Bunker Shots Big Expectations

By Randall MellJune 15, 2010, 11:29 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from the rocky shores of Stillwater Cove to an LPGA resurrection and John Daly’s return to his roots.

PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)

U.S. Open

No U.S. Open has seemed this wide open since Tiger Woods joined the PGA Tour almost 14 years ago.

There are lots of potentially good stories this week with Phil Mickelson trying to avoid a record six second-place finishes in this championship and claim his first U.S. Open title on a course he’s won on three times. The question with Mickelson is whether the outcome will be determined by another bold play that spurs him on to victory like his shot through the trees and off the pine straw did at the 13th hole in his Masters’ victory last April. Or if another gambles backfires, like it did when he hit the tree at the final hole at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open, when he tried to recover from bouncing a shot off the hospitality tent by carving an escape around that tree. Of course, there’s Woods’ bid to shake his poor form and remember his greatness on a course where he’s never been greater. His record 15-shot rout in the 2000 U.S. Open was the most dominant golf performance ever. And there’s England’s Lee Westwood, hot off last week’s victory at the St. Jude Classic, vying to become the first European to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin 40 years ago.

Bunker shot: Ernie Els is tough to figure, but there’s reason to believe the time’s right for him to claim his fourth major, his third U.S. Open. That’s if his head’s right. After winning twice in March, Els beat himself up for his failure at the Masters. You can almost see when he wants that next major too much and presses too hard. With Woods off his game, Els knows better than anyone what opportunity beckons. He finished second to Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000. U.S. Opens are all about patience, but it’s hard to be patient when you’ve been waiting so long for a chance like this. 

Mell’s picks: Winner – Ernie Els. Contender – Luke Donald. Darkhorse – David Duval.

  • Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif. Par 71, 7,040 yards (Originally designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant and opened in 1919).
  • Purse: $7.5 million (winner’s share, $1,350,000).
  • TV Times: Thursday-Friday, ESPN, 1-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m., NBC, 3-5 p.m. Saturday, NBC, 4:30-11 p.m. Sunday, NBC 3-9 p.m.
  • Last time: At 4-under 276, Lucas Glover finished a shot ahead of Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Ricky Barnes at Bethpage Black.

    LPGA TOUR

LPGA Tour _new

Shoprite LPGA Classic

Three years out of business, the Shoprite LPGA Classic makes its comeback.

A dispute over tournament fees and dates between former commissioner Carolyn Bivens and the tournament owners led to the event closing its doors.

Shoprite’s return provides hope that the LPGA will rebuild and return to a fuller schedule.

Bunker Shot: Two developments add sparks this week. Paula Creamer is expected to make her return from thumb surgery after missing nearly the entire season with the injury, and 15-year-old Alexis Thompson is making her professional debut. The Americans broke through for their first victory in an official event this season with Cristie Kerr’s victory at the LPGA State Farm Classic last week. Creamer and Thompson bring ambitions for more future American success.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Suzann Pettersen. Contender – Seon Hwa Lee. Darkhorse – Juli Inkster..

  • Course: Dolce Seaview Resort’s Bay Course, Galloway, N.J. Par 71, 6,150 yards (Designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1915).
  • Purse: $1.5 million (winner’s share, $225,000).
  • TV Times: Golf Channel, Friday, 3-6 p.m.; Saturday, 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last time: Back in 2006, Seon Hwa Lee defeated Annikas Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Sherri Steinhauer and Jeong Jang by three shots.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

Nationwide Tour

Fort Smith Classic

Tommy Gainey leaped 16 spots to No. 2 on the Nationwide Tour money list with his breakthrough victory in his last start..

Kevin Chappel still leads the money list, $6,300 ahead of Gainey.

Bunker shot: John Daly’s the headliner this week as he makes his first Nationwide Tour start since 1991. Daly’s a former Razorback who played at the University of Arkansas and is a favorite son in his home state. His star power goes beyond golf this week. He’s scheduled to join country western star Charlie Daniels on stage in a free concert after the first round. Tournament officials expect record attendance and record charitable fundraising with Daly in the mix.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Kevin Chappel. Contender – John Daly. Darkhorse – Jason Enloe.

  • Course: Hardscrabble Country Club, Fort Smith, Ark. Par  70, 6,783 yards (Designed by Perry Maxwell and opened in 1927).
  • Purse: $525,000 (Winner’s share, $94,500).
  • TV Times: No TV.
  • Last time: Jason Enloe defeated Chris Tidland in a playoff.
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.