#AskLav: It's a parity party; cry if you want to

By Ryan LavnerApril 17, 2014, 12:09 pm

We caught a glimpse of golf’s future last week at the Masters.

Assuming, of course, that you watched. 

Final-round ratings were the second-lowest (2004) in two decades, and down 24 percent from 2013. It was a TV exec’s worst nightmare: no Tiger (injury), no Phil (missed cut) and no back-nine drama (Bubba made par on the final five holes to win by three).

And viewers didn’t just ignore Sunday’s telecast, either: Ratings were down 40 and 30 percent, respectively, on Friday and Saturday.

Worse, we can reasonably assume that a few more big tournaments will also take a hit, with Woods likely on the sidelines until at least July, perhaps longer.

Golf, much like tennis, skiing, swimming or any other individual pursuit, thrives when it has two things: a dominant star and a rivalry. Right now, well, it has neither.

Since Woods last won a major, at the 2008 U.S. Open, 19 different players have won a Grand Slam event. Only four players (Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Mickelson, Watson) have won multiple majors.

The lack of repeat winners underscores the fact that it’s harder than ever to win on the PGA Tour. There are younger, stronger, more fearless players who are not battered and bruised from Woods’ decade-long oppression. Dimpleheads don’t mind parity in the short term, with new stories and players emerging each week, but a dominant star can thrust the sport from niche sport to the mainstream, if only four times a year.

OK, so with no world-beater at the top, at least the game could flourish with competitive friction. But today’s great rivalry is … what, exactly?

Tiger vs. Phil? Incredibly, these aging warriors have never even had a major Sunday showdown. 

Ditto for Tiger and Rory, despite their equipment company’s best attempts to sell the generational tussle.

Rory vs. Jordan Spieth? Patrick Reed vs. The World? 

Granted, the sport’s current dynamic could change in a matter of weeks or months. For now, the 2014 Masters provided a glimpse into golf’s uncertain future.   

Your mailbag questions: 



Not buying them at all, to be honest. You can’t protect a course from a “freak show” – his caddie’s words, not mine! – who can not only drive the ball absurd distances and frighteningly straight, but also possesses a deft touch around the greens. When he’s on, it’s almost unfair. Even so, the winning score at the Masters was 8-under 280, when the weather conditions were perfect (80 degrees, sun, little wind). That should tell you a firm-and-fast ANGC still has some bite – something even Bubba Ball must respect.

Instagram#AskLav: After Snedeker’s 5-putt and Kuchar’s 4-putt on No. 4, does Augusta say, ‘Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t put the pin there next year?’ Kuchar three-putts once every three rounds. You could make an argument that No. 4 prevented him from truly making a run at a green jacket.” – Luke Wilkening, via Instagram

Their putting woes on No. 4 were on different days (Saturday and Sunday, respectively), but I understand your point. At 240 yards and with a wildly undulating green, the fourth was the second most-difficult hole last week. It played nearly four-tenths of a stroke over par, and the hole yielded just 12 birdies all week. There’s nothing wrong with a brute of a par 3, but no one at the club wants to see the world’s best players – heck, the world’s best putters – embarrassed on the biggest stage. If the greens are that lightning-fast again next year, perhaps those on-the-edge hole locations will be revisited. 



World-ranking projections show that Adam Scott could overtake Tiger with a solid performance at next month’s Players Championship. Given the fact that the world No. 2 hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since September, that prospect seems rather likely. It’s a good bet Scott will be No. 1 heading into Pinehurst. 

Instagram#AskLav: If you are Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and three picks are today, who makes the U.S. team? – J.A. Solomonson, via Instagram

If the race ended today – thankfully, it does not – the nine automatic qualifiers would be: Bubba, J-Walk, DJ, Spieth, P-Reed, Kooch, Phil, Duf and Harry. Yes, the complexion of the U.S. Ryder Cup team figures to look a bit different this year. My wild-card picks, then, would be: Zach Johnson, the squad’s resident bulldog; Webb Simpson, a lights-out putter and team-first guy; and Keegan Bradley, because who else will keep Phil engaged? The Americans’ B Team wouldn’t be too bad, either: Rickie, Woodland, Hunter, Sneds, Stricker and, oh yeah, Tiger. 



As much as I’d like to do a tale-of-the-tape breakdown here, suffice to say that both chaps bring a lot of cuteness to the table. If forced to choose, though, I’ll take the kid with the two-time major-champion father. When I was a boy, I went everywhere with my tattered Barney blanket. If the mansion at Isleworth ever gets drafty, Caleb can simply wrap himself up in the green jacket. He wins. 

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”