Since Weve Been Gone
Prozac-tly What I Needed
I suffered from T.W.W. (Tiger Woods Withdrawal) much sooner than I had expected -- like, on April 17th at approximately 8:59 a.m. ET, upon arriving to work on that initial post-Masters Thursday. I had no idea my universe would spiral into a such a deep, dark abyss in the absence of Eldrick ' which might also have been why this blog broke down faster than Mark Prior in the springtime. Without the meaning in my life, without my inspiration (cue Peter Cetera), the past eight Tiger-less weeks have been miserable. And by miserable I mean, I was a walking Zoloft commercial: Down-in-the-dumps? Irritable? Shaped like an egg with tiny legs and arms? Yep, this girl *two-thumbs pointing-inward gesture*. I listlessly skulked about my house with the curtains drawn in a Doritos-dusted, chocolate milk-stained bathrobe. On days I actually pried myself out of bed, I spent google-ing random words like Woods and knee and Dena + Tiger on my laptop whilst curled up in a fetal position sunk into the couch, my face nestled safely against my Woodrow headcover, forming stripe-like creases into my tear-tinged cheeks. With my calendars and clocks stuck on the day the music died, I was merely one decrepit old wedding dress away from becoming Miss Havisham. Seemingly, I needed to seek professional help -- or join a traveling Charles Dickens theatre troupe. But really, all I needed was THIS week. I needed the No. 1 golfer in all the land to be written back into the script on a Major stage. With Tiger back in the scene, on the scene and being seen, the music would once again play on, play on, play on (now cue Lionel Richie!) The legendary rock band Cinderella sang it best, You dont know what youve got til its gone. Lord help me the day Tiger hangs up the spikes. Or, gasp, has knee surgery again*.
*Umm. I just found out Tigers having surgery again. Anyone know a good therapist?
Saturday night, and I aint got nobody? Nah, Sam Cooke, I had a few friends ' and gorgeous HD flat-screen television, aaaand a man-not-named-MJ eliciting thrills and chills with one-hop trajectories towards flag-sticks, banking spheres into cups with tongue-wagging gravity-defying shots and those lovable grinning shrugs. It was another magical night of goose-bumps and butterflies and he hadnt even bought me dinner and flowers. From Friday to Monday, the extended weekend of clutch shots and wincing wonders was an intense roller-coaster of emotions not felt since perhaps the fall of 2006 when my beloved Cardinals outlasted the Mets in a tee-biting (right, Rocco?) 7-game 2006 NL Series. I didnt eat for days during that stretch and rode Space Mountain just help take the edge off. So, this past Sunday, even though I knew Tiger would make that birdie putt on the 72nd hole, my stomach still felt like it was auditioning So You Think You Can Dance contestants ' and I loved it. Then there was jubilation and inspiration culminating in a rewarding Monday of Free! Golf! ' and change. And I was left channeling Billy Corgan, singing my most fervent rendition of Today is the Greatest, gleeful over one of the most compelling workdays in sports in which Id not been at all productive (Dont take it personally, March Madness). So, I suppose if we dont get any more Real World: Tiger for the rest of the year, I can handle it. Ill have this memorable week in my mind to keep me going. Also, I DVR-ed it.
Thats the ticket!
Between his various adorning pieces of patriotic flair, his shiny peace-sign belt buckle (Rory Sabbatini was not impressed), and his temerity to wear red in the final bout 'boldly ignoring the color his enemy had trademarked for his very own championships, not only might Rocco have a side-career in mens golf fashion, but why not politics? Shouldnt a certain junior Senator from Illinois be on the horn with this recently-beloved, gritty, determined, son of a barber from the Steel City, already? Dont tell me BaRoccObama 08 doesnt just rock n roll off the tongue and right onto a campaign ticket?
Turning the (Beth)page
God bless Phil Mickelson. On Sunday, our San Diego native son was doing his best to forget his national nightmare on Pines street, by attempting to shift his attention to next years U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in NY, exclaiming that hes chomping at the bit to compete there in, oh, about 361 days or so. Trouble is, he must have gotten knocked in the noggin with his 3-wood, because he might remember that the reigning Bethpage Black Open title-holder will likely be in the field. And all three of Eldricks U.S. Open wins have come at public courses. You might say, its right in his wheelhouse. And for this one, Tiger wont have a bum wheel. *crosses fingers*
Like Rajon Rondo always wearing his headband upside-down or Skip Bayless continued gainful employment, our sports world if full of conundrums which, sadly, may never be deciphered. But will someone please explain to me the Tours terminology for tee-time groupings of three, called pairings. If Im not mistaken, a pair is two. Oh, thats right it was just Tiger and Phil on Thursday and Friday. There was no Adam Scott. At least, according to the hype ' and to how the No. 3 golfer in the world played. While the wide gap from Tiger to Phil is continents apart in rankings, the impossibly dreamy Aussie's position feels more like planets away -- and nowhere in the stratosphere of Major-land. Perhaps, though, with a pair of Tiger-less majors now hovering on the horizon, Scott can finally take his career to the next level and shed the bridesmaid label. But will it be considered legitimate, minus The One to contend with? Sergio, what do you think? (Hey, since Kevin Garnett insists we cant use the phrase Big Three for his band of musketeers, do we call them the Big Pairing?)
Sudden Death Holes:
Reason #253 I love Kevin Garnett
Because even in the utter chaos of the Celtics Championship celebration, thru his unprecedented deliriously incoherent and completely mesmerizing rant, KG was still able to drop some knowledge, as the kids say. Turns out Minnesota has now been shortened to Sota. Thanks to the Big Ticket, I stay fresh and hip with my abbreviation lingo.
Any truth to the rumor that Colin Montgomeries poor play at the U.S. Open was mainly due to his looking ahead to the monumental TELUS Skins tournament on Mon and Tues in British Columbia? Skins = Ryder Cup pts?
We Got To Get Down to Beantown
Gosh, whatever will those poor, long-suffering Boston fans do now that the Pats, Sawks, and Cs have all won titles recently? Looks like the Bruins Got Next! Anythiiiiings possiiiiiiible? Maybe. But Ray Borque is NOT walking thru that door. (And Tiger is not watching hockey?)
Reason #141 Kobe Bryant will never be Michael Jordan
The league's MVP was shut down by James Posey in do-or-die elimination Finals Game 6. Read that again. James Posey. Even Tiger Woods wouldnt let that happen On a gimp knee.
Knowing is Half the Battle
Okay, so heres what we know from this week: Rocco Mediate is the new Paul Goydos. Allisen Corpuz is the next Michelle Wie. Tiger Woods is the Michael Jordan of golf. Paul Pierce (and his knee) was the Tiger Woods of the Finals. Now, whos going to be Tiger Woods of golf for the rest of the year? Paging Anthony Kim, paging Lorena Ochoa?
Is it almost time to commence the Senorita Slam talk again as we get closer to the Womens U.S. Open in Sota next week! Well, no. Or is it? Just a couple of months ago, you couldnt mention Lorena or Tiger without using the words ridiculous dominance and/or grand slams. Now, its just our fair maiden left on the golf landscape to take up the task and shes defending her title at the Wegmans this week. Itll be a nice warm-up to the next major at Interlachen. And for someone whos been on her bandwagon all year, I dont mind admitting I would love to get a chance to ride it to Berkshire, England with the U.S. Open trophy in tow. The great state of Sota boasts thousands of lakes for her to splash victoriously into, Kraft Nabisco-style, you know.
I Can Cry For Miles and Miles
So, Willie Randolph has to travel 3,000 miles to the west coast to get his head handed to him... while the Los Angeles Lakers have to fly clear across country to Boston for their series-ending bloodbath. Moral of the story? PGA Tour players should consider saving their extra baggage fees in crossing the pond to make their tee time at Royal Birkdale when Tiger's posted as a 2:1 favorite there on Tuesday. Wait, what? Tigers really not coming back this year?
Reality starting to set inin 3, 2, 1 I shall now go cry in the shower. Sob, Rinse, Repeat.
Email your thoughts to Dena Davis
Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas
ROGERS, Ark. – Former Arkansas star Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship.
Lopez, a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks, matched her career best by finishing at 8 under - doing so after missing the cut in her last two tournaments. The Mexican player began the tournament at Pinnacle Country Club ranked 136th in the world but finished just two shots off the course record of 10 under in her third year on the LPGA Tour.
Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok.
Local favorite Stacy Lewis, expecting her first child in early November, had a 66.
Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.
Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead
CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.
Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.
“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”
Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.
Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.
“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”
10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke
CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.
Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.
Was it a birdie, or a par?
According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.
According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.
“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”
Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.
“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”
While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.
His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.
“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”
Travelers becoming marquee event for star players
CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.
The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.
The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.
Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.
The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.
Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.
While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.
Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.
“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”
Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.
But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.
“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”
After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.
The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.
But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.
Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.
It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.
“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”