Beem comes out of nowhere to break 70

By Ryan LavnerJuly 28, 2016, 11:52 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – These days, Rich Beem is more at home in a media tent than a locker room. That’s why earlier this week, when he was chatting with Julius Mason, the PGA of America’s senior director of communications, he joked about what would happen if he somehow played well enough to warrant a post-round interview.

“Can I just interview myself and be done with it?” Beem asked.

They both got a good chuckle out of that, of course. The 2002 PGA champion has been a full-time commentator for Sky Sports since the beginning of 2015. He hasn’t shot in the 60s on the PGA Tour in more than four years. He hasn’t even played in a tournament in 50 weeks, since a forgettable 76-78 at Whistling Straits a year ago.

And yet late Thursday afternoon, there was Beem, standing in front of a white TV cart, to the left of Sky Sports reporter Sarah Stirk, answering questions about his 1-under 69 at this PGA Championship.

Beem had already agreed to dissect his round on camera no matter what he shot in the opening round.

“So I’m happy to get in there with a good number,” he said, “instead of having to describe all the bad stuff that could have happened out there.”

Yes, for one glorious day, at least, he beat Jordan Spieth (70).

He beat Phil Mickelson (71).

He beat Sergio Garcia (72) and Rory McIlroy (74) and Dustin Johnson (77).

“They’re probably scratching their heads as much as I am,” he said.

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Even after all these years, Beem, 45, remains a crowd favorite. He’s one of the most improbable major winners in the sport’s long history, after outlasting Tiger Woods at Hazeltine in what was only his fourth career major appearance. He never won again, anywhere.

Beem played at least 20 events in all but one season from 1999-2011, each year scratching and clawing to finish inside the top 125 in earnings, but his starts became less frequent over the past few seasons.

When it became clear that he no longer had the ability to play the Tour for a living, Beem took the advice of several golf writers who suggested he find a spot in the commentary booth. He’s knowledgeable. He’s entertaining. And he’s brutally honest. His second career, it turns out, has been a rousing success.

As for his first love? His clubs practically collect dust nowadays. 

Beem barely played the first few months of this year because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. He met with his wife’s uncle, one of the country’s leading orthopedic surgeons, and was put on a strength-training regimen. Recently, he had an injection that finally allowed him to play pain-free.

With the PGA circled on his calendar, as it is every year, Beem began hitting balls only a month ago, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which he worked for Sky Sports. Predictably, his short game was rusty, but he’d seen encouraging signs during a few rounds overseas, especially after a tip to widen his swing.

“For some odd reason,” he said, “it has started to click. … Maybe that’s why I played good. I forgot all the bad crap I was doing.”

But Beem was already dreading his return here to brawny Baltusrol, which he described as a “big-boy golf course where you’ve gotta wear your big-boy pants to play.” Though he shot 79-78 in 2005, in practice rounds last week he found the venue more forgiving, particularly off the tee.

A bizarre putter switch paid off, too.

After using a fancy Titleist Scotty Cameron model for years, Beem returned to his old Bulls Eye putter, with its sweet spot “the size of a gnat’s ass.” He played the ball off the toe, made an aggressive stroke and saw putts roll in with shocking consistency.

“If I actually play well enough this week,” he said, “I think I’m going to send Scotty Cameron back a good 15 to 20 years. Instead of everything coming off hotter, faster and prettier, he’s going to have to figure out how to come off deader and slower.”

Oh, but his scores were still ugly. Earlier this week, he played a windswept round at Liberty National, but his game was so poor that he started pounding Coors Lights on the 11th hole. “I just couldn’t handle it anymore,” he said.

But Thursday at Baltusrol, he felt a strange sense of calm as he began on the easier back nine. He birdied his first two holes, added another on 18 and turned in 34.

Sure, he made some mistakes, like the bogeys on the second and fifth holes, but he managed his game well and tacked on another birdie on the eighth to break 70.

“He played nicely, like he’s been playing all year long,” said Steve Stricker, who shot 69 in the same group. “I was impressed with the way he played.

“I know what it’s like when you don’t play for a while and you try to compete and things aren’t sharp. But he was pretty sharp. He managed his game nicely for a guy who hasn’t played at all.”

But he’s not just a guy who hasn’t played at all.

He’s a guy who hasn’t played well. In years.

“Oh God, I cannot remember the last time I shot under par in a tournament round,” Beem said. “I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.”

The answer: Not since the third round of the 2013 Dunhill Links. 

Three years ago.

“I handled myself pretty good today,” he said, “but I have three more ro—.”

Here he stopped himself.

Hopefully,” he continued, “I have three more rounds to go. Look at me – I’m already getting ahead of myself. Jesus.”

Yes, Friday is another day. He isn’t expecting a repeat, or maybe even anything remotely close. This was his first sub-70 score in a major in nine years.

“If nothing else,” he said, “I can say that I shot 69 at Baltusrol on Thursday, and if you guys ask me about tomorrow, well, I shot 69 yesterday!”

As Beem was wrapping up his surreal post-round interviews, his mind was already drifting to the rest of his evening: A quick shower, then a return to the course for his real job, the commentary work, the gig that still pays the bills.

“Good luck the rest of the way,” an interviewer said, extending his hand. 

“Thank you,” Beem replied. “I’ll definitely need it.”

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.