses tell you more than the 30-time champion ever could in a million interviews; stand close enough, and in those sunglasses youll see your reflection.
And thats who Karrie is -- just a small town kid, a reflection of all of us. She quietly celebrates her triumphs just like we do, and she suffers heartbreak just like the rest of us. At no time did the LPGAs superwoman seem more human than at the 2001 McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG. In the moment of her greatest victory, which included achieving the LPGA Career Grand Slam, Karrie was experiencing overwhelming anguish. That day, and in the days soon after that should have been reserved for celebration, Karrie was just as we would be: grief-stricken and inconsolable for the loss of one of her dearest family members, her maternal grandfather.
Growing up in the small town of Ayr in Queensland, Australia, Karrie was just a regular child with a special gift for the game. It was her grandparents, Mick and Joyce Collinson, who introduced Karrie to golf when she was just 4 years old. They took little Karrie out on Sunday mornings to play nine holes -- Grandma and Granddad with their golf clubs on pull carts and Karrie with her one plastic club and ball. She remembers playing three or four holes before tiring out. Then Granddad would put her on his golf bag and tote her along in the pull cart for the rest of the day.
They were about the only two people in the world who were patient enough to go out with a 4-year-old and play golf on a Sunday morning, said Karrie.
That patience paid off in dividends. Karrie quickly excelled at the game. At the age of eight, she shot 150 in her first tournament and was given the Encouragement Award. (It was basically the Thanks For Trying award, but I was just proud of myself for winning a trophy.) Only five years later, Karrie was breaking 80 on a regular basis. By 1994, she was the Australian Stroke Play champion. When Karrie set her sights on the LPGA Tour, not even her family, her greatest supporters, could have imagined the success she would find.
In 1996, Karrie burst onto the LPGA Tour, not with a lot of hype or self-promotion, but by letting her talent make the bold statements. She had already won the Weetabix Womens British Open prior to joining the Tour, and in just her third tournament as an LPGA professional, she won again. By the end of her rookie year, Karrie was the young gun of the LPGA. She won four times and became the first player in LPGA history to win $1 million in a single season.
I think it took me a few years to be comfortable with that instant fame and attention, and maybe Im still not completely comfortable. Looking back, that first year is still a bit of a blur to me. By the end of the season, I was pretty overwhelmed.
But when I went back home to Australia for Christmas, my family just treated me as the same old Karrie. They were proud of me, but I didnt have to worry about anything changing with them because of my success. I think thats one of the reasons I still really enjoy going home, because my family and friends dont ever treat me any differently.
Which is a good thing, since more wins followed, and followed and followed. In 1999, Karrie officially dominated the LPGA Tour -- winning six times and taking home her first Rolex Player of the Year trophy. She played, and won, a game of top this with herself, winning seven times in 2000 and another Rolex Player of the Year title. Karries win at the 2000 U.S. Womens Open gave her the requisite 27 points needed to qualify her for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame; leaving her to play the waiting game until this season when she met the 10-year membership requirement. She had, by her own admission, achieved just about every goal she had ever set for herself in the game of golf.
By the summer of 2001, her sixth year on the LPGA Tour, Karrie owned 24 tournament titles, including three major championship wins. She lived a childhood dream for a second time by successfully defending her title at the 2001 U.S. Womens Open. What was left for the young Aussie?
At the beginning of 2001, I knew I had the opportunity to win the Career Grand Slam. Of course, I didnt really think I would complete it that year, but I knew that it was something I had the chance to do if I set my sights on it.
Only four women in LPGA history had set their sights on the Career Grand Slam and actually achieved it: Louise Suggs, 1957; Mickey Wright, 1962; Pat Bradley, 1986; and Juli Inkster, 1999. All LPGA Tour Hall of Famers, and all but Wright had completed the Career Grand Slam at the LPGA Championship. Could Karrie follow? Or would it be too much to ask of the 26-year-old?
I don't know, said Karrie in a press conference before the start of the 2001 McDonalds LPGA Championship. I think Ive just matured as a player, and the fact that I do have a chance at age 26 to complete the Career Grand Slam, not many women have done that. Its something that would be very special to me. It was only seven majors ago that I had not even won one, so it would be quite special, and Ill have achieved that really quickly as well.
Karries speculation would become certainty just four days later. It was all too perfect -- her mother and father were in town for the occasion. They rarely came to the States during the season and had not seen Karrie play in a major championship in several years. The stage was set for one of their daughters greatest triumphs, and they would be there to witness it all.
Obviously, having my family there to see me win the Grand Slam wasnt anything I could plan. But I thought if I did win it, it would be that much more special for them to share the victory with me. We had been together at the Evian Masters the week before, so it was really a great trip for them to see different parts of the world and come to a major championship. It was just good timing, I think.
But before Karrie would raise her eyes and the trophy to the sky, she was forced to conquer more than the challenging greens of DuPont Country Club.
Karrie didnt sleep at all Saturday night before the final round. She was less than 24 hours away from walking up the 18th fairway -- but she wasnt anxious about her three-stroke lead, or even restless with excitement about winning another major. Karrie had learned that her grandfather, who had suffered a stroke on Thursday in Australia, had taken a turn for the worse. Halfway around the world, the kind, gentle man who had given Karrie her first encouragement to play the game she now dominated, was slipping away.
That night, with her parents by her side, Karrie made the decision to withdraw from the tournament she was only hours away from winning. She wanted to leave for Australia the next morning with her family. But her father, Rob, knew deep down that she had to play.
He didnt feel good about me leaving. And he spoke to all of my moms family, and they all said that Granddad would not have wanted me to come home just yet. My whole family said that I should play, so I changed my mind. I wanted to win for Granddad.
It wasnt until 8 a.m. Sunday morning, less than six hours before her tee time, that Karrie made the final decision to play. Her parents boarded a plane in Philadelphia for the long trip home. Only her caddie Mike Patterson, who was carrying a golf bag as heavy as Karries heart, knew the situation.
Perhaps it was the trademark focus and determination that fooled us into thinking Karrie was all business that day. She worked her way around the golf course with the usual precise application of her exquisite golf swing. Her steady play belied the turmoil, even guilt, she felt with every putt made or missed.
It was a bit of a blur really. I dont remember a whole lot about the round. I think, to be honest, I was amazing myself at how well I was playing. But I wasnt really there. I was at home. And as well as I played, I would normally be showing some emotion. But I just couldnt find it in myself to be excited about where I was.
Karries emotions got the best of her by the end of the day. With a comfortable three-shot lead on the 18th tee, Karrie missed the fairway, missed the green, then missed a 5-footer for par. As she tapped in for bogey and a two-under-par 69 for the win, tears squeezed out from behind those steely sunglasses. It was the hardest day of her life, but she had done it.
It's really hard for me to think about this as a special occasion for me, said Karrie in her championship press conference. Right now, it isnt a special occasion for my family. I was pretty close to not even playing today, so I just -- I don't know. I didnt really do it for myself today. I did it for my granddad, and I know that it might not help out the situation, but my grandma told me on Thursday that she wanted me to win it for him.
The flight home to the other side of the world should have been a victory lap, but for Karrie, it was a grueling 25-hour trip made even longer by the uncertainty of her grandfathers condition. When she arrived home, she learned the devastating news that her granddad had already passed away. Victories and records are one thing, but the chance to say goodbye for the last time is worth more than any first-place paycheck.
It was hard to realize I had missed the chance. But I think thats how it was supposed to be -- I won the tournament for him, just like he would have wanted. Deep down, Im glad my mom got home before Granddad died. It would have been good for me to get to say goodbye, but I know it was more important for her to see her father.
Its still hard. At the Player Summit [in March 2002], they showed a year-in-review video with a clip of me winning at the McDonalds LPGA Championship and holding the trophy over my head. I didnt think it would, but it really upset me. Only I know why I was crying so hard at that moment. That win will always bring back memories of my granddad.
And when Karrie is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night, there is little doubt that memories of all her achievements -- which now include 30 career wins, six majors and the Super Career Grand Slam -- will come flooding back, along with all the emotions attached to those who have helped her reach her dreams. While Mick Collinson wont be there to see his granddaughter take her rightful place among the legends of the game, she will certainly share the honor with him -- not only because one of her greatest triumphs was affected by his death, but because her entire illustrious career was inspired by his life.
Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder
He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):
12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson
Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.
11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson
At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.
11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker
Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.
1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas
Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.
Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone
HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.
It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.
Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.
It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.
''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''
The reward now?
''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''
He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.
During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.
''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''
Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.
''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''
During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.
''Bones, don't ever do that again.''
It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.
Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.
And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.
It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.
''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''
Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.
And not the Masters.
He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.
''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''
There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.
Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.
''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''
He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.
''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.
He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.
''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''
Except for that first week in April.
The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't
The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.
All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.
By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.
Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.
As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:
This is unreal,hiding in kitchen beachside missile attack from North Korea. Alarm went out all over Hawaii, and it’s no test...— Jesper Parnevik (@JesperParnevik) January 13, 2018
In a basement under hotel. Barely any service. Can you send confirmed message over radio or tv https://t.co/qHLeQSecnd— JJ Spaun (@JJSpaun) January 13, 2018
Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in laws. Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 13, 2018
While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:
Yeah, you heard that right.
“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”
Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.
Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.
Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.
As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.
Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.
Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.
With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.
First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.
“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”
Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.
We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.
These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.
Here's two more just for good measure.
Focus on a different face every time and this 15 second clip turns into 10 minutes of pure entertainment pic.twitter.com/JJeVV5eaVh— Laces Out (@LacesOutShow) January 15, 2018
Farts ... will they ever not be funny?
Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.
Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.
Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"
Yeah Tommy, we all got that.
Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.
But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.
We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.
Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.
PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.
Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.
Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman
Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.
Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.
Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).
The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."
In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.