2003 Tour May Offer Surprises

By Associated PressJanuary 8, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The signs leading to the Plantation Course at Kapalua remind everyone that the PGA Tour Starts Here.''
The trick is trying to figure out where it will lead.
Last year was an unusual trip that took Tiger Woods to two majors and even more dominance in golf. Along the way, a record 18 players won tour events for the first time, while David Duval, David Toms and Davis Love III didn't win at all.
The British Open had its first sudden-death playoff. The PGA Championship was won by a former car stereo salesman (Rich Beem). And the slogan for the Masters ' a tradition like no other'' ' took on a new meaning because of the debate over its all-male membership.
What does 2003 hold?
It's going to continue to get crazy,'' Rocco Mediate said. It's not going to slow down. There's going to be a lot of things happening, like 18 first-time winners. There might be 20 of them this year. But we need Tiger to get healthy.''
The crystal ball is as clouded as ever, particularly with Woods starting the year on the sidelines because of knee surgery that will keep him out for at least the first five weeks.
Still, a look at the top story lines for the new season starts at the top:
When Woods returns from the longest layoff of his career, he will resume his bid to break Byron Nelson>'s record for the longest cut-making streak in PGA Tour history.
He ended the '02 season having made 96 in a row, dating to the 1998 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Nelson made 113 straight cuts over eight seasons in the 1940s, and Woods could set the new mark at the end of the year, possibly the Tour Championship.
That depends on how well he plays when he returns.
Even if he does break the record, there might be an asterisk. Woods already has played in 22 tournaments that didn't have a cut.
In Nelson's era, making the cut meant making money. And except for the majors and a few other events, no more than the top 20 finishers got paid.
One record no could debate would be Woods' fifth straight PGA Tour money title. No one has ever won more than four in a row.
Woods also has another streak on the line. He has gone four straight years winning at least one major. The record is six in a row by Walter Hagen, from 1924-29.
The Masters: The buzzwords for Augusta National used to be green jacket,'' azaleas'' and Amen Corner.'' Now they are point of a bayonet,'' Martha Burk'' and demonstrations.''
The focus has shifted from Woods going for a record third straight title to whether Augusta National will admit a female member.
Club chairman Hootie Johnson already has said there won't be one by the Masters, or anytime soon. Burk and Jesse Jackson plan to stage protests of the club's membership policy.
This has been going on for six months,'' Jeff Sluman said. Everyone has been asked questions. Everyone has been quoted. I don't see anything new coming out of that. I think there will be demonstrations. But once we get inside Augusta, it will be Augusta as usual.''
The Presidents Cup: The biggest question for the U.S. team is who will want to travel halfway around the world to South Africa in late November.
Woods is said to be leaning toward playing, but Phil Mickelson might take a pass. Lefty doesn't like playing that late in the season, and his sloppy performance during rare appearances in the silly season the last two months made him doubtful.
If I'm playing like this, then there's no point in me going. I wouldn't be doing my team any favors,'' Mickelson said in December. But if I don't go, I'll get ripped. You can bet that decision won't be made until the last week.''
Youth is served: Five players 25 or younger won on the PGA Tour last year, but the spotlight is on Charles Howell III.
The former NCAA champion won for the first time at the Michelob Championship, and he finished the season as the runner-up to Vijay Singh in the Tour Championship.
Howell's goal is to be No. 1, a tall order considering the man at the top. He at least has time on his side ' at 23, he's four years younger than Woods ' but has to start producing multiple-win seasons, and contending in the majors.
Whither Duval?: Starting with his rookie year in 1995, Duval never finished lower than 11th on the money list, and he is the only player besides Woods to be No. 1 in the world in the last five years.
But last year was a disaster.
His best finish was a tie for fourth. His best week of golf was in a losing effort (the Ryder Cup). He wound up 80th on the money list.
Duval was home in Florida on Monday, wishing he were at Kapalua. Four long years ago, he won the Mercedes Championships by nine strokes.
The difficult thing is to not let one bad year damage seven good years,'' he said. I plan on beating up on those guys again.''
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USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

“I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

“It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

No pressure.

“It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”