A Gentleman's Game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2011, 8:44 pm

The “talk” is never easy, however abbreviated the relationship.

We’ve all seen this transcript, it’s not you, it’s me. We can still be friends. There’ll be other caddies. But all that likely did little to soothe Dustin Johnson’s rattled psyche late Sunday in the plush East Lake locker room when caddie Joe LaCava informed him he was moving on to a bigger bag. The biggest bag in the game, to be accurate, but even that probably did little to ease the blow.

“Needless to say, Dustin and I were completely surprised, as they have enjoyed a great relationship and have been very successful together,” Johnson’s manager David Winkle with Hambric Sports Management said in a release.

The golf world is abuzz today with talk about a perceived lack of chemistry between Johnson and LaCava, but last month’s victory at The Barclays suggests the two were compatible enough. Let the record show that since the two began working together at The Players Championship, Johnson has posted three top-5 finishes and missed just one cut.

But this isn’t about irreconcilable differences or bad timing or even career advancement. Regardless of Woods’ current swoon he is still the player with the most major championship “upside” this side of Jack Nicklaus. It’s impossible to begrudge anyone that bag.

No, this is about locker room etiquette, about doing the right thing instead of taking the easy out, about taking the high road instead of the path of least resistance.

What exactly transpired in the weeks leading up to the Johnson and LaCava’s split will likely remain a well-guarded secret. It always is within the confines of Camp Tiger, but this much is certain – Woods did not contact Johnson until after LaCava had given his man the pink slip.

“(Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg) and I were approached by a lot of people, including Joe, who expressed an interest in becoming my caddie,” said Woods, who begins the LaCava era next week at the Frys.com Open.

“This was an important decision, and I wanted to think about it carefully. Also, out of deference for the FedEx Cup playoffs, I decided to wait until they were concluding to have substantive talks. We then spoke to Joe and came to an agreement.”

According to sources familiar with the situation LaCava did “reach out” to Woods but only after he learned he was being considered. More importantly, Woods did not contact Johnson before he began “substantive talks” with LaCava. There is no rulebook on caddie swapping, but as a general guide it is customary for a player in Woods’ position to approach Johnson about the possibility.

“My guess is Tiger just asked Joe with (Fred Couples’) input or help. In the end, caddies and players have to do what’s best for themselves,” said one Tour player. “Sometimes feelings get hurt. But I do think out of respect for a top player in the game Tiger should have given DJ a call.”

It’s worth noting, the same player pointed out that any caddie would jump at the chance to work for Woods, “Hell, I’d caddie for him,” he said. And there is certainly no faulting LaCava for either the move or the timing.

But the consensus across Tour lines was rather clear on this front. This isn’t about asking for permission, this is about common courtesy and a gentleman’s game.

“I would think he probably did call him or have (Steinberg) call him,” said another Tour type. “If not I’d be kind of surprised.”

If one needed a case study on how such matters should be handled look no further than LaCava’s split with Couples’ earlier this year. After two decades with one of the game’s most charismatic and popular players, LaCava moved slowly, some would say even sluggishly, to the conclusion that he and Johnson were a natural fit.

Even then, the veteran looper only made the move after Couples urged him to do so, and only after Johnson’s camp had cleared the switch with Couples. It seems simple, clerical even, but when it comes to the delicate balance of the player-caddie relationship it’s the only way.

It’s become good sport to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to Woods in the post-November 2009 world, and given his close relationship with both LaCava and Couples the move has a low-hanging-fruit feel to it. But there is no denying that along the way Woods missed some steps.

It’s an even more curious outcome considering Woods’ split with his longtime caddie Stevie Williams this year. By some accounts, Williams’ moonlighting on Adam Scott’s bag was the tipping point in the relationship. Although he’d asked for Woods’ permission to do so, it seems the New Zealander had simply ran through too many stop signs.

On this it seems Woods suffered a similar faux pas that won’t easily be fixed. The world is eagerly awaiting a Woods-Scott duel filled with juicy subtext at November’s Presidents Cup. Just a hunch, be we’ve got about as much chance of seeing that soap opera as we do a Woods-Johnson pairing at Royal Melbourne?

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''