Notes Big Changes for the Big Easy

By Associated PressJune 1, 2005, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- About the only thing Ernie Els hasnt changed the last few weeks is his caddie.
 
First, the Big Easy sold his G-4 plane when he got to Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship. Then he switched the shafts in his irons, going to lighter models. And during his two weeks at home in London, he ended his one-year relationship with IMG and will switch to British agent Chubby Chandler.
 
This will be his fourth agent since leaving longtime manager Nick Frangos in 2002.
 
I just felt like I needed a change, and that was that, Els said Tuesday. Ive been changing quite rapidly recently, so its not that big a deal. But Im looking forward to the future.
 
Chandler also handles Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
 
As for the plane?
 
Els is upgrading to a G-5, but hell have to wait until next May before it is delivered. He said the G-5 has a range that is about four hours more than his old plane, important for a guy who travels the globe.
 
I sold it for a profit, which was very strange in todays day and age, Els said. So thats why I did it. I got a good deal on the other one.
 
Els is flying by charter until he gets the new plane.
 
Otherwise, we would have flown here by British Airways or something, he said. The last time Els flew commercial, a mix-up put him in the middle seat in coach.
 
TOUGH SELL
The U.S. Open has sold out every year since 1987, usually within a week after tickets go on sale. The Masters has a waiting list even for practice rounds. The Players Championship has been a sellout 17 straight years.
 
But when it comes to the PGA Championship, its all about location, location, location.
 
With three months to go, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol (Aug. 11-14) still has plenty of tickets available.
 
August in the Northeast is a tough month, tournament director Andy Bush said. The biggest thing is the competition in the New York marketplace. They have access to almost everything. It seems like the general ticket buyer always purchases a little bit later ... once they figure out where theyre going to be.
 
It doesnt help that the New York Yankees are home all week, against the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.
 
Whistling Straits had record crowds, but Wisconsin doesnt get major championship golf very often. Ditto for Hazeltine outside Minneapolis and Valhalla in Kentucky.
 
The good news for the PGA Championship is the corporate market in New York is second to none, and the tournament already has sold more than 90 percent of its chalets.
 
The PGA Championship sent out a news release last week trying to boost sales, although it was a mixed message. It began by stating that there were still tickets available'practice rounds, early rounds and the final round. Then, it suggested fans share weekly badges with so much demand for tickets.
 
It also said there would be a cap of 35,000 fans at Baltusrol each day. The bigger question is whether the PGA Championship will have that many people.
 
TURF TESTER
Tiger Woods hit a 3-wood that measured 321 yards during the Wachovia Championship earlier this month and someone asked why he was hitting it so far.
 
These fairways are a little like landing on trampolines, Woods said. You get the ball lying on the correct knob, you can run this ball out there a long way.
 
The word trampoline has been associated with thin faces of drivers, but the USGA might now apply it to agronomy. Senior technical director Dick Rugge said the USGA has applied for a patent on a new device that measures the bounce on fairways and how greens receive approach shots.
 
Rugge said the tool was developed by the same man who created the pendulum tester, the portable device that measures trampoline effect in drivers.
 
Its been down to Pinehurst, Rugge said of the device. Its not quite ready for prime time, and we dont know what the numbers mean. But its part of the whole picture. We arent just focused on the golf ball. Were focused on how the game is played.
 
ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are among those lobbying for a shorter season, although they dont need the PGA Tour to fix that.
 
Steve Stricker is a perfect example.
 
For years, Stricker has shut it down in early September to hunt and spend time with his family. He almost cost himself a spot in the Tour Championship in 2001 by taking off six weeks, barely holding down the 30th spot.
 
Stricker no longer has that luxury, having finished outside the top 150 on the money list. That gives him a different perspective on two fronts'someone who knows the season is as long as a player wants to make it, and someone who now needs as many opportunities as possible.
 
He is more concerned with the communities that get the PGA Tour once a year.
 
There are some events that struggle, he said. But to get rid of them, I dont think the towns themselves would be happy. They support the tour, they want to be part of it. Its a growing sport. I think it would hurt a lot of people if you start to get rid of some tournaments.
 
DIVOTS
Already the hometown favorite at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., John Daly was an even bigger hit last week when we treated some 600 volunteers to a barbecue on Tuesday before the tournament. Weve been wanting to do it for years, and we finally got a bar, Daly said. ... It isnt quite the same as when Eugeno Saraceni changed his name to Gene Sarazen, but Jung Yeon Lee on the LPGA Tour will now go by Sarah Lee. ... Annika Sorenstam set another record last week, taking only six tournaments to surpass $1 million in a season.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Only four times since 1995 has a player won a PGA Tour event without making a birdie in the final 18 holes of regulation'Vijay Singh in the 1995 Buick Classic and 2004 PGA Championship, and Justin Leonard in the 2002 WorldCom Classic at Hilton Head and the 2005 St. Jude Classic.
 
FINAL WORD
I want to turn the TV on Sunday afternoon late in the year, and its not to watch Justin Leonard come down the stretch at whatever tournament. Its to watch the Steelers.'Jim Furyk, on the PGA Tour going up against football in the fall.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.