Snippets From a Colorful 2004
He placed a red shaft at his feet to help with alignment. He stuck another into the ground at an angle behind the red shaft. There was a water bottle about 12 inches behind and to the right of the ball. Then he neatly folded a golf glove and tucked it under his left arm.
It was a maze of simple objects that allowed him to groove his swing, and no one can argue with the results. Only five other players ever won as many as nine times in one PGA Tour season. No one ever won more than $10 million.
'It worked with my golf swing,' Singh said. 'When I get on the course, I don't have anything on me. I just go and play, and it keeps everything on line.'
The stars were certainly aligned for the 41-year-old Fijian, leaving the most lasting image of 2004. Here are some other moments that went beyond birdies and bogeys, a silver claret jug and a 14-inch gold cup:
--- Mathias Gronberg had a minor issue with how his name was spelled at the Nissan Open. It didn't include two dots over the 'o,' which in Sweden makes for an entirely different vowel.
When he asked for the Swedish vowel, a tournament official told him, 'If you're going to play in this country, you have to bring your own dots.'
For the last two rounds, Gronberg used a black pen to mark two dots in his name on the back of his caddie's bib.
--- Kevin Sutherland was in the lead Saturday at The Players Championship, the first time he had at least a share of the 36-hole lead in eight years.
His wife, Mary, dropped off their son at day care before coming out to the TPC at Sawgrass. But after nine holes, she decided it was time to pick up 3-year-old Keaton. Like most parents, she likes to stick to a routine.
'We're not used to playing this late on the weekend,' she said.
--- A corporate outing the day before the 'Battle at the Bridges' included Ron Drapeau, the CEO of Callaway Golf. During a backup on the 18th tee, Drapeau noticed someone hitting the Callaway VFT driver, introduced in 2000.
'You're about seven technologies behind,' Drapeau said. 'Here, try this one.'
He handed the amateur a new ERC Fusion and a Callaway HX Tour Black golf ball. The tee shot tailed off a little to the right, not much different from the first shot.
The man handed Drapeau the driver and said he would return the ball if he found it.
'Don't worry about that,' Drapeau replied smugly. 'I can get as many of those as I want.'
The next day, he was forced out at Callaway.
--- For the last decade, Liezl Els has been drawing maps of every hole at the major championships and charting every shot struck by her husband, Ernie, and whoever is playing with him.
Whistling Straits presented a stern test for her, too.
If the severe mounds and bluffs along Lake Michigan were not difficult enough to sketch, the links-styled course also has some 1,400 bunkers, even though only a fraction were in play.
As she walked along the 11th fairway in the first round, someone asked her how it was going.
Never bashful about speaking her mind, she said, 'I refuse to draw any of these bunkers unless he gets in one. This is ridiculous.'
Three holes later, Els pulled his tee shot into a massive bunker on the 14th.
Liezl was standing on a bluff, scribbling away.
--- The World Golf Championships have their own criteria for qualifying, which can lead to some confusion.
Tiger Woods was in the locker room at Firestone after the second round of the NEC Invitational, talking about the upcoming Ryder Cup. He was reminiscing about the '02 matches at The Belfry and was asked a hypothetical question. If Phil Mickelson had beaten Philip Price, and assuming Woods had held off Jesper Parnevik, did he think Davis Love III would have won the last hole to defeat Pierre Fulke and win the Ryder Cup?
Woods paused, and then his eyes lit up.
'That's what Fulke is doing here,' Woods said.
Fulke has played so badly the last two years that he wasn't eligible for any of the majors in 2004. He got into Firestone because he was on Europe's '02 Ryder Cup team.
--- A scene at the Canadian Open showed that kids can compete on the PGA Tour, but there is still plenty to learn about being a professional.
At the far end of a walkway, with fans lined up behind a fence seeking autographs, Davis Love III had finished signing and was speaking to an elderly gentleman. Love looked him in the eye, gave him an e-mail address of his design company and didn't walk away until the conversation was over.
Casey Wittenberg, who left Oklahoma State after his freshman year to turn pro, was standing about 10 feet away with his neck leaning on his shoulder. He was talking on his cell phone, grabbing programs and scribbling his name without ever looking at the fans, dialed into his phone conversation.
--- The running joke after Europe demolished the United States in the Ryder Cup was that Bernhard Langer was voted the best European captain in history, and Hal Sutton came in second.
Paul McGinley didn't find that funny.
One of his lasting memories from Oakland Hills was meeting in the hotel at 4:30 a.m. the Monday after to take a bus to the airport. Sutton and his wife, Ashley, were downstairs in the lobby to shake the hand of every player and give them a proper send-off.
That, to me, is what the Ryder Cup is all about, McGinley said.
Asked about his final act of sportsmanship, Sutton laughed and said, That's the best we can do when we get our (behinds) kicked.
--- Too bad Jan Stephenson wasn't at the reception at Mar-A-Lago in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Rolex honored Shi Hyun Ahn of South Korea as LPGA Tour rookie of the year.
Stephenson said last year that Asians were absolutely killing the LPGA Tour because of their refusal to speak English. Ahn speaks almost exclusively Korean, but she took a bold step before a large crowd.
She decided to give her acceptance speech in English, and her nerves were obvious.
Ahn waved her speech in front of her face to cool her face. She kept reaching for a glass of water. As she was being introduced, Ahn cast her eyes to the ceiling and repeatedly mouthed the words to her speech in rehearsal.
Dressed in an elegant pink dress, Ahn stood behind the podium and slowly enunciated each word. She thanked Rolex, which sponsors the award; Louise Suggs, an LPGA founder after whom the award is named; her parents; and the LPGA for giving her the opportunity.
I'm proud to be a member of this association, she said.
With a loud ovation ringing in her ears, Ahn returned to her seat, bowed her head and covered her face.
It was a command performance.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'
WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.
It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.
Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.
''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''
The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.
It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.
''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.
''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''
A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.
The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.
''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''
Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.
''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.
''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''
Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.
Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.
''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''
Romo rallies to win American Century Championship
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.
''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''
Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.
The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.
Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.
''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''
Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.
Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.
Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.
The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.
Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.
Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.
Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.
Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.
He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.
His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.
The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.
His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.
McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.
He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.
Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship
Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.
The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.
The week was more than nostalgic.
It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.
In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.
“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”
Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.
“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”
Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.
The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.
“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”
Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.
“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”
She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.
“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.
At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.
With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.
This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.
“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”
Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.
“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.
In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.