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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  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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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

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    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.