Bethpage Primer

By Rex HoggardJune 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' The comeback everybody hoped for at Augusta National and leveraged the house on at The Players arrived on a breezy Sunday afternoon in central Ohio.
Tiger Woods said he needed some time to sort things out. Times up. Now the clock starts for Bethpage Black and the U.S. Open.
With a slightly shorter driver with slightly more loft he slighted the field at the Memorial with a fairways-and-greens exhibition and a hint of what awaits in two weeks on Long Island.
Tiger Woods
We all know what happened the last time Tiger teed it up at Bethpage. (Getty Images)
Yet ballstriking brilliance and a one-stroke, come-from-behind, white-knuckle victory aside, the comeback is not over. Not for Woods.
Not with three turns still left in the Grand Slam season and favored-layout status waiting at the U.S. Open (Bethpage) and PGA Championshp (Hazeltine National). The Memorial victory was nice, historic actually, but one-half of the single-season legends slam ' Memorial and his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March ' is not what sends Woods to the gym and the practice tee and back to the gym.
If the Memorial is any measure, the event Jim Furyk dubbed a mini-major, Woods could become the first player to win, place and show at Americas national championship.
This is how you have to hit it to win the U.S. Open, Woods said.
He should know, only Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson have more Open hardware on the mantle and perhaps only Woods has the mettle to overpower a brutish layout like Muirfield from the middle of the fairway, of all places.
For the week, Woods put on a ballsriking clinic. On Sunday he went 14-for-14 from the tee, the first time hes done that since 2003, and connected with the short grass a Kreskin-like 49 times out of 56 attempts for four rounds, tying the best driving week of his career.
Woods was second in driving accuracy, third in greens in regulation (73 percent) and 12th in driving distance. His 25 putts in Round 4 ' including a 38 footer at the second that was his longest of the week and third-longest of the year ' were notable, particularly on greens most players dubbed the fastest they will play all year, but were more a byproduct of superior ballstriking.
I really controlled my flight and felt in control with shaping the ball both ways. I didn't really have a problem hitting it either way. That's when you know you feel like you're in control of what you're doing, said Woods, who added that he hadnt hit the ball this well since the 2006 British Open when he brought Hoylake and the worlds best to their knees with a cleek. I didn't hit any surprises out there.
Yet perhaps his most impressive feat of the week is that he saved his best for last.
Woods teed off for the final round four-strokes adrift of Mark Wilson and someone named Matt Bettencourt and paired with a dead ringer for Cosmo Kramer, otherwise known as the hard-swinging Michael Letzig. He needed just 30 minutes to pull within one shot of the lead.
By the turn he was atop a congested leaderboard and he closed with consecutive birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to make the final three two-balls a formality.
I didnt say much to him all day, just nice, shot. Nice shot. Nice shot, Letzig said. I dont know what everyone is talking about how he drives it. He was perfect all day. Ive never seen iron shots like that. Its unreal.
There was a foreshadowing to the entire affair when the day dawned just as Nike stablemate and good friend Roger Federer was clearing his mental attic at Roland Garros, Woods followed the lead but he was eyeing a contenders-by-committee gathering much more fearsome than Federers French Open ghosts.
Even with his swinging show, the outcome remained curiously in doubt until Muirfield Villages grueling closing stretch. A leaderboard with more traffic than a Dublin ' Ohio, not Ireland ' roundabout and more moving parts than an economic stimulus plan featured as many as five co-leaders at one time, many of them with major championship pedigrees.
Bettencourt ' a former college flamethrower for the Modesto Junior College baseball team turned journeyman pro making his first Memorial start and first cameo on a Tour leaderboard ' grinded to an even-par start through eight holes before rinsing his title chances at the ninth. Apologies to the likeable rookie, but with the stars aligned behind him a Bettencourt victory was about as probable as a run on Arnold Palmers in the Muirfield Village clubhouse.
In order Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Jonathan Byrd tilted at the games preeminent windmill before crashing into statistical reality.
Byrd, whose work with swing coach Mike Bender and sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens has produced a player on the cusp of a breakthrough, went from 2 up on the field and cruising to a 2 down contender in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom. He followed a three-putt bogey at the 13th with an unsightly double at No. 14 to finish tied for third.
Love moved into a share of the lead with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13 and 14, but squandered his title chances, and a chance to avoid U.S. Open qualifying, with a 3-over-par finish.
While Furyk, an Open player rounding into form in time for Bethpage, held on the longest thanks to one-putting Muirfields closing three, but couldnt match Woods and finished alone in second place.
For Woods it was a text book back nine. Three birdies, an oak-shaking chip-in eagle at the 11th and a wind-gust bogey at 17 added up to a closing 65 and 12-under 276 total. The kind of round Woods has said was coming since he reintroduced himself to the fold back in February at the WGC-Match Play Championship.
There is no secret to Woods march back into the history books other than Hogans famed elixir ' practice.
At Augusta National, Woods fumed because he couldnt cover the final two holes in anything resembling par, but ostensibly because he couldnt work out the kinks on the practice tee afterward. The knee just wouldnt cooperate.
Things started getting better at Quail Hollow and continued to improve through The Players.
My practice sessions started getting longer at home. Hit more balls, play more golf, all these things. People don't realize you need to do that. You need to have that ability, said Woods, who became the first player to win Jacks gem four times. You can't just think about your swing and how to be great the next day. I needed to do the reps.
Dont underestimate the power of practice. Or Woods chances at Bethpage in a fortnight, where he won the second of his three U.S. Open titles in 2002.
Just ask Nicklaus, perhaps the only man alive who can relate to Woods brilliance.
If he drives the ball like that it wont be a contest, Nicklaus said. Can you imagine, 14 of 14 fairways (hit) today, seven (missed) fairways all week. Thats pretty good...
It seems the only thing that can leave a legend speechless is a legendary performance.

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    Teenager Im wins season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.