Notes Belly putters and stories of the claret jug

By Doug FergusonJanuary 8, 2010, 5:20 am
SBS ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii – It looked like an act of desperation last year when Retief Goosen, whose pure stroke brought him a pair of U.S. Open titles, switched to the belly putter at the start of the season.

He eventually ditched it for the conventional putter and went on to win the Transitions Championship, pick up 10 finishes in the top 10 and restore his name among the top 20 in the world ranking.

So why was the belly putter back in his bag when he teed off on Thursday in the SBS Championship?

The bigger question is how long it will stay there.

Goosen believes the belly putter helped to get him pointed in the right direction early last year, so he thought he would at least start out the season doing the same thing.

“It’s a good training device,” he said.

He messed around with it in South Africa and said he would keep it in play at least through the Hawaii swing, and possibly through a U.S. West Coast schedule that will include Pebble Beach and then Match Play.

“If I do well with it, who knows? Maybe I’ll keep it in there longer,” Goosen said.

His goal for the year is to “put my name up there in majors,” and that was one area he was lacking the last few years. Dating to his first major at the 2001 U.S. Open, Goosen went consecutive years without a top three in the majors for the first time. His best was a tie for fifth at the British Open, where he started the final round two shots out of the lead.

CINK AND THE JUG: Stewart Cink has received honorary membership at four golf clubs in the Atlanta area, and he found a gracious way to show his appreciation.

All four are getting a turn displaying the claret jug he won at the British Open.

The jug has been at the TPC Sugarloaf since late November, although Cink is an automatic member there as a U.S. PGA Tour member. He already has lent it to East Lake Golf Club. Still on the list is The River Club and Berkeley Hills Country club.

“At some point between last year and next year, all four will have a chance to display the jug for a while,” Cink said.

MAUI REGULARS: Stephen Ames and Rory Sabbatini are back on Maui, which is a little misleading. Even if they had not qualified for the SBS Championship, they would have been here.

Both have been coming to this side of the island for the Christmas holidays for the last several years.

Ames has a timeshare down the coast at Kaanapali, while Sabbatini stays with his family at Kapalua. The South African earned high marks from the staff for his willingness to play with members or resort guests during his vacation.

“I’ll play with anyone,” Sabbatini said. “It’s all good by me.”

Ames arrived on Dec. 16 and played golf only four times before getting into practice mode for the year. And the only reason he played was because of the group of friends he brought down from Calgary.

“It’s a bit of a bonus for being here – or playing, I should say,” he said. “The hardest thing was Monday morning putting on a pair of trousers because I’ve been in shorts and a swimsuit all this time. So it’s been tough.”

Ames turns 46 this year, although he was only joking when he said he already was thinking about retirement. He plans to continue playing well into his Champions Tour career.

But he wasn’t kidding about retiring to Maui.

“We are looking for a family place here,” he said. “This is where we are going to retire – four months here, the other eight months playing golf and being in Calgary.”

It makes sense. Ames grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. He’s essentially going from one island to another.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.