Micheel plays Open with dying mom on his mind

By Associated PressJune 18, 2010, 7:06 am
2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Shaun Micheel will drop his clubs and walk right out of this U.S. Open if his dying mother needs him by her side back home in Memphis.

It won’t matter where he sits on the leaderboard – or where he is.

While Micheel doesn’t think he will to have to make an early exit from Pebble Beach, his mom isn’t expected to live much past August, if that long. Donna Micheel’s lung cancer has spread to her brain, liver, lungs and spine.

Nobody would blame Micheel if his mind was far from this gorgeous golf setting and the Open this week. Yet his mom wants him right here, making a living playing the sport he loves. Micheel dabbed back tears at the end of his sensational opening round Thursday, when he shot a 2-under 69 for a three-way share of the lead to kick off his seventh appearance in the national championship.

“Doctors aren’t very specific how much time she has,” Micheel said. “We’re all hoping for a miracle.”

The next milestone would be her 64th birthday on July 2. She already made it to Mother’s Day and then her 42nd wedding anniversary on June 8, six hours of which were spent in a chemotherapy session.

Talking about his mother’s failing health is helping Micheel cope with it all – even if he’s unsure how she would feel about him sharing such personal information in the most public of forums and with the world watching his every swing, chip and putt. And tear.

“It makes me feel better. It’s very therapeutic for me to be very open,” said Micheel, whose best Open finish was a tie for 28th in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills.

He constantly fights the guilt he feels for continuing to play golf while his mom fights for her life. Micheel has reworked his schedule to stay close, and skipped overseas events.

Wherever he is when his mother’s final days arrive, Micheel will get home to say goodbye. He’s counting on Hospice to help him know when that is.

“I need to be there. I will be there. I have to be there,” he said. “It’s like a husband wants to be there when his wife gives birth. Golf doesn’t have to be my life. My mom is my life. We all only have one mother, one father.”

Last week in his hometown of Memphis, where he tied for fourth, Donna Micheel had hoped to watch him in person for the final time. But she just wasn’t physically able.

He wanted to win for her, and came close.

The 41-year-old Micheel is trying to make enough money this season to earn a full PGA Tour exemption for 2011. He’s also keeping his results and performance in perspective – something he’s gained going through all this with his mom.

So far this year, Micheel has earned $632,730 on the PGA Tour, good for 75th on the money list, and another $7,223 on the Nationwide Tour.

“I’ve certainly had a lot of time to reflect on not only the golfer that I want to be, but the person that I want to be and the father that I want to be and the husband that I want to be,” Micheel said. “I thought a lot about my career. When you don’t win multiple times and you don’t always have that exemption, it’s not easy finishing in the top-125, it really isn’t. … I needed to work hard and I needed, probably, a little bit of an attitude change.

“I think I’m so result-oriented. I think I look too far out in the future instead of focusing on what it is I need to accomplish each day as a golfer.”

He cherishes each day his mom has left, each regular Sunday dinner she can still be part of at Micheel’s house. Micheel thought he was losing her when his father called on May 9, Mother’s Day, and asked him to come over. Donna’s white blood cell count was dangerously low. She could barely speak as her son lifted her onto the bed. It took five days in the hospital to get her blood cell count back to a normal level.

This week, Donna is cheering her son from afar. He calls her a “very encouraging person.”

“Golf, I think, is a very emotional game anyway, if you let it be, so in some way I suspect that maybe this is helping my game,” Micheel said. “And I can’t, I don’t understand it.”

Donna is all but homebound now, her immune system susceptible to the most minor virus or bug. Micheel is trying to take care of his father through this ordeal, too, while also finding ways to explain the dying process to his 6-year-old son.

“I’m trying to focus on the great things in my mom, all the great things that she’s done for me in the course of my life,” he said.

Micheel and his dad have found in recent months they can talk about life and its real issues, going beyond their usual topics of Micheel’s golf game, football or when they next will go hunting.

“On Mother’s Day, I could see the trepidation in my dad. He was almost confused about what he should do when he called 911. I hate that it takes something like this to bring families closer together, but it has,” he said. “It really has.”

Micheel knows not everybody he plays with at Pebble Beach, or anywhere else, has any idea what he’s dealing with off the course. The camaraderie with his colleagues helps nonetheless.

Rocco Mediate put his arm around Micheel on the 18th and told him he had predicted solid ball-striking from the Tennessean on Thursday.

“He told me I didn’t disappoint,” Micheel said.

The smallest of gestures mean so much these days.

“The whole Tour’s a great support group,” Micheel said. “Jonathan Byrd lost his father last year of brain cancer, Kenny Perry has lost his mother. … It’s just nice to have great friends out here and everybody’s helping me through it. And I’m very fortunate to have that.”
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Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

"Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."

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Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

"I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

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Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

"We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."

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Presidents Cup changes aim to help Int'l. side

By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2018, 6:20 pm

In March when the PGA Tour announced the captains for next year’s Presidents Cup there was an understandable monsoon of attention for one element of that press conference.

Tiger Woods being named the captain for the U.S. team that will travel to Australia late next year was just not news, it was a monumental shift in how many view the 14-time major champion.

Although he’s slowly played his way back to competitive relevance, his decision to lead the red, white and blue side was the most glaring example to date that Woods is beginning to embrace a new role as a leader and a veteran.

Newsy stuff.

In that blur of possibility, however, were a few other nuggets that largely went overlooked but may end up impacting the biennial team event much more than the two high-profile captains (Ernie Els was named the International side’s front man for 2019).

Among these subtle changes is a new rule that requires every team member to play at least one match prior to Sunday’s singles session, instead of the two-match minimum in previous years. In theory, this would allow a captain to “hide” a player who might not be at the top of his form.

The Tour also announced each captain will have four, up from two, captain’s picks and they will make those selections much later than in previous years.

Officials would understandably be reluctant to admit it, but these changes are designed to give Els and Co. a chance, any chance, to make the ’19 matches competitive.

Following last year’s boat race of the International team at Liberty National in New Jersey – a lopsided rout that nearly ended late Saturday when the U.S. team came up just a single point short of clinching the cup before the 12 singles matches – most observers agreed that something had to change.

The International team has won just one of the dozen Presidents Cups that have been played, and that was way back in 1998, and has lost the last five matches by a combined 20 points.

Giving Els and Woods more time to make their captain’s picks is a byproduct of the timing of next year’s event, which will be played in Australia in December; but giving both captains a little more flexibility with the addition of two picks should, in theory, help the International side.

The Tour also altered how the points list is compiled for the International team, with a move to a 12-month cycle that’s based on the amount of World Ranking points that are earned. The previous selection criteria used a two-year cycle.

“That was a change that was important to Ernie Els to make sure that he feels like he has his most competitive team possible,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “That in conjunction with having four captain’s picks instead of two, which had been the case prior to 2019, he feels that’s going to give him his best chance to bring his strongest, most competitive team to Australia.”

The 12-month cycle will start this August at the Dell Technologies Championship and end at the 2019 Tour Championship, and puts more importance on recent form although had the new selection criteria been used for the 2017 team, there would have been just one player who wouldn’t have automatically qualified for the team. That’s not exactly a wholesale makeover.

“It didn’t seem to be a dramatic change in the makeup of the team,” Pazder conceded.

Still, a change, any change, is refreshing considering the one-sided nature of the Presidents Cup the last two decades. Of course, if the circuit really wanted to shake things up they would have reduced the total number of points available from 30 to 28, which is the format used at the Ryder Cup and as a general rule that event seems to avoid prolonged bouts of competitive irrelevance.

Perhaps these most recent nip/tucks will be enough to break the International team out of a losing cycle that doesn’t help bring attention to the event or motivate players.

There’s no mystery to what makes for a compelling competition, look no further than the Ryder Cup for the secret sauce. History makes fans, and players, care about the outcome and parity makes it compelling. What history the Presidents Cup has is largely one-sided and if last year’s loss is any indication the event is no closer to parity now than it was when it was started in 1994.

Els has been a part of every International team since 1996 and if anyone can pull the side from its current funk it would be the South African, but history suggests he might need a little more help from the Tour to shift the competitive winds.

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Rahm ready to bomb and gouge around Colonial

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 3:40 pm

Faced with one of the PGA Tour's most traditional layouts, Jon Rahm has no plans to take his foot off the gas pedal.

Rahm is one of four players ranked inside the top six headlining the field at this week's Fort Worth Invitational, where the Spaniard dazzled with bookend rounds of 66 to share runner-up honors in his tournament debut a year ago. Set to make his return, Rahm explained that Colonial Country Club is similar to the narrow, tree-lined course in Spain where he first learned the game with driver in hand.

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So while many other players in the field will play for position, Rahm plans to employ the same strategy he did on his boyhood course by letting it rip off the tee and taking his chances.

"I felt like if I am going to miss the fairway, I would rather be 60 or 70 yards away than laying up and having 130, especially with this rough being unpredictable and these small greens," Rahm told reporters Wednesday. "The closer you are to the green, the easier it will be to hit the green. That's kind of the idea I have."

Rahm struggled in his most recent start at The Players, but otherwise has had a strong spring highlighted by a win in Spain and a fourth-place showing at the Masters. The 23-year-old added that he feels "a lot more comfortable" off the tee with driver in hand than a fairway wood or long iron, so expect more counterintuitive strategy this week from a player who had no trouble solving one of the Tour's oldest riddles a year ago.

"I like traditional golf courses," he said. "You know, everything that says it shouldn't be good for me, in my mind, is good for me."