Bivens and Annikas Agent

By Brian HewittJanuary 7, 2009, 5:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam is busy these days with the details and final preparations for her wedding this month. One of the last things on her mind is the random drug test she had to take last November at the ADT Championship after the final round of her LPGA career.
 
But she was not happy about the test at the time. And the subsequent fall-out from the ensuing controversy raised several issues about the LPGAs testing policy
 
GolfChannel.com has since learned details of a long and pointed post-round conversation that took place later that same day between LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens and Sorenstams agent, Mark Steinberg.
 
Steinberg wasnt as upset as Sorenstams fianc, Mike McGee, who called the timing of the test pathetic, adding, I dont know what they (the LPGA) were trying to prove.
 
But Steinberg had a problem with the fact that Sorenstam was close to making the 36-hole cut at the season-ending ADT. There was an outside chance she could have landed in a playoff that day to determine the 16 players that advanced to the third round. And Steinberg made it clear to Bivens that the LPGA needed to reconsider at least one aspect of its drug policy: Forcing a player to produce a sample when that player might have more golf to play that day.
 
Drug testing has to have integrity, said Steinberg, who heads up the powerful golf division at IMG and also serves as Tiger Woods agent. But he communicated strongly to Bivens the need to exclude players from the testing area until it is clear their golf is done for the day.
 
Steinberg labeled his talks with Bivens constructive and said he was confident that the LPGA would at least take a look at this situation.
 
Any ADT testing the first two days of that event, Steinberg said, should have been done on Thursday (where there was no cut and no playoff) not Friday. Sorenstam wound up missing a playoff by two shots.
 
Steinberg is primarily a behind-the-scenes guy. He doesnt seek publicity. And he generally doesnt like being quoted. The latter is just one of the reasons why hes a perfect fit to represent Sorenstam and Woods, both of whom demand their private space.
 
But Steinbergs influence in the power corridors of mens and womens golf is immense. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the LPGA wouldnt listen to Steinbergs suggestions.
 
If the LPGA does revise its testing policy in this regard, it could mean an end to random testing on Sundays. There is, after all, always the possibility of a playoff on the final day of any stroke-play event.
 
Im one who believes that its best to go by the system when it comes to drug testing, said Steinberg, who is on record as supporting random tests. Just dont test players, he said, who may need to play more on the day of a test.
 
Bivens, chose not to speak with GolfChannel.com for this story, deciding instead to let attorney Jill Pilgrim, who administrates the LPGAs drug-testing, answer questions.
 
Pilgrim said Wednesday the LPGAs drug-testing protocol already allows for discretion. For example, if a player finishes her round two hours before a playoff might begin, that player must agree, if asked, to be tested if her random number comes up. On the other hand, Pilgrim said, if a player is in the second-to-last group and the start of a playoff is just minutes away, that player would not be asked to be tested until the end of the competition.
 
We would never make a decision to delay a competition to wait for a drug test, Pilgrim said. We are reasonable people. We will always error on the side of being flexible.
 
But, she said, any athlete, given enough time, can flush illegal substances out of his or her system within hours. Pilgrims background is in track and field. And, she said, there were instances when sprinters were drug-tested between heats of sprints in order to protect the field and the integrity of the competition.
 
The 2008 season was the first in which random drug-testing was implemented on the LPGA. Many players were frustrated and/or confused by the policies.
 
Any feedback we get from players or persons like Mark (Steinberg) we evaluate on a weekly or annual basis, Pilgrim said. We welcome any feedback.
 

 
DALY FOLLOW-UP: As reported here earlier this week, John Dalys suspension has left the Transitions Championship (Mar. 19-22 in the Tampa area) without a marquee player who had already accepted a sponsors exemption.
 
The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by Arnold Palmer is about to announce its sponsors exemptions. And tournament director Mike Milthorpe told GolfChannel.com he hadnt received a request for an exemption from Daly and he hadnt decided yet whether to extend an exemption to Daly.
 
Now its a moot point. Dalys suspension isnt expected to be lifted until May at the earliest. Daly played the Hope last year on a sponsors exemption and Milthorpe said tournament officials were disappointed when Daly withdrew Saturday after opening rounds of 71-70-71.
 
In all, Daly either withdrew or missed the cut in 12 of the 17 events he entered on the PGA Tour last year. The question of whether he will be in demand when the suspension lifts is still unanswered. Transitions tournament director Gerald Goodman said earlier this week that Daly is still very popular and very much a draw at his event.
 
He may, Milthorpe said of Daly, be the cat with nine lives.
 
Or he may have worn out too many welcomes.
 

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.