Notes: Harmon takes offense at link to Woods

By Doug FergusonFebruary 26, 2013, 7:14 pm

Butch Harmon first worked with Steve Elkington in the 1980s, and his roster of clients has grown enormously over the years. He coached Greg Norman and Tiger Woods during their rise to No. 1, along with four players in the World Golf Hall of Fame – Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples.

But when he worked with President Barack Obama at The Floridian, he was referred to only as Woods' former swing coach.

''I haven't been with him for 10 years. It's irritating to be honest,'' Harmon said. ''I guess they were looking for a connection because the president was playing with Tiger. But people think Tiger made me successful. No one remembers I took Greg to No. 1 in the world or all the work with Elkington, or Davis Love III. It's the press. Anything to sensationalize. And you're dealing with a White House press that doesn't know any of these names.''

Hank Haney, on the other hand, expects to be linked with Woods the rest of his life. Then again, Haney didn't have such a long list of top golfers (except for Mark O'Meara) before coaching Woods, and he has said he won't coach another.

''It's a big honor to have coached Tiger,'' Haney said. ''You couldn't have a better feather in your cap, especially with the success that Butch Harmon had with Tiger. In terms of my coaching career, obviously nothing can come close to the opportunity I had to work with Tiger Woods.

''I never hit any shots and Butch didn't, either,” he said. ''My friend Bill Parcells always says it best. 'You are what your record says you are.' And so how Tiger played while you coached him certainly has a lot to say about you as a coach.''


AUGUSTA ON THEIR MINDS: Russell Henley said he couldn't feel his arms or legs on the back nine of the Sony Open. He was trying to win his first PGA Tour event, and Georgia was on his mind.

''I was trying not to think about Augusta out there,'' Henley said after his win, which earned him a spot in the Masters.

Scott Piercy won the Canadian Open last summer and talked about a promise he made to himself to not go to Augusta National unless he was in the Masters field. Ted Potter Jr. said it was a career goal to play in Masters after he qualified by winning The Greenbrier Classic.

These stories likely are to weigh heavily on Augusta National chairman Billy Payne when he decides whether Tour winners in the fall will be invited to the Masters. Payne could announce changes to the criteria during his Wednesday news conference at the Masters.

Augusta National returned to its practice of inviting Tour winners the year after the FedEx Cup began in 2007. But there was a caveat. The club invited winners only of Tour events that offered full FedEx Cup points. The opposite-field events, and the Fall Series held after the FedEx Cup ended, didn't count.

The Tour, however, is going to a wraparound season after this year. That means the six tournaments in the fall will be included in the 2013-14 FedEx Cup season.

The question for Augusta National is whether the winners of those six events will earn a trip down Magnolia Lane.

The club and Tour have been talking about it the last several months, and one person involved described the discussions as positive.

The Masters has the smallest field of the majors and wants to keep it that way to enhance the experience of those playing. It has not had more than 100 competitors since 1966, though it has come close in recent years, with 99 in the 2011 tournament.

The most likely scenario is for the Masters to take the winners of the six fall events and eliminate the category of top 30 on the Tour money list.

To follow that model a year ago, there would have been two fewer players at the Masters and three fewer players in 2011 and 2010. And with the U.S. Amateur Public Links soon to go away, that would free up another spot.

The Masters got away from inviting Tour winners in 1999. That was the same year the World Golf Championships began, and with the WGCs came opposite-field events the same week. That's a polite way of saying ''watered-down fields,'' and the Masters did not deem those winners worthy of an invitation.

Gabriel Hjertstedt won in Tucson the week of the inaugural Match Play Championship. He remains the only opposite-field winner to get invited to the Masters.

When it stopped inviting winners after 1999, the club said it was interested in the most consistent player throughout the year. That's why the Masters is likely to continue taking the 30 players who qualify for the Tour Championship.

And perhaps it's no coincidence that the Tour is looking to tweak its FedEx Cup points system so that one high finish in the playoff events doesn't get a player to East Lake (see Chez Reavie in 2011) and qualify him for three majors, including the Masters.


REST VS. RUST: Ian Poulter was never tempted to return to golf earlier than he planned, and it worked out just fine for him. After a six-week break following Kapalua, he returned at the Match Play and reached the semifinals, before losing to Hunter Mahan and then Jason Day in a meaningless consolation match.

His quarterfinal match was a perfect example of how players can be sharp, even after a long break. He beat Steve Stricker, who also had not played in six weeks.

''I guess I was glad to beat a part-timer,'' Poulter said.

Poulter said he did not play a single round over the last four weeks of his break or even one hole on a golf course. He spent his time on the range, tuning his equipment. It reminded him of the early days working in a golf shop, when his duties left him no time to play on the course.

''I had time to practice, and that's what I do when I have time off,'' he said.

Some players have had time off, though not by choice.

Rory McIlroy goes into The Honda Classic with three competitive rounds this year, having missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and losing in the first round of the Match Play.


OPEN QUALIFIER: Tianglang Guan will find out this week if the 14-year-old from China gets to play in two majors this year.

Guan earned a spot in the Masters, when he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur late last year. The win also put him in the International Final Qualifying for the British Open, and the teenager is in the Asia qualifier. It starts Thursday at Amata Spring in Thailand, where he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur.

Four spots are available.

Also in the field are Cheng-tsung Pan of Taiwan, the runner-up to Guan and the highest-ranked Asian amateur at No. 5; and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, a two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific, who made the cut both times he played in the Masters.


DIVOTS: The OHL Classic at Mayakoba, held opposite the Match Play Championship the last six years, moves to November this year. Tournament officials were at Dove Mountain with a clever recruiting tool and to remind players of the date change. They gave players an iPad with their names engraved, loaded with information about the Mexican beach resort. ... Golf Channel altered its programming last week to show live coverage of the Women's Australian Open, where 15-year-old Lydia Ko was tied for the lead going into the final round. It had an audience of 288,000 viewers for a 0.22 rating. ... Trump Doral has signed on as the host course for the World Golf Championship event through 2023. ... Bo Van Pelt and Mark Wilson were elected co-chairmen of the player advisory council, meaning they will join the policy board next year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Americans have won the last 10 official Tour events, their longest streak since 11 in a row from the 2010 Barclays through the 2011 Sony Open.


FINAL WORD: ''If they happen to play poorly at Augusta, those two, I think it's going to be a tough year for them as far as winning majors.'' – Johnny Miller, on Woods and McIlroy.

Getty Images

Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Getty Images

Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

Getty Images

Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

Getty Images

Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.