Hooks and Cuts on Golfs Winding Trail

By Rich LernerFebruary 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
  • Golf likes a certain regal air about its winners. Tiger has it. Nicklaus had it. Davis and Phil and Ernie also have the good looks, pure pedigree and unhurried manner that puts them comfortably in the game's royal family. Jonathan Kaye looks like the kid who throws tomatoes at their windows and then takes off down the street.

  • Chris DiMarco reeled of six birdies in a row to start the back nine Sunday, stumbled at 16 with a misclub, and though he came up short he did unfurl one more perfectly played shot after the round when talking about the small percentage of unruly Phoenix fans: 'I'd like to get myself a six pack, go to their offices and heckle them while they make sales calls.'

  • Commissioner Tim Finchem pulled a small group of reporters away from the Super Bowl pre-game and some tasty chicken cacciatore to say among other things that he's comfortable with the atmosphere at the FBR Open, adding, 'It says to a national TV audience that golf is exciting, that it attracts a lot of different people, that it's a big sport.'

  • In a solid cameo on Golf Central on Saturday, Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle compared the FBR Open to a 'Girls Gone Wild' video.

  • Hal Sutton is settling in at ABC and could develop into a good listen. The job was initially offered to Paul Azinger, but he turned it down because, after a terrible year in which he finished 169 on the money list, he's excited to play again.

  • Sutton, by the way, likes Jonathon Kaye. Kaye demonstrated the kind of smarts and stones that could serve the Ryder Cup captain very well when the heat is turned up at Oakland Hills in September. He's a street fighter who grew up on the Phoenix area munis where he learned, in his words, to hustle. Four times on Sunday he played a game of 'can-you-top-this' with Chris DiMarco, and don't forget that when he won his first PGA Tour title last year at Westchester he raked a wood to nine feet on the first playoff hole and made eagle to win.

  • The AT&T is struggling to attract players, so much so that the tour specifically asked a number of competitors to consider entering. Six and a half hour rounds, bumpy greens and rough weather are keeping guys away.

  • Speaking of jaw-dropping, heart-melting California views, San Francisco is on the verge of becoming a tour stop. The PGA Tour partnered with the City by the Bay to re-furbish the legendary public track, Harding Park. It's in downtown S.F. and has a First Tee component. A deal is close, but not done yet.

  • Amy Mickelson told me her man is as focused as he's been in a long time and as excited to play the game as he's been in a long time.

  • Hard to believe Ricky Barnes was 5-foot-9 and 225 pounds as a high school freshman. He discovered weights, and today he's cut like a Greek statue. The girls go berserk everywhere he goes. And he's no aimless rookie. He's got handlers who take care of media requests, as well as lucrative deals with Callaway and Oakley to take away the financial pressure. Barnes already has invitations to play in Tucson where he starred at Arizona, The Ford Championship, New Orleans and The FedEx.

  • I watch a lot of golf, and at the risk of sounding like a beginner, I'm still blown away by how good these guys are. I followed Mickelson, Calc and Zinger on Friday and it's a joke what they can do with a golf ball. Blade, chunk, quack, hood--all the terms of endearment which describe our games - I'm assuming you've hit a few like me - are just not in their bag. But the following are, in waves: stiff, stone, check, bust, pure, nut, center-cut, spin and tight. This is a hard, hard game. And they can make it look real, real easy.

  • Was that the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Janet Jackson, or as one Arizona wiseguy said a 'Got Milk' commercial? How does the Carolina kicker hook that ball out of bounds in that situation? How do they actually get those pictures back from Mars? And is it possible to go 24 hours without hearing someone mention the word 'carbs'? Get back to me if you have the answers. In the meantime, greetings from Scottsdale.
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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “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, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. 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.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.