Gregorys journey ends Garcia wins scoring title
Gregory is a 30-year-old with cerebral palsy who was given little hope of ever walking. But he earned a bachelors and masters degree from Springfield (Mass.) College in sports management, and walked every hole to raise awareness.
He wound up walking 3,256 holes for a total of 988 miles. He traveled 79,838 miles to get to every event, starting with Mercedes-Benz Championship on Maui and ending at Disney. He consumed 280 bottles of water, 259 bottles of sports drink and 332 sodas. He traveled to 23 states and two countries (England and Canada).
The other statistic he kept: Gregory fell 29 times during his journey, a source of pride and some humor.
The worst was at the Bob Hope, he said earlier this year. I tripped over some TV cables twice in 30 seconds.
Gregory chose one player to walk with at each tournament, interviewed them later and spent the year writing a blog. He has considered writing a book on his quest. He walked the final event at Disney with Jason Gore, but when he finished, Robert Gamez and Rich Beem were at the 18th green to celebrate.
But he might not be finished.
His legs stiff, body rocking from side to side as he walked, it was easy to spot him heading toward the induction ceremony Monday night at the World Golf Hall of Fame.
When someone mentioned that he still had the silly season, Gregorys eyes lit up.
I think Im going to the Merrill Lynch Shootout, he said.
With the PGA Tour season officially over, its now official: Sergio Garcia has won the Vardon Trophy, the first European-born winner since 1937 to have the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Garcia played 72 rounds with an adjusted average of 69.12, overtaking Phil Mickelson (69.17) at the Tour Championship. Anthony Kim finished third at 69.28.
The last European-born winner was Harry Lighthorse Cooper in 1937, the first year of the award when it was based on points. Tiger Woods was not eligible because it requires 60 rounds, and Woods only played 25 before he was injured.
Padraig Harrington wrapped up the points-based PGA player of the year award after winning the PGA Championship, which came with a 50-point bonus for winning two majors in one year. Harrington, who also won the British Open, finished with 116 points to finish ahead of Woods, who had 78 points in six events.
The Kiwi Challenge will be shown this weekend on NBC Sports, and while Hunter Mahan won the 36-hole event on two courses in New Zealand two weeks ago (along with $1.5 million), the broadcast marks the debut of Steve Williams as a commentator.
Based on one exchange, the caddie for Tiger Woods might want to stick to looping or racing.
Williams said he was amazed how much information was available on all the players. But he wishes he could have one mulligan.
On the 13th hole at Kauri Cliffs, the moment Hunter Mahans second shot left the club, I knew it was well over the green, and my first thought was that it was a bad yardage, Williams said in an interview with tournament organizers. But these days, caddies who work for this caliber of player dont make mistakes with yardages.
I made the call on air, which was a poor call on my behalf, he said. However, it was the first thought in my head.
WHATS IN A NAME:
For all the fretting over the future of the Wachovia Championship after the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank was acquired by Wells Fargo, not much will change.
Tournament director Kym Hougham said officials decided to leave the name alone ' Wachovia Championship.
SHARE THE WEALTH:
Vijay Singh didnt start winning tournaments until there were two months left in the season. Tiger Woods didnt play the final three months of the season. There were seven multiple winners, the most since 2005.
All that did was spread some of the wealth around on the PGA Tour this year.
Singh won the money title for the third time in his career with $6,601,094, the lowest amount to lead the money list since Woods won $5,687,777 in 2001.
But a record eight players won at least $4 million. And just 20 years after Curtis Strange became the first player to earn $1 million in a season, 104 players made $1 million or more this year.
And the most staggering number might have been the $852,752 by Martin Laird to finish at No. 125 and keep his card.
Bubba Watson is best known for his prodigious length, and he used to love showing it off. Three years ago at Doral, he pulled out his driver with the pink shaft and belted one shot after another over the golf school on the back of the range. With each strike, he would casually look over both shoulders to see who was watching him.
Now, it seems Watson has figured out that its best to spend more time on other parts of his game.
Putting is the name of the game, he said recently. If you can putt, it doesnt matter how many fairways you hit and how many greens you hit. If you putt well, youre going to win golf tournaments. So Ive tried to work on my putting and my short game and my irons.
As for the driver? Its still in the bag. It still goes longer than anyone else. But Watson says he doesnt hit driver on the range when hes warming up.
Im always going to hit it long, so I dont ever practice that, he said. I practice the other stuff more than I do the driver.
Joe Steranka, chief executive of the PGA of America, was elected a PGA honorary member during the associations annual meeting last week in Phoenix. Jim Murray, the late sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, was inducted into the Southern California Golf Association Hall of Fame. Others included longtime Bel-Air pro Eddie Merrins and George C. Thomas Jr., who the architect whose designs include Riviera and Bel-Air. Ian Woosnam became the first player to win the Order of Merit in Europe on the regular and senior tours.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Bob Tway led the PGA Tour in actual scoring average (69.94) but finished at No. 132 on the money list and failed to earn his card.
I feel like I could be a worldwide player and be able to make a name for myself in every country, not just the United States. ' Anthony Kim, on why he joined the European Tour.
Europeans out to end the recent American dominance
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In golf’s biggest events, the Americans have left the rest of the world feeling red, white and mostly blue.
If you’re wondering whether the U.S. currently holds a meaningful title, the answer is probably yes.
Golf’s four majors? Yep.
The Ryder Cup? Indeed.
The No. 1 player in the world? Absolutely.
The Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Palmer and Curtis Cups? Uh-huh.
It’s been a popular talking point at the men’s majors, as Europe’s finest players have been peppered about why they’ve all seemingly fallen under Uncle Sam’s spell.
After all, the Americans haven’t ripped off five major wins in a row like this since 1981-82 – when Justin Rose was still in diapers.
“I don’t know what I’d put it to down to,” the Englishman said Tuesday, “other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong.”
Since 2000, the Americans have taken titles at eight of the nine courses on the modern Open rota. The only one they’ve yet to conquer is Carnoustie, and that’s probably because they’ve only had one crack at it, in 2007, when an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, prevailed in a playoff.
Not since Tom Watson in 1975 has a U.S. player survived Carnoustie, arguably the most difficult links on the planet. But Americans ranging from Dustin Johnson to Tiger Woods comprise six of the oddsmakers' top 10 favorites, all listed at 25/1 or better.
“America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, other than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.
“You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors.”
Indeed, there’s not a fluke among them.
Since this American run began last summer at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka (twice), Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have hoisted trophies. All were inside the top 25 in the world when they won. All were multiple-time winners on the world stage before that major. And all, most ominously for Europe, were 29 or younger.
“There’s a bit of camaraderie amongst all of them,” Rose said. “I know Brooks and Dustin are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”
That’s why there’s even more anticipation than usual for the Ryder Cup. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil in a quarter century, but this band of brothers is better and closer than those who have tried and failed before them. Couple that with a few aging stars on the European side, and there’s a growing sense that the Americans could be on the verge of a dominant stretch.
That should sound familiar.
During an eight-major span in 2010-11, the most common refrain was: What’s Wrong with American Golf? International players captured seven consecutive majors, including six in a row at one point. They took over the top spot in the world rankings. They turned the Ryder Cup into a foregone conclusion. In the fall of 2010, Colin Montgomerie pounded his chest and declared that there’d been a “changing of the guard over to Europe,” and it was hard to find fault in his reasoning.
“European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”
Because it wasn’t.
So even though it’s been more than a year since an International player held any title of consequence, these types of runs are cyclical, and Europe in particular has no shortage of contenders.
Major drought or not, McIlroy is a threat every time he tees it up. Rose turns 38 in two weeks, but he’s playing arguably the best golf of his career, recording a top-10 finish in a ridiculous 17 of his past 21 starts. Fleetwood is fresh off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, where he closed with 63. Jon Rahm is a top-5 machine. Alex Noren just won on the Ryder Cup course in France.
“I think Tommy, clearly, showed how close the Europeans are to challenging that dominance as well,” Rose said. “So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just that they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week.”
Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.
It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.
“I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”
During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.
During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.
He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.
Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.
In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.
This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.
“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”
If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.
“[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”
Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.
“Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”
It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.
“It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”
Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.
Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.
Woods: New putter should help on slower greens
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.
The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.
“To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”
To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.
“You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”
For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.
Woods: Open best chance for long-term major success
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods is more than a decade removed from his last major title, but he said Tuesday that The Open is the major that gives him the best chance for long-term success.
“I would say yes, because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links-style golf course,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference. “It certainly can be done.”
Woods pointed to the late-career success for both Greg Norman (2008) and Tom Watson (2009), both of whom challenged for the claret jug deep into their 50s.
“Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course,” he said.
That’s certainly not the case, however, at the Masters, where bombers long have thrived, or the U.S. Open, which places a premium on long and straight driving.
“You get to places like Augusta National, which is just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately,” he said. “But links-style courses, you can roll the ball. I hit a 3-iron that went down there 330. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”