2014 Newsmaker No. 4: Social Media

By Ryan LavnerDecember 17, 2014, 12:45 pm

Who knew 140 characters held such immense power?

The power to destroy careers.

The power to drive conversations.

The power to build brands.

The power to spread goodwill.

From Ted Bishop’s ill-fated “lil girl” tweet to Tiger Woods’ journalistic instincts to Amanda Dufner’s ubiquitous bikini shots to the popular Ice Bucket Challenge, social media was a game-changer in 2014. And we saw it all – the good, the bad and, yes, the very, very ugly.

You’ve Got My Follow:

• No initiative gained more traction this year than the Ice Bucket Challenge. Everyone from Tim Finchem to Rory McIlroy to your next-door neighbor was doused with icy water in the name of charity. The stunt lasted for several months and raised more than $100 million for ALS research.

• Soon-to-be 40-year-old Karrie Webb may be considered ancient on a tour overrun by youngsters, but after winning the Founders Cup in March, she crouched beside the trophy, extended her left arm and continued a new tradition on the LPGA – the winner’s selfie. Since Webb got into the action, every winner on the women’s circuit has taken a selfie with the trophy. Just keeping up with the cool kids.  

• When it came to brand-building, no one did it better in 2014 than Dufner. Few have ever heard the sound of her voice, but fans certainly know how Mrs. Dufner spends her many vacations. In the days, weeks and months after her hubby’s win at the 2013 PGA, her Instagram following went from a few thousand to its current status at 60,000-plus.



This year alone she posted a (since-deleted, but timelessly saved on the Internet) topless picture from Thailand, an artsy shot of her backside at the pool, and – what else? – an action photo of her swinging in a skimpy swimsuit. When a bikini-clad Dufner celebrated the Fourth of July by turning away from the camera and stretching the American flag above her head, the most popular comment was “God Bless America!” She is the undisputed leader in the WAGs clubhouse.

• Score one for the jocks: More athletes than ever before are handling their media affairs themselves. For decades, reporters were the only connection between athletes and their fans. Now, for better or worse, social media has made it possible for stars and spectators to connect and interact like never before, all without that pesky media middleman. Indeed, it’s an ever-changing world for news-gatherers. Though there is an insatiable desire for “insider” information about fans’ favorite teams and athletes, players can now control the message and break the news themselves.

That’s what Woods did this year when he announced that he was undergoing back surgery. Sure, there was a full story posted on his website, but fans and media were only alerted to the news because of a tweet on his feed. And when Woods decided to fire back at Golf Digest because of a mean-spirited parody, he didn’t grant an exclusive interview to a trusted media outlet – he penned a first-person essay on Derek Jeter’s new athlete-friendly website. It’s become commonplace for Tour pros to announce equipment or apparel deals online, as Ian Poulter (Cobra to Titleist) and Keegan Bradley (Tommy Hilfiger to Travis Mathews) have shown in recent months. The point: Why allow the media to potentially distort the message if the athletes can just control it themselves?

2014 Newsmakers: 5. Bishop6. Wie7. Reed8. R&A9. Bubba | 10. DJ

Please, Step Away from the Laptop:

• Social media starlet Paulina Gretzky is no stranger to creating a stir online, and that’s exactly what she did when she posted a photo of fiancé Dustin Johnson crouching to read a putt, barefoot, while holding a cigarette and a beer. Problem was, that photo hit the Interweb the same day that DJ withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Three days later, he announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with “personal challenges,” which presumably had little to do with Paulina’s putting stroke.  

• Poulter didn’t do anything to dispel his reputation as a materialistic brat when he kvetched about his nanny’s business-class seat being downgraded. Not surprisingly, that comment didn’t fly with single moms who can’t afford an extra helper, nor can they purchase any of the six sports cars that the Englishman flaunts on his Twitter page. His mentions weren’t overly kind, either, when he admitted to paying to have his Christmas tree decorated. Little wonder he was blasted for being out of touch not just with fans but also reality.

MY GOD What Were You Thinking?!:

• With too much free time now that he’s playing the senior circuit, Steve Elkington hasn’t backed off his Twitter game despite an increasingly long list of foot-in-mouth moments. Last year, the former PGA champion came under fire for commenting on the body of a female golf reporter, making a joke about a deadly helicopter crash and using a racial slur about Pakistanis.

In February, Elkington didn’t merely cross the line, he gleefully hopped over it when he teased Michael Sam, who was attempting to become the first openly gay player in the NFL:

Steve Elkington tweet

The PGA Tour doesn’t comment on player disciplinary matters, but Elk went dark on social media for several weeks. He’s been more subdued of late, perhaps in an attempt to salvage what is left of his major-champion reputation, but he remains one of golf’s most provocative commentators.  

• The power of the “publish” button never was more evident than with Bishop’s “lil girl” tweet. The fallout was shocking in its swiftness.

On Oct. 23, Bishop was hanging with Nick Faldo at a junior clinic at The Greenbrier. The head of the PGA apparently took exception to remarks made by Poulter in a newly released autobiography, in which he wrote that players had “lost a lot of respect” for Faldo in the wake of his criticism of Sergio Garcia.

That night, Bishop, who represents 27,000 men and women, directed this tweet at Poulter:

Tedd Bishop lil girl tweet

The tweet blew up – after all, Poulter has nearly 1.8 million followers – and Bishop couldn’t even claim that he was hacked or that his message was misconstrued. Instead, he continued to bash the Ryder Cupper in a post on Facebook, writing, in part, that Poulter “sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess.”

Fans and scribes called for Bishop to be fired for the demeaning comments. A PGA spokesman issued a statement and described the posts as “inappropriate.” Bishop apologized to The Associated Press, saying that he “could have selected some different ways to express my thoughts.”

None of it helped. Within three days, the board of directors voted to remove him from office, the first PGA president to be impeached. He had one month left on his two-year term.

Bishop remains on Twitter (with 4,332 followers), but over the past two weeks he has used the platform mostly to express his views on the NFL, the college football playoff and, sadly, “Peter Pan Live.”

“It’s painful from the standpoint of demonstrating how stupid I was to have done what I did,” Bishop said on Golf Channel. “Probably more painful than that is the remorse I feel because I think it potentially wipes out a lot of the really good work I’ve done over my career.”

Behold the power of 140 characters. 

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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.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.