Toasts of the West Coast

By Brian HewittFebruary 25, 2008, 5:00 pm
So what did we learn from the West Coast swing that Sunday concluded near Tucson where, ho-hum, Tiger Woods captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship?
 
For starters, we re-learned something we already knew. No, not that Woods is the best player on the planet. We re-learned that the West Coast swing is a misnomer.
 
Only three of the nine PGA TOUR events played in the U.S. so far this year are actually located on the West Coast. They are the Buick Invitational, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open. The latter, by the way, played at Riviera Country Club, does not actually offer ocean views of the Pacific from the fairways.
 
Of the other six, the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Sony Open are on the Pacific but not the West Coast. They take place in Hawaii.
 
The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is staged in the Palm Springs area; the FBR Open lives in Phoenix; the Match Play is down the road in Tucson and the Mayakoba Open is hosted in Mexico.
 
Maybe officials could change the name to the Pacific Rim Swing With A Couple Of Desert Venues Thrown In. But that still wouldnt cover Mexico.
 
Anyway, back to the premise of this column:
 
We learned at Mercedes that Steve Strickers surprising ascent in the world rankings was not a fluke. The TOURs Comeback Player of the Years two years running dueled Daniel Chopra down the stretch at Kapalua only to lose in a playoff. By the time the guys got to Tucson for the Match Play, Stricker had shot all the way up to No. 3 in the world. And who did Stricker beat in the first round there? Daniel Chopra.
 
At the Sony Open we learned how good K.J. Choi really has become. He saws everything left to right off the tee. But he rarely misses a fairway he needs to hit. We should have known, when Choi won Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods official events last year, that his was a game on the come.
 
At the Hope we learned how difficult it is to play on the lead. A much-improved Justin Leonard began the final round four shots clear of D.J. Trahan. His swing didnt hold up under the gun and Trahan lapped him on Sunday. Same went for Vijay Singh at Pebble Beach. Early Sunday the tournament looked to be his. Then he started missing greens and eventual winner Steve Lowery started stringing birdies.
 
Dont worry about Leonard, though. Already this year he has four top-10s and is beginning to look like a lock for Paul Azingers Ryder Cup team in September.
 
At the FBR we learned again that long-hitting J.B. Holmes likes the TPC Scottsdale. Holmes posted his second win there by birdieing the difficult 18th to force a playoff with Phil Mickelson. On the first extra hole, which also took place on No. 18, Holmes birdied it again for the win.
 
Mickelson, who had made an 11 on the 14th hole at Pebble Beach on Saturday to ingloriously miss the cut, was undaunted. We re-learned that when he showed up at Riviera and emerged victorious there for the first time in his career. Dont look now but Woods, still oh-for-Riviera, might be jealous.
 
And, oops, speaking of Woods: We almost forgot his tour de force, multi-stroke win at Torrey Pines in the Buick Invitational. He has now won four straight times there and will be even more of an overwhelming favorite (than he already was) when the worlds best players return to Torrey Pines South course for the U.S. Open in June.
 
Finally, not to forget Brian Gay. The 36-year-old journeyman, who also happens to be one of the best putters in the game, got the monkey off his back in his 293rd PGA TOUR start with his victory at Mayakoba. Dont be surprised if you see him in the TOUR Championship at the end of the year.
 
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    Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

    Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

    Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

    “I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

    Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

    “I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

    Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

    “No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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    Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

    Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

    “We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

    “I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

    Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

    “Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

    The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

    “We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.

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    Van Rooyen continues links run with impressive 67

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:27 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For Erik van Rooyen familiarity has not bred contempt.

    The South African, like many European Tour players, has been on a links golf odyssey the last three weeks, playing the Irish Open, Scottish Open and this week’s Open Championship in consecutive weeks, and the crash course paid off on Day 1 at Carnoustie when he opened with a 4-under 67 to assure himself a spot among the early leaders.

    Although van Rooyen missed the cut last week just down the coast at Gullane Golf Club, he entered the final round in Ireland with a four-stroke lead.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I didn't pull it off the final day,” said van Rooyen, who closed with a 74 to tie for fourth place. “I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous. That's completely normal, and I'll learn how to deal with that. I'll take that experience into tournaments like this.”

    Van Rooyen, who was alone in second place when he completed his round, began his round with back-to-back birdies and was bogey-free until the last hole. It was just what one would expect from a player who has immersed himself in links golf for the better part of a month.

    “We've been playing nice golf now the last three weeks, so definitely used to the way this course is playing, definitely used to handling the wind,” he said. “So I'll be ready.”