Webb Embraces Canadian Tour Event
For now, though, Webb is in a celebratory mood, both on and off the golf course.
Despite the fact he now resides in Tampa Bay for the most part, Webb, 29, has evidently taken a defining trait of Canadiana with him to the Sunshine State. He is as hardcore a hockey fan as you are going to find and is revelling in the fact his team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are now playing for the Stanley Cup, hockeys Holy Grail. And while he may be one of the few Canadians rooting against the Calgary Flames in this Cup championship, there is good reason. Three years ago, Webb met Lightning goaltending coach Jeff Reese out on the links, and the two have been good friends ever since. Webb has traded the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the blue, black and white of the Lightning. He may still hold a soft spot in his heart for the Leafs, but Webb leaves no doubt as to where his loyalty lies.
Heck yeah! laughs Webb from Tampa Bay, when asked if he is relishing this moment after years of mediocrity from the Bolts. Ive been to every single playoff game that Ive been in town for. Its crazy. I went down to the (Tampa Bay) dressing room after Game 7 (of the Eastern Final vs. Philadelphia) and we ended up staying until 2:30 in the morning. What a great time. I cant wait to see all the guys out on Tour that have been giving me the gears for being a Lightning fan the past three years.
We shuffle the hockey talk aside, and turn to his golf game. Not only is Webb riding the momentum of a season-best 11th-place finish at the Corona Ixtapa Classic in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, but he recently finished second at his site in U.S. Open local qualifying, and is now just one step away from punching his ticket to golfs second major of the season. Webb will try to close out the deal June 7th in Columbus before the golf world turns its attention to the 104th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, NY from June 17-20.
Im excited about my chances this year. Things are going well for me, and I am moving in the right direction. Im not happy with just keeping the status quo anymore. I want to see some positive changes, and I feel that happening. There are so many opportunities out here'the Nationwide events in Canada, the Bell Canadian Open, exempted into second stage of (PGA) Q-school. Now, I have a chance to make the U.S. Open. The opportunities are there. You just have to take advantage of them.
In a year that could out to be one to remember for Webb, it certainly didnt begin that way. In fact, only recently has the tide begun to turn in his favour. Webb didnt play on the weekend in five of six events to open the season, and came in 45th at the lone event he made the cut in. Frustrated with his play at a pair of California events last month, Webb sought out the tutelage of former coach Gary Gilchrist, who trains teenage sensation Michelle Wie, among others. Gilchrist worked with Webb for three solid days before back-to-back Tour stops in Mexico earlier this month. When he climbed on the plane to come home to Canada, he brought a season-high result back with him.
The start of my year was unbelievably bad, and I felt as low as Ive been about my game in a long time, he concedes. I hadnt worked with Gary since Bay Mills last year, and we worked together for a few days. Since then, things have turned around for me.
Yes, Gilchrist will take his rightful credit for Webbs newfound success, but it was a chance practice round with fellow Tour player Dirk Ayers that could end up being the catalyst for the turnaround. The day before the opening round in Ixtapa, the duo were together in the blistering heat getting a feel for Palma Real Golf Club when Ayers suggested Webb may benefit from using the same claw-grip on his putter that he had switched to. Someone skeptical, Webb played the final nine holes with the new grip and hasnt looked back since. In seven competitive rounds since the switch'four in Ixtapa, two at a 36-hole Great Lakes Tour event and the U.S. Open qualifier---Webb is 19-under par.
Yeah, I think Ill end up taking Dirk out for a beer, he says with a laugh. I wasnt sure what to think when he told me to give it a try, but it has paid off. I think I owe him one. My swing is coming around, and I havent felt this good over the putter since I was 15 years old. Now I am excited to get out to the course everyday.
It is often said that every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes, however, the opposite is true. For all the enjoyment Webb is experiencing in recent weeks, his emotions are likely to be tested in June when the third Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Championship presented by Aventis Pasteur is staged in Virginia. The event pays tribute to 26-year-old Canadian Tour rookie Lewis Chitengwa of Zimbabwe, who passed away suddenly in Edmonton three summers ago. Webb and Chitengwa had built a friendship that is too often uncommon in professional golf, where your friend is your foe until your final putt drops on the 18th hole. On that Saturday morning in 2001, just a few hours before the third round of the TELUS Edmonton Open, it was Webb whom Chitengwa called when he fell ill. Seeing his friends condition worsening as he arrived, Webb called paramedics and rode in the ambulance to the hospital with Chitengwa, neither one of them knowing the tragedy unfolding before them. Minutes after being wheeled into Misericordia Hospital, Lewis Chitengwa was gone, a rare strain of meningitis taking him at far too young an age. As one heart stopped that morning in Edmonton, many more broke, none more so than Brennan Webbs.
Obviously, this tournament means more to me than most, says Webb, and you can hear the emotion in his voice. The things he brought out in me, and the times we had together off the course, I will always remember. No one else I have been around has ever made me want to be a better person the way Lewis did. He was an unbelievable young man. It means a lot to see his memory carried on, and I hope no one ever loses sight of what kind person he was and what he meant to all of us.
One year after his death, the first edition of the Lewis Chitengwa Memorial was held in Charlottesville, VA, just a stones throw from the University of Virginia, where Chitengwa had starred in college. Fate can be fickle at times, to be sure, but on that weekend, it smiled on Webb. No, he didnt win, but was in contention heading into the third round before struggling over the final two days to place 27th. But it was another close friend, East Tennessee State University teammate Chris Wisler, who won his first title that day. As Wisler accepted his award, with Lewis Chitengwas parents and younger brother having flown halfway around the globe to share the moment, Wisler wept in as moving a trophy presentation as you will ever see.
If I couldnt win that tournament, I am so glad Chris was able to, recalls Webb. Not only is he a great player, he knew what Lewis stood for. When he held that trophy, it was an honour for him. He respected that trophy and the name on it.
It will be bittersweet for Webb, to be sure, but he wouldnt miss it for anything. He will compete in his U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus, OH on the Monday of tournament week before heading straight for Virginia. It is a bridge he will cross in week or so. For the time being, its still hockey season in Florida and for the kid from Bracebridge, his Lightning have a Cup to win.
Its funny, now there is 22,000 people in the seats every night, and another 6,000 outside the rink watching on the big screen, he says. I was on the driving range the other day (prior to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final) wearing my Lightning hat, and this guy came up to me and asked, Are you a real fan or one of those bandwagon fans? I showed him how worn my hat was and said that I had been to about 75 games in the past three seasons. If that was a bandwagon fan, I guess I am one. I told him I was also going to Game 7 that night.
He said Wow, you are a real fan. Have you got an extra ticket?..........
Should the Lightning prevail in their championship series, Webb will in all likelihood take a sip from the Stanley Cup. After all, you know Jeff Reese is going to get a little personal time with the fabled mug, and it will get passed to Webb in due time.
It sure doesnt hurt to have friends in high places. For Brennan Webb, that adage is meant in more ways than one.
Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener
South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.
Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.
Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.
Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.
Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.
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.