Tales From the Tour
Ernie Els won four times in his first six tournaments (he finished second by one shot in the other two) and was poised to challenge Tiger Woods. Then, he injured his wrist on a punching bag and never regained his momentum.
Els won seven times around the world, but his only PGA Tour victories were in January.
Vijay Singh tucked a baseball-sized sponge just below his left armpit while working on his swing during a five-hour session on the range in February. That led to a rib injury that sidelined him for five weeks, the longest layoff of his life.
Singh wound up having the best season of his career and ended Woods reign atop the PGA Tour money list.
As for Woods?
He missed the first five weeks of the year recovering from knee surgery, but still had the most wins (5), the lowest scoring average and, despite no majors, was voted PGA Tour player of the year for the fifth straight time.
It was a memorable year, full of moments that went beyond birdies and bogeys, green jackets and claret jugs, and women playing against men.
About midway through Singhs marathon session at Torrey Pines with the sponge ball, Steven Alker showed up on the range and placed a beach ball between his knees as he worked on his short irons.
Someone pointed out this training device to Singh and jokingly suggested he give it a try.
Singh looked over at Alker and said, Anyone who uses something like that doesnt know what the hell hes doing.
When the weekend arrived, Singh was home with a rib injury and Alker was two shots out of the lead.
But perhaps Singh was right.
By years end, Alker finished 163rd on the money list and failed to get his PGA Tour card at Q-school.
Hal Sutton has always been one of the most outspoken players. His no-nonsense approach and Louisiana drawl always makes for a good interview.
Now that hes the Ryder Cup captain, the PGA of America sent Sutton to media training.
A reporter approached him on the range at Doral and asked him what he learned.
They said I cant talk to you anymore, Sutton said, laughing to himself before he resumed hitting balls.
The first round of the Masters was a washout, leading to two of the longest days at Augusta National as players tried to squeeze 54 holes into Friday and Saturday.
Mike Weir completed his second round Saturday morning, and a four-stroke lead gave him time to eat lunch and relax for a few minutes in the players lounge.
Weir looked peaceful as he thumbed through a book on the coffee table, The Greatest in the Game.
One day later, the Canadian was wearing a green jacket.
Jerry Kelly grew up playing hockey and is aggressive by nature, which isnt always a good fit on the golf course.
He was walking along a path at the Memorial with a glare in his eyes after the third round when he saw a reporter he knows coming the other direction. Without warning, Kelly threw his shoulder into the reporter ' a hockey check ' and knocked him back about 5 feet.
Kelly kept walking, then looked back over his shoulder and smiled.
Thanks, man, he said. I feel a lot better.
Inside the press room, one look at the scoreboard said it all.
Kelly had just shot 84.
No one answers more questions about bad backs than Fred Couples, who has been dealing with aches and pains for nearly 10 years.
He was weary after a long opening round at the British Open, where he shot even-par 71. A radio reporter from the BBC cornered him and began a long list of questions, all of which Couples already had answered.
The topic shifted to the inevitable.
What does an old man with a bad back do now? the reporter said.
He leaves on this question, Couples said dryly, then turned and walked away.
A group of men in dark suits huddled outside the bathrooms in the clubhouse at Champions Golf Club during the final round of the Tour Championship.
They were the security detail for former President Bush, who had been watching Woods play the front nine. Bush stopped by to say hello to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, and Barbara Bush headed for the ladies room.
Minutes later, Woods fiancee, Elin Nordegren, went into the restroom as Mrs. Bush was walked out.
They stopped and looked at each other, as if they had seen each other before but couldnt remember where, and then went their own way.
The big debate this year was whether golf should have equipment regulations for professionals and amateurs. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association oppose two sets of rules.
How can you create different rules? R&A secretary Peter Dawson said while working as a rules official on the 13th green at The Players Championship. How is this good for the game?
About that time, Woods walked off the green. Despite sitting out five weeks, he won three of his first four starts.
Dawson smiled, wondering if everyone was missing the point.
This technology is supposed to be the great equalizer, Dawson said. And yet, Tiger has still very much separated himself, hasnt he?
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018
ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).
Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).
Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).
Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.
This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.
-NBC Sports Group-
Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf
Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.
He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.
The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.
He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.
“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.
It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.
For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.
In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.
Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.
For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.
“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”
But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.
“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”
In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.
His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.
As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.
“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.
“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.
It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.
Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.
“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”
If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.
Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.
Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.
DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.
DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.
“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”
Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.
While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.
“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”