Hooks Cuts - The Winding Road of 2007

By Rich LernerDecember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
  • There were two significant births in golf this year'Sam Alexis Woods and The FedExCup. Guess which one Tiger didnt kiss? Was the Cup fully embraced? No. Was it reasonably successful? Yes.
     
  • Tiger not closing on Sunday at both the Masters and U.S. Open was slightly surprising, but the courses were so difficult that not even Tiger could be considered a lock.
     
  • The humble kid from Iowa beat the specimen from another galaxy, cried and then kissed his baby when it was all over. The Masters delivered another nice story after a week where the mood was dour because of the brutal test. Most fans think excitement when they think of the Masters, not excruciating pain.
     
  • That brings us to the U.S. Open at Oakmont, which if you recall was deemed by Phil Mickelson to be hazardous to your health. By the way, Im in the camp thats fine with calling Angel Cabreras nearly 350-yard, fairway splitting missile on the 72nd-hole the shot of the year. His 69 on that golf course was equal to 61 on plenty of other TOUR layouts. And Sunday made for an amusing contrast. Tiger, holing a ton of grinding par putts but not nearly enough birdie tries, set hearts racing with the tight red shirt. He looked like Hercules. Cabrera, nervously smoking Marlboros, looked like a hulking casino bouncer. The beauty of golf is that Jackie Gleason can hold his own on the same ballroom floor as Fred Astaire.
     
  • Sergios Sunday in Scotland was the biggest disappointment of the year but I think hell be better for it. We like our athletes gracious in defeat; someday soon, Sergio will be a charming winner, and well be writing him love letters.
     
  • Among my images of the year was amateur Drew Weaver, from Virginia Tech, during a practice round in a downpour at Carnoustie with his father on his bag. His dad looked to the sky, smiled and said that considering where his son had been and what hed been through, this is liquid sunshine!
     
  • Hard to believe Sergio hasnt won in several years. Hard to believe hes not in the top-5 in the world with his ability. What do Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker have that Sergio doesnt, yet? Touch and mental toughness.
     
  • No one can accuse the sport of being out of touch with real world issues. Ill long remember the conference on global warming that broke out at Southern Hills in August.
     
  • Remember when people suggested that Southern Hills wasnt well-suited to Tigers game with its par 70 and various doglegs? For the second straight year he proved to be the shrewdest golf course manager; last summer, he was rather tidy with the no-driver approach at Royal Liverpool. Tigers the best tactician in sports, and certainly more likeable than Bill Belichick. He plots a strategy and executes it with brutal efficiency.
     
  • He might grade it lower, but Phil Mickelson deserves a B+ in 2007. Granted, he didnt win a major. And at this stage when youve already secured your spot in the Hall of Fame, its more about your ultimate place in the pantheon of legends ' top 30 all-time or with three more majors maybe top 10 all-time? Still, he shook off the Winged Foot hangover at Pebble. He then re-charged a potential rivalry with Tiger by winning THE PLAYERS, borrowing a page from the Vince McMahon pro rasslin handbook. He forged an alliance with his arch rivals manager, in this case Butch Harmon. Later in the year, Phil put the Boston Crab on Tiger at the Deutsche Bank. Yes, the middle stretch with the injured wrist was disappointing and the incendiary comments lobbed at the USGA and Tim Finchem smacked of vindictiveness, but Phil was a presence in 07 and he posted some impressive gains.
     
  • More disturbing than losing her game is the fact that in 2007 Michelle lost public goodwill. The only way to gain it back is to win, but that doesnt seem likely any time soon. Its one thing to slump at 32 when youve won a few times. Its another to slump at 18 in a sport where greatness at 14 doesnt guarantee greatness at 24.
     
  • This was a good year for characters in golf---Boo; Rory; Willie Mack; and Woody, a Tabasco guy in a ketchup world!
     
  • Theres not a lot to love these days about the idea of a 16-year-old turning professional. But Tadd Fujikawas so likeable and has been fighting the long odds since his near fatal birth that its hard to root against him. And his Friday eagle at the Sony was among the years most joyous single moments.
     
  • Laura Diaz told me that Lorena Ochoas a better person than a golfer, and thats saying something because Ochoas really special on course.
     
  • As for Annika, this was a year to heal her body and tend to her relationship with Mike McGee. If Juli Inkster can revive her career into her late 30s and early 40s, it would be foolish to suggest that Annika cant do the same. Still, Annika going winless in 2007 is as shocking as the Dolphins beating the Patriots.
     
  • Suzann Pettersen plays an exciting brand of golf. She hits it hard and plays with passion. Told several years ago she might never play again because of a back injury, she now plays every round like its the last round of her life.
     
  • Ochoa may be the best player in womens golf, but Natalie Gulbis, wall-to-wall on this network, is the most visible.
     
  • You could make the case that six different countries could honor six different golfers as their athlete of the year: KJ Choi of South Korea, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, Tiger Woods of the United States, Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Lorena Ochoa of Mexico. And that speaks well of our sport.
     
  • Others who stood out in 2007: the U.S. Walker Cup team, the U.S. Solheim Cup team, Scott Verplank at the Byron Nelson, Andres Romero at Carnoustie, Cristie Kerr at the U.S. Womens Open, Morgan Pressel at the Kraft Nabisco, Hunter Mahan and Jay Williamson at Hartford, and Mike Weir at the Presidents Cup.
     
  • Finally, many thanks to the players we cover. Theyre judged harshly every day that they go to work'by the number on the scorecard. In a most unforgiving profession, the vast majority deal with the press and the fans in a courteous and friendly manner. They bring credit and dignity to a beautiful sport. Golf remains largely scandal free, primarily because its filled with good and decent people. And thanks to you for your support and passion. This game has a strange and wonderful hold on so many of us. May you continue to be healthy enough to enjoy it in 2008 and best wishes in the coming holiday season.
     
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  • Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.

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    Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

    By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

    A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

    The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

    The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

    Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

    Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

    "This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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    LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

    By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

    The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

    While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

    The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

    The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

    An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

    The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

    The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

    “Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

    While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

    The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

    For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

    Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

    Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

    Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

    Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

    March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

    March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

    April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

    April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

    June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

    June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

    June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

    June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

    July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

    July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

    July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

    Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

    Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

    Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

    Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

    Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

    Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

    Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

    Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

    Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

    Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

    Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

    And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

    Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

    Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

    Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

    Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

    In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

    THE MAJORS

    Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

    Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

    Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

    Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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    U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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    The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

    Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

    Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

    Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

    Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

    Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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    PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

    Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


    TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

    AT&T Pebble Beach

    Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

    Travelers Championship

    Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

    Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


    FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


    PHOTO GALLERIES

    Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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    Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years