Winsday Hot List: Scott's hot ... under the collar, too

By Win McMurryMarch 13, 2013, 6:30 pm

Ask any female who plays the game or watches professional golf, “Who is the hottest golfer on the PGA Tour?” and there is a universal answer. He’s tall, dark, handsome, cute smile and surfs … even guys (admit it) know who we're talking about. But that's not the reason Adam Scott makes this week's Hot List. He gets the nod because he's stepping up and being a man, speaking his mind and communicating honestly and to the point. And that is really sexy. (The Australian accent doesn't hurt either.)

1. Adam Scott: Since 2011, the 32-year-old Australian has anchored a long putter and with all of the heat on the subject of banning anchoring, he's stepped up in opposition. 

At Doral last week, he objected to the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s proposed ruling saying, 'I can't believe they're making rules based on subjective opinions and not based on any evidence. We're making rules for the betterment of the game based on zero evidence? Incredible.' 

He also took the bull by the horns in challenging other players' opinions that differ from his on the issue. Most notably, Tiger Woods. 'A lot of players have been quite outspoken about it and certainly when Tiger Woods speaks about it, it generates a lot of interest … but I'm not necessarily sure his views on what the putters should be are correct at all.

“I don't think the putter should be the shortest club in the bag; that has never been a rule in golf, so I don't know why it should be now.'

2. Medalist member-guest: Tiger Woods is playing a big tournament this week, just not in Tampa, not on television, and not for the general public. In fact, the only way to get in the gate at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., to watch him tee up alongside former NFL Pro Bowler and ‘Morning Drive’ co-host Ahmad Rashad, is if you're a member or guest on the sign-up sheet. They will face off against Michael Jordan, a Medalist member, and Keegan Bradley, who replaces Rory McIlroy who was initially slated for the pro spot but has reportedly withdrawn. Lucky for us, Golf Channel’s Gary Williams and Tim Rosaforte are also scheduled to tee it up together, so maybe we'll get the low-down after Friday's match.

3. Sinkhole-in-one: Sinkholes scare the living daylights out of me, especially after watching the coverage of the Florida man who was killed two weeks ago when the earth swallowed him up while he was in his bedroom. I can't imagine being on say, the 14th fairway, as was 43-year-old Mark Minhal in Waterloo, Ill., at Briar Golf Course, when the fairway collapsed 18-feet deep and 10-feet wide. Luckily, his playing partners rescued him by climbing into the hole with a ladder and he emerged 20 minutes, suffering only a dislocated shoulder. 

4. USC women: The Trojans top this week's Golf World/WGCA women's Division I coaches' poll, making it the ninth time since the poll resumed in 2001-02 that they've occupied the honor. What's unique about it this week is it distinguishes the USC program as one of the top of all-time, pulling them out of a tie with Auburn. Only Duke (44), UCLA (20) and Arizona State (12) have been ranked No. 1 more times. 

5. Crazy socks: Feel free to rock the crazy sock. In honor of President George H.W. Bush, Shell Houston Open’s “First Golf Fan,' according to the Houston Chronicle, the event is encouraging spectators, sponsors and volunteers to wear wacky socks with a contest for the craziest sock, to boot. 

6. Michael Jordan, golf guru: In advance of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the Hot List touched on MJ's mental coaching of  Luke Donald, but he's advising other top pros as well, including Tiger Woods. Rosaforte reported in Golf World, 'When I asked Tiger Woods recently if there was one iconic athlete, entertainment star or business leader who he tapped for advice on life at the top, there was no hesitation: M.J.' Ernie Els thrives on Jordan's mental pressure motivation, too; however, Jordan has a disclaimer, according to Rosie. 'This is all very flattering to Jordan, but he wants everybody to know he is not in the golf instruction business. 'This is where I become uncomfortable,' Jordan said. …'I’m not a golf coach, never will be; won't try to be.’'

7. Presidential golf: President Obama's golfing habits have been taking a lot of heat recently, putting this subject again on the Hot List. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has weighed in on the issue, saying on CBS's “Face the Nation”: 'I find it fascinating, people criticize him for taking people to dinner – he should be doing that every night. They criticize him for going and playing golf with people who he's got to deal with. He should be doing that every weekend. You always can work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with.' Newt Gingrich and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) disagree. Gohmert introduced legislation to put a cease and desist on his trips to the golf course unless the White House reinstates public tours.

8. Natalie Gulbis: The LPGA star has spiked concern on the tour as Gulbis' IMG agent, David Livingston, confirmed she has malaria after first getting ill at the HSBC Champions in Singapore. She's sidelined, getting treatment and resting at home under appropriate medications, but for the rest of the LGPA, Scottsdale Healthcare, the founding partner of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, is providing blood screenings for other players, caddies and family members.

9. Kiddie golf shoes: Kids don't get too much attention when it comes to golf apparel and footwear, but True Linkswear has introduced a versatile shoe for children named the True Padawan that can be worn seamlessly from the golf course to the playground. The shoe is designed to move with the natural movements of the foot, as if walking barefoot, and retails for $59.99.

10. Newport Beach: The Champions Tour has made its annual pilgrimage to the SoCal hot spot for the 19th annual Toshiba Classic. Tuesday, celebrities and athletes partnered for a targeted skills challenge to raise money for Hoag Hospital. Participants included former Major League Baseball outfielder Steve Finley, John Cook, former Anaheim Angels outfielder Garret Anderson, Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Leinart, Fuzzy Zoeller, Esteban Toledo and Curtis Strange.

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

Getty Images

Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by paints a different picture.

Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

Getty Images

Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.