Golf in the news for the wrong reasons

By Doug FergusonFebruary 3, 2010, 8:00 am

This is not the kind of publicity the PGA Tour had in mind.

Golf’s two best players are linked by accusations of cheating – one because he has a wife, the other because he has a wedge.

Oh, for happier times.

It was only four months ago when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson posed on the 18th green at the Tour Championship in Atlanta with commissioner Tim Finchem, both holding a trophy, smiles filling the frame. Woods had won the FedEx Cup for the second time, while Mickelson’s victory seemed to signal a renewed rivalry between the game’s brightest stars.

These days, handshakes have been replaced by hand-wringing.

The biggest blow remains the absence of Woods, missing since his middle-of-the-night car accident Nov. 27 that fueled sordid tales of extramarital affairs. Even though it has been nearly two months since he announced his indefinite break, the laughs kept coming when a San Diego strip club flew a banner over Torrey Pines that read, “We miss you too, Tiger.”

One day later, the news shifted to a banner quote in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Scott McCarron is not the only player upset about a 20-year-old legal loophole that allows players to use Ping Eye2 wedges with grooves that no longer conform to the rules. He’s just the only player to use the word “cheating.”

“It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play,” McCarron told the newspaper.

Mickelson is happy to be a lightning rod on this topic because he doesn’t like the U.S. Golf Association’s new rule on grooves and is miffed that Finchem never takes his ideas seriously. This is a chance to make both of them squirm. In the meantime, he would have expected, even welcomed, healthy debate with his peers on the Ping wedges.

But cheating?

That’s hitting below his white belt.

It’s like the ferry scene in the movie “Jaws,” when Mayor Vaughn is trying to talk Chief Brody out of closing the beaches. “You yell, ‘Barracuda’ and everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell, ‘Shark’ and we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”

Mickelson didn’t panic. But it’s a safe bet everyone around him did.

The world’s No. 2 player said on national television that he was “publicly slandered,” an ominous choice of words that suggested lawyers would be involved if the tour didn’t handle the situation to his liking.

The question now is which mess is easier to fix.

So far, the only damage Woods has inflicted has been to himself and his family. He has lost endorsement deals with AT&T and Accenture, and his approval ratings have plunged.

The gloomy forecast for TV ratings cannot be measured unless Woods is gone longer than eight months, which is how much time he missed last year due to knee surgery. Ratings were slightly up at Torrey Pines for consecutive years without him. And remember, Woods has never played one-third of the tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. Those events have managed to survive.

The tour’s biggest concern will be trying to control the gallery when Woods returns, if not protecting the guys with whom Woods is playing. If a strip club will hire a plane at a tournament where Woods is not playing, what happens on the ground when he is playing?

Far more troublesome, though not as sensational, is the issue with wedges.

The Ping Eye 2 wedges, provided they were made before April 1, 1990, are approved for play, even though the depth and volume of the grooves in those wedges are not allowed. Attribute that to a pair of lawsuits Ping settled against the USGA (1990) and the PGA (1993) over square grooves. The settlements take precedence over any rules change.

What makes this situation awkward is that not everyone has access to them unless they find the wedges on eBay, in garages or used club bins. Padraig Harrington spent the holidays giving away his old clubs to charity – including his Pings – only to find out he could still use them.

First, however, is getting around this name-calling.

Asked about his “cheating” quote, McCarron didn’t back off the next day, although he described Mickelson’s actions as “bending the rules.” That would be akin to “barracuda.”

Still, the damage had been done.

Mickelson’s camp has been checking the Internet and has lost track of how many times “cheating” and “Mickelson” are found together.

For those who thought McCarron might apologize on Monday, he chose to clarify instead. He said he never called Mickelson a “cheater.” He only said that by using the Ping wedge, it was “cheating.” Glad to get that cleared up.

The tour can choose to fine or suspend McCarron under its “conduct unbecoming a professional” policy, which prohibits players from making comments to the media that unreasonably attack or disparage other players (among other things).

Then again, the tour has a policy of not disclosing discipline.

Perhaps the most troubling part of Ping chairman John Solheim’s statement on Monday is that he told the USGA and PGA Tour in July 2007 that changing the regulations on grooves could lead to what is happening now – confusion, consternation, accusations.

Finchem was to meet with players Tuesday night at Riviera and speak to the media on Wednesday. The best-case scenario is that McCarron and Mickelson can make peace, and that Finchem can find a solution to the Ping wedges.

Then he can go back to wondering when Woods will return.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."