From Iowa to Ireland Ecclectic Major Field

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA of AmericaTUCKER'S TOWN, Bermuda -- They come from three countries on three continents, vastly different backgrounds, brought to together in Bermuda only by the major golf championships they won this year.
 
Getting to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf wasn't easy for any of them, and it had nothing to do with flight plans.
 
Masters champion Zach Johnson, the self-described 'normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,' toiled for six years in the minor leagues before he made it to the PGA Tour, and he surprised even himself by holding off Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and a host of others to slip into the green jacket.
 
Angel Cabrera was a caddie at Cordoba Golf Club, blessed with immense talent and power but needing some financial backing from fellow Argentine Eduardo Romero to get started. Even then, it took him four tries to get his card through European Q-school.
 
Padraig Harrington finished his degree in accounting before turning pro, and while he won in his second year in Europe, he was known as much for piling up the runner-up finishes and constantly tinkering with his swing until he felt it was good enough to win a major. And he didn't feel that way until about 18 months ago.
 
The fourth player in the most exclusive field in golf is Jim Furyk, the first alternate from a points-based system of former major champions, gladly accepting when PGA champion Tiger Woods decided to skip this week. Furyk, too, is a classic grinder.
 
'There are similarities,' Harrington said as he rapped 6-foot putts on the 17th green in twilight Monday, gearing up for the $1.35 million exhibition where everyone feels like a winner because of how they qualified.
 
'Angel is the most natural player of us all here,' the Irishman said. 'Myself, Zach and Jim have all been more of the working kind. Angel always has been trying to get the best out of his talent. We've always been trying to improve. Angel always had it, but it was just a question of making the most of it, letting it come out.'
 
They are connected by hard work, but even then Harrington noticed some differences.
 
'Jim work hard, but he stuck with what he's got,' he said. 'I'm the opposite. I've worked hard, but I've changed everything I've got.'
 
The biggest change might be the event itself.
 
For starters, the Grand Slam has moved from Poipu Bay in Hawaii to the Mid-Ocean Club in Bermuda, a 20-square mile speck of land in the middle of the Atlantic with turquoise water, pink sand and a soft surf. There is a change in venue, but not necessarily the views.
 
'It seems like a very great place to take some vacations,' Cabrera said.
 
Woods decided to take his holiday away from the golf course, and that might be the biggest change of all. A winner at the PGA Championship for his 13th career major, this is the first time Woods has skipped the event when eligible.
 
'I haven't spent as much time at home as I would have liked,' Woods said at the TOUR Championship, which he won for his fourth victory in five starts that made him the first FedExCup champion.
 
It was a huge blow to Bermuda, which had been anticipating a visit from the world's No. 1 player, and for the PGA of America, which lost a premier player for the second straight year. Phil Mickelson did not play in 2006 after winning the Masters.
 
'We're disappointed Tiger won't be with us,' PGA president Brian Whitcomb said. 'But we're proud of our champions we have here. Tiger has always supported golf and the PGA of America. I got a classy letter from him stating that he's mentally exhausted and just needs a break. I respect that.'
 
There was plenty of star power in the pro-am, although not necessarily from a major champion.
 
Two of the most famous residents of Bermuda, actor Michael Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, drew the largest gallery, about 200 people who soaked in the sun and an endless horizon of ocean. They played the final six holes with Harrington, who got so much attention that his orange pen was running dry late in the afternoon from signing so many autographs.
 
All of them were thrilled to be in Bermuda, if not for the hospitality than the reminder of what it took to get here.
 
Perhaps none were as wide-eyed as Johnson, and it didn't take long for him to realize he wasn't in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and this was not a normal golf outing. Each player receives a personal escort to his room, and Johnson was shocked when the door was opened.
 
'We don't have a room here. We have a house,' Johnson said. 'It's perks on steroids.'
 
One perk has gone up this year, with the prize money increased to $1.35 million. The winner gets $600,000, with $200,000 for last.
 
Harrington won the award for earliest arrival, but only because he was beaten in the first round of the World Match Play and decided to come over Saturday night. He went to an English pub that might have felt like being close to home except that it didn't show rugby or soccer on the television, which he found odd.
 
But while Bermuda feels like a holiday, Harrington said he doesn't bring his golf clubs when he goes on vacation.
 
'You want to win, and you don't want to tell the other guys you're trying,' Harrington said. 'It's relaxed, but you don't ever want to lose. Obviously, it's an exhibition. You've got your major champions here and it's kind of a showcase for TV. I like this idea where it's not quite as serious as normal golf. I like the idea we can somewhat enjoy it. But you're still trying to prepare properly.'
 
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    Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

    By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

    After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

    The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

    The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

    Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

    “I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

    In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

    “It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

    The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

    Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

    “It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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    PGA Tour Latinoamerica moving season finale to Doral

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

    The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

    “We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

    The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

    “We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

    The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

    The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

    A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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    Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

    Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

    Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

    Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

    In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

    “My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

    In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

    Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.

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    Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 12:38 pm

    A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.

    Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."

    As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:

    "The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."

    "Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."

    Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners. 

    That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.