Bunker Shots

By Randall MellApril 20, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share

 
Now thats how you close
A week after watching the worlds greatest players take turns botching their endings to the Masters, Brian Gay put on a clinic on how to close with his 7-under-par 64 at the PGA Tours Verizon Heritage. No ricochets off trees at the end, no skulled chip shots racing across greens, no wayward short irons from point blank range. Of course, closing out a regular PGA Tour event isnt the same as closing out a major championship, but Gays tidy finish at Harbour Town was still impressive because theres typically more choking than winning on any given PGA Tour Sunday.
 
The Tours heading to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this week, where we saw the biggest choking dog ever a year ago. Thats what Woody Austin called himself after topping a hybrid and then pushing a shot in the water in a nervous ending to the tournament Andres Romero won. Austins colorful language reminded us that while one man may win a PGA Tour event, you can usually bank on more than one counting the ways he blew a chance to win. The rarity of Gays 10-shot victory is that he left no one close enough to choke away a chance.
 

The Price is finally right
Well, you cant accuse Nick Price of a tidy finish, but it was even more entertaining than Gays. Three times on Sunday Price looked like he was choking away his first Champions Tour victory. Thats how many double bogeys he made in the final round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am before finally claiming his first over-50 title in 39 Champions Tour tries. Price, who made seven final-round birdies and still only shot even par, said he was absolutely dumbfounded by his round. The beauty of the Champions Tour is that if Price never won on the tour his reputation wouldnt be diminished. Before Sunday, you couldnt really call him the best player never to win a Champions Tour event because its a silly title, given the nature of the tour and the fact that the best players have already proven themselves. Still, the silly title belongs to Mark OMeara now, doesnt it? Or possibly Greg Norman, if he starts playing enough to qualify for such silly status.
 

The Clown Prince of Golf gets his laughs anyway
Gayle DiMaggio paid a higher price than most customers to be entertained by Bill Murray. Shes the woman who got clunked in the temple by Murrays errant tee shot as she watched Saturdays second round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am from her backyard. She ended up needing a trip to the hospital and some stitches, but not before Murray tended to her. She told the Associated Press he made sure she was OK before trying to ease her pain with his trademark funny-man routine. All she wanted for her duress was an autographed copy of Murrays film Caddyshack. The scar she gets to show all her friends is a bonus. So is the story she gets to tell.
 

Speaking of wounds . . .
Kenny Perry makes his return to golf this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with lots of folks sure to watch for signs of lingering emotional injury from his disappointing Masters loss. It almost seems unfair that Perry should carry another major championship disappointment into the final phase of his PGA Tour career. His stellar play helping the United States win the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in his home state of Kentucky last fall seemed a satisfying conclusion to a career that had been haunted by memories of his PGA Championship failure at the same Valhalla course so many years ago. The Ryder Cup victory made him seem healed and whole, but now theres this other major memory sure to haunt him. At 48, Perry doesnt have a lot of time to trump the Masters memory with something larger again, but it will be a terrific story if he does. His play in New Orleans will tell us a lot about whether hes resigned to fade away or determined to mount one more summer charge with the U.S. Open at Bethpage less than two months away.
 

Waiting on Tiger and Lefty
With Perry the highest ranked player in the Zurich Classic field at No. 5 in the world rankings, and just one of three players in the top 20, theres a bigger PGA Tour event set to unfold Friday. Thats the commitment deadline for the Quail Hollow Championship (formerly the Wachovia Championship). Will Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson commit to play in the Quail Hollow? Will we get to see a reprise of their Sunday Masters face off in Charlotte, N.C., next week? If Woods and Mickelson dont commit, well have to wait another week to see them both at The Players Championship (May 7-10). After Perry, the only other top-20 players in the Zurich Classic field are Steve Stricker (No. 12) and Mike Weir (No. 20).
 

New Orleans gets another spicy ingredient
Danny Lee may rank just 148th in the world, but the U.S. Amateur champions professional debut will garner plenty of attention when he tees it up at the Zurich Classic this week. Lee, 18, missed the cut at the Masters last week, but he showed hes more than ready to win as a pro when he claimed the Johnnie Walker Classic in February, becoming the youngest player, and just the second amateur, to win on the European Tour. Lee didnt exactly whip a bunch of nobodies there. He beat a Johnnie Walker field that included Paul Casey and Lee Westwood. Whether Lees ready to contend on the PGA Tour, though, may depend as much on his speech patterns as his ball flight. He told reporters at the Masters that when he gets really nervous, I cant talk properly. Birdies have a way of loosening up the tongue, so look for Lee to try to make a lot of them this week.
 

Ochoa back on her turf
Mexicos Lorena Ochoa will be looking to re-establish her dominance and win for the third time in her homeland as an LPGA player when the tour returns to action this week at the Corona Championship at Tres Marias Residential Country Club in Morelia, Mexico. After two weeks off, the LPGA features a good field with Brittany Lincicome teeing it up after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship, her first major. Cristie Kerr and Kristy McPherson, who got beat by a shot when Lincicome made eagle at the 72nd hole, also are playing, as is Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Juli Inkster and Michelle Wie. American golfs on the upswing, Kerr said after the 1-2-3 American finish at the Kraft Nabisco. Look for Lincicome and McPherson to build on what theyve started this year with both highly motivated to make the U.S. Solheim Cup team.
 

Wies globe-trotting disappointment
Michelle Wie has gone halfway around the world and back this month in search of her lost form. She finished tied for 36th at the Korea LPGAs Lotte Mart Womens Open last week, posting rounds of 77, 75 and 71 to finish 7 over. It wasnt much of a rebound from her struggles at the Kraft Nabisco, where her rounds included a pair of 81s while tying for 67th. Wie made some news before the Korean event even began, withdrawing from the pro-am after she was informed she couldnt use her own caddie. According to foreign news reports, its KLPGA custom to exclude regular caddies from the pro-am so as to encourage better interaction between pros and amateur partners. Wie offered a no comment to the Korea Times when asked about the withdrawal. Whatever Wies rationale, its hard to imagine a scenario where passing up a pro-am doesnt, at minimum, disappoint sponsors and fans, the lifeblood of an event.
 

Wadkins waits for official elevation to legend
Greg Norman is scheduled to team with Keith Fergus in his first Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf appearance at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa in Georgia this week, but he wont be the biggest news there. The PGA Tour is expected to announce on Thursday that Lanny Wadkins will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, according to Golfweek. Jose Maria Olazabal is expected to be announced later, possibly at The Players Championship, as joining Wadkins for the November induction. Wadkins will team with his brother, Bobby, in the Legends two-man team event. At 59, the Wadkins induction is a welcomed case of better-late-than-never news. The 1970 U.S. Amateur champion and 77 PGA Championship winner won 21 PGA Tour events, more than current Hall of Famers Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Hubert Green and Tom Kite.
 
Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.