The Difficulty of Being Earnest

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 8, 2008, 5:00 pm
The 2008 PGA TOUR season began in earnest last week in Maui. Almost.
Some players (see Stephen Ames) treated the tournament like a nuisance. This is a family vacation, he said. Golf is getting in the way.
Without playing a practice round, Ames finished solo third and walked away with $410,000. What a terrible inconvenience.
Some players (see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Padraig Harrington) didnt bother showing up at all, which didnt seem to bother some in the 31-man field (see Mark Calcavecchia).
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren't here, so that increases your chances of winning greatly, said Calc, who ultimately finished tied for 10th.
More upsetting to some players (see Joe Ogilvie) was the fact that many of the PGA TOURs top brass were absent (see Tim Finchem and Co.).
If I was commissioner, Ogilvie, a PGA TOUR policy board member, said, Id be here.
Only eight days into the new year and weve already got one winner and one mild controversy.
For many (see Q-school and Nationwide Tour grads), the season really begins this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. For many others (see casual fans), the season wont begin until two weeks hereafter. Thats when Tiger and Phil will make their 2008 debuts at the Buick Invitational.
While Tiger once again ruined his chance to win the perfect attendance award on TOUR, he did manage to have his mug seen at a couple of Orlando Magic basketball games during Mercedes-Benz week, and his voice heard in an article on his Web site.
As the story goes, Tiger is in the best shape of his life, hes happier than ever with his young daughter in his life, and hes looking forward to making life downright miserable for everyone else on TOUR.
Particularly revealing was the last line in the Web story, in which Tiger was quoted as saying, I think its easily within reason.
It is the single season Grand Slam. And while we media types just love to talk about such a possibility, unless prompted, Tiger never really has ' at least hes never said anything like, its easily within reason.
Woods isnt much for making predictions. He knows what hes capable of doing and he knows that you know what hes capable of doing. He doesnt feel the need to throw himself out there like that very often ' which means if hes actually talking publicly about winning all four major championships in the same season then he must feel that hes playing better than ever.
Tigers performance at the Target World Challenge was probably a good indicator of that. After taking off his longest break ever from competition, he returned to action and promptly won his own tournament.
Woods, according to his Web site, will reunite with swing coach Hank Haney this week before he eventually heads to San Diego, where he is the three-time defending champion.
Torrey Pines, home to the Buick Invitational, will also play host to this years U.S. Open. That gives Tiger a tremendous shot at winning the first two legs of the Grand Slam, seeing as hes a four-time Masters champion and a five-time winner on Torrey Pines South.
The larger obstacles will come in the final two hurdles, the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. Woods finished third in the 98 Open at Birkdale, the one time hes played that venue during a major championship. Oakland Hills hosted the 2004 Ryder Cup -- where none of the Americans fared very well -- but hasn't hosted a major since the 1996 U.S. Open, when Woods tied for 82nd.
Discussing a player winning all four majors in the same calendar year is utter nonsense. Unless that player is Tiger Woods, in which case its utterly possible.
With Tigers unequaled and unimaginable talent, the Grand Slam is always within reach ' at least in January. But there wont be anything easy about obtaining it come August.
Tiger finished runner-up last year at the Masters and again at the U.S. Open. He then was a distant 12th at the British, before avoiding a major shutout with a triumph at the PGA.
Tiger contends in the majority of the majors. But he doesnt win them all. And I dont think hell sweep all four in 2008. More than anything, the margin for error in accomplishing such a feat is just too small.
Of course, this is Tiger Woods of which we speak. And he sure does seem pretty confident in his abilities at the moment so, at the moment, I say that he will NOT win the Grand Slam in 2008.
But I dont say so in earnest.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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  • 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 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 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.''