Match Play offers snapshot of golf scene

By Associated PressMarch 1, 2011, 7:43 pm

MARANA, Arizona (AP)—The PGA Tour could have skipped the West Coast swing andgone straight to the Match Play Championship, which provided a perfect snapshotof everything going in the world of golf.

Europe looked as strong as ever.

Martin Kaymer showed why he is No. 1 in the world ranking. Lee Westwood madepeople wonder why he was.

Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler , when they’re not making videos for Twitter,offered more evidence that their homemade golf swings are just as compelling astheir fashion accessories.

Martin Kaymer of Germany hits …
AP - Feb 27, 5:26 pm EST

And has anyone seen Tiger Woods ?

Europe has been the strongest continent in golf over the last year, and DoveMountain was no exception. Luke Donald of England and Kaymer (Germany) reachedthe championship match, the second straight year for an all-European final.

Donald was so good that he never trailed after any hole in any of his sixmatches, and wound up playing fewer holes (89) than the winner of the Bob HopeClassic (92). Who would have guessed that?

After winning, Donald said European golf was going through a “purplepatch.”

For the Americans, it’s more black-and-blue.

Only two Americans have reached the championship match in the last fiveyears—Woods and Stewart Cink in 2008. One year ago, Americans were Nos. 1-2-3in the world ranking. Europe now occupies the first four spots in the rankingfor the first time in nearly two decades. Woods is the highest-ranked Americanat No. 5, his lowest position since the week before he won the 1997 Masters.

Before anyone writes the Americans off too quickly, they have had sixwinners on the PGA Tour this year. Then again, their average ranking when theywon was No. 171. Watson at Torrey Pines was the only winner inside the top 75.

The best American at the moment? Good question.

Mark Wilson has won twice, at the Sony Open and Phoenix Open, which doesn’texactly make him a favorite at the Masters, where he will be playing a major foronly the fourth time.

Wilson advanced to the second round of the Match Play, and that wasnoteworthy for whom he beat—Dustin Johnson .

There was little debate that Johnson was the most promising young Americangoing into 2011, if not one of the emerging talents in the world. Two monthsinto the season, however, he has only made news because of Natalie Gulbis andJim Gray.

He was linked romantically to Gulbis until the LPGA star said that Johnsonwas handling their PR. Meanwhile, Gray was sent home by the Golf Channel forasking Johnson in the middle of his round why he was late to the tee for atwo-shot penalty.

Speaking of tardiness, the Match Play Championship renewed talk about thepace of play.

One week after Kevin Na nearly turned Riviera into a five-day tournament,J.B. Holmes took some of the shine off a riveting match because he was sodeliberate. Watson rallied from 5 down with eight holes to play to square thematch on the 18th and win it on the 19th. But the match took nearly five hoursto play, and not all of that is down to rulings from the desert on the final twoholes.

The opening match of the tournament between Cink and Ian Poulter took overfour hours before it reached the 18th hole. Part of the delay was when they eachmade double bogey on the par-3 sixth, prompting rules official Stephen Cox totell Poulter on the next fairway, “Look, I realize you’ve both taken a trip toIn-N-Out for a double-double, but I’d appreciate it if you would pick up thepace.”

Watson and Fowler won’t get accused of slow play.

Both of them bring old-school qualities to the game, and both are reachingthe point where they can move the needle.

Watson, with the pink shaft in his driver and a $525,000 watch he sportedfrom a Richard Mille endorsement, came within one hole of winning the PGAChampionship last year. He held off Phil Mickelson to win at Torrey Pines, andshowed off his tremendous shotmaking at Dove Mountain. He’s always had rawtalent. Now he is getting comfortable with the spotlight.

Fowler, dressed in pink from his shoes to his cap, hit two of the mostimpressive shots all week with his 4-iron to 15 feet for eagle on the 11th and a4-iron to 2 feet for eagle on the 13th to hand Mickelson is worst loss ever inthe event.

Fowler went down the next day, not unusual at this tournament. He has allthe tools to be a star except the most important asset, which is a trophy. Butas Mickelson said in defeat, “I think he’s going to do a lot for Americangolf.”

Mickelson remains an enigma. He played six straight weeks, from Abu Dhabi toDove Mountain, with only one chance at winning.

That’s still one more chance than Woods, who remains the biggest mystery ingolf.

There is not much to say about the former No. 1, although that didn’t stopTV commentary from gushing that swing coach Sean Foley said Woods’ spin rate andlaunch angle were leveling out. Good to know.

He lost on the 19th hole to Thomas Bjorn with a swing Woods had to rehearsetoo many times and a 3-wood into the desert. It wasn’t as awful as it looked,for the right side of the fairway is the best angle to make birdie. Even so, hewould have been better off missing the 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole thatforced overtime than losing the way he did.

Johnny Miller compared Woods with Mike Tyson, not because of Iron Mike’scriminal behavior and outrageous comments, but because he was never the sameafter losing to Buster Douglas.

The longer Woods goes without winning, it’s not unreasonable to wonder aboutthat.

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“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.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.