Azinger Looking Feeling Like His Old Self
Azinger had gone 17 months and 31 tournaments without so much as a top 10. Worse yet, he was missing chunks of the year with a sore back.
'I saw no hope, really, no end in sight,' Azinger said. 'I worked with several different guys, and nothing was helping. Plus, my back was killing me.'
It all started to turn around when he began working with Jim Hardy in Houston four months ago.
Azinger never had the prettiest swing in golf. He hunched over the ball, but it worked well enough for him to make good contact, win 13 times and a PGA Championship.
At some point, he tried to move closer and stand taller, which he thinks caused back problems and resulted in bad shots, and eventually bad scores. Hardy worked to get Azinger back to his old posture, and he already is seeing positive signs.
Azinger opened the season with a tie for 10th in the Sony Open, his best finish since a tie for sixth in the 2002 Buick Open. He followed that with another tie for 10th at the Bob Hope Classic.
'As soon as I got taller and closer to the ball, I might have looked better, but it was just destroying me because it took me to the inside of the ball on the way down,' Azinger said. 'I hit thin fades and duck hooks. It was awful.
'As soon as I bent over from the waist, I felt the freedom of my upper body.'
Azinger hasn't felt any pain since returning to his old posture.
He looks like the old Azinger, except for the full beard and occasional tam o'shanter cap. In two tournaments, he has earned $214,543. That's $8,000 less than what he made in 26 starts last year.
'I'm actually way ahead of where I thought I would be,' he said. 'I had a feeling that I would get off to a good start, because I was putting really well and I knew I was hitting better. But it's a little bit hotter than I anticipated.'
YOUNG AT HEART
Jay Haas has no reason to believe he belongs on the Champions Tour.
Haas turned 50 in December, and while most men his age look forward to reuniting with old friends at tournament with no cuts,
Haas has other ideas.
He wants to make the Ryder Cup team.
One tournament into the year, it doesn't look like a far-fetched goal. Haas came up one shot short of the playoff at the Bob Hope Classic. He earned 80 points, moving him to No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings.
'This is pretty satisfying,' Haas said. 'I don't feel a lot different than I did last year, and I didn't feel that much different from the year before. This is a good start.'
Several players have told him that once he goes to the Champions Tour, it's difficult to compete on the PGA Tour. The rare exception was Craig Stadler, who won the weak B.C. Open last year.
Haas plans to play in the Champions Tour majors -- he eligible for four of them -- but probably won't play on that circuit until after the Masters.
'I just feel like this is where I want to play,' Haas said. 'This is all I know.'
Paul Stankowski shot in the 60s every round at the Bob Hope Classic, and all that got him was a tie for 47th, 13 strokes out of the playoff.
He has plenty of company. Three tournaments into the season, 22 other players have shot sub-70 scores every round without winning.
That happened to 98 players last year. Tim Petrovic, Joe Durant, Jim Furyk and Steve Flesch each had four tournaments where they shot every round in the 60s and still didn't win.
Vijay Singh, coming off his best season as a pro, has signed a two-year endorsement deal with McLeodUSA Inc., a telecommunications services provider.
The deal makes sense.
Forstmann Little & Co. became a 58 percent shareholder of McLeodUSA two years ago, and Singh is good friends with Ted Forstmann, his partner during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
''I've known Ted Forstmann for a long time, and anything he's connected with has always been a winner,'' Singh said.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Long hours with Langer
Vijay Singh is regarded as the hardest-working man in golf, but Bernhard Langer was no slouch, himself.
Just ask Peter Coleman, who spent more than 20 years as his caddie before leaving him late last year for Lee Westwood.
Asked what it was like working for Langer, Coleman gave the Times of London a one-word answer.
''Hard,'' he said.
''He was 101 percent behind anything he was involved in. It was very tiring,'' Coleman said. ''It was from eight in the morning until six every night, without a break.''
Coleman said Langer tried every new piece of equipment the minute it was available.
''I once went out for a practice round with him with 24 clubs in my bag,'' Coleman said. ''Bernhard could hold up an entire field single-handed by practicing with clubs during a practice round.''
How did Coleman survive? Apparently, it wasn't easy.
''When I was young, I did not complain,'' he said. ''But I could not have lasted another year with him. He was too demanding.''
Sounds as if Dave Renwick, the caddie for Singh, has it easy.
A top-10 finish by Vijay Singh this week in Phoenix would give him 11 in a row, the longest streak since Greg Norman had 11 consecutive top 10s in 1993-94. ... Now that Tiger Woods has won PGA Tour Player of the Year for the fifth straight time, the question is where to present the trophies to him and other winners. It was held at Torrey Pines the last year, but could be headed to its fifth location in seven years, probably at The Players Championship. ... Foreign domination of the LPGA Tour might have been behind a change in the Solheim Cup standings. Instead of points for top-10 finishes, the LPGA Tour will award points to U.S. players who finish in the top 20.
Stat of the week
Three of the five winners of the Accenture Match Play Championship are unlikely to get into the top 64 to qualify for this year's tournament -- Kevin Sutherland (No. 101), Jeff Maggert (No. 139) and Steve Stricker (No. 293).
'I never vote for Player of the Year because it's a popularity contest, but I voted this year because I like Vijay.'' -- Paul Azinger.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener
The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.
Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.
According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.
"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"
View this post on Instagram
News got out last week that I was dealing with an oblique injury the past two tournaments...it was confirmed yesterday, via MRI, that I have a partial tear in my right oblique...my team and I feel like it’s best not to play next week in the Northern Trust...I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!
Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.
Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.
Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas
Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.
Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.
Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.
Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.
It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.
While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.
One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.
Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days
Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.
But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.
Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.
A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:
Another week, another set of missing golf clubs and lost baggage with @AmericanAir & @British_Airways. Any chance you could help find all of my luggage and send it to me before my tournament this week?! Need them for work!! Thanks— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 13, 2018
So the comedy continues, @British_Airways have managed to now lose 5 suitcases and 2 sets of golf clubs in 10 days!— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 14, 2018
Decided to bring my only backup set of clubs on this morning's flight to the Nordea Masters in case my other lost set don't arrive and BA have also now lost these! pic.twitter.com/V6QPXzAaBk
Just reached 50,000 followers on Twitter and was going to do a bag giveaway, but @British_Airways has lost them all a href="https://t.co/WwiPqD9bql">pic.twitter.com/WwiPqD9bql— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 14, 2018
After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.
He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.
For those that are asking about the Bag Giveaway, that’ll be done next week as promised... once my luggage isn’t left behind again— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 15, 2018
Details to follow! pic.twitter.com/3AVMgE02HU
Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks
Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.
A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.
Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.
Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: