Notes Gulbis Done with Range Balls

By Associated PressOctober 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
Along with a big check, the perks of winning a tournament include everything from preferred starting times to qualifying for major championships. In the case of Natalie Gulbis, who won for the first time at the Evian Masters, it meant getting rid of that stripe on the ball when she worked with Butch Harmon in Las Vegas.
 
Gulbis noticed some discrimination when she first began working with Harmon. She hit range balls, while Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and other clients used new Titleist balls.
 
'He said it was because I hadn't won a tournament,' Gulbis said last week. 'A couple of years went on and I continued to use the range balls. After I had a good season -- I finished sixth on the money list, played in the Solheim Cup -- he told me I could use the new golf balls.'
 
Gulbis turned him down. A deal was a deal.
 
So after winning in France, she called Harmon and told him, 'You better get my nice golf balls ready.' In return, Gulbis was equally excited to carry on another tradition.
 
'He always puts the winning flags of the players that have won up in his room in his office,' she said. 'The Evian Masters flag is like a bright, hot pink flag. It couldn't be any brighter. I finally got to sign that one for him.'
 
STRENGTH IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
Tiger Woods has played the Dubai Desert Classic three of the last four years and is building his first golf course there. Chris DiMarco did a two-week swing through the desert last year at Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Scott Verplank is considering a trip next year.
 
The United Arab Emirates is one of the hottest properties on the European Tour, reflected by the world ranking. The average number of points available to the winner of three tournaments this year was 47.3, compared with an average of 48 to the winner of the Bob Hope Classic, Buick Invitational and FBR Open in Phoenix.
 
This is one area where Europe might be able to compete against the PGA TOUR, especially with those stops offering appearance money and amenities so luxurious that some say the seven-star hotel in Abu Dhabi requires a golf cart to get to the room.
 
'I would hesitate to say it's a problem,' PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said at the Presidents Cup. 'Appearance money is concentrated on a handful of guys. We've had the conflicting events policy for a number of years, and since then we've had no players get anywhere near them.'
 
PGA TOUR policy allows for three releases to go overseas for every 15 tour events played. Finchem said he pays attention to whether the same PGA TOUR event is affected year after year, and whether a number of players ask for a release to the same overseas event.
 
'We won't release the world to go play,' he said.
 
The bigger question is whether Europe's desert swing stays in the first part of the calendar year. Chief executive George O'Grady is said to be leaning toward moving the desert events toward the end of the year to set up a blockbuster finish.
 
And that might make it even more attractive to some Americans, especially with the FedExCup ending in September.
 
Some players might choose to use the final two months to make a push for the top 50 in the world to qualify for the majors, and more points are available in Europe than at watered-down fields in the PGA TOUR's fall tournaments.
 
The Dunhill Links Championship offered twice as many points as the Valero Texas Open last week, and with the HSBC World Match Play Championship this week at Wentworth, it will make it three straight weeks that Europe has offered more ranking points than the PGA TOUR.
 
STEWART AT SMU:
Eight years after Payne Stewart perished in a freak plane crash, his son his playing at his alma mater.
 
Aaron Stewart is working with his father's longtime friend and swing coach, Chuck Cook, and playing golf at SMU, where his father won the Southwest Conference title before embarking on a PGA TOUR career that brought him 11 victories and three majors.
 
'What I really like is his attitude,' SMU coach Jay Loar told The Dallas Morning News. 'He showed up in shape, ready for a collegiate workout. It looks like he's come here to succeed, and you'd better not get in his way. I think he's proud to be a chip off the old block.'
 
Aaron was 10 when his father's plane flew uncontrolled over the country before crashing in South Dakota. He played in the Father-Son Challenge three years ago with two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, one of his father's best friends.
 
Going to SMU was no accident.
 
'The heritage that my father left here helped out in the decision,' Stewart told the Morning News. 'But I also liked how the team was structured, and I liked the coach. I felt that players get better here.'
 
SHARING SHOES:
Phil Mickelson wearing his caddie's tennis shoe to wade into a pond and play from the hazard at the Presidents Cup was not a spontaneous decision.
 
Years ago, caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay said they were playing on a sunny day when Mickelson was in a bunker with white sand. It was so bright in the bunker that Mickelson asked to borrow his caddie's sunglasses, and that got them to thinking what other items a player could use that belonged to his looper.
 
'He asked about shoes, and the rules official at the time told him he could,' Mackay said.
 
So when the opportunity presented itself on the 15th hole at Royal Montreal, Mackay took off his size-14 sneaker and gave it to the Mickelson -- the left shoe, naturally -- but not without twice checking with referee John Paramor.
 
Mackay, by the way, wore a different pair of shoes the next day.
 
DIVOTS:
David Duval plans to play in the Del Webb Father-Son Challenge with his wife's son, Deano, a senior in high school. ... Fred Klauk, the superintendent for the TPC Sawgrass, will retire after 25 years. His retirement is effective after The Players Championship next year. ... The Senior British Open will be held in 2009 at Sunningdale, the first time it is not held on a links course. ... Lee Westwood is trying to get in shape, and his waist size already is down from 40 inches to 34 inches. There's no secret to his fitness regimen. 'Spit out all the things that taste nice and do the gym four times a week,' he said. ... The Mexico Open will be added to the Nationwide Tour in 2008. Past champions of this national open include Bobby Locke, Roberto De Vicenzo, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw. ... Justin Leonard's playoff victory at the Texas Open leaves Rick Fehr as the only player who has not won a playoff on the PGA TOUR with at least four attempts.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Winners of the first three Fall Series events have a combined 19 victories on the PGA TOUR.
 
FINAL WORD:
'I still believe there's no motivational speech you can make to a guy who's playing poorly. And if he's playing great, you can't say anything to screw him up.' -- Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.
 
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at 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.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“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.

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Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

“I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

“It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

No pressure.

“It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”