A Quick Round with Brad Faxon

By Randall MellMarch 26, 2010, 2:14 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Brad Faxon is bringing his insight to television this year as a rookie analyst for NBC. He'll be working Golf Channel’s telecast Thursday and Friday as a roving course reporter at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Faxon, 48, an eight-time PGA Tour winner known as a gifted putter, has long been regarded by media as one of the best quotes on Tour. He will be working from the tower for NBC at Bay Hill on the weekend, covering the fifth, ninth, 13th and 14th holes.

Though he’ll be working as an analyst for seven PGA Tour events, Faxon is not done as a player. He expects to play at least 20 events this year.

Faxon, who made his TV debut at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral earlier this month, talked about his new TV role in a Quick Round:

So what’s it like with a microphone in your hand instead of a golf club?

It’s exciting, but it’s nerve-wracking. I was way more nervous at Doral than I ever would have thought. I am more comfortable with a golf club in my hand.

Anything particularly unusual about your debut at Doral that you care to share?

We had to wear a coat and tie. It was a World Golf Championship. I was rushing to get my coat on because I was about to go on the air, and I whacked my head into this metal thing on the door and I started bleeding. This girl, Wendy, had to fix me up before I went on. I’ve still got the bump on my head.

Bleeding probably ranks among the things you are not supposed to do on the air.

Tommy Roy (NBC executive producer) gave me a list of things not to say on the air. You can’t say pin placement. You have to say hole location. You can’t say playing partner. You have to say fellow competitor. You can’t say tournament. You have to say championship. You can’t say sand trap. You have to say bunker. When you have all these things you can’t say, you get a little more nervous. I was also told not to use the word great too much.

How would you grade your debut?

I think I got about a B. I tend to be critical of myself, to go over the things I said and the way I said them and the way I wished I would have said them. I got my right ear lit up a few times making a mistake. I know going forward I will make mistakes, but I am very comfortable working with all the NBC folks.

How would you describe your role?

I am trying to talk about golf as I see it. People have asked me about my style. I don’t know what my actual style is going to be. I think my strength will be knowing a lot about the current players and also having a good short game. They can plug me in to talk about a particular golfer’s strengths and weaknesses and do some analyzing.

Do you see criticism as part of your role?

I know it’s the name of the game now. If you are not critical, you are not doing the right thing. There’s a way to be critical that’s not condescending to someone. We all hit bad shots, and I think you have to call a spade a spade at times. I think I know how to say a guy wishes he had that shot over without beating him up.

Did criticism from the media bother you as a player?

I think a lot of people thought that because I was a good putter, I was just lucky to be out here. People think you are either a good putter or you are not. That bugged me. I worked hard for a long time to become better and better. I don’t think it’s lucky.

Will we see you challenging Johnny Miller’s strong opinions?

I hope. I think Tommy Roy wants that. Tommy has said if Johnny says something you don’t agree with, and we have time, let’s discuss it. I think the fans and the spectators want to hear different opinions. I am impressed with Johnny and the way he prepares. He’s out here early on Saturday and Sunday mornings. When he’s talking about which way a particular putt will break, he knows. He’s been out there rolling balls on those holes. He’s already said a couple things where I felt like I could battle with him. He’s very honest, and he’ll come right back at you if he doesn’t agree.

Tiger’s dominating the news with his return to golf at the Masters. Do you think he can win there?

He certainly could. I think there’s probably a heck of a lot of people who are rooting for him and a heck of a lot of people who aren’t rooting for him. I just think it’s good people are talking about his return and that he’s playing golf again, rather than all the talk about the personal stuff. It’s good for the players and the networks to see he’s coming back.

But you think he can win the Masters.

I don’t know how those first few days are going to be for him in competition. He’s a human being. He’s shown in these first few interviews that this is hard for him. Facing his friends for the first time will be difficult. He’s shown some remorse, that he has feelings about what he did and that’s healthy. He’s told us he’s still working on some rehab issues. That’s great. My prediction would be Thursday and Friday would be a hell of a lot more difficult for him than Sunday afternoon.

Do you sense other players will be looking for vulnerability, that they’ll be looking to see if Tiger has lost his edge?

I don’t think any of the off-course stuff will affect his ability on the course. I see no relationship, none at all. I see him being able to step right back in. I would be a little surprised if he came into the Masters and played great right away. But he’s surprised us with everything he’s done in his golf career.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”