The Long and Short of It
I feel like a 15 handicap, said Frazar as he stood on the practice tee watching Hammerin Hank Keuhne blow a tee shot over the tall strand of trees beyond the range.
Kuehnes making his first appearance on the PGA Tour in nearly two years, and despite the shoulder injury that has slowed his progress, the 26-year-old newlyweds primed to take advantage of the sponsors exemption.
Im just as long as ever but I think Im hitting it straighter than ever, too, Kuehne told me.
The 1998 U.S. Amateur champ leads the Canadian Tour in earnings, and if he maintains a spot in the top three hell be exempted into the Bell Canadian Open and the Air Canada Championship. Hell also use a sponsors exemption at The International.
'Im looking forward to seeing where Im at, he said. Sober for seven years now, Kuehne, a recovering alcoholic, appears to have found a comfort zone. Hes loaded with talent, and if he can harness his tremendous power, he may soon be a star attraction on the PGA Tour.
Casey Martin, meanwhile, also received an invitation to play this week. Its been a tough year, he revealed. A January procedure on his leg went awry, and Casey spent a frightening week in a Eugene, Ore., hospital dealing with a dangerous infection.
Hes practiced hard in the last month in spite of the constant discomfort in his right leg. And he admitted to me that if things do not work out this year in terms of competitive golf, then hell have a difficult decision to make regarding his future. In other words, this may be his final year. Casey turns 30 on Sunday.
It was nearly a year ago that the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. And yes its a Craig Perks longshot, but how nice would it be if Casey found some magic and celebrated his 30th with a Sunday victory?
Frank Lickliter currently owns the Kemper title, yet has hardly rested on those laurels. In fact, Lickliter defends as a different golfer.
Ive made significant changes, he said. Lickliter felt that his game lacked diversity and that if he wanted to move to the elite level, hed have to change. The result is that hes able to hit the ball higher when he needs to as well as shape the ball both ways.
It feels good, he said, nodding confidently when I asked if he likes his chances this week.
Lickliter was the 12th professional to have captured their first tour victory at the Kemper Insurance Open. Thats a group that includes Greg Norman, who began a thrilling run through the mid-1980s with a win at the Kemper in 1984.
I remember we played at Congressional, said Norman, looking fit and relaxed. It was really hot, too. But its a nice memory.
Normans excited about his new project in Ireland, a course called Dunebeg. I dont think Ill ever get another piece of property as good as this, he gushed.
As for the state of his game, Norman didnt rule out a Nick Price-like return to the winners circle.
The field here also includes Fred Couples, Justin Leonard, Jose Maria Olazabal, Tom Lehman, Chris DiMarco and Charles Howell III.
Howell played well here a year ago and is a decent choice to stretch the streak of first-time winners at the Kemper to four. So, too, is Frazar, who contended at the Memorial a week ago. Back on the practice tee, I asked the likable Texan if Kuehne was longer than Tiger.
He paused and said, You know Im not sure because I dont think Ive ever seen Tiger really let it all go.
Looking over at Kuehne, Frazar wondered, You longer than Tiger?
Kuehne smiled, then remarked, Last time we played I was.
Kuehene then settled in and softly hit a little sand wedge, aware it seems that his golfing fate ultimately will be determined more by that club than the one that made Harrison Frazar feel like a 15 handicap.
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.