Memories from the 07 PGA TOUR Season
By finishing in last place at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, he became the first player to receive FedEx Cup points. And with some help from the draw at The Barclays, Curtis was the first to hit a shot in the inaugural PGA TOUR Playoffs.
That didn't earn him a bonus, or even an asterisk.
Even so, he played his part in a 'new era of golf' that featured some familiar themes. Tiger Woods won the most tournaments and the most money by taking the fewest strokes. And for the seventh straight year, someone won a major for the first time.
But there's always something different outside the ropes that make golf memorable beyond the birdies and bogeys.
John Daly got off to a tough start this year, one omen coming at Riviera.
Shortly before he teed off in the first round on No. 10, his sand wedge came loose at the hosel. An equipment rep took it to the truck for a quick repair, telling Daly he would get it back to him as he was walking down the fairway.
Daly hit driver through the green into a back bunker. Looking around, there was no sign of the equipment rep. Left only with a 52-degree wedge in his bag, it took him two shots to get out of the bunker, and Daly started with a bogey.
The rep showed up on the 11th tee.
Tiger Woods' last good chance to win the Masters ended on the 15th hole when the 3-iron he tried to cut around the trees hopped off the bank and into the pond fronting the green. He did well to escape with par, but couldn't make birdie the rest of the way and wound up two shots behind Zach Johnson.
The next day, a group of guests were on the 15th hole when one of the caddies stood on the bank of the pond with his back turned to the green. He looked into the murky water, then back toward the fairway, trying to figure out the path of Woods' errant shot.
Finally, he spotted a ball in the water. He dipped a wedge into the pond, scooped up the ball and balanced it on the face of the club as he slowly lifted it out of the water. Sure enough, there was that unmistakable swoosh.
But the grin faded when the caddie flipped the ball into his hand and noticed a corporate logo.
He tossed it back in the water and went to tend the flag.
Rich Beem showed how a little kindness can go a long way.
He was having dinner in the bar at Maggiano's in Charlotte, N.C., and customers stopped by to either wish him luck or tell him how much they enjoyed his victory in the '02 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
The bartender came over and began spinning a yarn about a distant relative who knew Beem's mother-in-law. Instead of a hollow stare to end the conversation, Beem whipped out his cell phone and called her.
'Mom? Hey, it's Rich. How are you? I'm in North Carolina this week. Hey, listen, there's a guy here who says he's related to someone who you might have known ... hang on, Mom, I'll let you talk to him.'
And with that, Beem handed the phone to a very startled bartender.
'Hello? Uh, yes ma'am, I have an aunt on my wife's side ...' the bartender said.
This went on for a few more seconds until the bartender's eyes grew wide. 'Right! Right! That's her!'
After a few more minutes, the bartender handed the phone back and was positively beaming.
The bill for dinner arrived later, and Beem was charged only for two glasses of wine for him and his guest. He paid the bill, then left the bartender a $100 tip.
Billy Foster was a popular man this summer.
A rumor began circulating that Steve Williams would retire as the caddie for Tiger Woods, and Foster was the natural replacement. The English caddie usually works for Darren Clarke, and Woods used him at the Presidents Cup in 2005 when Williams stayed home in New Zealand for the birth of his first child.
The British tabloids all but pegged Foster as the new looper for the world's No. 1, but the caddies knew better.
Williams still keeps a text message that Foster sent him in July.
'Based on the strength of the rumors that I'll be caddying for Tiger in 2008, I've put a deposit on a new house.'
Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson practically handed Tiger Woods the claret jug on Monday of the British Open. Woods was going for his third straight title, the longest streak since Thomson won three in a row a half-century earlier.
'He has a chance to win eight in a row,' Thomson said at a press conference.
This is the same man who was Presidents Cup captain in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, where he introduced the U.S. team at opening ceremonies as 'the greatest collection of golfers in the world.' Four days later, the International team celebrated a 20 1/2 -11 1/2 victory, the biggest rout ever against an American team.
Thomson was having coffee in the dining area a few hours after his press conference at Carnoustie, and he was reminded of his famous speech at Royal Melbourne. He smiled, and one couldn't help but notice the twinkle in his eye.
'Yes,' Thomson said. 'We handed it to them pretty good that week.'
Maybe he was up to his old tricks. By the end of the week, Woods tied for 12th, and Thomson's streak was safe.
Zach and Kim Johnson conversed like most young married couples. She told him of an invitation they had for the evening. He took the husband's typical seat on the fence, unwilling to commit, leaving it up to her whether they should go.
'What do you want to do?' he said. 'I've still got to practice. What time does it start? I mean, if you really want to go, we can go.'
She deferred to his week of work, and they were headed toward an impasse until Johnson cracked.
'I was kind of hoping to watch some football tonight,' he admitted.
It was Saturday of the Deutsche Bank Championship, the first full schedule of college football. They wound up going, and Johnson ultimately was thrilled with the decision.
The evening entertainment turned out to be a sky box at Fenway Park, the night Boston rookie Clay Buchholz threw his no-hitter.
Clearly, this was a year when a lot of things went right for Johnson.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum
SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.
Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.
''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.
Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.
''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''
Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.
Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.
Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.
He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.
''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''
Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.
''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''
Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.
Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.
But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.
''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''
LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1
LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.
Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.
Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.
Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.
''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''
That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.
''Too many,'' Park said.
The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.
''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''
The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.
Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.
Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.
Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.
''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''
Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.
She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.
''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''
ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.
Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.
Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.
The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.
Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.
Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero
Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."
The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.
"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."
Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.
With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.
"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."
Three years later, PXG launches new iron
Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.
“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”
PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.
The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.
Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.