Kim, Villegas eager to start fresh in 2012

By Randall MellDecember 8, 2011, 1:59 am

NAPLES, Fla. – A silly-season event might be just the tonic a pair of frustrated young stars need this week.

Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas hope to have some fun at the Franklin Templeton Shootout to punctuate years that were no fun at all.

Typically, the players who parade to Tiburon Golf Club do so as a reward for successful seasons.

Kim, 26, and Villegas, 29, arrive on the heels of the worst seasons of their young careers.

Both are three-time PGA Tour winners. Both last won in 2010. Both are dynamic personalities with big games and big potential, yet both battled battered confidence and suspect they may have tried too hard.

“It has been a long couple years,” Kim said after Wednesday’s pro-am. “It has been tough, but I think I’m going to come out a better player for it.”

Villegas struck a similar tone.

“That’s the nature of the game, golf and sports,” Villegas said. “You have great years, average years, bad years. This year was, hopefully, one of the bad ones, and next year we can turn it around.”

Kim is teamed with Webb Simpson this week, Villegas with Rickie Fowler. They’ll play a format of modified alternate shot, better ball and two-man scramble.

“This format is probably the most fun you can get,” Villegas said.

Kim’s all for making the game feel fun again. He recorded a career-low two top-10 finishes this season. He slumped to 87th on the PGA Tour money list, his lowest finish in his five seasons. He finished 176th in greens in regulation, 81st in scoring.

The slide goes back directly to Kim’s thumb surgery in May 2010. After a strong start that year, with a tie for second at the Honda Classic, a third-place finish at the Masters and a tie for seventh at the Wells Fargo Championship, Kim needed surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb.

After three months away, Kim made his comeback at the WGC-Bridgestone in a desperate bid to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He came back too soon. His thumb wasn’t ready, and his swing suffered.

Deep into that year, there was lingering pain, but, mostly, there were doubts in Kim’s head about his thumb. He couldn’t make sure passes, and an accumulation of uncertain passes damaged his confidence.

“I feel like I’m finally over the injury, mentally,” Kim said.

Kim became so frustrated this season, he took six weeks off after being eliminated from the FedEx Cup. He touched his clubs once in that time away, playing in a previously scheduled corporate outing. He said he needed the escape because, mentally, he was beating himself up something awful.

“It’s actually tougher to make cuts, or be right on the cut line on a Friday, than it is to just win a golf tournament,” Kim said. “When you’re not playing well, when you’re grinding to make pars, to make cuts, or you need a birdie on the last hole to make a cut, that’s harder than being in contention.”

Kim said that wore him out this year.

“So the month and a half I took off did wonders for me before going to Asia,” Kim said.

In his late October return at the Shanghai Masters, Kim felt refreshed. He posted four rounds in the 60s and took Rory McIlroy to a playoff before losing on the first extra hole.

“Golf is all about confidence, repetition,” Kim said. “If you continue to hit bad shots, no matter who you are, it will start to bother you. You start to try to figure a way out of the funk. Sometimes, the more you dig, the deeper the hole gets and you can’t get out of it. So that month and a half off was necessary.”

Kim arrived in Naples ready to enjoy the game again. He said his mother has helped him work on a better attitude, a better perspective in understanding golf isn’t his whole world. He says it is helping.

“Playing the PGA Tour, you forget how lucky you are,” Kim said. “I’m ready to start a new season. I’m ready to play some better golf. It’s happened before where I’ve had bad years and come back with good years.”

Villegas’ year got off to a trying start with a disqualification after the first round of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The DQ came after a TV viewer called in to report seeing Villegas sweep away loose impediments as Villegas’ ball rolled back toward his feet on a chip shot.

After that, nothing went to plan, with Villegas believing he probably worked too hard and tinkered too much to get better. He said he was playing with a grip that got too strong.

“I was seeing a lot of double crosses, and that’s just not pretty,” Villegas said. “I just hit the ball badly the first half. When you start doing that, you start losing confidence, and maybe you start over-thinking, trying to change certain things that don’t necessarily need to be changed. It’s a little snowball effect.”

With just one top-10 finish deep into August, Villegas’ game began to fall into place. He made a strong FedEx Cup run. He has recorded four top 10s in his last six starts.

“I’m looking forward to next year,” Villegas said. “I’m hitting it better. I definitely have more confidence. I’m happier.”

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.