Going Through the Alphabet in 2007

By Sports NetworkDecember 28, 2007, 5:00 pm
We're looking back at 2007, and also looking forward to 2008, with an alphabetical rundown of the biggest stories in golf. Enjoy.
A is for ... Australians. There are seven Aussies inside the top 50 in the world rankings, second only to 15 Americans. They won five tournaments on the PGA and European Tours' 2007 schedules, and they have probably the most promising newcomer in golf: Nationwide Tour grad Nick Flanagan.
B is for ... Balls. The most important part of a golfer's equipment, according to Phil Mickelson's latest commercial, because 'we need them to do so many different things.' (Hey, not every letter is going to be a home run.)
C is for ... Commissioners. They're becoming more recognizable, outspoken and important on a yearly basis. Consider the PGA's Tim Finchem and the LPGA's Carolyn Bivens and their involvement in the soon-to-be implemented drug- testing policies for golfers.
D is for ... Dubai. Already a player in the golfing world, this emirate in the Middle East is where Tiger Woods has chosen to build his first golf course. It will also be the site of the world's richest golf tournament, the $10 million Dubai World Championship, on the European Tour's 2009 schedule. The European Tour's Order of Merit will be renamed The Race to Dubai, an overseas answer to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup.
E is for ... Europeans. They finally won another major championship -- Padraig Harrington at the British Open -- and will be going for another win at the Ryder Cup in 2008.
F is for ... FedEx Cup. The PGA Tour's Policy Board voted to make several changes to the FedEx Cup beginning in 2008, including the addition of an off- week following the third playoff event, the BMW Championship. The winner will no longer have to wait until his 40s to collect the $10 million payout (a maximum of $1 million will be deferred).
G is for ... Golf Channel. 2007 marked the first season of the Golf Channel's 15-year commitment as the PGA Tour's home on cable television. Rocky at the beginning, the coverage grew steadier by the week.
H is for ... Hybrids. The clubs are affecting decisions golfers make on the course in every round, professionals and amateurs alike. More than half of the pros now carry at least one in their bag.
I is for ... Inside. It is becoming more and more important to be 'inside' certain designations in golf, especially when they pertain to money lists and rankings. Inside the top 144 on the FedEx Cup points list will get you a mathematical shot at winning $10 million, the biggest prize on the PGA Tour. Making the 32-player field at the ADT Championship will give you a chance to win the biggest paycheck on the LPGA Tour, $1 million. Inside a certain number on the money list means you don't have to grind your way through Q-school.
J is for ... Jack Nicklaus. Relevant as ever in the world of golf, Nicklaus led the United States to another win at the Presidents Cup while keeping a team full of American stars looser than John Daly at a wedding reception. Even Woody Austin. His name is still mentioned every time Tiger Woods wins another major, and then there's this: He should be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. That's a fact.
K is for ... Koreans. There are 32 players from South Korea inside the top 100 on the women's world rankings, including 15 in the top 50 and six in the top 20. Their relevance in the women's game can be traced to the impact of Se Ri Pak, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame this year as a 30-year- old. Pak joined the LPGA Tour full-time in 1998 and won two majors in her first season. When she claimed her 24th title at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in July, there were around 50 more Korean players competing on the LPGA Tour than there were during her rookie season.
L is for ... LPGA Tour. Dominated for so many years by Annika Sorenstam, the tour now has a new No. 1 in Lorena Ochoa and a host of burgeoning stars like Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis who are helping to drive prize purses up. Women's golf is alive and well, and you should be paying attention.
M is for ... Majors. Before Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship in August, each of the seven major winners on the PGA and LPGA Tours had been first- timers: Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Lorena Ochoa on the LPGA Tour; and Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington on the PGA Tour. Among them, the wins for Kerr, Ochoa and Harrington stood out as long- overdue.
N is for ... Nationwide Tour. The graduating class of 2006 produced mixed results on the PGA Tour this season. Two players claimed their first PGA Tour wins: Boo Weekley and Brandt Snedeker, who both finished in the top 25 on the money list. Eighteen Nationwide Tour grads posted top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in '07, but they combined for only 39 of them. Twenty-one came from Weekley, Snedeker, Ken Duke and Jeff Quinney.
O is for ... Ochoa, Lorena. The new force in women's golf, Ochoa grabbed the No. 1 ranking from Annika Sorenstam early in the season, then vindicated her position with an eight-win season that included her first major championship at the Women's British Open. On the way, the Mexican star became the first player in LPGA Tour history to pass the $3 million plateau in single-season earnings. Then she broke the $4 million barrier. She has won 14 times since April 2006.
P is for ... Performance-enhancing drugs. Every major golf tour in the world will implement a drug-testing policy in 2008 with the hopes of proving that their sport is clean. And it probably is -- for the most part. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't demand assurance that the players we watch on a weekly basis are competing fairly, which is why the drug-testing policies are a good thing for the sport. (Don't be surprised, however, if a positive test comes from someplace like one of the many developmental tours. Those are the players who would be looking for an edge.)
Q is for ... Q-school. The last two winners at PGA Tour Q-school -- George McNeill and J.B. Holmes -- both won the next season on tour. The 2004 champion, Brian Davis, joined McNeill in winning more than $1 million this season.
R is for ... Ryder Cup. The U.S. team has lost each of the last three Ryder Cups by a combined 21 points, including the last two by nine points apiece. The Europeans, while mostly absent from the winner's circle in major championships over the last eight years, play better as a team than the Americans (see the 'J' entry for our proposed solution). This year's Ryder Cup will be played on American soil at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, where Tiger Woods won the 2000 PGA Championship.
S is for ... Sorenstam, Annika. When Sorenstam lost a three-way playoff for the last two spots in the second-round cut at the season-ending ADT Championship, her streak of 12 consecutive years with at least one win on the LPGA Tour came to an end. Next season will be one of the most critical of her career: Either she bounces back and challenges Lorena Ochoa for her old No. 1 ranking, or she recedes a little more into the shadows. Competitive as she is, that latter possibility may not be the worst thing for the recently engaged- again Sorenstam, who could be nearing a point in her career when she decides to concentrate on starting a family of her own. Although if there is one female athlete who could have kids and win golf tournaments at the same time, wouldn't that be Sorenstam?
T is for ... Time off. It became increasingly rarer to see stars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play tournaments near the end of the season, which is one of the reasons the PGA Tour created the FedEx Cup. A funny thing happened when they got their time off anyway. After many players -- especially Mickelson -- went public with their disdain for playing four weeks in a row during this year's playoffs, the PGA Tour's Policy Board inserted a week off into the schedule for next year. It's good to be one of the kings.
U is for ... Universality. The top of the men's world rankings, while dominated by Americans, also features players from South Africa, Australia, Ireland, England, Fiji, Korea, Spain, Argentina, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Wales, etc. Asians and Americans feature prominently in the women's rankings, but the No. 1 player is from Mexico, and there are also top-50 players from Australia, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Brazil and Paraguay.
V is for ... Vibe-Hastrup, Mads. A European Tour staple from Denmark with our favorite name in golf. (Sports Network golf office joke: 'Who's your favorite Vibe-Hastrup?' Maybe you have to be here to appreciate it.)
W is for ... Woods, Tiger. My friend was on Jupiter Island for Thanksgiving, staying at a house down the street from the property Woods purchased for $38 million last year. The compound doesn't have an address. It has something like 12 addresses. In one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country, Woods is the top dog. Sound familiar?
X is for ... X factor. The biggest X factor in golf? Physical fitness. When Tiger Woods hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship in August, it was early evening in Tulsa and still more than 100 degrees. Woods was sweating along with the rest of them, but it was clear that his tip-top shape gave him an advantage during a sultry four days at Southern Hills. Lorena Ochoa climbs mountains in her free time, and is one of the fittest golfers of either gender.
Y is for ... Youth. As in: where are the good, young American players?
Z is for ... Shane Zywiec. The last golfer in our alphabetical player database here at the Sports Network, Zywiec played two rounds on the Nationwide Tour last year. We're guessing he's played caboose in every yearbook he's ever appeared in, so he should be used to this by now.
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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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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.