Seems Like Old Times

By Randall MellMarch 10, 2011, 2:00 am

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – Fifty years ago, three generations clashed in Doral’s debut as a PGA Tour event.

Billy Casper, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus helped make the Blue Monster one of golf’s grand new stages with their Sunday duel.

Nicklaus, a 22-year-old rookie, made a serious run at winning his first event as a professional.

The 49-year-old Hogan mounted a final-round charge.

But 30-year-old Billy Casper held them off along with a little-known rookie, Paul Bondeson, to win the inaugural Doral Country Club Open Invitational.

The game was on the verge of a seismic shift back then.

Nicklaus was less than three months away from toppling the giant Arnold Palmer in Palmer’s backyard in the U.S. Open at Oakmont in Pennsylvania.

With the game amid yet another seismic shift, another generational clash appears in the works at this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

There’s Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk looking to show that in their 40s they’re still going to be factors in this new battle for the No. 1 world ranking.

There’s Tiger Woods, who at 35 is looking to shake a slump and regain his winning form.

There’s Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson among the thirty-somethings within striking distance of the top ranking.

And there’s a legion of twenty-somethings led by No. 1 Martin Kaymer poised to usher in a new era. Kaymer’s just 26.

“It's nice to see that the twenty-somethings are actually producing now,” said Els, a two-time winner at Doral and the defending champ. “They have started winning majors now, and they are winning tournaments. It's basically almost their time to shine and for us to do what we can.”

It’s been a long time since professional golf’s seemed so wide open, since back before Woods became dominant. It’s been a long time since the possibilities within the game have ranged as wildly as they do this week.

Woods built a lead in the world rankings that was the Mount Everest of points. The distance in points between Woods and No. 2 Phil Mickelson late in 2007 was roughly the same as the difference between No. 1 Kaymer and No. 998 Vicente Blazquez is today.

“I look at the world rankings quite a lot now,” says Rory McIlroy, among the twenty-somethings in this generational clash. “It’s definitely a big motivating factor for me.”

Count McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler among youth with the advantage of sporting none of the scars their aging counterparts sport from so many wounds sustained when Woods was at the height of his powers.

“I played for 10 years when that guy dominated, so it's tough to get a different mindset on things,” Els said of the wide open battle for No. 1. “Tiger was the dominant player. He won 14 majors. Think about it, 14 majors, in such a short period of time. Who is ever going to do that again? So for us, myself, Phil, Vijay [Singh], Davis [Love III], Fred Couples, guys like that, to have played under a guy who was that good, we took a beating, not only from him, but from you [media], too. It was a tough 10, 12 years for us.

“So to see kind of the new world out there, with these young players coming through, Martin at No. 1 . . . The youngsters have got something going for them. They didn't have to play under a guy that was so dominant. I don't think they will ever appreciate how good Tiger was back then. He could do it again, who knows. He's just got to sort out the new swing again. He's so mentally strong that he could well dominate again.”

The pairings this week heighten the nature of today’s battle for dominion.

No. 1 Kaymer, No. 2 Westwood and No. 3 Donald will play the first two rounds together. Also playing together are No. 4 McDowell, No. 5 Woods and No. 6 Mickelson.

“I’m not downplaying any Thursday morning on any given week, but you never really have all guns blazing from the word go to win the tournament,” McDowell said. “I think that focus will be there right away.”

Typically, pros don’t like to make a big deal of their first- and second-round pairings. Most will tell you they’re playing the golf course, getting in position to win on the weekend, and they don’t want to get caught up competing with players in their group.

McDowell said his pairing intensifies the action right from the first shot.

“It’s one of those things where you know if you can stay ahead of those two guys, you have a pretty decent chance of winning this golf tournament,” McDowell said. “You are not out there playing match play, but if you can stay ahead of those guys, you are probably in pretty good shape. If the scoring’s good, I’ll be trying to hang with whoever’s going low.”

Who knows which generation the low scores are going to come from? Maybe all three, just like that first year at Doral.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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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.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.