Players show gratitude for sponsor invitations

By Doug FergusonDecember 27, 2011, 7:01 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rod Pampling had a few nervous moments while watching parts of the final PGA Tour event on TV, though it ended well for him. After starting the year with only limited status as a past champion, he regained his full card at No. 124 on the money list with $2,033 to spare.

Pampling spent the next month trying to contact every tournament director who gave him a sponsor exemption, thanking them for helping him get his card again. In some cases, Pampling wound up earning his way into tournaments and didn’t need the exemption. The way he saw it, the offer of an exemption at least gave him something to fall back on, so it still meant a lot.

“I’ve been doing this 25 years. I’m not saying I’ve never had a guy call me and thank me for doing that, but it’s the first in a long time,” AT&T National tournament director Greg McLaughlin said. “It’s very rare. All the other guys are thankful and appreciative. But rarely do I get one after the season when a guy gets his card and calls you to thank you.

“As far as I’m concerned, he can play in one of my tournaments if he ever needs a spot. He’s set for life.”

Pampling most likely was not alone. Even so, it was a classy gesture worth pointing out with hopes that it gets repeated.

“It was just to thank them for helping me out,” Pampling said. “They didn’t have to do that. It was a simple gesture on their part, and it’s not that hard to call and say, `Thanks for that.’ I was just trying to do the right thing. Hopefully, I won’t need the invite again.”

Joe Ogilvie, who lives in Austin, Texas, added a local flavor to his gratitude.

This year he had conditional status, those between No. 126 and No. 150 on the money list, and received his share of exemptions. Ogilvie finished at No. 116. The tournament directors who gave Ogilvie a spot received goodies from Salt Lick, which he regards as the best barbecue in Texas.

“The help I got from these tournament directors … enabled me to finish in the top 125,” Ogilvie said. “Obviously, I helped myself by playing well, but they certainly helped. I’m not a star by any means. I think I’m really good in front of corporates and sponsors, but I’m not going to sell three tickets. These guys helped me, and I wanted to show my appreciation.

“That was my `thank you’ note.”


BJORN IS BACK: Thomas Bjorn was No. 65 in the world, two weeks removed from winning the Qatar Masters, when he arrived in Arizona for the Match Play Championship. It was his first time at a World Golf Championship in four years. He had a chance to sneak into the top 50 and get into the WGC at Doral and perhaps get back to the Masters.

Bjorn, however, would have none of that talk.

“Those days are behind me,” he said.

How wrong the great Dane turned out to be. As an alternate at the British Open, he finished fourth. A month later, Bjorn won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles and then won again the next week in Switzerland at the European Masters.

It was his first multiple-win season, and his three titles tied him with Luke Donald for most on the European Tour this year.

Bjorn is at No. 35 in the world, eligible for at least three of the World Golf Championships next year. He also goes back to Augusta National for the first time in five years.

As for those comments in February?

“It was important to not get ahead of myself with everything,” Bjorn said. “I wanted to keep working hard and keep my feet on solid ground, to do the work that enabled me to get back and play decent stuff. If I started talking myself into believing I was back, I might have just been off a little bit.

“I would never say I believed the big stuff was behind me,” he said. “I just knew it was a long track for me to get into a position where it’s there, and you don’t have to think about it.”


ZACH’S YEAR: Before showing up for his final tournament of the year, Zach Johnson met with his team for a two-day summit to assess the season and look ahead to 2012. He failed to win for the first time since 2006, but the year didn’t feel like a failure.

“We looked at the goals we had,” Johnson said halfway through the Chevron World Challenge. “We have three or four specific goals, and I accomplished all of them but one. And the one I didn’t, I was awfully close.

“For the most part, it was all pretty good. You’d think we would have a banner year, but we didn’t,” he said. “The more I chewed on it, the more I realized it was going the right way.”

The next day, he shot 68 to take a one-shot lead and wound up losing to a birdie-birdie finish by Tiger Woods, which would seem to indicate he is heading in the right direction.

Even so, nothing beats holding a trophy.

“I don’t think winning is the only formula for a great year,” he said. “But you want to win. That’s why you play.”


HAVE CLUBS, WILL PULL A TROLLEY: As long as Laura Davies has been playing tournament golf, she managed to do something new during the Indian Open earlier this month on the Ladies European Tour.

She didn’t bother taking a caddie.

Davies said her caddie was having visa troubles and didn’t make it to New Delhi. The English star lost patience and instead of hiring a local caddie decided to take care of it herself.

“Ended up having to pull my own trolley around, which is the first time I’ve done that in 26 years on tour,” Davies said. “I shot 3 over the first day. He made it for the second round, but it didn’t work out. I missed the cut.”

Davies doesn’t get flustered easily. This was an exception.

“The officials were like, `You should take a local.’ But I was just irritated,” Davies said. “So I just wanted to get out there, try and shoot something that wasn’t going to ruin the week, and I ended up shooting 3 over and the week was over before it got started.

“These things happen, but it was a shame.”


DIVOTS: Seven players between No. 126 and No. 150 on the money list last year with conditional status finished among the top 125 to earn full cards for 2012. … Five Americans have been picked for the Curtis Cup, which will be June 8-10 at Nairn in Scotland - Amy Anderson, Lindy Duncan, Austin Ernst, Tiffany Lua and Brooke Pancake. The other three will be selected next month. … There were 501 tee shots that went at least 360 yards on the PGA Tour this year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 200 hardest holes on the PGA Tour this year, only one was a par 5 - the 14th hole at Pebble Beach was tied for 20th with an average score of 5.341.


FINAL WORD: “It’s a funny old fuddy-duddy game, but I love it. And I quite understand if people don’t. But it’s something very, very special, and I’m very honored to be a part of it.” -British commentator Peter Alliss, upon his selection for the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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What's in the Bag: CJ Cup winner Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 23, 2018, 12:50 am

Brooks Koepka closed strong to win the CJ Cup in South Korea, and he also took over the No. 1 ranking. Here's a look inside his bag.

Driver: TaylorMade M3 (9.5 degrees)

Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3); Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.


1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.



4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.



7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

“I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

“Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”


Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

This week's award winners ...  


Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.



The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Web.com Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."