Words for the Week in Golf

By Mercer BaggsJuly 22, 2007, 4:00 pm
Sunday, July 22, 3:49 p.m. ET
To Borrow a Quote ...
Can you imagine what they must have felt?
Thousands of miles away, MY heart pounded. I could hear the beating like the old man in The Tell-Tale Heart.
TRUE! ' nervous ' very, very dreadfully nervous I had been, to quote Edgar Allan Poe.
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia had to endure his most difficult defeat. (Getty Images)
Many thoughts ran through my head Sunday as the 136th Open Championship played out, many words before written and spoken by other men.
What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports in going on here? ' Slim Pickens as Taggert
Not quite classical literature, but a wonderfully appropriate line from Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles.
When Sergio Garcia began to make bogeys around the turn at Carnoustie to open up this Open, this first came to mind.
I truly believed Garcia was going to win after the way he performed each of the first three days. I was wrong. His putter didnt fail him. His nerves did.
Insanity laughs, under pressure we're cracking ' David Bowie, Under Pressure'
The lyrics swam in my head, closed off by each ear so they could not escape.
Pressure got to everyone Sunday. It took over Steve Stricker early and Anders Romero late. Sergio fought a mighty battle with it all day, and so, too, did Harrington once he found himself in contention.
Based on the way this Open reached its conclusion, and on the heels of what happened in 1999, every Championship should be contested at Carnoustie. I'm sure the European contingent would not contest.
You wont have Nixon to kick around anymore, ' Richard Nixon
When Padraig Harrington hit two into the Barry Burn on 18 to go from one up to one down, I thought of the disgraced former president. Not in relation to the Irishman, but in regards to Garcia. I could envision him in a press conference with the claret jug in one hand, shaking a defiant fist at the media with the other, invoking the words of No. 37.
If Sergio believes in fate, though, he believes it is forever against him.
A lengthy wait on the tee at 18 in regulation, and another one in the fairway. Putts missing by fractions all day. A carom off a flagstick in the playoff, instead of a drop in the hole.
They all conspired to defeat him.
Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result, ' Winston Churchill
This must have been how Harrington felt when Garcia bogeyed the last to force the four-hole, cumulative playoff. Harrington had not so much been shot at as had the gun backfire in his face. But he was still alive, still with a chance to live forever with the likes of Woods and Nicklaus, instead of Van de Velde and Sanders.
A second life. A different result. Harrington bogeyed 18 this time, and this time it was good enough for a one-shot victory and a place in history, not infamy.
Victory belongs to the most persevering, ' Napoleon Bonaparte
And so Sergio must persevere. His time will come, they say. But why didnt it come today, on this Sunday?
That is a question he will ponder and be unable to answer.
For Harrington there is great satisfaction in this great achievement. For Sergio there is bitter disappointment in this bitter defeat. And, for Sergio, there is Kafka.
Lifes splendor forever lies in wait.
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More Mercer Blogs from Open Week:
  • Saturday - Sergio's Major to Win
  • Friday - Open Still Wide Open
  • Thursday - Now is the Time for Sergio
  • Wednesday - Player: Just Say No (Names)
  • Tuesday - Van de Velde in Pain, but Also at Ease
  • Monday - Remembering Seve When
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    Saturday, July 21, 2:27 p.m. ET
    Sergio's Major to Win
    I cant believe Im writing this, but I just cant see Sergio Garcia losing this Open Championship.
    I know, I know: were talking about Sergio, a guy whos had about a much success in the final round of major championships as John Daly did with Trim Spa.
    But after watching the third round at Carnoustie, and taking into consideration a few other fateful factors, I honestly think Sergio will be drinking Michelob from the claret jug Sunday night.
    Garcia played wonderfully well Saturday. He didnt make a bogey, looked very steady with the putter, and kept his emotions in check. He got a few good bounces ' one off a cameramans head ' and generally had everything go his way.
    Others, too, seemed set on lessening the pressure Garcia will face in the final round.
    Certainly, he will have to endure quite an inner battle, but he has only one opponent within five strokes of his lead.
    Players were sliding down the leaderboard late Saturday like cold-cuts on a wall.
    The only one to keep his game and his nerves intact was American Steve Stricker, who fashioned an Open Championship course record of 7-under 64.
    Afterwards, in a sit-down interview with ABC Sports, Stricker teared-up when talking about his round and his return to form following a lengthy and public struggle. The magnitude of the moment seemed to overtake him, to which he had to remind himself that this was only the third round.
    This is part of my problem, he said. I need to get a little tougher on the inside.
    Americans have won each of the last four Open Championships and 10 of the last 12. A European hasnt finished first in any major since 1999.
    But thats part of the fate factor. The Open is back at Carnoustie, where Paul Lawrie most recently flew the European flag. Its also the site of Seve Ballesteros retirement.
    Every time Jack Nicklaus retired from a major, Tiger Woods prevailed. It would only be fitting if there would be a Seve-Sergio handoff this week. Maybe Garcia should call Ben Crenshaw and ask him if he still believes in fate.
    Obviously nothing is set in stone. After what happened in 99, it would seem anything is a possibility at Carnoustie. A Johnny Miller-like 63 could win it for someone. Or a Greg Norman-like 78 could lose it for someone else. And who knows what Mother Nature has in store on Day 4.
    And, again, we are talking about Sergio Garcia. The same guy who was one back of Woods through 54 holes a year ago at Royal Liverpool, shot 4-over 39 on the front side Sunday ' a day after shooting 29 over the same stretch ' and finished seven in arrears.
    This, however, does not appear to be the same Sergio Garcia.
    After holding the outright lead for each of the first three days, this one appears able to handle the situation. This one appears confident. Not bravado, but honest confidence. This one appears to be a much better putter. And this one appears ready to finally win his first major championship.
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    More Mercer Blogs from Open Week:
  • Friday - Open Still Wide Open
  • Thursday - Now is the Time for Sergio
  • Wednesday - Player: Just Say No (Names)
  • Tuesday - Van de Velde in Pain, but Also at Ease
  • Monday - Remembering Seve When
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    Friday, July 20, 4:47 p.m. ET
    Open Still Wide Open
    The Americans are going to have to scramble like Benny Hill at a beauty pageant if they are going to keep their run alive in the Open Championship.
    Each of the last four ' and 10 of the last 12 ' Opens have been claimed by a Yank. That streak is in danger of coming to an end as only four are among the top 19 players after two rounds at Carnoustie.
    That doesnt sound too bad, but its not the quantity that is cause for concern.
    Jim Furyk, Boo Weekley, J.J. Henry and Stewart Cink comprise that quartet. All are accomplished players, all PGA TOUR winners. But none, aside from Furyk, are likely to throw a scare into the rest of those still alive to claim the claret jug.
    And while Furyk is a consistent challenger in major championships, and even a U.S. Open champion, he has a penchant for coming up just a little short more often than not.
    Scroll down the leaderboard, past those at even par and into the black, and youll find two-time defending champion Tiger Woods, seven back of leader Sergio Garcia.
    But keep on looking if you want to find Phil Mickelson. Just dont bother looking at Saturdays tee sheet.
    Mickelson endured yet another Open disappointment, missing the cut by two strokes.
    Add this to his MC at Oakmont and it marks the first time in his career that he has missed the cut in consecutive major championships.
    That the final nail in his coffin was a double-bogey on the final hole should come as no surprise. Lefty has been worse than left-over haggis in finishing off rounds lately.
    It wasnt always that way. Prior to playing the 18th hole Sunday at the Nissan Open, he was a collective 8 under par for the year on his last hole of the round, including a trio of eagles.
    And then he bogeyed 18 at Riviera, thus forcing a playoff with Charles Howell III, who ultimately beat him in sudden death.
    Beginning with that mishap, Mickelson has played his final hole each day a combined 18 over par. That includes no eagles, only four birdies and FIVE double bogeys.
    This is not a coincidence. This is a trend.
    While thats one trend Mickelson would desperately like to alter, a few of his countrymen hope to keep another one intact.
    This crop of American contenders might not be an intimidating lot. But, then again, does anyone else on the 36-hole leaderboard look scary?
    There are a bunch of talented, notable players at even par or better. But also a bunch of unproven major performers. Only five of them have a major title to their credit, and only one, Ernie Els, has won this particular event.
    Just one bad hole by Garcia and this Open becomes wide open.
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    More Mercer Blogs from Open Week:
  • Thursday - Now is the Time for Sergio
  • Wednesday - Player: Just Say No (Names)
  • Tuesday - Van de Velde in Pain, but Also at Ease
  • Monday - Remembering Seve When
    Recent Blogs
    Thursday, July 19, 4:17 p.m. ET
    Now is the Time for Sergio
    I think the British Open is done, so I don't want to hear any more questions about The Open!
    Sergio Garcia was none-too-pleased following his opening round of the 1999 PGA Championship, when I brought up his performance at the Open Championship just a month prior.
    I simply asked him how he had managed such an impressive transformation, going from 89 in the first round at Carnoustie to 66 at Medinah.
    Garcia, 19 at the time, gave me a quick and terse response and then slapped the podium from which he was behind with the authority of an angered judge.
    He didnt cry, like he did after shooting 89-83 in his first major championship as a professional, but he appeared on the verge of doing so.
    While I wasnt on hand to ask him any questions this Thursday, I can only assume that he handled anything relating to his Carnoustie catastrophe like a big boy.
    Garcia is 27 now and still without a major championship to his credit. But hes off to a great start in ending that 0fer after shooting 6-under 65 to take a two-shot lead over Paul McGinley.
    Day 1 of the 136th Open Championship was dreary and gray. Players donned rain suits and sweaters. McGinley wore mittens large enough to crawl inside. Even the locals sported long sleeves.
    It was, much as Garcia would consider his first round in comparison to that of eight years ago, a perfect scene.
    Few things in golf are better than waking up early, turning on the TV and seeing the British Open look like a British Open.
    And that includes the leaderboard. You know its an Open Championship when the top-10 includes a couple of Spaniards, a couple of Irishmen, a Northern Irish teen, an Argentine, an Austrian, a Kiwi, a South Korean, a Scot, and sprinkle of Americans.
    You also know its only Day 1, because a European is on top.
    Garcia will be looking to not only add life to a barren major championship resume, but also end a continental drought that dates back to this very event at this very site in 1999.
    Doing so will be difficult. Perhaps not as difficult as keeping yourself from repeatedly slamming your head in a desk drawer while listening to Bobby Clampett, but close.
    Garcia is the leader, and winning from the front ' unless youre Tiger Woods ' is a far more daunting task than unleashing a surprise attack on Sunday.
    This has to be more than just another stepping stone for Sergio, more than just another lesson learned. People in and around the game, Garcia included, say its just a matter of time before he finally wins a major.
    Now is the time to make it happen.
    Or else he's going to have more upsetting questions to answer at this year's PGA.
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    More Mercer Blogs from Open Week:
  • Wednesday - Player: Just Say No (Names)
  • Tuesday - Van de Velde in Pain, but Also at Ease
  • Monday - Remembering Seve When
    Recent Blogs
    Wednesday, July 18, 2:57 p.m. ET
    Just Say No (Names)
    Let the guessing games begin.
    Gary Player said Wednesday that he knows of at least one golfer who has used steroids; that this golfer told him personally of his offense.
    Player, of course, wouldnt reveal the offenders name and added that he is quite confident, based on another secret source, that there are others in the game who use some form of performance-enhancing drugs.
    Player noted that you could see massive changes in the golfer who confidentially confessed to him, which leaves us to wonder: Who could it be?
    Even if there are a few players who come to mind, to even make mention of them would be nothing more than sensational speculation, because there is no proof.
    I agree with my colleague, Brian Hewitt, who took Player to task in his most recent column for bringing up the situation and not naming names. By not shining a spotlight on that individual, he casts a shadow of doubt on everyone.
    If he wasnt going to be 100-percent revealing, then he should have kept his little secret 100 percent to himself.
    We dont need innuendo. We need proof. There is only one way to get proof, and it doesnt come from Gary Player half-heartedly tattling on someone.
    While I think Player's approach was inappropriate Wednesday, I do side with him on this front: professional golf absolutely needs a drug-testing system. Because there are so many different tours, it would be very difficult to organize some kind of universal policy, outside of adopting the World Anti-Drug Agencys (WADA) list of banned substances. But if one tour finds a way to be effective with their testing, then others might fall in line.
    It appears that the PGA and European tours are moving in that direction. The LPGA, on the other hand, has already stated that they will implement such a system in 2008.
    Tiger Woods, who I think is as likely to use performance-enhancing drugs as Michael Vick is to be named PETAs Man of the Year, has said repeatedly that he wants to see drug-testing in golf; even if he doesnt believe that it will reveal anything. Believing that everyone in professional golf is clean ' at least of things like steroids and human growth hormones (HGH) ' is a popular notion among players and officials.
    But I find it ridiculous to think that not a single player on the PGA, European, LPGA, Nationwide or Challenge tours are using some sort of drug that would be considered illegal in another sport ' or by the government ' to help them become better athletes.
    Steroids and HGH increase muscle mass and recovery time from injury. Both of those would seem to be beneficial to a golfer. Even if a player doesnt want to look like Jose Canseco, a little extra strength can be a big boost.
    And stimulants, such as amphetamines, used in low doses can help increase attention.
    Maybe these things help a golfer, maybe they dont. Right now, its really all argumentative, because we havent heard from anyone who said, I took X and it helped/hurt me Y.
    But if someone is having problems getting to that next level, whatever that level may be, they might be inclined to test the possible risks for a mighty reward.
    Golf can make men and women millionaires. It can make them celebrities. That is a very, very powerful lure. You might think of the game as noble and honorable. Others might see it as a way to simply get rich and famous.
    Like Joe Ogilvie, a member of the PGA TOUR policy board, told the New York Times last August, We market the guys who hit it 300 yards. If thats your message, and people see that beginning at the high school level, I think as a tour it is very nave to think that somebody down the line wont cheat.
    As (golf) gets more popular and the zeroes continue to grow to the left of the decimal point, I dont think there is any doubt that there will be cheaters.
    If there arent already. It might be a very small percentage, but I think that percentage is above zero.
    Until we know for sure, however, all we can do is speculate who is on drugs. And have people like Gary Player stir the uh pot.
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    More Mercer Blogs from Open Week:
  • Tuesday - Van de Velde in Pain, but Also at Ease
  • Monday - Remembering Seve When
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    Tuesday, July 17, 2:28 p.m. ET
    Van de Velde in Pain, but Also at Ease
    Jean Van de Velde is sick to his stomach. And it has nothing to do with Carnoustie being the venue for this years Open Championship.
    Van de Velde is not at the site of his most egregious gaffe. For one, he did not qualify to be there. For another, hes home, undergoing tests to determine what is causing him so much physical pain.
    He thinks that it might be glandular fever, which would explain his lethargy. But hes not sure, and neither are the doctors who continue to poke and prod, x-ray and examine, and genuinely add to his discomfort.
    But Jean Van de Velde has a sense of humor. A very good one. Its a part of his positive outlook, one that allows him to this very day say, What do I have to complain about?
    Maybe his current condition, which could be cancer for all anyone knows right now; maybe his myriad of knee problems; maybe a nasty divorce; maybe the fact that hes won one European Tour event over the last 14 years; maybe because hes 41 and the sands of time are quickly running low on the side of his career.
    Or maybe because the mere mention of his name produces instantaneous thought of abject failure.
    But, no, Van de Velde will not complain. He will not ask for pity or sympathy. He will not shy away in the shadows. He will simply press forward, and do so with a laugh.
    I think it's going to last at least a good 15 to 20 years before people stop asking me questions, Van de Velde said in an Open Championship conference call Monday. There's probably another 12 to go.
    Probably many more than that. No definitely many more than that.
    The memory of what Van de Velde did that Sunday evening, July 18, 1999, will live forever. And the questions will always remain, no matter how many times theyve before been answered.
    For Van de Velde is the man who had one hand on golfs most prized possession and then slapped it away with the other. Hes the man who only needed double bogey to become Champion Golfer of the Year, and made triple. Hes the man who made the biggest mess in the history of his sport, on the grandest stage, and with the spectacle of a circus performer ' or, in the Frenchmans case, Cirque de Soleil.
    Unfortunately for Van de Velde, the rest of the world has not yet come to terms with what transpired as has he.
    The 1999 Open Championship is strapped around his neck like an unforgiving yoke.
    And yet he doesnt let it weigh him down. Golf, he says, It's not all my life. It's not what makes Jean Van de Velde. It's part of me, but not me.
    Come Thursday, after another round of tests with the doctors, Van de Velde will go home. He wont wallow in misery or lament the past. Instead, hell hope to find a bit of physical comfort and, for the first time in a very long time, watch some golf on TV.
    I don't look at golf on TV. But this one I'm going to definitely look at, he said. I'm very sad I'm not there. I'm very sad I'm not competing, but I want to look at it and put it behind.
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  • Monday - Remembering Seve When
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    Monday, July 16, 11:58 a.m. ET
    Remembering Seve When
    The image is on his heart, embroidered into the left pocket of his shirt. He wears it on his hat. It is noticeable on the hip of his pants. He even has it carved into his skin.
    Seve Ballesteros
    This is how Seve wants to be remembered, as he won the '84 Open Championship. (Getty Images)
    This is the way Severiano Ballesteros likes to remember himself. This is the way he would like to be forever remembered by all: a champion; a hero; a fist-pumping matador capable of slaying every big and bad bull.
    Ballesteros officially retired from competitive golf in a hastily called press conference Monday at Carnoustie. And given his performance over the last dozen years, it would seem unlikely that this was just a grab for attention.
    That the 50-year-old Ballesteros called it quits on the grounds of the Open Championship is only appropriate. Carnoustie was the site of his Open debut in 1975. The championship was his gateway to worldwide fame.
    The image Ballesteros so cherishes is the reactionary one of him winning the 1984 Open at St. Andrews. The one of him smiling maniacally on the 18th hole, looking like a crazed and impassioned Jack Nicholson in The Shining, repeatedly jabbing the Scottish air with his victorious right fist.
    The one-dimensional shadowy image Ballesteros, now a senior man, uses as his official logo does not do that moment justice. There is no facial expression. There is no pumping of the fist. There is no bounce in his feet.
    But Severiano Ballesteros was never a man who could be defined in such simplistic fashion. He was an artisan, prone to escape golfs most confounding traps. A man with the ability to make birdie from a parking lot. But a man who couldnt keep his tee shots from hitting parked cars.
    He was young and brash, spirited and innately gifted. He was a golfing Superman, the Man of Feel. He became rapidly old and bitter, curmudgeonly and depressingly confused. He lost his touch and his game came crashing from the skies.
    He was a revered winner and a reviled gamesman. A man of infinite talent and finite patience. He was loose with his lips and tight with a dollar. He was admired by most who watched him and loathed by most who worked for him.
    In all, he won five major championships: three claret jugs and two green jackets. He won 50 official European Tour titles, four regular PGA TOUR events, and more than 30 other tournaments around the world. He was a Ryder Cup legend, a victorious captain, and a Hall of Fame inductee in 1999.
    He was also beset by crippling injuries to his body and his confidence. He last made a cut in a major in 1996, last won an event in 95. He finished dead last at this years Masters. And in his one and only Champions Tour event, he tied for last with Lee Trevino, the man who once said, 'Every generation or so there emerges a golfer who is a little bit better than anybody else. I believe Ballesteros is one of them. On a golf course he's got everything. I mean everything: touch, power, know-how, courage and charisma.'
    The name Severiano Ballesteros encompasses all of the aforementioned. People will forever remember him for so many reasons. And if one moment in time stands out more than all of the others, then its OK. There is no right and wrong, for it all is Seve.
    But if he could if he could shape your opinion of him, he would ask that you look at the bluish-green image tattooed forever into his left forearm.
    That is how Severiano Ballesteros would like to be remembered. For who he was, not who he became.
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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. 

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.  

    Getty Images

    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.”