Just Like Old Times

By Mercer BaggsAugust 19, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill. -- The 1999 PGA Championship will forever be remembered for Tiger Woods winning and Sergio Garcia chasing ' both Tiger and his ball up to the green on 16.
 
That was the first major championship which I ever attended. And when I recall the event, I always think back to something else that happened that Sunday.
 
Mike Weir
Mike Weir is looking to win his second career major championship.
While Woods was basking in the glow of his first major triumph in 2 years, and Garcia was finding warmth in the prospect of a very bright future, there was Mike Weir, face ashen, looking like the victim of a hit-and-run.
 
Weir was competing in his first PGA Championship that week, just his third career major, and managed to make his way into the final twosome alongside Woods in the final round.
 
Then came Sunday. Sunday, bloody Sunday. If their physical appearances had matched their scorecards, Weir would have looked like Gerry Cooney to Tigers Larry Holmes.
 
Weir shot 80 that day, eight worse than Woods.
 
It would have been easy for Weir to just walk away after that. Not from the game, but from the scorers tent, into his courtesy car, and to any place not named Medinah.
 
But he didnt. He stopped and allowed a group of reporters and television types, myself included, to hound him about his most miserable performance.
 
He answered every question. Never made a snarky comment. Never made excuses. All he did was praise Woods and say, Its not like I was trying to shoot 80. Thats just the best I could shoot today. I tried my best.
 
He was the definition of professional. It was quite impressive.
 
Looking back, Weir, who was just in his second full season on the PGA TOUR at the time, admits that the situation was just too overwhelming. Everything in the periphery distorted his focus.
 
It was painful. It wasnt a fun day, Weir recalled. I remember feeling after about nine holes, just kind of spacey, just kind of spun out. I couldnt believe what was going on.
 
I think it was just inexperience.
 
Of course, Weir has since redeemed himself on a major level, winning the Masters Tournament in 2003 while playing in the final group. Now, a veteran winner of seven TOUR events, he has a chance to take a measure of revenge on Medinah.
 
To do so, hell once again have to beat Woods, this time from arrears, and he may have to fend off Garcia as well.
 
While this years principals hearken back to 1999; the event itself is reminiscent of 2000.
 
Woods won his second straight PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, doing so in a Sunday shoot-out with Bob May. The winning score that year was 18 under, seven lower than it was the year before, and it appears were headed in that direction.
 
Woods, who hasnt won the PGA since 2000, held the 54-hole lead that year at 13 under ' one higher than this year. The big difference this time, however, is that many of his pursuers have major credibility.
 
May, Scott Dunlap, J.P. Hayes and Greg Chalmers have been replaced with Luke Donald, Weir, U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Garcia and 2003 winner Shaun Micheel.
 
On a day in which red numbers reigned, Woods tied the course record, shooting 7-under 65 to grab a share of the third-round lead with Donald, who had a 66.
 
Weir is alone in second place after his own 65, two back at 12 under. Ogilvy overcame a first-hole double bogey to shoot 68 and get to 11 under. Garcia (67) and Micheel (67) are four back.
 
In most major championships, you make par and sprinkle in a couple of birdies here and there, youre looking pretty good. Today, you would have just been run over, Woods said. Tomorrow, I think anyone who wants to win this championship has to make birdies.
 
'Somebody from the pack is going to charge out and make some early birdies and go low,' Donald said. 'So pars are not going to be very good tomorrow.'
 
'It's going to take something pretty special,' said Ogilvy. 'It would not be out of the realm of possibility a 20-under (score) could win this tournament. That (means) me shooting 9 under.'
 
Ive got to go out there and Ive got to do it, said Garcia. Its as simple as that.
 
Fate and Destiny appear to be on hand this week. But for whom are they rooting?
 
Are they for Woods, who won here the last time the tournament was contested? Are they for Donald, who lives in the area and attended nearby Northwestern University? Are they for Garcia, whose best major performance came here in 99? Are they for Micheel, who told his caddie prior to the start of the tournament that Medinah reminded him a lot of Oak Hill, where he won his one and only TOUR title?
 
Or are they conspiring for Weir, whom they double-kicked in the choppers in the final round here seven years ago?
 
Weir hasnt won on TOUR since the 2004 Nissan Open. The one time he had a chance to do so this year, when he held a share of the 54-hole lead at Pebble Beach, he closed in 78.
 
Things didnt look promising out of the gates this week either, opening with a modest 72. But he has since turned things around, even to his surprise, going 67-65.
 
History tells us that Fate and Destiny are always in the corner of Woods in this situation. Hes 11-0 when holding at least a share of the lead entering the final round of a major championship.
 
But, as Weir says: Im about due.
 
I know everybodys expectations are that (Tigers) going to go out and go win the championship, because hes done it so many times from the front, Weir said. But theres always a time to stop the streak. Hopefully I can do it.
 
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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.”