#AskLav: Giving awards before new season begins

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 26, 2013, 12:21 pm

Golf doesn’t lend itself to instant analysis, yet it appears we have little choice when reviewing the 2013 PGA Tour season.

The new campaign begins in 14 days. So, yes, it’s best to post this now, before it’s a season too late.

Here, then, is one man’s roll call of award winners:

Player of the Year: Tiger Woods

Honorable mention (in order throughout): Phil Mickelson; Adam Scott; Henrik Stenson

If this were a blind rsum award, it wouldn’t even be close: five wins (including two WGCs and The Players), money leader, Vardon Trophy winner, No. 2 in FedEx Cup. Here comes POY title No. 11.

Rookie of the Year: Jordan Spieth

Honorable mention: Russell Henley; Derek Ernst

Announcing the other nominees was just procedural. This is a no-brainer choice, with Spieth making the biggest splash by a rookie since Tiger in ’96.

Courage Award: Erik Compton

This new award likely will (and should) go to Compton. After all, he kept his card just five years removed from his second heart transplant. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Henrik Stenson

Honorable mention: Graham DeLaet

Oh, if only this award hadn’t been retired. Two years ago, the newly minted FedEx Cup winner had slumped to No. 230 in the world. An epic comeback, no?

Shot of the Year: Adam Scott, Masters

Honorable mention: Jordan Spieth holes out bunker shot at Deere; Jim Furyk wedge to set up 59; Patrick Reed from the trees at Wyndham

Both Scott putts were equally memorable: the ground-shaking birdie he made on the 72nd hole and the green jacket-clincher on the 10th hole. Maybe the nod goes to the playoff birdie, for that prevented the Masters from heading to a deflating Monday finish.

Tournament of the Year: Masters

Honorable mention: British Open; The Players; The Barclays

From women in green jackets to the slow-play penalty to Tiger’s drop to the Scott-Cabrera slugfest, this year’s Masters, like so many before it, did not disappoint. Scott’s popular victory, and brawny finish, helped erase what was largely a sleepy Sunday.

Breakout Player: Jordan Spieth

Honorable mention: Henrik Stenson; Billy Horschel; Roberto Castro

January: No status on any major tour, No. 810 in the world. Now: PGA Tour winner, Presidents Cup selection, No. 21 in the world. Breakout, indeed.

Knucklehead of the Year: Sergio Garcia

Honorable mention: Vijay Singh; ‘Baba booey!’ fans

In one month, he provoked Tiger on national TV, spectacularly kicked away a tournament, made a racially insensitive remark involving fried chicken and was the subject of jokes and criticism. One of the lasting images of 2013 – for this scribe at least – will be Garcia, walking down the fairway at Merion, while a fan screamed, “I ate the bones!”

Biggest Disappointment: Rory McIlroy

Honorable mention: Bubba Watson; Lee Westwood; Bud Cauley

Poor form, equipment and swing struggles, poor on-course comportment – add it all up, and it was a disastrous season for the former world No. 1. The only player in the top 35 in the world to gain fewer OWGR points than McIlroy (90.854) this year was Louis Oosthuizen (70.001), who spent months on the DL. Apart from a runner-up against a weak field in San Antonio, Rory was more or less a non-factor in 2013.

Biggest Non-Competition Story of the Year: Anchoring

Honorable mention: Deer antler spray; 2016 Olympics

Despite more pressing concerns – you know, like, slow play and out-of-control distance – the sport’s governing bodies decided instead to tackle the anchoring ban. A cursory glance at the putting stats suggests it was a war not worth waging. And it wasn’t the last move that the USGA bungled in 2013.

Player Most Likely to Win 2014 Major: Henrik Stenson

Honorable mention: Tiger Woods; Brandt Snedeker; Phil Mickelson

The Tour’s preeminent ball-striker could be the favorite at any of the four major venues, but he’d seem to set up particularly well for Royal Liverpool, host of the ’14 Open, and Augusta National, where, despite his poor record there (one round in the 60s in 26 attempts), he can rope that power 3-wood around the doglegs.

Early Favorite for 2014 Breakout Star: Keegan Bradley

Honorable mention: Jason Day; Harris English; Morgan Hoffmann

Picked Keegan to be the ’13 POY and, yeah, well, it just didn’t pan out. This massive talent had seven top 10s, including two runners-up, but didn’t win. So now we’re doubling down.

Your mailbag questions for this week:

Publicly, theyre all in favor of Tiger. No one is trying to become a headline here. But because the voting process is essentially anonymous among Tour members, their actual ballots may tell a different story, whether they truly believe there was a more deserving player in 2013, they want to see Phil rewarded for a career achievement, or perhaps theyre turned off by Tigers rules snafus. The Tour doesnt disclose vote totals, but the guess here is that it wont be all that close.

Expect a blowout. Be thankful for anything closer. On paper, at least, this matchup is woefully one-sided. The U.S. teams average world ranking is 13.58; the Internationals is 33.25. The Americans have eight players inside the top 15; the Internationals have only one, No. 2 Adam Scott. The Americans have won 16 titles on the PGA/European tours this season; the International team has combined to win only five times. The U.S. team has won the Presidents Cup by at least a four-point margin each of the past three matches, and it would surprise little if it was even more lopsided than that. Could become known as The Mauling at Muirfield Village.

Out of shape, certainly. And, um, is that a tobacco stain on your base?

Well, Ill be hard-pressed to ever top the trip the GolfChannel.com boys had pre-British Open. The weather was perfect, and we walked 108 holes in four days (126 in six). The best track? Its likely a three-way tie between Turnberry ' where, it should be noted, I went birdie-birdie-par to finish ' Western Gailes and North Berwick. Stunning, all of them.

Loyal readers of this mailbag will recall a few lengthy visits to the dentists office in recent months. Thus, the Stense knows Coke is off-limits for this guy.

Hey, Ive been on this bandwagon since Spieth was waxing kids in AJGA events, but lets not go overboard. Yes, he was the biggest climber in 2013, but he wasnt the best player. If hed closed out wins in Puerto Rico, Charlotte and Atlanta, OK, maybe. It was a great season, arguably the best ever for a rookie. And, sure, I guess it could be argued that he deserves some POY consideration. That argument just wouldnt have much merit.

Oooh, tough call. Id take the $10 million, and shirtless existence, but only after hiring a personal sun-blocker and sweat-blotter.

Yes, grudgingly, and I figure by 2017 I could probably become the mayor of Des Moines. First bill that would be passed, before the Solheim Cup rolled into town: making face painting a felony.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.