Generational clash at U.S. Women's Open

By Associated PressJuly 6, 2011, 9:31 pm

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – One is a 13-year-old, getting ready for eighth grade, spending the start of her U.S. Open week wondering if she should be asking these players for autographs or playing beside them.

The other is 55, a winner of six majors and all but retired – yet still with enough game to grind through qualifying and earn a spot in what she says will be her last pro tournament.

Mariel Galdiano and Betsy King both have tee times at the Broadmoor on Thursday, even though in the golf world, they are playing from completely different sets of tees.

Such is life at the U.S. Women’s Open, where the world’s best try to enhance their resumes while competing against each other – along with dozens of amateurs, qualifiers and other underdogs with big dreams.

“I’ve been telling her lately, put your head down, look at people’s feet, just focus,” said Galdiano’s father, Roger, who also serves as her coach and caddie. “I want her to think of it as practice.”

The reality that it is anything but practice comes shining through at every turn this week the for Honolulu native, who picked up her first golf club about seven years ago, won her first tournament a few years after that and played well enough in qualifying last month, a few days before her 13th birthday, to earn one of 156 spots this week on the East Course.

On Wednesday, she played a practice round with another Hawaiian, Michelle Wie – “Very friendly,” she said – took part in a kids clinic on the driving range with Annika Sorenstam and passed Natalie Gulbis in the tunnel leading to the course.

“She looked down at my shoes and said, `Nice shoes,”’ Galdiano said, glancing down at her white and aqua golf sneakers. “I said, 'Thank you.' Pretty cool.”

Standing at right around 5 feet and with an average driving distance of 220 yards, Galdiano is not the next Michelle Wie, whose formative years have been defined by mishaps on the men’s tour and a long list of lessons learned about what happens when you go for too much, too soon.

“The way we’re going to do it is, we’re just going to go through our routine,” Galdiano’s dad said. “I’m not going to sign her up to play against the men and stuff. We’re just going to try to see how the progression goes. Depending on how good she gets, we’ll see from there. High school and college – that will be a good experience.”

While Galdiano’s future is ahead of her, King concedes her slow withdrawal from the spotlight came for a reason most elite athletes are loathe to acknowledge.

“To be honest, if I could play well enough to play, I’d still be playing,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the people that I know who retired – that’s why they retired. They just didn’t play well enough to keep playing.”

King saw the beginning of the end coming in the early 2000s, when the two-time LPGA money leader started having more and more trouble simply making the cut. When her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005, then her mother with Alzheimer’s a year later, she realized it was time to focus elsewhere. Her folks passed away. King started doing charity work in Africa. She still played the game, but not in any real competitive sense.

“I’ve looked at other players that have tried to come back and I said, ‘I’ll never do that,”’ she said.

Golf, however, does not let go easily. Neither does the drive of a champion. King has won 34 LPGA events, is the first woman to pass the $5 million and $6 million marks in prize money and has been a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame since 1995.

Earlier this year, she decided she wanted to play in a Legends event and thought the U.S. Open qualifier the week before would be a good tune-up for that.

“I really surprised myself,” she said. ” I played OK. I played well enough. I’m very happy to be here. Obviously the golf course is a little bit harder than where I qualified.”

The Broadmoor will be the first U.S. Women’s Open course to play longer than 7,000 yards. The USGA, as always, prides itself on setting up tough courses, with long rough and narrow fairways. The greens on this course, situated near the mountains on the southwest side of Colorado Springs (Locals will tell you: All putts run away from the Will Rogers Monument on Cheyenne Mountain), are difficult even when the resort players tee it up. It figures the course will yield a winning score of around par – more common for the USGA than the 16-under 268 Rory McIlroy posted to win the men’s Open at Congressional last month.

In short, it’s the sort of event that figures to play to the 20- or 30-something crowd – Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis – more than an eighth grader or a Hall of Famer in her 50s.

“My goal this week is to feel comfortable standing over the ball,” Galdiano said. “One shot at a time works best for me. When I think about score too much, it throws me off.”

And for King – well, she says making the cut at the U.S. Open would be a great way to say goodbye.

Some swing thoughts, though, die hard.

“Well, if I win, I can always change my mind,” she said. “That would be a real miracle, believe me.”

Getty Images

McCarthy wins Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

Getty Images

LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

Getty Images

For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

Getty Images

Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.