Masters champion Immelman on the mend
It’s not that he doesn’t have time to scroll through the pages until he finds his name at No. 269. Immelman has lost the better part of two years with a left wrist injury, and these are the consequences. He accepts that.
He just has trouble recognizing that guy so far down the list.
Of all the major champions from the last five seasons, all but Immelman remain in the top 60 in the world.
“Really, in the last 18 months, that hasn’t been me playing,” he said. “I don’t mean that in an arrogant sense. I know what I’m capable of when I’m feeling good and feeling strong. I’m going to give myself a full season, and then see how that pans out.”
For the first time in two years, Immelman wakes up without feeling a pounding sensation in his left wrist. He has been working diligently on the practice range at Lake Nona for a new season. It feels like a new beginning, complete with an equipment deal soon to be announced.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Everything is right on track. I’m looking forward to a full season again. It’s been a few years.”
The last time Immelman felt this good about his health was in 2008, and it featured a masterful performance.
The 30-year-old South African was so dominant at Augusta National that he built a six-shot lead on the back nine and went on to win the Masters by three shots over Tiger Woods. One of the lasting images was Immelman striking a muscleman pose on the 18th green.
Such strength has not come easily since then.
Immelman already has dealt with a few health scares even before slipping on the green jacket. He lost 25 pounds from a stomach parasite in 2007. Later that year, doctors had to slice open his back to remove a tumor from inside his rib cage, and only after the operation did they learn it was benign.
The most recent scar doesn’t look like that big of a deal. Immelman rolled up a winter coat on a cold day in Orlando, then brushed back some hair to show a tiny scar from his wrist surgery last December.
So small, yet so much trouble.
He first noticed a twinge in his left wrist toward the end of 2008, and it got so bad the following year he had to withdraw from the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. He thought the rest would help, but the few times he tried to play, he didn’t finish higher than 50th if he made the cut.
“The final straw was in Las Vegas last year,” he said. “I played a Tuesday practice round, and I was in so much pain that I went back to the hotel and said to (wife) Carminita, ‘I don’t think I can muscle through this.”
He withdrew from the tournament, flew to New York and had surgery a short time later. Immelman was in a cast for three weeks, and it was three months before he had enough strength to even grip a putter.
It was an exercise in patience in so many other ways.
Immelman is the opposite of another Masters champion – Phil Mickelson – in that he does everything left-handed except playing golf and playing the guitar. He had to learn simply chores like brushing his teeth with his right hand.
Swing coach David Leadbetter says the strength in his wrist is about 95 percent, and the desire is as strong as ever.
“I think he’s in a good place,” Leadbetter said. “I fully expect him to really get it back. It wasn’t a shock he won Augusta because he’s been a very, very good player for a long time. Since that time, people say, ‘Geez, what happened to him? He dropped off the face of the earth.’ Not quite. Certain injuries can derail a player.
“The good thing is he’s young enough, and experienced enough, that he’s looking at a new dawn, so to speak.”
Immelman plans to start his new season at the Bob Hope Classic. The only change might be travel, for while he is loyal to the European Tour, the new minimum requirement of 13 tournaments might be tough on him because of his status. Having fallen so far in the ranking, Immelman is not in the World Golf Championships that count toward both tours.
About the only good that came out of his injury was time at home.
His wife recently gave birth to a daughter, and Immelman has had a blast with his 4-year-old son, Jacob. The boy loves sports and loves to fish. Immelman chuckles as he tells stories of Jacob dressing up in his astronaut suit to go to the grocery store and wearing his Dallas Cowboys uniform to church.
“He kept his helmet on the whole time,” Immelman said.
Now, Immelman can only wonder if he did as much damage to his confidence as to his wrist.
His doctors told him that while it was safe to play this year after surgery, he might not trust himself until later in the year, and that proved correct. Immelman doesn’t believe he can find confidence hitting balls on the range or fine-tuning his swing with Leadbetter.
“Confidence only grows when you shoot 65, when you hit 18 greens in regulation, when you get your name on the leaderboard,” he said. “It’s never fun not playing how you know you can play. You see that in aging athletes. The game peels off strictly because of age, but they know how great they are and it’s tough.”
“The relief for me is I’m only 30,” he added. “I truly believe my best golf is still ahead of me.”
Notes: Ogilvy moving family to Australia
Geoff Ogilvy's immediate future involves fewer golf tournament and longer flights.
Ogilvy has been contemplating in the last few years moving back home to Australia, and after discussing it with his Texas-born wife, Juli, they plan to return to Melbourne shortly after Christmas.
Their daughter, Phoebe, turns 12 in October and will be starting the seventh grade in Australia. They have two sons, Jasper (10) and Harvey (8). The Ogilvys figured that waiting much longer to decide where to live would make it tougher on the children.
''We just talked about it, for lots of reasons, and we kept making pros and cons. Juli was strong on it,'' Ogilvy said. ''We're excited. I'm at the point where I'm not going to play 27 times a year. It's going to be brutal to play from there. But you've got to choose life.''
Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and he counts three World Golf Championships among his eight PGA Tour victories. He also has won the Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship and has reached No. 3 in the world.
His last victory was in 2014, and Ogilvy has slipped to No. 416 in the world.
He has been dividing some of his time with a golf course design business with projects that include Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Texas, (including a ''Little Nine'' course that opened last year), a renovation in China and a 36-hole course called Peninsula Kingwood in Melbourne.
Ogilvy, who grew up at Victoria Golf Club, still has a home on the 14th hole of the West Course at Royal Melbourne. If he didn't move back home, Ogilvy figured he would be spending six months in Melbourne and six months in Scottsdale, Arizona.
''It's a feeling more than anything,'' he said. ''Scottsdale is dreamy. We live a great existence. I know what I'm getting there. If we didn't move back, we'd be a six-and-six family. The kids get out of school, and they're bounced back and forth. It's not good for continuity.''
As for golf?
Ogilvy narrowly kept his full PGA Tour card last year and this season has been a struggle. He hasn't sorted out what kind of schedule he would keep, understanding it would involve long trips from Sydney to Dallas.
The immediate goal would be to play a heavy fall schedule and miss most of the West Coast swing to get acclimated to the move.
''And then we'll start working it out,'' he said.
US OPEN QUALIFYING: The U.S. Open likes to consider its championship the most democratic of the majors, and it has it just about right again this year. With the addition of 23 players who became exempt by being in the top 60 in the world ranking, 77 players in the 156-man field are exempt from qualifying. That number could go up slightly with another cutoff for the top 60 the Sunday before U.S. Open week.
The U.S. Open is the only American major that does not offer automatic exemptions to PGA Tour winners. Five such winners from this season still face qualifying, including Patton Kizzire, who has won twice (OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Sony Open). The others are Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr., Andrew Landry and Aaron Wise.
Kizzire is at No. 63 in the world, followed by Wise (66) and Landry (69). All have three weeks to crack the top 60.
Until 2011, the U.S. Open offered exemptions to multiple PGA Tour winners since the previous Open. It leans heavily on the world ranking, as do the other majors. It also awards recent major champions and top finishers from the previous U.S. Open, along with the Tour Championship field from the previous year, to reward a consistently strong season.
''All of the tours around the world have bought into the official world golf ranking rankings,'' said Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and open championships. ''And this provides just the right place for us to be with exemptions. We don't have to get into the weighting of one tour over another, this championship versus that event, a week-to-week event. We focus on the official world golf rankings and it seems to get us the right players for our championship.''
FICKLE GAME: Careers can change quickly in golf. No one can attest to that as well as Michael Arnaud.
The 36-year-old Arnaud had never finished better than a tie for fifth in his 49 starts on the Web.com Tour, and that was three years ago. His career earnings were just over $130,000. He had only made it into one previous event this year, and he wasn't in the field at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina last week until Kent Bulle withdrew on the eve of the event.
Arnaud tied the course record with a 60 in the second round. He closed with a 63 and won by five shots.
He won $126,000 and moved to No. 13 on the money list, giving him a reasonable chance to reach the PGA Tour if he finishes the season in the top 25.
''A lot of people kept pushing me when I wanted to step away from it,'' Arnaud said. ''My wife was one of those that told me to take the chance and go. Low and behold it really paid off.''
SHINNECOCK SAVANT: Rory McIlroy is excited to get back to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open, a course he already has played a few times.
Equally excited is his manager, Sean O'Flaherty, who knows the course on New York's Long Island better than McIlroy.
O'Flaherty spent two summers as a caddie at Shinnecock Hills.
He went to college at Trinity in Dublin, had friends in the Hamptons and came over during the summer months in 2002 and 2003 to work as a caddie.
''I got to know a lot of members,'' O'Flaherty said. ''I can't wait. To me, it's the best course in the world.''
DIVOTS: Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic on Feb. 25 at No. 4 in the world. No one from the top 10 in the world has won a PGA Tour event since then, a stretch of 12 tournaments. ... Guy Kinnings is leaving IMG after nearly 30 years to become the deputy CEO and Ryder Cup director of the European Tour. He will report directly to European Tour chief Keith Pelley. ... The LPGA tour will play in China during its fall Asia swing at the Buick LPGA Shanghai at Qizhong Garden Golf Club. The tournament will be Oct. 18-21, one week before the men play the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai. ... Alice Chen of Furman has been selected for the Dinah Shore Trophy, awarded to top college women who excel in golf, academics and work off the golf course. ... The Irish Open is going to Lahinch Golf Club in 2019, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley serving as the tournament host.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Kuchar, Peter Uihlein and Jhonattan Vegas are the only players to compete in all five Texas events on the PGA Tour this year.
FINAL WORD: ''The sum of his shots seems to add up to slightly less than the sum of the shots from another guy.'' - Geoff Ogilvy on Jordan Spieth.
Arizona's run continues, knocks off top seed to reach semis
STILLWATER, Okla. – The No. 1 seed in match play has still never won the women’s NCAA Championship.
That dubious distinction continued Tuesday at Karsten Creek when Arizona knocked out top-seeded UCLA on the final hole of the final match.
With the matches tied at 2 apiece, the anchor match between Arizona junior Bianca Pagdanganan and UCLA freshman Patty Tavatanakit was tied on the 18th hole, a par 5 that’s reachable in two shots by many.
Tavatanakit was just short of the green in two and Pagdanganan, the Wildcats’ hero from Monday when she made eagle on the last hole to give her team a shot at match play, blasted her second shot onto the green. Tavatanakit failed to get up and down – missing a 4-footer for birdie – and Pagdanganan two-putted for birdie to give Arizona the victory.
“We’re lucky to be in match play,” Arizona coach Laura Ianello said. “Let’s ride the highs. Why not?”
Arizona will now face Stanford in the semifinals. The Cardinal, the 2015 champion and 2016 runner up, has qualified for match play in each of the past four seasons. They beat Northwestern, 3-2, in the quarterfinals to advance.
USC will face Alabama in the other semifinal, meaning three Pac-12 teams have advanced to the Final Four. The Crimson Tide had an easy go of it in their quarterfinal match against Kent State, winning 4-1. The decisive victory gave Alabama extra rest for its afternoon match.
USC beat Duke, 3-1-1, in the other quarterfinal, pitting teams that have combined to win nine NCAA titles in the past 20 years. But neither team has had much success in the past four years since the championship turned to match play. Not only has neither team won, neither has even reached the championship match.
Duke’s Leona Maguire won the first match and the second match was halved, but USC swept the last three matches with Gabriela Ruffels, Alyaa Abdulghany and Amelia Garvey all winning to propel the Trojans into the semifinals.
Alabama (2) vs. USC (3)
2:30PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (A) vs. Jennifer Chang (USC)
2:40PM ET: Kristen Gillman (A) vs. Amelia Garvey (USC)
2:50PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (A) vs. Allisen Corpuz (USC)
3:00PM ET: Lakareber Abe (A) vs. Alyaa Abdulghany (USC)
3:10PM ET: Angelica Moresco (A) Gabriela Ruffels (USC)
Stanford (5) vs. Arizona (8)
3:20PM ET: Emily Wang (S) vs. Gigi Stoll (A)
3:30PM ET: Shannon Aubert (S) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (A)
3:40PM ET: Mika Liu (S) vs. Haley Moore (A)
3:50PM ET: Albane Valenzuela (S) vs. Sandra Nordaas (A)
4:00PM ET: Andrea Lee (S) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (A)
NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times
The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals were contested Tuesday morning with semifinals in the afternoon. The finals are being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.
- Semifinals: Alabama vs. USC
- Semifinals: Arizona vs. Stanford
- Quarterfinals: Alabama def. Kent State, 4-1
- Quartefinals: USC def. Duke, 3.5-1.5
- Quarterfinals: Arizona def. UCLA, 3-2
- Quarterfinals: Stanford def. Northwestern, 3-2
- Individual stroke play
TV Times (all times ET):
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals (Click here to watch live)
Spieth grouped with Kisner, Stricker at Colonial
It's a short commute for the PGA Tour this week, as Colonial Country Club sits less than an hour away from last week's host site, Trinity Forest. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the Fort Worth Invitational, where local favorite Jordan Spieth will look to contend at "Hogan's Alley" for the fourth straight year (all times ET):
8:55 a.m. Thursday, 1:55 p.m. Friday: Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler
Rahm impressed in his Colonial debut last year, finishing T-2 in his first trip around one of the Tour's most historic venues. He returns this week and will play alongside DeChambeau, who missed the cut in his first two Colonial appearances but has played well this year, and Fowler, who makes his first trip to Fort Worth since missing the cut in 2014.
9:06 a.m. Thursday, 2:06 p.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner, Steve Stricker
Spieth has had great success at Colonial, with his 2016 title sandwiched between a runner-up in 2015 to Chris Kirk and one last year behind Kisner, who returns to defend his title on the heels of two straight missed cuts. Stricker, who won here in 2009, returns for the fourth straight year after a T-7 finish last year.
1:55 p.m. Thursday, 8:55 a.m. Friday: Aaron Wise, Zach Johnson, Justin Rose
At age 21, Wise became the Tour's latest winner when he cruised to a three-shot victory Sunday in Dallas, and he'll play the first two rounds alongside a pair of major champs. Johnson won here in 2010 and 2012 and remains the tournament's leading money-winner, while Rose opted to skip the European Tour's flagship event to make his first start in Fort Worth since 2010.
2:06 p.m. Thursday, 9:06 a.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott
Simpson tees it up for the first time since his victory at TPC Sawgrass, and he does so on a layout where he has cracked the top five each of the last two years. Koepka will be making his Colonial debut, while Scott returns to a course where he won as world No. 1 back in 2013 as he continues his quest to crack the OWGR top 60 to earn a spot in the U.S. Open.