A Familiar Foe a Renewed Perspective for Mayfair

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill -- The lump Billy Mayfair felt in the shower made him nervous enough to see a doctor.
Then came a call from the urologist while he was eating lunch with his girlfriend at the Buick Open, asking that Mayfair return immediately because something didn't look right. Only when he sat in his office and stared at the film did fear set in.
'It was at that point that I got scared, because it was definitely cancer,' Mayfair said.
The good news -- stunning news, the more Mayfair thought about it -- was getting out of his bed Tuesday morning and driving to Medinah Country Club for a practice round at the PGA Championship.
It was only 12 days ago that he had surgery to remove his right testicle, getting the cancer before it had spread. Five days ago was one of the best days of his life, when Dr. Gil Brito in Phoenix told him tests showed it was gone.
'Two weeks ago today, if you would have told me I was going to be here, I would have never believed it,' said Mayfair, who turned 40 on Aug. 6 -- three days after his operation.
Cancer has always been a word that made Mayfair shudder.
A day rarely goes by without him thinking of Heather Farr, the LPGA Tour player who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24 and died four years later in the prime of her life.
She was like a sister to Mayfair.
They grew up together in Phoenix, spending their afternoons on the Papago Golf Course, a public course where they pursued greatness. They shared the same coach, Arch Wadkins, and in 1992 at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., they won the boys' and girls' division at the Junior PGA Championship.
Both turned sterling amateur records into a spot in the big leagues.
Farr's career ended far too soon.
'I remember the day I was in Hartford, Connecticut, when I called home and my instructor, Arch, told me that Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer,' Mayfair said. 'I didn't know much about it, but being around Heather and seeing what she went through and all that, I learned a lot more. It scares me, absolutely. And I miss her. I miss her terribly.'
Mayfair managed a smile when he recalled the time they met.
Not many girls played junior golf in the early 1970s, and it was not unusual for them to be lumped in with the boys. Mayfair was 8 when he played his first junior tournament, and he wound up in the same group with 9-year-old Heather.
'I was not happy having to play with a girl,' Mayfair said. 'I got so mad that I started walking ahead of her, and sure enough, she creamed me with a 3-wood.'
Of all the calls and cards of support he received over the last few weeks, nothing meant more to him than learning that Missy Farr Kaye was in the waiting room at the hospital the day of his surgery.
Missy, now an assistant golf coach at Arizona State, is the younger sister of Heather Farr. It was the death of her sister that taught her to get mammograms every year, which ultimately saved her life. Missy was diagnosed at age 30, but doctors caught it early enough that she has been free of cancer the last eight years.
Word that Mayfair was diagnosed with testicular cancer was a jolt.
'It is rather surreal, there's no doubt about it,' Farr Kaye said Tuesday from Arizona. 'I'm just so thankful the prognosis is excellent. Billy is a resilient guy. He's always got a smile on his face. He understands life is short, and you've got to take care of it and enjoy it.'
Also in the waiting room the day of Mayfair's surgery was Phil Mickelson, one of his best friends on tour.
Mickelson flew from San Diego on Aug. 3 to be at the hospital during the surgery. Talking about Mayfair on Tuesday, Mickelson said he was thrilled about Mayfair's prognosis and amazed that modern medicine would allow him to return to golf so quickly.
He never mentioned that he had gone to the hospital to support him.
'Him being there in the waiting room tells me what kind of guy he is,' Mayfair said.
Mayfair still faces tough decisions.
The cancer was encapsulated, but Mayfair said he either must be tested every two or three months to make sure the cancer is gone, or go through two weeks' of radiation and be tested once or twice a year.
'For now, I've got a clean bill of health,' he said.
And he has a new outlook on life.
Mayfair recalls the last conversation he had with the anesthesiologist, a golf fan and Arizona State alum, just like Mayfair.
'He said, 'How do you handle the pressure of playing before all those people on the 16th hole at Phoenix?'' Mayfair said. 'And I said, 'That's nothing. This is real pressure.' That's the last thing I remember before I went to sleep.'
It must have all felt like a dream. In the span of 10 days, he felt the lump while taking a shower, was diagnosed with testicular cancer, flew home to Arizona, had surgery and received the best news that the cancer was gone.
'I should be thankful just for being here,' he said. 'And I am.'
If the last two weeks felt like a whirlwind, consider the last two years.
Mayfair's game was in such bad shape that he had to take a one-time exemption from the career money list to keep his card for the 2005 season, and he responded by qualifying for the Tour Championship. Once his golf game recovered, his marriage broke up, a divorce that is in the final stages.
And now the cancer.
'Everything happened all at once. Definitely, this has been the hardest year of life-changing things,' Mayfair said.
Then he smiled, happy to be healthy, excited to be at the final major the year without a trace of cancer in his body.
'And you know, if I play four good rounds, it could change my life again.'
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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

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    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

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    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

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    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”