Notes Skins Game Stale Haney Rumors
The last name is who turned most heads. Wetterich qualified by finishing 10th on the PGA TOUR money list last year, and the nine guys ahead of him all turned down the invitation. Even he was surprised.
'I couldn't believe it,' Wetterich said. 'I thought my agent was (kidding) around with me.'
Wetterich, one of the biggest hitters on the PGA TOUR, said he plays some variation of a Skins game with his buddies, but he figures the most he ever played for was $20 a skin.
'So it's going to be quite a difference,' Wetterich said.
Money might be one of the issues that has caused the LG Skins Game to lose so much luster over the last decade or more. Even when Tiger Woods played, what used to be the premier event in the silly season became an afterthought.
The Skins Game began in 1983 with a $1 million purse, when the average purse on the PGA TOUR was $390,000. This year, the average PGA TOUR purse is over $5.6 million, and the four players are still competing for $1 million at the Skins Game.
'We have thought about that,' said Mark Steinberg, global managing director of golf for IMG. 'The problem is, what to do you do? Does it matter? These guys get paid astronomical amounts of money.'
Ames won eight skins last year to earn $590,000. Third place at the British Open paid more than that.
Nearly two dozen players already have earned more than $2 million this year on the PGA TOUR, so maybe it might add some entertainment value if they played for their own money.
'We have thought about them putting up their own money,' Steinberg said. 'Obviously, it hasn't gotten very far.'
He also said there might be gambling issues with the PGA TOUR that would have to be sorted out.
'There are a bunch of minds talking about how to invigorate it,' he said.
Money isn't the only reason the silly season is starting to lose its appeal. With golf being played around the world, not to mention around the calendar, there are plenty of alternatives. The Skins Game is being held opposite the World Cup this year. Phil Mickelson, who qualified for the Skins Game by winning THE PLAYERS Championship, will be in Asia earlier that month.
Hank Haney was with Tiger Woods early in the week at the Bridgestone Invitational, where Woods won by eight shots, but was conspicuously missing at Southern Hills when his prized pupil captured his 13th major.
That led to some scuttlebutt that he was on his way out.
Far from it.
Haney was home in Dallas tending to his wife, watching Woods tie a major championship record with a 63 in the second round that sent him to a two-shot victory over Woody Austin and his first major of the year. Woods now has gone three straight years winning a major.
'My man seems to be doing pretty good,' Haney said Sunday morning.
Haney has kept up a frenetic schedule over the past several years, and he likely will spend less time on the road, especially since Woods requires less maintenance with his swing. Woods has won 19 times and five majors since the start of 2005 season.
Tiger Woods' victory at Southern Hills ended what might have been a statistical rarity. For the first time in the majors this year, the winner came out of the final group.
Zach Johnson played in the third-to-last group at the Masters, Angel Cabrera was in the fifth-to-last group at the U.S. Open and Padraig Harrington, while he won in a playoff at the British Open, also was in the third-to-last group in the final round.
It should be no surprise that Woods won from the final group. Not only is he 13-0 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round, every PGA champion has come out of the final group dating to Steve Elkington in 1995.
The best major for a comeback? Lately, that would be the U.S. Open. The last winner to come out of the final pairing Sunday was Retief Goosen at Shinnecock Hills in 2004.
Tiger Woods has won the PGA Championship in August more than any player in history, a quirky fact that shows how much the majors used to move around the calendar.
Five-time champion Walter Hagen won the PGA three times in September, once in October and his last in November. Jack Nicklaus, the other five-time champion, won his first PGA Championship in July 1963 when it was held in Dallas, three in August, and one in February when the 1971 PGA was held in Florida.
The PGA Championship once was held in December, and the British Open was routinely held in October and November, and one time even in May. The first Masters was held in March.
That leaves January as the only month no one has won a major.
Davis Love III has missed the cut in the majors (11) more times than he has made the cut (9) since 2003. ... International captain Gary Player probably wasn't aware of this when he announced his two picks for the Presidents Cup team. Monday was 'International Lefthanders Day,' and he wound up taking Nick O'Hern and Mike Weir. ... Woody Austin, John Senden, Simon Dyson and Boo Weekley all recorded their first top 10 in a major at the PGA Championship.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Tiger Woods was in the top 10 in every major statistical category at the PGA Championship except for driving distance (14th).
'Emotion. I don't know whether Woody will bring golf or bang himself in the head.' -- U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus, on what Woody Austin brings to the Presidents Cup.
<Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Gooch chooses 'life over a good lie' with gators nearby
AVONDALE, La. – A fairway bunker wasn’t Talor Gooch’s only hazard on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana.
Gooch’s ball came to rest Thursday within a few feet of three gators, leading to a lengthy delay as he sorted out his options.
Chesson Hadley used a rake to nudge two of the gators on the tail, sending them back into the pond surrounding the green. But the third gator wouldn’t budge.
“It woke him up from a nap,” Gooch said, “and he was hissing away and wasn’t happy.”
The other two gators remained in the water, their eyes fixed on the group.
“I’m sure we would have been fine, but any little movement by them and no chance I would have made solid contact,” he said.
A rules official granted Gooch free relief, away from the gator, but he still had to drop in the bunker. The ball plugged.
“I chose life over a good lie in that situation,” he said.
He splashed out short of the green, nearly holed out his pitch shot and made par to cap off an eventful 6-under 66 with partner Andrew Landry.
“It was my first gator par,” he said. “I’ll take it.”
Koepka's game 'where it should be' even after injury
AVONDALE, La. – Brooks Koepka didn’t look rusty Thursday while making six birdies in the first round of the Zurich Classic.
Making his first start in four months because of a torn ligament in his left wrist, Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa shot a 5-under 67 in fourballs at TPC Louisiana.
“It felt good,” Koepka said afterward. “It was just nice to be out here. I played pretty solid.”
The reigning U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his wrist the week after he won the Dunlop Phoenix in the fall. He finished last at the Hero World Challenge in December and then the following month at the Tournament of Champions before shutting it down.
He only began practicing last week and decided to commit to the Zurich Classic after three solid days at Medalist. He decided to partner with one of his friends in South Florida, Marc Turnesa, a former PGA Tour winner who now works in real estate.
Koepka hasn’t lost any distance because of the injury – he nearly drove the green on the 355-yard 16th hole. He’s planning to play the next two weeks, at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.
“I feel like I’m playing good enough to be right where I should be in April,” he said. “I feel good, man. There’s nothing really wrong with my game right now.”
Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead
Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.
Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.
With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.
All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.
“This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”
Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.
“It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.
Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.
“Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”
Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
“My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”
Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger
We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.
Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.
If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.
It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.
Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.