Notes: Caddie wants another shot; Tiger's woes

By Doug FergusonNovember 1, 2011, 8:07 pm

SHANGHAI – After spending nearly a decade as a caddie, one tough year wasn’t enough to keep Brett Waldman from another shot at trying to make it as a player.

Waldman gave up his job as the caddie for Camilo Villegas last year when he made it to the final stage of Q-school, giving him status on the Nationwide Tour. It didn’t quite turn out the way he had hoped. After making the cut in his debut in Panama, Waldman went six months and 14 tournaments before making another check.

He finished his first year at No. 193 on the Nationwide Tour money list with $6,958 - about half of what he used to earn in one week as the caddie for Villegas.

“When I was missing all those cuts in a row, I definitely was missing caddying,” Waldman said from his home near Dallas.

He decided to start over, and a bogey-free round of 68 in the final round two weeks ago was enough to make it out of the first stage of Q-school. He returns to the TPC Craig Ranch in two weeks for the second stage.

“I worked so hard to get my game in shape, and it didn’t come into shape until the end of the year,” Waldman said. “I just wasn’t in any tournaments. I was fully exempt, but only for 10 events, which was my own fault. I made one cut out of 10, and my status dropped by like 35 players. I was in events easily, and then I had a hard time getting in. Therefore, I had to Monday qualify or get an exemption.”

A year ago, Waldman felt as though he couldn’t pass up a chance at playing pro golf. It might be different this year if he makes it through to the final stage, but still has only Nationwide Tour status.

He made it through the year, but financially says he “took a pretty good hit.”

If he were to get his PGA Tour card, he would come out to the arena where he once only caddied. But to spend another year in the minor leagues might be difficult if he started getting phone calls from players looking for a caddie.

“Getting a good bag is always tempting,” he said. “Especially after a year like this.”


MIXING IT UP: For the first time since 2003, the majors were won by players who had never won one before. Throw in the World Golf Championships, and it’s evident that 2011 was the year of the breakthrough.

First-time major winners were Charl Schwartzel at the Masters, Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Open, Darren Clarke at the British Open and Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship.

Luke Donald won his first WGC event in February at the Match Play Championship, followed by Nick Watney collecting his first world championship at Doral a month later. At Firestone, Adam Scott kept the streak alive by capturing his first WGC event.

Since the WGCs began in 1999, there was never a year in which first-timers won the majors and WGCs.


HARD KNOX: Russell Knox started the year with no status on any tour. He wound up at No. 12 on the Nationwide Tour to earn his shot in the big leagues, a spot he never imagined when he was toiling away in the north of Scotland and wondering if he belonged.

Knox recalls being selected to play for Scotland in a European junior event in Spain, where he saw Rory McIlroy as a teenager and played on the same team as Lloyd Saltman.

“I remember being on the range thinking to myself, ‘These guys are way better than me.’ Watching them hit it, the sound off the club was different,” Knox said. “That was my moment. I thought, ‘OK, I have to significantly improve from now or I might as well give up.”’

And so he went to work, earning a golf scholarship to Jacksonville University, working at a local golf course and doing well enough on the mini-tours that he could pay his own way as he kept his hopes alive.

Knox, who relies more on accuracy than length, got into the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook through Monday qualifying (he missed the cut), then headed west and tried to Monday qualify at a Nationwide event in northern California. He earned one of the spots, tied for second in the Fresh Express Classic to get status for the year, and won three months later in Chiquita Classic in Ohio.

The highlight was getting a letter from Arnold Palmer congratulating him on his win. Palmer’s design company built the TPC River Bend course on which he won.

“My dad is a huge Palmer fan, and he didn’t believe it,” Knox said.

Knox still has a hard time believing that the Scottish kid who once thought he wasn’t good enough will be teeing it up in Honolulu next year as a full member of the PGA Tour.

“It won’t sink in until I’m on the first tee and the heart is pounding,” Knox said. “I still can’t believe I’m going to have that. I can’t wait for the chance to see if I’m good enough.”


HIDDEN TIGER: Tiger Woods has gone two years without a win, and his fall from the top of golf has been illustrated by his failure to qualify for the Tour Championship in 2010 for the first time in his career, and his failure this season to even reach the FedEx Cup playoffs, giving him a forced six-week break.

This week presents another first in the worst kind of way. Even though Woods had no intentions of playing the HSBC Champions, this is the first time he has not been eligible to play a World Golf Championship. This from a guy who has won 15 of the WGC events.

Woods slipped to No. 56 in the world ranking this week. He has only two tournaments left this year, then as many as two events next year to make sure he doesn’t miss another WGC. Only the top 64 in the world ranking get to the Match Play Championship.


DIVOTS: Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, advanced to the second stage of Q-school after being the medalist at one of the seven first-stage qualifiers. Among those who failed to get out of the first stage were former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An and Kevin Tway. … J.J. Killeen won the Nationwide Tour money list with $414,273. It was the lowest amount to win the money title since Ken Duke had $382,443 in 2006. … The John Deere Classic, which had a $4.5 million purse, raised $5.29 million for local charities this year. … The Nationwide Tour Championship will return to the TPC Craig Ranch outside of Dallas next year. … Tom Lehman will have a chance this week to be the first player to be named player of the year on the Nationwide Tour, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Webb Simpson shot every round in the 60s at eight PGA Tour events this year. He won two of those.


FINAL WORD: “I used to fly coach and didn’t like it. And then somebody told me I should try playing better.” - Ian Poulter.

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

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Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

"Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."


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Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

"I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

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Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

"We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."