Under pressure: Regular events vs. majors

By Ryan Reiterman April 8, 2015, 1:15 pm

On Sunday, one player will not only win a golf tournament, but he will also make history by winning one of the four major championships.

But the pressure is not only immense four weeks out of the year. Every week on the PGA Tour, a missed putt here, a bad drive there can be the difference between winning, making the cut or being sent down to the mini tours.

So I talked to major champions past and present, and a few players who have been oh-so-close to winning one of the four biggest prizes in the game, to hear their thoughts on the pressure of trying to win a regular Tour event vs. a major championship.


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Jack Nicklaus, 18-time major champion: "It’s the same, in my opinion. In other words, to me the tournament has nothing to do with it. Historically, I put more emphasis on trying to win a major, and I built my schedule around the majors. But because of my preparation, a major was, in some ways, probably easier to win because I was better prepared to win it. But I put the same effort, thought and focus no matter what tournament it was. I just played golf."


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Retief Goosen, 2001 and '04 U.S. Open champion: “They both are tough. The pressure is tough. In the majors it’s just more embarrassing if you fail. And it’s so much easier to fail because of the toughness of the courses. But otherwise it’s just that little bit of extra pressure because of what it is, and it’s a major. And it depends how your game is. For instance the first U.S. Open I was very nervous coming down the stretch, and in the second one I was a little bit more comfortable because I had more experience.”


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Gary Player, nine-time major champion: "The difference is night and day. Every tournament is a challenge, but the major championships are in a class of their own. The prestige of a major win is what so many golfers strive towards. When you’ve won a major, you know you’ve made it as a golfer. As a boy in Johannesburg, winning a major seemed like the ultimate test in golf. All of my hard work would finally pay off, and I could be counted as one of golf’s top players. So I dreamed that I would one day win these tournaments, and I have been blessed to attain that dream nine times and achieve the career Grand Slam."


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Justin Leonard, 1997 Open champion: “It’s different just because the opportunity doesn’t happen that often. When you do, the tendency is to try almost too hard to make it happen. So if you’re sitting there contending, you’re obviously playing well and in your element. But especially the first time or two it’s a little daunting because you just don’t really know how often it’s going to happen.”


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Curtis Strange, 1988 and '89 U.S. Open champion: "The pressure was ten-fold at times. You knew how big of an event it was. You knew subconsciously the history of the event. You knew this was one of the four. You knew … everything. You didn’t think about it, but you knew subconsciously. For instance you take the Masters, there’s pressure there. You know the history of the event, the history of the club. You’re going to the same golf course every year. The greats of the game, the ghosts in the pine trees of Hogan, Nelson, Snead, Nicklaus, Sarazen, all of them. That to me was pressure because it was the same golf course every year. You try not to think about any of that stuff, and you really don’t, but you can’t help it. You know. You’re a fan of the game, you know the history of the game. You just kind of had to block it out. But it was hard.”


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Jason Day, three-time PGA Tour winner: “They’re similar pressure, but I would say that the majors are intensified by … I couldn’t put a number on it. It’s intensified to the point where you can seize up. Like when I was leading Augusta on 16 (in 2013), and I had three holes left, and I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe. It’s pretty amazing. Rather than if I’m at a normal tournament, obviously there’s a lot of pressure and you want to win, and you’re thinking about it, but it’s intensified that much more.”


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Nancy Lopez, three-time major champion: "There was always so much hype that went with the majors that it could get into your head. You thought that you had to be better than you normally had to be, because the rough was higher, and you had to hit it straighter, and the courses were longer. You would prepare practicing from the back tees.

"But I didn’t mind pressure. I felt it, but I liked it. I like that sensation, of almost being able to feel every nerve in your body. I seemed to be able to pull off shots when I felt pressure, not all the time, but I loved doing it, hitting that great shot knowing it was a pressure shot.

"When I was over putts that mattered at the end of tournaments, I’d tell myself, 'It’s now or never.’ I didn’t want to go extra holes, and I was able to make a lot of those putts at the end of tournaments."


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Jordan Spieth, two-time PGA Tour winner: “I like to think not much, but when you’re at a major it’s different. It’s a different feeling. You know you’re there, you know it’s the ultimate goal instead of the goal between the ultimate goal … There’s just a little bit of extra ambience around the air and just kind of makes it feel a little more special, and maybe that makes it a little bit harder to win.”


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Keegan Bradley, 2011 PGA champion: “You realize the significance … it’s a lifetime. As opposed to winning a tournament, it’s amazing, it’s great, but majors last for a lifetime. So it’s significantly different.”


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Webb Simpson, 2012 U.S. Open champion: “Yeah, it’s a little more in a major, but at the end of the day fundamentally you’re still trying to win a golf tournament. So the pressure is there, but you still want to perform. Just a little bit more, nothing crazy.”


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Hunter Mahan, six-time PGA Tour winner: "All the majors have so much outside pressure. Everything’s amped up, you can see it and feel it. Everything about it is different. You can feel that as soon as you get there, so it’s just a lot … a lot of outside influences."


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Davis Love III, 1997 PGA champion: "Ten times. I think a regular tournament you get nervous the last nine [holes]. In a major you get nervous before you start.”


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Zach Johnson, 2007 Masters champion: “Well, technically there shouldn’t be any difference, but there is because of the magnitude, the history, just what it requires mentally down the stretch and the experience that it demands. Winning a Tour event is not easy. It’s hard to win. The other difficult thing is it’s not like half of our events are majors, there’s only four. So that adds to it, too.”


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Trevor Immelman, 2008 Masters champion: “Well, the actual answer is no because golf is golf and winning a tournament is winning a tournament. The only difference is with the major championship that’s how people are remembered in the game is winning championships – Super Bowls or Stanley Cups or Oscars or in our case major championships. From that stand point you can separate yourself if you win one.”


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Brandt Snedeker, seven-time PGA Tour winner: “It’s just ratcheted up a little bit. Obviously there’s pressure when you’re trying to win a tournament. But majors, obviously I haven’t been able to do it, but majors there’s more of a fine line between good shots and bad shots. Good decisions, bad decisions. There’s a really, really fine line. Everything is just magnified. It’s just the most intense pressure you can put yourself under besides the Ryder Cup, I think major pressure probably goes hand-in-hand.”


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Vijay Singh, three-time major champion: “I think it’s the same. I think there’s more pressure on the guys who’ve already won the regular tournament and have not won a major The pressure of playing the tournament’s the same. One creates their own pressure. One makes their own pressure.”

Additional reporting by Randall Mell

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.