The Comebacker Dives In
Heres the way it works. You write me (dont worry, I have a thick skin) and I respond to you (youd better have a thick skin).
I will weigh in on the issues and your opinions. I will even hand out praise when merited.
This weeks Comebacker is a mixed bag, although its clear a lot of you still have a lot of thoughts about the verbal antipathy expressed by Tigers caddie, Steve Williams, towards Phil Mickelson.
Without further ado:
Bob writes: The rules of golf permit a player to change caddies in the middle of a round. In fact, he can change caddies as many times as he wants. I fail to see what point you journalists are trying to make when you keep bringing up the fact that Daly changed caddies. What is the point? That Jon Gruden is not a caddie? What makes one a caddie? A big foul mouth like some other caddies and players?
This refers to John Dalys decision to return from a rain delay with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden on his bag. And heres the deal, Bob: Can you spell the word travesty? Would the New York Yankees return from a rain delay with John Daly coaching third base? And not all caddies have big foul mouths. Some of them have small foul mouths.
Michael writes: The drug testing episode highlights a series of actions which could only stem from a sense of personal privilege accompanied by the conceited belief in one's uniqueness. She (Annika Sorenstam) tarnished her own image with petulant demands and attempts to intimidate others to gain unwarranted advantage in several tournaments. The image of a young Paula Creamer walking away in apparent disgust while Sorenstam dropped is a lasting one. The spirit of the game was sacrificed for self-inflation.
Wow, I can count the number of shots I have seen or heard taken at Annika Sorenstam, in my lifetime, on one hand. Tough crowd.
Dave writes: Just a thought ' the Mercedes-Benz Championship should include Winning Ryder Cup Team Members who have not otherwise qualified for the season-opening tournament. Probably would only add a couple of players ' but I think it would be a nice added perk for winning Cup members.
Off the top of my head, your concept would have gotten Hunter Mahan to Kapalua. Plus Im sure a number of Euros would have been happy to show up ' Ian Poulter first among them. Good suggestion.
Churchill writes: Happy New Year, PGA Tour! Or not. Will 2009 continue the downward spiral of talented golfers and vanilla broadcasts with little to no appeal to the viewer? The Tour seems to have forgotten that golf is entertainment. Perhaps the economic reality of 2009 and its many pains will force the Tour to recognize that players personalities are as important as a player's golfing expertise. Then maybe, they will act to put fun back into golf's agenda. Train golfers to have a personality worth watching. Require announcers to be frank as well as complimentary (good job Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller)I'm for more fun in 2009, including anything having to do with golf. I think we all will need it!
I especially like it when Nobilo is frank And, by the way, Im warning you people: Dont abuse the use of the exclamation point. The Comebacker will not tolerate unwarranted hyperbole in 2009.
Tom writes: He is fat, smokes, drinks and can't play. He should not be on the Tour. The fact he was arrested (for public) drunkenness is just one of the many..
And please, people, finish your sentences Anyway, for a second I thought Tom was talking about the late Jackie Gleason. But the subject box said Daly. Gleason, by the way, was the Great One long before Wayne Gretzky was born.
Ben writes: Brian I am very pleased with the way you do your job and just wished to say so. While I am sure you know you can't please everyone, the guys I play golf with, a bunch of old codgers and I mean old 80-plus, frequently hash out your comments over a beer after a round.
The Comebacker loves Ben and his boys, if not their demographic. Ben makes me think we ought to ask the readers for their golf Bucket List selections. What people, places or things in golf do you readers want to know, see or do before you die? Let me know.
Neil writes: About John, he and me are similar; we are both golf professionals, although I am just a journeyman club pro [and not a great typist]; (we) both share the same birth date (April 28); and we are both alcoholics (sober for 26 yrs). Once he accepts this and gets on with his life things will be OK. It is not his fault that he has this disease but it is his fault if he doesn't TRY to recover. There is lots of help out there for him. Golf needs John Daly.
Typing excused, Neil. Stay strong.
Phil writes: You said: And while were at it, lets thank our stars that the names of golfs best players arent regularly found on police blotters. Other sports should be so lucky. Let's be honest here. The word is privileged, not lucky. Crime patterns do not follow athletes who grow up in homes where china patterns are considered important. Yes, I know golf is reaching out to kids of less privilege, but too many of those efforts are doomed to financial failure, and this remains a sport (like tennis) where stars come from families who can support participant tutelage in ways few enjoy. There's a reason why you can count Tour Democrats, progressives, and (dare I say it?) liberals on one hand. Elite players come from wealthy backgrounds that are traditionally conservative or Republican, and either of unusual privilege, or with clear access to the benefits of privilege.
Never thought, when I woke up this morning, that the phrase china patterns would be linked to civil obedience. At least not in this space. The good news is the primary unusual privilege in Tiger Woods early years had nothing to do with a wealthy background and everything to do with great parents.
Thomas writes: Steve Williams spoke his mind. You can question how much of one he has (a mind that is) or what was going through it as he ripped Mickelson, but at least give him credit for putting out his opinion in a world where people work very hard not to have one. Was it a smart thing to say? Probably not as the smart thing is to play the game and say little to nothing as regards anything. Was he out of line? Probably, but I guess it depends on what you think of Phil and the degree to which you believe it reflected poorly on Tiger and the game of golf as a whole. Should he be fired? For speaking his mind, no. Did he put his boss in a tough spot? Absolutely and it required some work by Tiger to remedy a situation not of his doing.
And Ill bet you were beginning to think Id forgotten my promise to get into the Steve Williams issue. This one mostly supports him. The next one well ... read on.
Tom writes: Sounds like he (Steve Williams) is a drunk! Like a lot of golf people.
Hey, hey, hey.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'
CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.
Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.
Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.
The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.
“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”
Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.
The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.
“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”
Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.
Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.
Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):
7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger
Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.
8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson
Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.
12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox
This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.
1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas
This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.
Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.
How to watch:
Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Purse: $7 million
Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)
Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.
Notables in the field
• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week
• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)
• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)
• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)
• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)
• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)
• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)
• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)
• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)
• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)
• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)
• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season
• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018
• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)
Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil
CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.
The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.
Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.
“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”
But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.
“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”
USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.
Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.
“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”