Bembenick displays positive attitude despite high score

By Will GrayJune 29, 2013, 1:30 pm

One of the many maxims by which golfers abide reads as follows: “There are no pictures on the scorecard.”

In the case of Michael Bembenick, though, the picture of his scorecard that gained attention Friday afternoon failed to tell the whole story.

While all golfers have experienced the frustration of a bad round, Bembenick reached nearly uncharted territory during the second round of the United Leasing Championship, a Tour event in Newburgh, Ind. After an opening 89 Thursday, the 27-year-old assistant pro struggled to a score of 103 Friday, a round that included more triple bogeys (3) than pars (2). Though any range of emotion can be expected after a round of that magnitude, Bembenick was remarkably optimistic about his experience.

“Everyone has been embarrassed on a golf course before,” he explained in a phone interview. “Mine just happened to be on a national stage.”

To better understand his ability to view the proverbial glass as half-full, it helps to trace Bembenick’s entry into the event – a process that began on April 15.

That’s when the Zionsville, Ind., resident carded an even-par 72 at Sagamore Golf Club in the Indiana PGA Tournament Series, a round that was good enough to tie for second among a 96-man field comprised of club professionals from across the state. As a result, Bembenick, who works as an assistant pro at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis, made it into a playoff for the final qualifying spot at a Tour event to be played locally in late June. After losing the playoff on the third extra hole, Bembenick left the course with many positives from a strong round of golf, returned to his job at Meridian Hills and thought nothing more of the situation.

With the club short-staffed to begin the spring season, Bembenick’s already packed schedule became even busier, with duties ranging from lessons to club fittings to overseeing day-to-day course operations.

“Playing golf is the last thing I had time to think about,” recalled Bembenick, who estimated that he teaches 600 lessons per year.

Juggling an increasing work load that largely left him unable to focus on his own golf game, Bembenick received a surprising phone call on June 19.

Just more than a week before the Tour event was set to begin at nearby Victoria National Golf Club, one of the three spots in the field assigned to Indiana PGA sectional players had become available. By virtue of his performance at the qualifying event in April, Bembenick was offered the berth with only days left to hone his game.

Estimating that at least three weeks had passed since his last round of golf when he received the invitation, the 27-year-old was originally hesitant to accept the offer. Jack Barber, head professional at Meridian Hills, was among those who viewed the event as a chance for his assistant to gain valuable experience.

“You don’t get an opportunity to play on that stage that often,” said Barber. “Michael is a great young man and I was excited for him.”

Despite the short window of prep time afforded, Bembenick accepted the spot and got set to make his Tour debut. The scores that resulted, though, were far from ideal, and midway through his round Friday it was clear his total would likely gain attention for all the wrong reasons. Finding himself in a situation where many players, professional or otherwise, might walk off the course or simply fail to turn in a scorecard, Bambenick pressed on.

“Never considered it,” he said of possibly withdrawing from the event. “It never even crossed my mind.”

Indeed, the answers he offered amplified comments made immediately after his second round, comments that show a player with an admirable outlook and a keen grasp of the bigger picture.

'I think it's important to lead by example and show the youth that no matter how bad you play, it's important to finish,' he said after the round. 'No one likes to see a quitter. I know none of the members at my club or any students that I teach would want to see me quit.'

It’s a sentiment that has the support of his boss back at Meridian Hills.

“Those scores are not indicative of the type of player Michael is,” explained Barber. “He is a fine individual and I am very proud of the way he handled himself under difficult circumstances.”

Though he plans to continue to play competitively on occasion – he’ll next tee it up July 1 in a local event, the Indiana PGA Monticello Open – Bembenick insists that his main interest still lies with growing the game at the club level.

“I love teaching. I really enjoy it,” he noted, now in his fourth year as an assistant at Meridian Hills. “Instruction, the whole club fitting process, helping others learn the game … it’s all truly a passion.”

With perhaps his career-worst round now behind him – “I can’t remember the last time I shot over 50 for nine holes, not even in junior high,” he recalled – Bembenick remains hopeful that others can benefit from the struggle he endured Friday, and the positives he was able to extract from an otherwise difficult day by finishing the round with his head held high.

“I’m glad a lesson could be learned from someone shooting a score like this,” he added. “I just wish it wasn’t me.”

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."