Keeping His Cool

By Rex HoggardMay 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' The Players had all the elements of a major championship: a baked-out golf course, a diverse leaderboard, a three-quarter time Tiger Woods and, inevitably, an Iceman that kept his cool on a scorching day to add to his collection of mid-major keepsakes.
 
Substitute stoic Swede Henrik Stenson for stoic Argentine Angel Cabrera, a two-time winner of a major not of the faux variety, and the 36th Players was a major, in form if not function.
 
Henrik and Lisa Stenson
Henrik Stenson is greeted by his daughter after his impressive win. (Getty Images)
Whether the Tours pride and joy ever ascends to Grand Slam status was lost amid a flurried Sunday of two-way traffic, two-way misses and a final two-ball that fell out of touch quicker than Donald Trump.
 
Add up all the notches on Henrik Stensons prolific 3-wood and even a BCS computer would spit out a singular sum ' world beater.
 
In a single flurried February in 2007 Stenson clipped Ernie Els (by one shot) and Woods (by two) at the Dubai Desert Classic and dusted off his first American victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship ' an event that featured the worlds top 64 professional breadwinners, including Woods ' in clinical fashion.
 
But since then Stenson had failed to add to his global trophy case. Part of his stalled ascent was suspect driving, and part was a suspect psyche.
 
I was quite wayward, and I contacted (Dr. Bob Rotella) to have somebody to chat about different things and get some tips on focusing on the right stuff, Stenson said. I wouldn't still say that I'm 100 percent confident with my driver, and obviously that's why I like this golf course as of now, because I don't need to hit that many drivers.
 
Instead the big Swede pounded Pete Dyes mounded madness into submission with what one player at the 07 Match Play called a nuclear 3-wood that was so effective he played from something other than Sawgrass manicured fairways just twice over his final 36 holes.
 
Yet even with that trusty 3-wood in tow, few outside of the assembled Stenson clan ' which included his father, mother, sister and wife, Emma ' were giving the European Ryder Cup fixture much of a chance as the final round got underway with an unproven Czech-born German pinned to a five-stroke advantage and Woods sounding nothing like a man who spent more time in the pine straw than the prescribed parchment the first two laps around the Stadium Course.
 
Hardly a month earlier Woods had started his last 18 on another brutish Florida track five lengths down and proved again that hes the best closer in sports not named Jonathan Papelbon.
 
The script was clear: Woods would close the gap on surprise 54-hole frontrunner Alex Cejka by the time the Sunday brunch buffet was pulled and outlast any comers down the stretch. The prognosticators were only half right.
 
Cejka would fade, painfully at times, but it wouldnt be Woods picking up the pieces.
 
Less than an hour into his round, Cejka had squandered the largest 54-hole lead in Players history, playing his first four holes in 3 over, and, along with Woods, quickly became background noise. It was a mystifying distraction on a day that mystified the status quo.
 
For his part Cejka was at ease with his plight, although that didnt stop him from tinkering in the art of denial: I hit good shots, but I got bad breaks, bad lies, didnt make a putt.
 
The golf gods havent held a grudge that sinister since Sergio Garcia went down whining at the 2007 British Open, and Cejkas take brings to mind a longtime caddie yard axiom. Three things that dont last: dogs that chase cars, caddies who close bars and players who putt for pars. And on Sunday Cejka spent more time scrambling than former Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington.
 
Through nine holes on Sunday Cejka had failed to hit a single fairway and just two greens in regulation and all those bad breaks added up to an opening effort of 42 and a closing card that featured the same number of bogeys (six) hed totaled for his first 54 holes.
 
Woods wasnt much better.
 
On Sunday the world No. 1 reiterated an often-used line, Im close. But in the grand scheme of things he was never really close to Stenson.
 
Although he turned in even par, his round was full of the type of unforced errors that have turned trophy presentations into hasty exits for Woods. A sloppy wedge over the green at the ninth led to a ground-loosing par and he caught a chip heavy on the 10th for bogey.
 
Ill fix it, no problem, Woods said of a swing that has appeared an octave off since a Utah surgeon did an extreme knee makeover. We know what it is, its just a matter of me doing.
 
Nobody knows Woods swing better than Woods, and he has five weeks and probably one more start ' likely the Memorial ' to steady the ship before the U.S. Open, but Cejka seemed to sum his playing partners day, if not his week.
 
He didnt really hit many good shots, but his short game is so good, Cejka said. It should have been a 5 over by the way he played. Were all human. We cant play 100 percent all the time. We saw that last week (at Quail Hollow).
 
His statistical line for the week was hardly a recipe for success at a major, or minor, event. He ranked 74th in fairways hit, 46th in greens in regulation and 33rd in putting, and even though his eight-place showing was his fifth top 10 in five stroke-play outings, the questions will persist because he is Tiger Woods.
 
I'm a little bit surprised, but to be honest, I've watched a little bit of the highlights. He's got a lot out of the golf course this week for certain positions that he's hit it in, Ian Poulter said. He's hit it in a couple of spots which if Joe Average hits it in there, he's shooting 3-, 4-, 5-over par on the day. Tiger Woods is not going to do that, he's too good. His short game is too good. He always hangs around.
 
No one, however, was going to outlast Stenson. His closing 66 tied for low round of the day under the most intense conditions. He was nearly perfect on the weekend, missing just two fairways and playing his final 18 holes without a bogey.
 
After a solid front nine, Stenson birdied three of his first six holes on the back and by the time he reached the par-5 16th he was 3 up and virtually dormie. A two-putt birdie made the feared final two seem like a coronation.
 
Henrik put his foot down and sped past everybody. That was a hell of a round of golf out there today, Poulter said. Those greens were icy quick. Ive never seen them that color except at an Open.
 
Emma Stenson smiled when someone mentioned the incident earlier this year at the WGC-CA Championship when Henrik stripped down to his unmentionables to play a shot out of a Doral water hazard. Would he take a dive into the murky lake guarding TPCs 18th like Jerry Pate did in 1982?
 
As long as he keeps his clothes on, Emma Stenson smiled.
 
Stenson stayed dry, on the 18th hole and in his post-round comments: Ill save that for a day of drizzle, he deadpanned.
 
Its just as well since his play seems to be making a big enough splash at the games most important events.
 
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.