When a Miss Becomes a Choke
There's no telling how long the word 'choke' has been part of the golf vernacular, or when it first came into vogue. Perhaps the most famous use came at the 1989 Masters, and then only because Scott Hoch's last name rhymes with 'spoke,' or something like that.
A year later, Johnny Miller was in the broadcast tower for NBC Sports, watching Peter Jacobsen stand over a 225-yard approach from a downhill lie over water to the 18th green at the Bob Hope Classic.
'This is absolutely the easiest shot to choke I've ever seen in my life,' Miller said that day.
Jacobsen pulled off the shot and won the tournament, and Miller was vilified for daring to mention what everyone thinks.
'You'd think I'd exposed warts on Miss America,' he wrote in his book.
And maybe Miller himself has become sensitive about the 'C' word, because he didn't utter it Sunday at the Honda Classic when Weekley three-putted from 30 feet on the 18th hole, missing a 3-footer that would have brought him his first PGA TOUR title.
Nor did he use it a week earlier at the Accenture Match Play Championship when Woods missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole that would have won his third-round match against Nick O'Hern.
And that leads to a question that is hard to answer.
When does a miss become a choke?
Paul Goydos was asked Tuesday to define 'choke' and his response showed how touchy this subject is around golfers.
'Food lodged in the throat,' he said.
Miller defines it as stress manifesting itself mentally and physically. If that's the case, it happens every week.
'If you're out there and you don't feel pressure, you're not into what you're doing,' Curtis Strange said.
The two-time U.S. Open champion has felt both sides of emotion. He saved par from a bunker on the final hole of the 1988 U.S. Open to force a playoff with Nick Faldo, beating him the next day. Seven years later, Strange missed a 6-foot par putt on the last hole to lose a crucial match to Faldo in the Ryder Cup.
'Anybody who has played this game has done both,' Strange said. 'It can beat you up if you let it.'
Scroll down a list of tournaments on the PGA TOUR and it's not hard to find example of blown opportunities.
Greg Owen had a 3 1/2 -foot par putt on the 17th hole at Bay Hill last year that would have given him a two-shot lead with one hole to play. He three-putted for double bogey and lost the tournament with a bogey on the 18th.
Mike Weir had a chance to become the first Canadian in 50 years to win his national open, on the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Open. He had a 5-foot par putt to win on the second playoff hole against Vijay Singh in 2004 and missed it, then lost on the next hole.
Charles Howell III hit a superb bunker shot on the 10th at Riviera in a 2003 playoff, only to miss the 6-foot putt.
Was that a miss or a choke?
And is that any different from Bernhard Langer? He faced a 6-footer on the final hole at Kiawah Island with no less than the Ryder Cup hanging in the balance. The anguish on his face when he missed remains one of the most indelible images of the Ryder Cup.
Langer is remembered more for his two Masters titles than a missed putt at the Ryder Cup. And it would be difficult to say Weir choked because of the 6-foot pars he made on the 17th and 18th holes in winning the 2003 Masters in a playoff.
'Circumstances are what define whether it's perceived if you choked or not,' Paul Azinger said. 'What is choking, anyway? Is it the hands shaking? Is it your thought process?'
Weekley needed only two putts from 30 feet for his first PGA TOUR title. The birdie putt stopped 3 feet short of the hole. He studied the par putt from both sides, then saw the ball run by the cup on the left.
'I was shaking. I ain't gonna lie about it,' Weekley said. 'I was just focusing on getting that ball in the hole and turning around and waving to everybody. I made a good stroke. I just hammered it.'
Woods had to rap in only a 4-footer for birdie to beat O'Hern, advance to the quarterfinals and stay on track for his eighth consecutive PGA TOUR victory. He blamed the miss on a ball mark he neglected to repair.
Whether he pushed the putt with a quick stroke or the ball was knocked off line by a slight indentation on the green has been a popular subject the last few weeks. But one fact is undeniable -- he missed. And if he didn't notice the ball mark, then that would have to be classified as a breakdown in the thought process.
'It's my fault for not paying attention to detail,' Woods said.
Woods gets a pass because he has faced a dozen or so other crucial shots and made most of them, whether it was that 6-footer for birdie at Valhalla to force a playoff with Bob May at the 2000 PGA Championship or that 15-foot par putt that kept the Americans from losing in the 2003 Presidents Cup.
'Tiger has proven over and over again that there's not a lot of choke in him,' Azinger said. 'Until Boo Weekley makes a putt like that, people are going to speculate whether he choked.'
Ditto for Camilo Villegas. He hit a terrific flop shot to 3 feet and missed by a mile to fall out of the playoff.
'Every other sport, with the exception of bowling, you're pretty much reacting,' former PGA champion Rich Beem said. 'Here, you're making the ball react. You have a lot of time to think.'
'And hopefully,' he added, 'you don't think too much.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open
IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.
Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.
Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.
Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.
Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.
Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way
Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.
Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.
And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.
Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.
Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.
Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.
Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.
“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.
Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.
A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.
It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.
There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.
Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.
The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.
Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.
“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”
Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why
In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.
Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.
With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.
"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.
So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.
"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.
Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away
Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.
On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.
And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship.
"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.
"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."
Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.
He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).
Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.
But he isn't celebrating just yet.
"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.
"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."