Golf no longer has a set offseason

By Associated PressJanuary 7, 2012, 4:26 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP)—The start of a new season doesn’t feel much differentfrom the old one.

Nine players—that’s one-third of the 27-man field at Kapalua—weretogether only a month ago at the Chevron World Challenge. A week later, eightplayers were in Florida for the Shark Shootout. They went home for the holidays,then packed their clubs and flew across the Pacific Ocean for the Tournament ofChampions for the 2012 season.

The offseason in golf isn’t what it used to be.

When this winners-only tournament first came to Kapalua in 1999, thelandscape in golf was different. The Tour Championship ended the first week inNovember, and the majority of players disappeared until the start of the newyear. The elite would only play in the silly season at events like the SkinsGame or the Shark Shootout. Some chased appearance money in Asia.

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David Toms was supposed to be at the Chevron World Challenge last month,part of an 18-man field playing for $5 million. He withdrew at the last minute,saying he was tired and wanted some time with his family.

“I needed a break,” Toms said. “If I would have played there, I’d havehad only three weeks, and some of that was spent on holidays.”

Nowadays, the offseason is whenever a player feels he can take time off.

Padraig Harrington has never been to Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions.He takes this time of the year to refresh and recharge in Ireland. Rory McIlroy is doing the same thing. Luke Donald , the No. 1 player in the world, didn’tstart his 2011 season until the third week in February at Riviera. GraemeMcDowell tried to take a four-week break in February.

Toms showed that players can make their offseason as long as they want it tobe. Even so, he worries that such time is getting harder to find in a globalgame that relies so heavily on the world ranking.

“For guys that want to get in big tournaments, if they stop at Disney oreven before that, they can lose so many spots,” he said. “I’ve taken off threemonths and lost 20 spots in the ranking. And you’ve got big tournaments early inthe season when you need it. So you’re kind of forced to play.”

When he tied for third in the McGladrey Classic, his final tournament in2010, Toms was No. 62 in the world. He took off three months, returning at theBob Hope Classic, and had slipped all the way to No. 84. He did not get in theMatch Play Championship or the Cadillac Championship that year, missing twoplaying opportunities in World Golf Championships.

This year was a little different.

Toms chose to miss the biggest college football game of the year—Alabamaagainst his beloved LSU Tigers—and flew halfway around the world to China forthe HSBC Champions. He also played the Australian Open in the week before thePresidents Cup in Australia.

“I went to China trying to improve that ranking; I would never have goneover there,” he said. “I played in the Australian Open because there wereworld ranking points there. That’s stuff that I would never do. So what’s goingto happen now is I’ll play some, and then I’ll need some time off during ourseason instead of taking time off the other way.

“So you have options, but you don’t,” he said. “If you want to maintain acertain status, or a certain level, you’ve got to play.”

At some point, though, Toms needs a break.

So do the others.

Steve Stricker won the Match Play Championship at the start of the 2001season and took nearly two months off toward the end of the season, even to thepoint of risking his spot in the Tour Championship for the top 30 on the moneylist. He narrowly made it. Walking on the practice range one day at ChampionsGolf Club in Houston, Tiger Woods saw him and said, “Welcome back out ofretirement.”

It’s not much different now. Stricker took off nearly two months before thePresidents Cup. Part of that was to rest a weakened left arm, though he hadplanned only one tournament between the Tour Championship and Presidents Cupeven if he had been healthy.

“It’s tough to find the time,” Stricker said. “You can play all yearlong, but I think you’ve still got to find the time. You’ve got to still getaway, find the time where you can set the clubs down for a little while and getrefreshed and ready to go for another year. Because it’s a long year, andthere’s so many big things at the end of it all that you want to make sureyou’re fresh and still able to play at the end.”

Stricker is taking four weeks off when he finishes next week in the SonyOpen. He’ll return at Riviera.

As much grumbling as there is about the weak field at Kapalua, it’s aproduct of where players live, how they build a worldwide schedule and when theycan find time to take a break.

Donald played three times in December. McIlroy played five times over thelast two months. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is the defending championnext week in the Joburg Open in his native South Africa.

This is all new for Keegan Bradley , a rookie who figured his season wouldend quietly sometime in September. That was before he won the PGA Championship.Before long, he was off to Bermuda for the Grand Slam of Golf, then to China forthe HSBC Champions, and the Chevron and Shark Shootout.

But he’s not complaining. Plus, he’s young.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Bradley said. “It was fun. But you couldplay more in the offseason than you do in the regular season if you wanted to.”

So it’s the start of the new year for some, and it feels like a continuationof the old year for others. All of them will take a break at some point, andwhen they do, there will be tournaments that wished they were playing.

Then again, golfers have no guaranteed income from tournaments. They areself-employed, independent contractors.

That much hasn’t changed.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith admitted sleeping on the lead of the biggest tournament available to him might be a problem.

''I can't say, 'Oh, it won't bother me.' But to me, it's fun,'' Smith said after shooting a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

''To see my name on the board out there, it's not like I'm blind to the leaderboard, that was cool,'' said Smith, who is playing in his fourth Senior PGA and third at Harbor Shores - where he has made the 36-hole cut the previous two times.

''All my members are taking pictures and I know at home my members are pulling up that screen and like I tell them, going to the middle and looking down. So it probably took them a while to find my name today."

Petrovic, who was among the leaders in the Regions Tradition last week before a poor final round, said it was a little bit of a surprise when he heard Smith was at 7 under through 17 holes.

''There was a little bit of buzz, we were talking about it,'' he said. ''I heard somebody say 7 under and I said 'who is it? And we looked up, but we didn't know who the player was. In a tournament like this, you know how it is, there's always one guy, one smart-alec that shoots 7, 8 under in the first round.''

Smith, who birdied five consecutive holes starting at the seventh, played college golf at UCLA and knocked around the mini tours and South Africa for several years without ever gaining his tour card. He was college teammates with some of the players in the field, including Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf and Steve Pate, but said he no longer seeks the tour life.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


''It's just not me anymore,'' he said. ''So that's why maybe I do have an advantage this week because it's just fun to me. It's like my wife said - just enjoy the ride.''

Petrovic had seven birdies in his round while McCarron and Lonard played bogey-free rounds. Short holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par 4 12th and made eagle on the par 5 ninth hole, his last hole of the day.

McCarron is the only one of the six leaders with a major on his resume. He won the Senior Players Championship last year, and played The Players Championship recently.

''It was a lot of fun being on that stage, of course being at The Players with the best players in the world playing one of the best golf courses in the world,'' he said. ''I think the preparation there and just being on that stage helped me going into last week in Alabama, and certainly this week.''

The top two money winners on the PGA Tour Champions are not in Benton Harbor. Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

Paul Goydos, a five-time senior winner including the 2016 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Chris Williams of South Africa shot 67. Joe Durant, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Jerry Pate and Fred Funk were among 15 players at 68.

Colin Montgomerie, who won the first of consecutive Senior PGA titles here in 2014, shot 69, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off a win last week in the first major of the year at the Regions Tradition, opened with a 70.