Comebackers Mixed Bag
Like the sound of metal spikes crunching on a hard floor. Or the sound the ball makes when it drops in the cup. There are thousands of others. Let me know your favorites.
Meanwhile back to this week. Without further ado:
Mark writes: How much longer will the PGA Tour continue to let John Daly be an embarrassment to himself and the Tour without taking some kind of action?
Thats a very good question.
Andrew writes: On the latest news about John Daly and the N.C. Hooters incident, one thing that has been missing from the reports I have read ' and perhaps you can shed some light on this ' how is this latest issue Butch Harmon's fault? Has John or his representatives connected those dots yet?
The Comebacker is sensing public opinion, which has been putty in Dalys talented hands for a long time, is starting to turn against him.
Dale writes: Who cares (about the FedEx Cup)? This to me is just another event in the silly season anyways. What prestige is there in winning the FedEx Cup? Fifty years from now will we be talking about how Vijay won the Cup? Not likely. Golf is and will always be the majors.
But 50 years from now the $10 million Vijay won, even if he just invested it in certificates of deposit, will be worth a whole pile of money.
Stanislas writes: I suppose the next American Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams will refuse to go to the White House if invited? Seriously, I would be extremely curious to know the election results among the American players on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. My guess would be 80-20 for John McCain, maybe even more...given that they will all be concerned by President Obama's tax raise!
Who knows?....Maybe a few of them voted for a third party candidate. (Thats an in joke and you need to have been watching Golf Central to get it. Shame on you if you havent been watching Golf Central.)
Steve writes: I dont know whether this has made the list yet, but my pet peeve is the player who cant stand still for 10 seconds and every time you look at the pin/hole, hes in the background doing his version of the mashed potato. I have the attention span of a gnat, so it doesnt take much to distract me. So I end up over the shot, thinking of different ways I can politely tell him to stand still without appearing to be a twit, instead of concentrating on the shot at hand.
The Mashed Potato? What about The Swim, The Boogaloo, The Monkey, The Jerk and The Philly Dog? Twit, indeed.
Richard writes: Perhaps the motivation for this column was nothing more than to build the number of hits at the Web site. I've wondered if advertising costs are based on number of hits.....Please consider a column about things we like, things in golf that make us smile or feel good.
Please go back to the first paragraph.
Dennis writes: My favorite announcing team is Julian Tutt and his cohorts on the European Tour. Unfortunately they are the worst abusers of my Pet Peeve, the term unlucky. A shot that's a little too short or long is just that, whether or not it ends up in an awkward position ' it's golf! If someone hits a sprinkler head or course marker that sends their ball into a hazard or out of bounds, that's genuinely unlucky.
The announcer bashers: Theyre baaacckkkkk!!
Mark writes: My one pet peeve that I have found to be fairly new to the courses where I play is golferbillies spitting sunflower seeds on the greens. It annoys me to have to remove sunflower seeds from my line, plus it can be disgusting as well. I wish these players would head back to the softball diamonds that they have frequented for the past 20 years of their lives and give up golf or carry their spittoon with them.
I have no Comeback for this one. Mark, you write about a game with which I am not familiar.
Bigboy writes: My ultimate pet peeve is the guy who gets out of his giant SUV and carries his Tour Staff bag (big enough for a family of six) to the clubhouse and then heads for the Black Tees, all after parking in a designated handicap spot. I can only hope that this individual shoots the worst 17 holes of his life before breaking an ankle on 18 after stepping into a burrowing animal hole.
Al Czervik lives!
Craig writes: You need to give your head a shake if you think the players would vote Tiger Comeback Player of the Year (in 2009). How could someone 'come back' after ending the year atop the world golf rankings? A comeback player plays poorly one year and well the next.
Tell that to Steve Stricker.
Barry writes: You know the only way for Phil to become No. 1 was for Tiger to stop playing and by osmosis Phil is now No. 1 by default, not a manly way to get there.
Actually, last time I checked, Tiger was still No. 1. And for that matter, Phil is closer to No. 3 (watch out for Sergio) than he is to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Maury writes: I remember reading a quote from Amy Alcott years ago in that she tried to paint beautiful pictures with her golf clubs, referring to how she wanted to play golf. Certainly no one has ever painted as compelling, magical and beautiful pictures with his clubs as Seve. I join in the chorus in wishing him a speedy recovery.
For now, Ballesteros delicate condition continues to improve. We can all only hope that progress continues.
Chip writes: Whether from the tee, the rough, the fairway, the bunker or the parking lot, Seve routinely made shot after shot that left the gallery, as well as his playing partners, with slack jaws. The most creative man to ever play the game. I pray that he can play this shot that faces him now with just as much grace and character as he has always exhibited. Thanks for the memories.
At the risk of sounding like an old-timer, how is it that there arent any young players with Ballesteros creative gifts? Maybe they just dont come around every generation.
Marvin writes: Boo is more than an embarrassment to the PGA, he should have been sit down for his actions on the first tee (at Valhalla). He is the poorest sport I have ever seen.
Hey, get over it. Boo is Boo. The horse gallop thing was good theater. The Ryder Cup needs to have more players having fun.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”
Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.
He picked up his clubs three times.
That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.
This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.
Not that he was concerned, of course.
Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.
“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”
At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.
“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”
Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.
Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.
“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”
Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.
In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.
That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.
“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.
“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.
Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”
So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.
Despite results, Thomas loves links golf
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.
Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.
Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.
“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”
Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.
He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.
“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.
“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”
Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.
So much for that.
Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.
He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.
What’s the difference now?
“The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.
“I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”
Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.
“I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”