Big names cramming on eve of PGA

By Doug FergusonAugust 8, 2012, 11:29 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - The final major of the year, and everyone was cramming for their last big exam.

Ernie Els and Adam Scott walked up to the 18th green at Kiawah Island on Wednesday evening about the time most people in the low country would be going out for a dinner of shrimp and grits. Behind them on the Ocean Course was Ian Poulter, facing the prospect of missing out on the Ryder Cup team, and Graeme McDowell, in Sunday contention at the last two majors and hopeful the outcome at the PGA Championship will be different.

The major that bills itself as 'Glory's Last Shot' felt more like a pop quiz.

Rain has pounded Kiawah Island throughout the week, and it got so bad Wednesday that play was suspended because of storms before anyone teed off. It has led to limited practice time on the one course where players really need it.

This is the first time South Carolina has hosted a major championship. Kiawah Island had the Ryder Cup in 1991, so long ago that Jose Maria Olazabal is the only player at the PGA Championship who played in the matches. And he's only in the field as the European captain.

McDowell, Scott and Tiger Woods were among those who came to Kiawah last week for a look at the Pete Dye design, though all of them remarked that 2 inches of rain had fallen the night before and it was soft. Not much has changed a week later.

'The last couple of days have been very difficult from a preparation standpoint,' McDowell said. 'The golf course has taken a lot of rain. It seems to drain extremely well, though. But there's no doubt, this golf course is a long course, and this little bit of rain is going to make it play longer, and certainly is changing the dynamic of it as we speak.'

Then, he headed out for an emergency nine, one last chance to see the stretch of holes that could determine the winner.

'It's going to be busy this afternoon,' he said. 'Guys are scrambling around to get their preparation done. Thankfully, I feel like I have done enough so far.'

At most majors, practice rounds are busy Monday and Tuesday, with mostly work on the practice range on the eve of the championship, perhaps nine holes in the morning.

'It was a little strange to prepare - not your typical week leading up to a major,' Stewart Cink said late Wednesday afternoon. 'But it was fine. We could get enough work in. Everybody is in the same boat, so it will be all right.'

No one is sure what to expect at Kiawah, the longest course in major championship history at 7,676 yards, depending on how they set it up.

The nines on the Ocean Course are divided by the clubhouse and practice range - the front nine is to the north and cuts through marshes, the back nine to the south, about a mile away from the ninth green, and featuring majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean beyond the dunes and sea oats.

The course looks wide open, although typical of a Dye design, it forces players to look at trouble without realizing there's more room than meets the eye. The last time Kiawah was in a major spotlight - the `91 Ryder Cup - the course was new and ragged around the edges, the wind picked up and it was pure survival. Hale Irwin had a 41 on the back nine and still won the decisive point for a U.S. victory, but only after Bernhard Langer missed a 6-foot par putt. That anguish on his face epitomized the emotions of the Ryder Cup.

The question is whether it becomes a product of Kiawah Island.

The hazards are plenty - 27 of the 86 acres that make up the Ocean Course are sandy areas, not to mention the water, the oppressive heat and humidity and mosquitos that do most of their damage in the morning. Darren Clarke was among those who got in a quick nine Wednesday morning, before a burst of showers. Walking off the 18th green, he wiped a small streak of blood from his wrist where he had killed a mosquito.

The last time the PGA Championship was held on a course hardly anyone knew was 2004 at Whistling Straits. It was big and intimidating, another Dye design, and several players said they would be happy to take even par for the week and wait in the clubhouse. Then, Clarke opened with a 65.

What to expect from Kiawah?

'Without meaning to state the blind obvious,' Clarke said, 'it all depends how strong the wind blows.'

The gusts reached 20 mph Tuesday morning before the storms arrived, and when the course was open for a play again, what little wind there was came from the opposition direction. It was stifling Wednesday afternoon, with not much of a breeze.

'There are still shots to be hit,' Clarke said. 'Guys will shoot some scores. The wind only needs to pick up to 10 mph and it changes completely. We shall see. It looks like a course that says, `Come on and play golf. Come feel it. Hit it high, high it low.' It looks like fun to me. And if the wind blows, it's more fun. You've got to have a challenge. You've got to ask questions of yourself, and have fun doing it.'

As the season's last major, it's not all fun.

Woods is trying to avoid going a fourth consecutive year without a major. He has been close in the last two, at least for a while. He was co-leader through 36 holes at Olympic Club, then tumbled out of the top 20 on the weekend. He was in the penultimate group at the British Open, only for his hopes to die while squatting on the precipice of a pot bunker on his way to a triple bogey on the sixth hole.

He says he is a fan of Pete Dye courses, though Whistling Straits was never terribly kind to him.

'Pete will give you a couple easy holes, and then he'll just hammer you with a few hard ones,' Woods said. 'Then he'll give you a break, and it's kind of the ebb and flow of most of Pete's designs. ... This is a golf course where it's going to test our short games a lot. The guy who can chip and putt really well this week is going to have a great chance.'

The way the majors have gone, that could be anybody.

Els won the British Open last month to become the 16th player to win the last 16 majors, the longest streak in 25 years. Such is the parity in golf that the streak could be extended if the PGA Championship is won by the No. 1 player in the world (Luke Donald) or the betting favorite (Woods).

The sentimental favorite figures to be Scott, who had a four-shot lead with four holes to play at Royal Lytham and closed with four straight bogeys. At least he gets another chance for redemption without having to wait another year.

'I'm lucky that just three weeks later, I'm going to have another go at it,' he said.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.