Hooks and Cuts Humor and Honesty

By Rich LernerJune 7, 2010, 8:41 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio – I interviewed exiled former CBS announcer Ben Wright for an upcoming story on 'Golf in America.' He’s like the Dos Equis beer “Most Interesting Man in the World.” Wright was a Russian language interpreter for British Intelligence during the Cold War and hung out with Hemmingway at Paris bars. Now 77, he’s married for a fifth time, living in Flat Rock, N.C.

  • One highly ranked player on Tiger Woods: “He’d talk to you for the first few days of a tournament like you were his friend, but Sunday in contention he’d walk right by you without saying hello. It was embarrassing really.”
  • Leftover from Colonial: In 1953, Ben Hogan won the Colonial National Invitational and his older brother, Royal, won the Colonial Club Championship.
  • If I could take you with me to work, I’d let you put on the headsets during commercial breaks to listen to David Feherty. There’s funny – and then there’s Feherty funny.
  • Sometimes, it looks to me like Phil Mickelson plays to amuse himself, as if he’s bored hitting conventional shots.
  • We’re coming up on the 50-year anniversary of perhaps the greatest U.S. Open ever, 1960 at Cherry Hills. Jack Nicklaus was the 20-year-old, reigning U.S. Amateur champion, on his way to Cherry Hills when his father, Charlie, picked up a newspaper and saw a blurb that caught his eye. “Look at this son,” Charlie said. “They have you at 35-1 to win. You want $20 on that?” Explains Jack today: “In my entire life I’ve never bet on a golf match. But I told my dad, ‘Sure, I’ll take that’.” When his dad asked if he wanted a bet on finishing second, Jack snapped, “No, we’re here to win.” He led by one early on the final nine, but balky putting cost him, and Palmer won with 65.   
  • Five months into the season and we still remember Brian Davis at Hilton Head, Rickie Fowler in Scottsdale and Jordan Spieth in Dallas. Five months in and we’ll never forget Phil Mickelson at Augusta and Rory McIlroy at Wachovia.
  • Sergio Garcia needs to get moving or we may not see him in Wales at the Ryder Cup in October.
  • Adam Scott cautions those who would write off Sergio and all those super talented players who might be falling short of expectations. “Golf is a different sport in that history shows us that you don’t hit your peak until your mid-30s,” he said.
  • Plenty of people dismissed Justin Rose as a guy who was good for the first 36 holes, but couldn’t close. Critics criticize. Players keep playing. Justin Rose is a player.
  • Rickie Fowler might want to familiarize himself with Wales.  
  • Tom Kite on the reliance by today’s players on swing gurus and video breakdowns: “I see a lot of pretty swings but not a lot of guys who know how to get the ball in the hole.”
  • I’m headed to St. Andrews Monday to file stories for next month’s British Open. I’ll be interviewing Old Tom Morris. David Joy’s been performing as Old Tom for 20 years and will extend me the privilege. You might remember him from the Titleist commercials with John Cleese of Monty Python fame.
  • The designated tournament idea designed to help struggling, smaller market events is a good one. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play every year in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Portland and Toronto. Why shouldn’t Tiger and Phil, if not every year, at least every once in a while?
  • I had the good fortune to participate in the first ever Patriot Cup on Memorial Day in Tulsa, Okla., to raise money for families of fallen soldiers. In my group was a young staff sergeant who was fairly new to golf. Bunkered on the seventh hole, he listened to both the caddie and club pro in our foursome pepper him with instruction. “Open the club at an 82-degree angle, left foot out at 19 degrees, tilt the head, weaken the grip, flex the knees, soften the hands, hit an inch-and-a-half behind the ball and accelerate through.”  Before he hit, he looked up and cracked, “Is this really going to work?’
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x