Looking Out for No 1

By Randall MellDecember 1, 2010, 11:17 pm
LPGA Tour _newORLANDO, Fla. – Suzann Pettersen is playing on the edge of greatness.

It’s a thrilling, maddening height to climb.

There’s the thrill in knowing she’s almost there, almost where she’s dreamed and fought to get, that she’s almost reached the game’s mountaintop.

And it’s maddening knowing that she’s not there yet, that all the hard work’s left her short, that somebody else towers over her.

That’s what it’s like arriving at the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship as the No. 2 player in the Rolex Women’s Rankings.

That’s what it’s been like going winless this year while making a hard climb with six second-place finishes.

Pettersen, 29, has alternately mesmerized and befuddled on the edge of greatness throughout her career.

Suzann Pettersen
Suzann Pettersen has six runner-up finishes in 2010. (Getty Images)
Over the last three seasons, Pettersen has one LPGA victory and 12 second-place finishes. Her ability to get herself into contention so many times mesmerizes. Her inability to win more often befuddles. The missing piece perplexes. Is it her streaky putting stroke? The ache in her hip that won’t seem to go away? Bad luck? Or something else?

“Suzann’s the consummate perfectionist,” says David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “She’s worked so hard to get better. She’s right there. She could take the tour by the scruff of the neck and win a half dozen times. She’s at the point in her career that she really wants to make things happen, and she has the ability to do it.”

Pettersen looked like she was going to take the tour by the scruff of the neck and never let go back in 2007. The tall, athletic Norwegian broke through to win her first LPGA title at the Michelob Ultra Open. A month later, she won her first major, the McDonald’s LPGA Championship. She won six events around the world that season, five of them LPGA titles.

There’s been that one LPGA victory since and the 12 runner-up finishes. She’s coming off a second-place finish in her last start at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

“I’m glad there’s one more tournament left this season,” Pettersen said after her pro-am round Wednesday at Grand Cypress Golf Club. “I’ve got some unfinished business.”

You can take that two ways. She wants to win this year, and she wants to end the year with the No. 1 world ranking. A victory will get her to No. 1 in the world for the first time.

“A win is going to shut people up,” Leadbetter said. “She would love to win this week. It would make her year.”

If Pettersen’s run of second-place finishes this season frustrates her, she conceals it well. She’ll tell you she’s more encouraged than discouraged.

“The one thing I was looking for was consistency,” Pettersen said. “I want to be there week in and week out, and I’ve achieved that. I’ve done that pretty much every tournament I’ve played this year. I’ve had my chances. I’ve knocked on the door.

“If you look at all my stats, I’m improving every year. If you look from 2007, I’ve improved my scoring by a shot overall. It feels like I’m doing my part.”

In her runner-up finish at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational three weeks ago, Pettersen closed with a 68. In-Kyung Kim beat her with a final-round 64. In the season-opener, Ai Miyazato beat Pettersen with a 64. Pettersen’s scoring average is 68.3 in the final rounds of those six second-place finishes.

“It’s not like she’s blowing or choking away these tournaments,” Leadbetter said. “She’s playing well. If there’s any slight weakness, it’s the fact that when she’s striking the ball extremely well, she hasn’t shot as low as she could have.”

Pettersen’s been playing with a nagging left hip injury since February. She doesn’t know how it developed or even what the problem is, but the ache comes and goes.

“I’m pretty sick of it,” Pettersen said. “I’ve seen a million doctors, taken a million MRI scans. They all think I’m making this up.”

Pettersen’s planning to take a long break after this week’s LPGA Tour Championship. She may even forgo skiing, her other passion, for awhile to see if rest will be the remedy.

“It’s a bit of a mystery,” Leadbetter said. “Could be something genetic, could be something that’s just developed over time. She is the fittest player on tour. She approaches working out like she’s an Olympic athlete. Sometimes, she’s gone too hard.”

A victory would take the sting out of that hip for awhile. Gaining the No. 1 ranking would trump the disappointment of those second-place finishes.

“I’ve been close to No. 1 all year,” Pettersen said. “It’s more the end of the year when you want to make a statement.”

Winning this week sends a message into 2011. It alerts the golf world Pettersen may be poised to take the tour by the scruff of the neck.
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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.