Early Painful Exit for Irwin

By Mercer BaggsJune 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Hale Irwin withdrew during the first round of the 103rd U.S. Open when his lower back went into a spasm after hitting his tee shot at the par-4 12th. He hit his shot dead left and was then taken off the course on a stretcher.
 
I dont feel very good about what happened, of course, Irwin said after leaving the on-site fitness trailer. Very disappointing, but Ive got to take some time, I guess, and give this aggravation a rest.
 
Irwin, who was 1-over at the time of his incident, said his back problems began two weeks ago. It didnt help matters that he had to play 30 holes Sunday at the Senior PGA Championship.
 
The three-time U.S. Open champion said he would rest his back and continue to receive ice and stimulation treatments in hopes of competing in the upcoming U.S. Senior Open.
 
BARNES LACKS THE DRIVE
 
Ricky Barnes was at a disadvantage in Thursdays opening round. It had nothing to do with playing alongside Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. He has certainly proven his broad shoulders can carry immense weight.
 
No, this was an unexpected equipment issue.
 
On his final swing before leaving the practice range prior to his first round, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion heard an explosion. And then saw the head of his driver 120 yards down the range. After hitting some practice putts, he walked to his first hole, the par-4 10th, uncertain of his big-stick status.
 
My brother gave me a driver on the 10th hole and said, This is all we can find, Barnes said.
 
The driver ' Barnes said he doesnt know where his brother got it from ' was the same brand, Titleist, but had different specifications.
 
A little different length and a little different loft, he said. So it was a struggle, going to the first hole in the U.S. Open and not having your driver.
 
Barnes said he used the driver six, seven times, but couldnt steer it straight. For the round, he hit only five of 14 fairways.
 
Im a little disappointed. Not to say that I would have scored much better, but I know I could have hit a couple of more fairways.
 
Barnes finished with a respectable 1-over 71. He shot 69 in the first round of this years Masters Tournament, en route to tying for 21st place.
 
WHAT ELS IS NEW?
 
Ernie Els stormed out of the gates this year, winning his first two PGA Tour events and four worldwide before March. Then he injured his right wrist hitting a punching bag, prior to Bay Hill, and hasnt been the same since.
 
Els said, before the first round, that the wrist is no longer a worry, but scoring continues to be a problem.
 
Thats the way its been going, hasnt it? Ive been playing like this a while now, he said when asked if he felt like he was playing better than his scores indicated. At least I made a couple more putts today.
 
The 1994 and 97 U.S. Open champion managed one birdie and 17 pars for a 1-under 69. He had 29 putts for his round.
 
COURSE AS EASY AS IT GETS
 
Padraig Harrington, making his sixth career U.S. Open appearance, shot 1-under 69 Thursday. It was just his second sub-70 round in this event.
 
Certainly of all the ones Ive seen, probably that was the easiest, he said of how Olympia Fields played in round one. No wind, the greens are receptive, pin positions today.
 
I thought somebody would really shoot a low score with the conditions.
 
THE NEED FOR SPEED
 
Ian Leggatt didnt have the luxury of growing up in an area where one can play golf year-round. Living in Canada, he had to find something else to do during those winter months.
 
I lived really close to a golf course, used to ride my bike there in the summer time and that was what I did in the summer for seven months out of the year, and then I skated in the winter time, he said.
 
But he didnt just play hockey.
 
I got into speed skating by trying to get more ice time, he said, adding he competed in the sport for almost a decade.
 
Leggatt shot 2-under 68 in the first round, a nice reprieve from a season of suffering. Leggatt missed seven weeks, between the Nissan and the Heritage, in order to rest an injured hand. Hes also battled tendonitis in his elbow, nosebleeds due to his allergies and a stomach virus.
 
Last years Tucson Open champion has yet to break into the top 20 in any of his 12 previous starts this season.
 
The way my year has been going with injuries, I came in with no expectations, he said. Im just happy to be playing again more than anything.
 
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”