Just Like Home

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' On his way to TPC Sawgrass for this weeks Players, soulful swing coach Jamie Mulligan was talking with Tour staple John Cook about the Pete Dye design when his longtime student/mentor paused and offered a startling revelation.
 
He has never hit in the water at the 17th, Mulligan smiled. It is one of the only times hes ever said anything about his himself. Hes never said anything like, I won here or there or did this or that. It was really something.
 
Sixty-six trips around the Stadium without a single rinse cycle at the island round-ender is the stuff of Hollywood fantasy, and perhaps the unofficial start to the Long Beach love affair at Sawgrass. Its a lineage that runs through Paul Goydos everyman near miss last year against Sergio Garcia and into the most recent edition, John Mallinger and his opening-round 66 that left him a shot off the Day 1 lead.
 
Its not as though the threesome enjoys swings made for TPC Central, as if such an action exists. Cook the world beater, Goydos the grinder and Mallinger have vastly different means but all seem to arrive at the same ends when the Tour arrives on the First Coast.
 
It's very close. We've got a good group of guys out at Virginia Country Club we all hang with. Paul has been a great mentor to us. John Cook has been great to us, said Mallinger, who along with Tour newcomers John Merrick and Peter Tomasulo make up the core of Mulligans SoCal stable. We all have different games, but (Mulligan) knows how to teach our games. We don't go off anything else. We go off basically his eye.
 
Leave the West Coast bias to politics and the NCAA selection committee, The Players fits these Long Beachers eye like cool on-shore breezes and ocean-framed sunsets.
 
Part of the groups familiarity can be traced to their Southern California stomping grounds. Virginia CC is an inviting place located just on the other side of the 405 in north Long Beach that sports a Sawgrass feel, sans the railway ties and punishing penultimate hole.
 
This place reminds us of Virginia Country Club a little bit, Mulligan said. Small greens, middle of the fairway, middle of the green and youve got a birdie putt.
 
On Thursday, Mallinger holed about every birdie opportunity that came his way, rolling in seven attempts from no further than 12 feet on a course that he loved the first time he saw it.
 
The group is also a conduit for shared knowledge. Cooks 22 Players starts gave the group a base of information that has helped the next generation, particularly Mallinger and Merrick, prepare for a course that is akin to puzzle building.
 
Shared tidbits like take what you can from TPCs par 5s but dont get greedy. Even Mallinger, among the circuits longer types, showed an elevated level of restraint on Thursday, going for Nos. 2 and 16 in two shots but laying up at the ninth and 11th. All total, he played TPCs longest in 3 under, which was better than the field average.
 
The greens on nine and 16 are really, really small, said Merrick, who added to Long Beachs TPC trifecta with a 2-under 70. The biggest thing around here is missing in the right spots. You cant short side yourself at all.
 
The group has also taken to drafting better than the 2 car heading into Turn 4.
 
Goydos success last year at TPC inspired Merrick to his best finish in a major event last month at the Masters (T-6), which begat Mallingers inspired run on a hot and humid opening day south of Jacksonville.
 
Weve all come up through the same ranks, Merrick said. When one of us has a good event it encourages the rest of us.
 
For Mulligan ' whose teaching technique combines a rich potpourri of swing fundamentals, extensive preparation and an almost Zen-like outlook ' Mallingers stellar start was, well, in the stars.
 
Hes been getting better for two months, Mulligan said. Weve refined his swing and gotten things a little cleaner. All the spokes on the wheel are moving in the right direction right now.
 
And all the SoCal stars aligned through 18 holes in Ponte Vedra Beach, perhaps the closest thing to a Left Coast enclave one will find on the Florida peninsula, including sun, sand and a quiet beach house with a grill for quiet dinners.
 
We did Mexican last night. Probably grill some burgers tonight, Merrick said. Just relax.
 
Just like home.
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''