Canadian Tour Finishing Up Out West

By Marty HenwoodApril 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
Canadian Tour-LargePATTERSON, Calif. -- To no ones surprise, Stuart Andersons paramount focus this week will be successfully defending his California Classic championship out on the west coast.

Of course, as is almost customary for a good ol Canadian boy at this time of year, another sport will be front and centre when Anderson is away from Diablo Grande.

After a tooth-and-nail scrap to get into the post-season, Andersons revered Edmonton Oilers cleared their final hurdle this past weekend and seem destined to tangle with the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings when the Stanley Cup playoffs get underway later this week.

While he admits he is not much of a television watcher, Anderson concedes he is catching most of the Oiler games from the comfort of his truck, which is equipped with satellite radio.

Oh yeah, its that time of year if you are from Canada, he says from the Golden State, where he is gearing up for this weeks Diablo Grande California Classic. You can bet Ill be watching the scoreboard.

Have to support the hometown boys.

Special thanks to the (San Jose) Sharks for dusting off the (Vancouver) Canucks (last weekend).

But with all due respect to the Oilers and the quest for Lord Stanleys ancient urn, Anderson has bigger issues this week as the Canadian Tour wraps up a two-event run through California at scenic Diablo Grande Winery and Resort.

At the outset of the 2006 campaign, Anderson was looking to build on his most successful season as a professional. Months after representing Canada at the 2004 World Cup, the Edmonton resident not only notched his first Tour title but was the top Canadian on the money list, finishing fifth.

So far, in the early stages of this season, the blueprint has not gone according to plan.

Its one of those things, admits Anderson, who had his best showing in three starts with a T32nd at the Northern California Classic late last month. The ball just isnt going in the hole as fast as I want. Im definitely struggling with my putter, but Ill get it turned around. Its early.

At times, Anderson, like so many others that hit golf balls for a living, can be his own worst enemy. More often than not, you wont be a guest of honour at a Sunday afternoon trophy presentation.

Youll be watching someone else give an acceptance speech most weeks. It is just the law of averages.

For a guy that has tasted victory, it is a mindset not easily accepted.

I wear my heart on my sleeve when I play and I almost have to get out of that mode, adds Anderson. Once you win, you almost expect to do it every week. Ive improved every year Ive been out here, and at times I put too much pressure on myself.

Things got off to an ominous start this year.

For most of the week at the season-opener in Austin, Tex. Anderson fought a losing battle with an excrusciatingly painful abscessed tooth.

Now, standing at 64 and tipping the scales 230, Anderson has a high threshold for pain. But trying to walk a 7000-yard course in constant agony is not an ideal recipe for success.

As could almost be expected, he found himself at 9-over with four holes to play on Friday afternoon. In a desperate charge to make the cut, Anderson poured in four straight birdies on his way in.

The late surge wasnt enough; he missed the number by one.

I was just trying too hard in Austin. Finally I said Trust yourself and live with your mistakes. I took the positives out of (those final holes) and tried to build on that.

As the Tour sets up shop in Patterson this week, Anderson understands patience will be a virtue at Diablo Grande. The track, designed by legends Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazan, will offer a stiff test all four days.

Its going to be a tough week for everyone, Anderson says matter-of-factly. Its a fantastic golf course, but the way it is set up will make for some long days. It will be a test of patience in Patterson, but Im excited. This will be an ideal week to get things turned around. You always want to play well when you have a chance to defend.

Im ready physically. Beginning Monday, Ill sit down and mentally prepare myself.

You arent likely to hear Stuart Anderson complain all that often. On the course, he is as tenacious as they come; after his scorecard is signed, he is a pretty laid-back, serene kind of guy. But he is somewhat surprised, perhaps a little concerned, that his breakthrough 2005 season didnt lead to any potential sponsors knocking on his door. With a World Cup appearance, a Bell Canadian Open berth and top Canadian kudos added to his resume, Anderson figured others would take notice. But the possible suitors have remained silent.

As Anderson stresses, he isnt looking for a free ride. He knows it is up to him to deliver, and he did just that in 2005. In the past nine years, only six Canadians'Mike Weir, Jon Mills, Derek Gillespie (twice), Ian Leggatt, Rob McMillan and Ray Stewart'have ended the season on a loftier perch on the money list.

Anderson is left scratching his head, but you can see he is walking on eggshells when the topic is brought up.

He just doesnt know what else he has to do.

Im not sure what to think, but I think it is a case of having liquid cash to get to that next level. It certainly helps and allows you to focus on your game and get ready for October (the start of PGA Tour qualifying). Im not complaining, believe me, but I think a lot of good Canadian talent is falling through the cracks.

I was fifth on our money list last year with some pretty impressive company, but I just cant seem to get that help I need. Its just added pressure and, to be honest, I think that is getting to me. There have been a lot of broken promises. I just want to play golf.

As he gets set to begin preparations for his title defence in Patterson, Anderson has time to contemplate his hometown Oilers chances in their opening round showdown with the powerhouse Red Wings. It takes about three seconds before he answers.

Edmonton in six.

Youve got to love an underdog.
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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.