Solheim Cup A Terrible Loss

By Tom AbbottMay 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editors Note: Tom Abbott is the host of Golf Central UK. He will be filing a bi-weekly column on with news, opinions and his inside knowledge of the European Tour.
The PGA Returns with Pride:
The European Tour returned the PGA title to its flagship event this season and the tournament re-emerged as one of the premier spectacles in world golf. For years it was known as the Volvo PGA Championship, but when BMW took over as sponsor in 2005 they dropped the PGA from the name; a re-think this season brought it back and with it came a quality field producing a magical week. We had a bit of everything: the old campaigner, Paul Broadhurst; the local boy, Ross Fisher, who grew-up playing his golf at the club; Vijay Singh, the superstar, whom Surrey galleries rarely get to see these days. He surged through the field on the final day. Then there was the outsider, Anders Hansen, a man who had already claimed the prize in 2002, his first and only win on tour; Angel Cabrera, the big-hitting Argentine who has a soft spot for the West Course; and finally Rose, the peoples favorite, battling injuries but always winning over the British public.
Sadly, the fairytale comeback for Rose wouldnt materialize with that birdie putt on the first play-off hole slipping by on the left side, handing the title to a worthy winner in Hansen. Roses performance will boost the confidence and he will go to Oakmont as my European favorite. As for Hansen, well, I ended Mondays UK Golf Central by calling him the new Great Dane, and with wins like the PGA he will quickly take the title away from its current holder, Thomas Bjorn.
The only thing missing from the tournament this season was Renton Laidlaw, whom many of you know as our main commentator for GOLF CHANNEL coverage of the European Tour. Renton has been ill recently, hence his absence from the booth, but Im informed he was due to make his first trip out of the house since leaving the hospital to visit Wentworth on Sunday. Obviously, we wish Renton all the very best for a full recovery. When he will return to duties with the GOLF CHANNEL remains to be seen.
Trish on Top:
BMW had the European golfing domain covered last week; not only did they put the money up for the PGA, but also were involved in the BMW Italian Ladies Open. That event started on Wednesday, giving them (BMW) a Saturday and Sunday finish. Trish Johnson was the first champion to be crowned, taking her first title in three years and 18th career worldwide win. Its been a while since Johnsons name has been in the headlines. Her last win was the Wales Ladies Open in 2004, but with last weeks victory in Italy she climbs to third in the Solheim Cup standings. An appearance in Sweden this autumn would her eighth. Speaking of Solheim Cup, there has been some confusion in the United States about the European selection, which has changed from previous years. The European team will be decided as follows: the top 5 from the European Solheim Cup points list, then the next four players from the Rolex World Rankings not otherwise exempt, followed by three captains picks. The team, minus captain's selections, as of Monday May 28th looks like this:
1)Gwladys Nocera
2)Laura Davies
3)Trish Johnson
4)Bettina Hauert
5)Annika Sorenstam
6)Suzann Pettersen
7)Sophie Gustafson
8)Catriona Matthew
9)Liselotte Neumann
Sad news from the R&A:
On Wednesday of last week I went through my usual morning routine of waking-up and wandering over to the computer to check e-mail. I was shocked to read one that had come from the current Captain of my home club, Walton Heath, informing the members that Michael Lunt, a former captain at Walton and current Captain of the R&A, had suddenly passed away on Tuesday evening at the age of 72. Michael was two-thirds of the way through his year of Captaincy, and he and wife, Vicky, had traveled across the globe promoting the game, attending dinners, giving speeches and fulfilling the role of the R&As ambassador for our wonderful game. Michael was in his element and was a deserved captain having joined the Royal and Ancient following his British Amateur win in 1963. Hed served on the Championship Committee and the Rules of Golf Committee. He had referred Open Championships, World Match-Plays and many R&A amateur tournaments.
He spent 11 years as Secretary of Royal Mid Surrey Golf Club, and most recently was Captain of Walton Heath, his home course and the one closest to the family home in Surrey. I spent many afternoons strolling the Heath with Michael, marveling at his awesome power -- late into his 60s he could still belt out a 300-yard drive, and the fluid putting stroke would often produce when needed, prompting Michael to give you that look that many must have faced over the years at the highest level, knowing they were in deep trouble. I would listen to his tales of the four Walker Cups hed played and the characters hed met. Michael had seen them all, played with them all, given them rulings. Hed played in Open Championships, Eisenhour Trophys, French Amateurs and spring meetings. He was a golfing gentleman of the highest pedigree. Opening the door to his wonderful memory was like opening up the page of your favorite golf history book, and with his beautiful deep English accent, having it narrated in front of you. Golf lost one of its finest characters last week and he will be missed.
Tom Abbott will host GOLF CHANNELs (Sky Digital 423) live coverage of the Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika this week, beginning on Thursday at 8 p.m.
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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”