Hooks and Cuts: Animosity ain't bad

By Rich LernerJanuary 15, 2013, 8:08 pm

The new Nike ad is cute, and others to follow no doubt will entertain, but watching Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy do their buddy cop routine for the next five years doesn’t really interest me. There was something sporting about the good old days when Tiger appeared to hold a bit of disdain for Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia.

• Tim Rosaforte detailed Russell Henley’s stellar basketball career in Georgia. For what it’s worth, Jack Nicklaus was a high school hoops standout in Ohio in the 1950s. In fact, the Bear played recreation-league ball until he was almost 40. These days, parents and coaches point their kids to one sport at a young age and have them focus squarely on that. Jack always felt playing other sports sharpened his competitive instincts.

• President Clinton’s gift is his ability to move seamlessly through different environments. Sunday he took the stage in mostly liberal Hollywood at the Golden Globes. The remainder of the week, in La Quinta, he’ll command the mostly conservative world of golf. He told me last year he understood why the majority of golfers are Republicans. Taxes were the obvious reason, and without going into great detail, he thought some consideration should perhaps be given to athletes who make windfall sums in short periods of time.

• I’d love it if just once an athlete said: “I made the move in part because the money was just too good to pass up.”

• Holes from Hawaii I’ll remember: Dustin Johnson boldly pounding driver to set up eagle at 14 after he’d doubled 13 with a crooked tee ball in the final round at Kapalua, and Henley making birdie at 16 in the final round at Sony.

• I like the U.S. Golf Association’s nod to career amateurs in the Walker Cup. And I like this year’s venue, National Golf Links on Long Island.

• Recently took the golfing trip of a lifetime and didn’t hit a single shot. I toured the Latrobe warehouse where Arnold Palmer keeps a lot of his memorabilia. Arnold was my guide. Among my favorite items was a pair of skis that Olympic cutup Eddie the Eagle sent to Arnold, as well as a pool cue from Jackie Gleason. The story airs in March.

• Roger Maltbie tells a great story about Jack. At the 1975 PGA Championship at Firestone, Roger was paired with Jack. Keep in mind it was only the first round. Rog pointed to a leaderboard and said, “Jack, look at that, Ed Dougherty’s at 6 under, wow.” Jack replied, “Five under wins.” Guess what number won? Guess who shot it? You got it, Jack at 5 under. The truly great ones know.

• Johnny Miller recalls giving President Clinton a lesson in the oval office and playing a round of golf with him. Johnny says that despite a flying right elbow, years ago the former President hit it as far as an average Tour pro. But not as straight, not nearly as straight.

• Web.com Tour, Hooters Tour, Gateway Tour, Asian Tour, collegiate golf and that’s a short list. There are simply more places now for players to cut their teeth in 72-hole tournaments, to learn the art and science of putting four rounds together. So, when they arrive on the PGA Tour, while the lights are brighter and the competition deeper, it’s still just you and 72 holes. More guys with more places to play using more advanced equipment are capable of posting winning72-hole scores.

• Of free-wheeling Johnson’s ability to shake off a setback, his agent David Winkle likes to say, “He was dipped in Teflon at birth.”

• Question to you old-school graduates: Does Matt Kuchar have just a little George Archer in him?

• Rory’s move to Nike helps Tiger’s image.

• Colin Montgomerie and Tom Watson would be an all you can eat media feast, but Paul McGinley is the right choice for Europe and it could work to their advantage. In stature, he’s the decided underdog, and Europe’s always found a way to play that card and play it very, very well. Plus he’s bright, organized and tough.

• By only a late field goal, Henley was the best rookie named Russell this past weekend.

• Mickelson has two wins since turning 40 in June of 2010. With 40 wins at age 42, Phil needs a strong season if he hopes to make a real move at his goal of 50 career victories. Stricker’s about to turn 46 and he’s won nine in his 40s, while Vijay is the standard bearer with 22.

• Nike’s had a run of bad luck and bad picks in recent years with Tiger, Lucas Glover, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink and Anthony Kim. Now with all their considerable money muscle and marketing muscle, they’ve cleared the slate with Rory. Say this for the kid: now that he’s with Nike, he’ll never want for courtside seats.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”