MacKenzie Takes Charge in Greensboro

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
Wydham ChampionshipGREENSBORO, North Carolina -- Will MacKenzie would be a natural for the X Games. Now he's out to prove there's room for a kayaking, snowboarding surfer in the sometimes stuffy world of golf.
 
MacKenzie shot an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead over Lucas Glover, Steve Marino, Brian Davis and Jeff Overton after the first round of the Wyndham Championship.
 
MacKenzie, who spent a more than a decade away from the sport, nearly made a hole-in-one and had nine birdies to offset one bogey in taking an encouraging first step toward the second victory of his career.
 
'People might think that since I quit golf for a while and lived the life of an outdoor enthusiast that, you know, I break the mold, and I'm sure I do,' Mackenzie said. 'I want my peers to respect me as a golfer, and I think most of them do, but (I) also like to cheer them up a little bit and do silly things like stand on my head from time to time because that's what I like to do.'
 
Seven players -- Carl Pettersson, John Merrick, Todd Hamilton, Todd Fischer, Greg Kraft, John Huston and 2003 winner Shigeki Maruyama -- were two strokes back on a steamy day at the 7,333-yard Forest Oaks Country Club course where temperatures were high and scores were consistently low. After the opening round, 79 players -- or, more than half of the field of 156 -- were 3 under or better.
 
'You've just got to do the same things we did today -- put the ball in the fairway and take advantage when you get the short clubs,' Glover said.
 
Both Pettersson and Glover started quickly and threatened Mackenzie's early lead by moving to 7 under early in their back nines, and had their sights on the course record of 62 before fading.
 
Pettersson bogeyed No. 16 after missing a 6-foot par putt, and had pars on four of his last five holes. Glover, starting on the back nine, birdied seven of his first 11 holes but closed his bogey-free round with seven consecutive pars.
 
'I don't think (Bill) Parcells coaches in the fourth without knowing what the score is,' Glover said. 'I knew what was going on. I just kept trying to make birdies. (Watching the leaderboard) didn't change anything.'
 
Overton hit 17 greens, had three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 and seemed poised to tie MacKenzie, but he lipped out a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 when he said his shot was knocked offline by a divot.
 
'You're going to miss some. Whenever the greens are getting beat up late in the day, you're going to do that occasionally,' Overton said.
 
But the story of the day clearly was MacKenzie's. The one-time golf prodigy from Greenville, N.C., became burned out at the age of 14 and walked away from the sport for 11 years.
 
For a while he lived in a van in Montana, spending his summers kayaking and his winters snowboarding, and once in the mid-1990s even considered kicking field goals for coach Steve Logan at his hometown school, East Carolina.
 
At 25, he was lured back to the links after watching his hero's final professional victory: Payne Stewart's fist-pumping triumph at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, one of MacKenzie's favorite courses, and the accomplishment prompted him to pick up the clubs again and work his way up the sport's ladder. He joined the PGA TOUR in 2005.
 
'I saw the competitive ... flare involved,' MacKenzie said. 'Tired of beating myself up. I was in a little mini mid-life crisis. I didn't know if I wanted to go back to Montana or Alaska or go to France ... I hit some balls and I was like, 'Wow, this is fantastic. Maybe I want to play again.''
 
Among the highlights of MacKenzie's round Thursday were a near-miss on the 226-yard, par-3 eighth. He used a 4-iron to drill the flagstick, then tapped in a 3-inch putt for birdie. MacKenzie then opened the back nine with birdies on five of seven holes, rolling in a 21-foot birdie putt on No. 16 during his march up the leaderboard.
 
MacKenzie also led after the first round of his only PGA TOUR victory, a one-stroke win last August in the Reno-Tahoe Open.
 
'I love sleeping on a lead,' he said. 'It's not going to bother me. Well, maybe on Saturday night.'
 
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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.

    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.