Gift Ideas

By Rich LernerDecember 21, 2000, 5:00 pm
The election mess divided co-workers, friends and even family. My buddy's grandmother is a Florida Democrat. He's an Ivy League Republican. So strained were their discussions on the matter that he's crossed her off his holiday gift list. I informed him that regardless of who's President we'd still drive our cars, eat at our restaurants, go to weddings and bar mitzvahs, listen to the radio, watch football and read to our kids at bedtime. I have little doubt that his heart will soften and then he'll need a present on the quick side. His grandmother's a solid 34-handicap who plays bridge on Tuesdays with Ethel Fink and golf on Fridays with Ethel Yarovsky.
 
Just in time for the 2000 season of giving, some suggestions for the Democratic grandmother and the Republican grandson who both enjoy rolling home six-footers for net pars. 'Let me tap that in Ethel, that's an 8 for a 4.'
 
The Tiger Woods Finger Pointer Putter
Hot new stick comes with pop up finger which springs forth from the butt of the putter just when your ball is eight feet from the hole. The Tiger Finger Pointer emits energy waves to the golf ball, directing it to the bottom of cup for another clutch 15-foot putt.
 
The Phil Mickelson Mask
Try on this handsome face with the trademark pursed lipped, half-smile and watch good things happen. Mask is great for covering up the fact that inside you want to rip your opponent's head off. Excellent for promoting boy-next-door image, even if you're a ferocious competitor with four wins in 2000. Mask should increase in value as soon as next year, when the 30-year-old mega millionaire figures to win his first major.
 
The Boss of the Moss Hypnotizer
3x5 metal replica of game's best putter features the soothing, repetitive putting stroke in real time. Hang it from your rearview mirror on your way to that Saturday morning match and then watch the putts drop. Batteries not included.
 
The Triplett
Simple in its design, sturdy in its function. The Triplett is the old standby in headwear, the bucket hat, but special because it comes from the man who epitomizes the legendary lid. A must for any guy who's dependable, likeable, hardworking, humble, regular and capable of making a meaningful downhill, five-footer at Riviera. Good for fishermen and yardworkers, too.

Billy Andrade's ESPN microphone
Now a collector's item! From the loveable New Englander who almost joined the ranks of us truly untalented TV yackers; instead engineered thrilling, career saving win in Vegas. Not just another golf photograph to hang in your home office.
 
Paul Azinger Badge of Courage
Handcrafted and tastefully designed. This offering is perfect for a company awards night or just to recognize someone of exceptionally strong character and high moral fiber.
 
Hal Sutton Motivational Audiocassette
Self-help tape can be used when trying to overcome a difficult obstacle, even the No.1 player in golf. Just insert tape and listen to Sutton, whose cadence and delivery lift and inspire like an old Southern football coach. Repeat the following: 'He puts his pants on the same way I do.' Perfectly mixed with NFL Films music underneath, The Hal Sutton Motivational Audiocassette will have you ready to take on the world.
 
The Tim Finchem Mask
Excellent for those in power who need to be even-keeled and unemotional. Think of the fun you'll have as friends try to guess exactly what you're thinking. Also good for poker games.
 
Stuart Appleby's Saucy Aussie Hot Sauce
Your mouth will be so alive with flavor that you'll become a quote machine, amazing your friends at the barbie with witty tomes like the one Appleby uttered at the light-on-Americans World Golf Championship at Valderrama. 'Americans are a bit like prawns on a hot Sunday. They don't travel well.' Refrigeration not necessary after opening.
 
Anyway, those are just a few possibilities. Perhaps you have some gift ideas of your own. E-mail them to me right here at our website. For now, I'm off to buy more action figures for my two boys. They're a great value. Kids like to use them for their world of pretend. Dads like them because they carry a sports message. My 8-year-old has a Greg Maddux action figure and I told him that what makes Maddux so good is not speed but control. So now in Little League when he uncorks a wild one I'll remind him of his favorite action figure, Greg Maddux.
 
Remember, it's not how much you spend. It's how much you give. We at The Golf Channel are certainly appreciative that you've given us a look, given us your ear, given us your support over this last year. Wishing you and your family good health and happiness in the New Year ahead.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.