Brilliance at the BMW

By Rex HoggardSeptember 14, 2009, 4:56 am
BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – Seems about right that the same weekend Michael Jordan was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame Tiger Woods would do his MJ thing at Cog Hill, sans the tongue waging and buzzer-beating histrionics.

Uproot that bronze statue of Jordan in front of the United Center, replace the basketball with a well-worn Scotty Cameron putter and rename Cog Hill the House that Woods built, with apologies to the Jemsek family that has toiled for generations to make the Southside staple something special.

Word is Cog Hill is angling for a U.S. Open and has early dibs on the golf portion of an Olympic itinerary if the Second City gets the IOC’s first nod. Following Woods’ Draconian weekend on the nip/tucked Dubsdread layout the world No. 1 is fine with both options. While they are at it, perhaps the powers could rotate a Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and World Golf Championship through Cog Hill.

Babe Ruth built old Yankee Stadium by hitting dingers. Woods made Cog Hill his own by hitting fairways (41 of 56, T-15), greens (50 of 74, T-4) and every putt that mattered (106, T-2) over four cloudless days.

Chicagoland hasn’t been manhandled like this since the days of Al Capone, who was a Cog Hill regular back in his day.

Sunday’s final lap was a formality, made so by Woods’ scorching 62 on Saturday that gave him a touchdown head start entering the final turn. No one has ever blown a 54-hole lead of seven strokes or more, particularly if his name is Woods.

But Tour types are sticklers for 72-hole events, so off Woods went alongside Brandt Snedeker – who plays fast, talks fast and is fast finding his old form – and a Rugby 7s player, or so it seems when Marc Leishman takes a lash.

Truth be told neither Woods nor anyone else made things interesting as far as the BMW crown was concerned on Sunday. A bogey at No. 5, his first in 21 holes, did little more than mock those a half dozen strokes adrift and his messy birdie from a concession stand and the trees along the ninth fairway made it clear everyone else was playing for “B” flight honors.

A day earlier Woods put the metaphorical fork in the field at the ninth, carving his second shot from 303 yards to 10 feet for eagle. The next 101 strokes were little more than accounting.

“When I got to 10 I remember a few holes back Tiger was at 15 (under),” said Jim Furyk, who rallied with a final-round 66 to finish tied for second place with Leishman. “I started thinking, well, what if? What if he made another bogey? I asked my caddie where he stood and he said, ’17 (under).’ I just started laughing. I thought, back to the real world.”

Cog Hill officials weren’t laughing after Woods’ Saturday 62 likely sent Rees Jones back to the drawing board, U.S. Golf Association officials to another Chicago-area Open venue and Olympic officials to Tokyo or Rio. Gold medals don’t come easy, unless your name is Michael Phelps, and simply put Woods has made the game look easy at Cog Hill.

The well-hit putts that didn’t drop on Sunday at Hazeltine National, the drives that didn’t find the fairway at Liberty National all fell into place at Cog Hill. The result? An eight-stroke victory, Tour title No. 71, which places him two behind Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list, and both hands firmly on the Player of the Year trophy.

This was a Woods of a different sort, unencumbered by the constraints of either a balky putter or a slightly off driver and emboldened by a thorough understanding of his swing.

“The most important thing is that I know he is improving which is his main goal always,” Hank Haney said in an e-mail to Golf “It is exciting for me to see that when things aren't exactly right Tiger can fix himself. As he has said he is getting better all the time at that. He has a great understanding of what he is trying to do and how to do it.”

Following his BMW blowout it’s difficult to grasp the uncertainty of 12 months ago. Still recovering from ACL surgery, unsure of when he would be able to start chasing history again Cog Hill may as well have been the moon last fall.

“There was so many uncertainties at the beginning of the season. I didn't know how the leg was going to respond. I've never had a leg that was stable. I can't remember the last time I had a leg that was stable, that didn't hurt when I played,” said Woods, who finished at 19-under 265 total after a closing 68. “There was so many different things that I didn't know, and I hadn't played competitively since the (U.S.) Open. A lot of guys had played well, and I hadn't played at all. So there was a lot of uncertainty. To come back and be, as I said, this consistent feels pretty good.”

The answers came in a flourish on Saturday and transformed Sunday’s final turn into a surreal study of the mundane.

Not since Jean Van de Velde booted a British Open has the top of a leaderboard drawn so little interest, part a product of Woods’ dominance and part an element of new math.

Event: BMW ChampionshipA dozen players were vying for a spot in the Tour Championship while another half dozen were looking to slip into the coveted top 5 in points, and, as minutia goes, it was exciting stuff.

Luke Donald limped home with a 73 and watched the computer nervously while the final two groups closed out their rounds. “It’s insane,” Donald’s wife, Diane, sighed.

And Donald’s plight wasn’t even close to the day’s most insane.

For most of the day Brandt Snedeker was in, then he was out after needing four putts from 12 feet at the last. John Senden was out, then he was in, thanks to said four-putt. A bogey at the last would have earned Snedeker a trip to East Lake, instead he’s on furlough until Turning Stone.

“I just started thinking about the wrong things,” said an emotional Snedeker, who said he asked about his FedEx Cup status walking up the 18th hole. “I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do. It shouldn’t affect me. It shows how weak mentally I am.”

It was a measure of drama at an event that would have otherwise been devoid of any, yet ultimately the day belonged to Woods.

Only the world No. 1 could rescue golf from the ratings depths of the NFL’s opening weekend, and only the math club could transform East Lake from a formality into a fight, or “sprint” as Woods called it.

Without the points reset, which narrows the gap between Nos. 1 and 2 to 250 points and guarantees the FedEx Cup to any player that is in the top 5 that wins the Tour Championship, Woods would need only to remain upright and lucid to claim his second FedEx Cup.

But then given his Cog Hill performance it will take much more than creative math to keep Woods from winning the FedEx Cup. Thankfully for the other 29 hopefuls bound for Atlanta, they aren’t playing the Tour Championship at Cog Hill.
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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.