Yes Golfers are Athletes

By Rex HoggardMarch 25, 2011, 3:49 am
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – On Wednesday, Tiger Woods predicted he’d be the “Corey Pavin” in his group that included Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland. He was, although “faux Corey” was the low card on Day 1 at wind-whipped Bay Hill.

Hitting first almost all day, Woods signed for a 73 that looked like 77 but felt like a 67 when the dust and debris stopped swirling. Johnson pounded away with abandon while Woodland kept a weary pace following last week’s victory in Tampa. Both finished with 77s.

But the scorecards missed Thursday’s subtext. Lost amid the mania and minutia was a testament to the new Tour athlete. If Woods made golf cool, the likes of Johnson and Woodland are making it athletic.

The new face of golf is strong and agile and was on display Thursday, regardless of score.

Woods couldn’t help but think to himself as he gazed across the first tee on Thursday that he was seeing something familiar. The Woods-Johnson-Woodland grouping was not so much a conversion of the past and present as much as it was three sides to the same coin.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods shot 1-over 73 in the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Getty Images)
Well before “Hello, world” in 1996, Woods was a superior athlete. The kind of gifted soul who would have excelled at any number of sporting endeavors but he broke the mold and picked golf.

That mold is now slowly becoming the norm, thanks in no small part to Woods – the victim of his own perfect paradigm.

“Growing up we all looked up to Tiger. He’s changed the game for us,” said Woodland, who was playing with Woods for the first time on Thursday. “Growing up, where I’m from you play football or basketball or baseball. Golf wasn’t cool and he’s changed all that for us.”

If Thursday’s opening 18 was pro golf’s version of the combine it would be difficult, if not impossible, for even the most seasoned NFL scout to pluck a No. 1 pick from the 12:56 p.m. tee time.

Woods, the veteran with a proven Hall of Fame record but a litany of concerning injuries; Johnson, who at 6-foot-4 once recorded a standing broad jump of 10-feet-8, which was better than 80 percent of that year’s NBA combine, and Woodland, who once injured many of the ligaments in his right hand and yet still played an entire season at point guard for Washburn (Kan.) University with two fingers on his shooting hand tapped together.

“If you compare them to other athletes,” said Randy Myers, the Sea Island (Ga.) Resort-based fitness guru who works with Johnson, among others, “Dustin is a pitcher or Randy Moss-type wide out, the Scottie Pippen athlete. Woodland is a short stop or point guard and then you look at Tiger, he is what athletes looked like before. He inspired other athletes to join the game.”

Even Woods – not the most reflective, at least publicly, person in the game – acknowledged on the eve of Thursday’s opening round that his playing companions represented a new breed.

“The next two days is a perfect example of where the game has changed, where you've got two guys who used to play basketball are now playing golf and that's what I've been alluding to all these years,” Woods said.

“We are finally going to get athletes. Guys who can dunk. Guys who could have played baseball or could have played football at the (NCAA Division I) level, but no, they are playing golf instead. Now with all of that speed and power and fast twitch are playing golf. And this is a perfect example of it.”

And the phenomenon goes well beyond pure power, although Johnson regularly out-drove the elder statesman of the group by 57 yards (No. 4), 31 yards (No. 5) and 20 yards (No. 9), to name a few. The fearlessness that drove Woodland onto the court with a potentially career-ending injury at Washburn now fuels a game plan without boundaries.

At the par-4 18th hole on Thursday, for example, Woods played well back from the hole’s water hazard, hitting fairway wood like he has done so many times before, while Johnson hit driver high into the afternoon sky, playing a cut toward the water with a helping wind with a mixture of indifference and invincibility.

Watching Thursday’s collision of the Tour’s new “Bash Brothers” the NFL axiom of drafting the best athlete available, with no regard to position or pedigree, comes to mind. Making the perfect pick is virtually impossible. Having such a difficult choice, however, shows how far the game has come.


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
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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.