Tiger never ceases to amaze, even his caddies

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2012, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It only took Mike “Fluff” Cowan one tournament as the caddie for Tiger Woods to see a shot he had never seen.Joe LaCava had that moment in his third week working for Woods.

Cowan was the first caddie Woods hired when he made his professional debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. He doesn’t remember which round, or even what hole they were on, just the club selection off the tee.

“It was his stinger, his 2-iron,” Cowan said, looking around until he locked his eyes on the waist-high mesh around the practice green at Sherwood Country Club. “It didn’t hardly get over that green net. But it stayed in the air forever. It went out there 270 yards or something. That was the one that got me.

“It was just a different kind of shot that I had ever seen anybody hit.”

LaCava, hired by Woods in October, had spent plenty of time around the 14-time major champion during his 20 years on the bag with Fred Couples, with whom Woods often played.

Even so, a 3-wood on the par-5 15th at Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup got his attention, and a few weeks later, he still had trouble describing what he saw.

“He hit it such a way that it was trajecting like this,” LaCava, using his hand to show a flat line with the slightest downward arc. “But it wasn’t coming down. It wasn’t rising, either. It’s hard to describe. It was gaining speed, but it wasn’t going up. That’s when I thought, ‘This guy is making the ball do something I’ve never seen anyone else do.’ I had never seen a trajectory like this on a 3-wood or any other shot.”

LaCava said the pin was cut in the front right portion of the green, and the ball finally stopped in the back left corner. The shot was into the wind, and in firm conditions, and he estimates it went just under 270 yards.

Just then, Woods walked up on the discussion. And when he sensed the conversation ending, he said, “Keep going.”

“Look at that little grin on his face,” LaCava said. “He knows what I’m talking about. But he won’t say anything about it.”




MATCH PLAY: This is the final week to qualify for the Match Play Championship, making the world rankings relevant for the first of several times this year.

Among those on the bubble for the 64-man field are Ernie Els (No. 62), followed by Kevin Na, Robert Allenby, Ryan Moore and Charles Howell, who at No. 66 is currently just beyond getting the final spot at Dove Mountain in two weeks.

That depends on Paul Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding. Casey is on the mend, and there is an outside chance he could play. Phil Mickelson already has said he is not playing.

Na tied for fifth in the Phoenix Open, moving up nine spots to No. 63. He can nail down his spot in the World Golf Championship at Pebble Beach this week, as can Ryan Moore at No. 65.

The others can only hope they hold their positions. Els, Allenby and Howell are not playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Dubai Desert Classic.

Eight of the next 10 players beyond No. 66 are playing this week - Joost Luiten, Rory Sabbatini, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alex Noren, Spencer Levin, Sean O’Hair, Vijay Singh and Chez Reavie. The exceptions are Toru Taniguchi (No. 70) and Johnson Wagner (No. 73).

Last week’s winners, Paul Lawrie (Qatar) and Kyle Stanley (Phoenix), both locked up spots in the Match Play.


INKSTER OUT: Even when she took time off the LPGA to have two children, Juli Inkster never went more than a month without playing golf. Now comes her biggest challenge.

After trying to cope with pain in her right elbow, Inkster had surgery Jan. 27 to repair a torn tendon. The 51-year-old Hall of Famer will be in some form of a cast for the next month and might not be able to return until the middle of summer at the earliest.

That’s OK with her.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I want to go out on my terms,” Inkster said. “This is the first injury I’ve ever had. Before the surgery, I was kind of floundering. I wouldn’t say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least this is the start of the tunnel.”

The tough part will be finding something to do, except for the physical therapy. Inkster is all about competing. It’s been in her blood since she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three straight years and then went on to the career Grand Slam.

“Me? How do you think Brian is feeling?” said Inkster, whose husband is the head pro at Los Altos Country Club. “I’m sure there’s going to be some ‘Sorry, I’ve got another meeting today, honey.’ I think once I get started with physical therapy I’m going to be fine. But I’ve been watching a lot of ‘NCIS.’ It got to the point where I was watching so much football I started calling the plays.”


RYDER CUP: Kyle Stanley has shot to the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings with his playoff loss at Torrey Pines and win in Phoenix.

But there’s a long way to go.

Thanks to Paul Azinger’s captaincy, Ryder Cup points are based on all PGA Tour earnings this year, with the majors counting double. There are still four majors, three World Golf Championships ($8.5 million purse), The Players Championship (at least $9.5 million) and three other events with at least $6.5 million in prize money.

Here’s another way to look at it.

After the Phoenix Open in 2010, the top eight in the standings were Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ben Crane. Only four of them – Stricker, Johnson, Mahan and Mickelson – qualified.

Three others who made the team – Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Jeff Overton – were not even among the top 25 in the standings. The other was Matt Kuchar, who was 13th at this time and wound up getting the final spot.


DIVOTS: Daniel Chopra had a day to remember at Pebble Beach during a practice round Monday. He made a hole-in-one on the seventh hole and then made another ace on the 17th. … Karrie Webb, the only woman to capture the LPGA’s “Super Slam” of five majors, was awarded honorary membership at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. … The U.S. Golf Association will award exemptions to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open to the players who win the Mark H. McCormack medal as the leading amateur. That would be Patrick Cantlay (already eligible as the U.S. Amateur runner-up) and Lydia Ko, the 14-year-old from New Zealand who recently became the youngest winner of a tour event. … Valero has signed a six-year extension as the title sponsor of the Texas Open. The new deal takes the sponsorship through 2018. … The LPGA added another marketing partner Tuesday by signing Volvik, a Korean golf ball company.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott is the only player from among the top 20 in the world who has yet to play a tournament this year.


FINAL WORD: “I fear we would be eating our own children if we went to two sets of rules.” - USGA president Glen Nager.

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Koepka watches as named engraved again on U.S. Open trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2018, 12:10 am

For the second consecutive year, Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open. So, once again he got to watch as his name was forever etched onto the trophy.

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Masters champ Reed: 'I definitely had a chance'

By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:55 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Patrick Reed’s Grand Slam bid made it all the way to the closing stretch of the final round at the U.S. Open.

Reed had never cracked the top 10 in a major championship before a runner-up finish at last year’s PGA Championship, and he followed that with a convincing victory at the Masters in April. In the U.S. Open, despite starting the final round three shots behind a quartet of co-leaders, he made a concerted effort to add a second major title.

With Shinnecock Hills declawed in response to third-round conditions that bordered on unplayable, Reed birdied each of his first three holes and five of his first seven to move to 1 over and within a shot of Brooks Koepka’s lead. He could get no closer, though, as three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 9-12 effectively ended his title bid.

Reed finished alone in fourth place at 4 over, three shots behind Koepka after closing with a 2-under 68.


U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage


“Of course, Grand Slam would have been nice. But you know, I mean honestly, to me, that was really the last thing on my mind,” Reed said. “It was go out, play some solid golf, try to post a number and see if you can get the job done. I had a chance. I definitely had a chance.”

It’s the third top-15 finish at the U.S. Open in the last four years for Reed, who tied for 13th at Chambers Bay and finished T-14 last year at Erin Hills.

Reed was bidding to erase a nine-shot deficit after 36 holes, which would have been the second-largest comeback in tournament history. He was also looking to join Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth on the short list of players to capture the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

“Of course it’s disappointing,” Reed said. “But at the same time … To finish in the top 10 my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them and to close one off, it means a lot.”

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Watching Koepka, Fleetwood knew he was one shot short

By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:33 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In the end, even a record-tying performance wasn’t enough for Tommy Fleetwood at the U.S. Open.

Fleetwood started the final round at Shinnecock Hills six shots off the pace, but he quickly moved up the board with a run of four birdies over his first seven holes. He added four more in a row on Nos. 12-15, and he had a 9-footer for birdie on No. 18 to become the first player to ever shoot a 62 in the U.S. Open.

He missed, and that proved to be the difference – for both the record and the tournament.

Fleetwood waited around in player hospitality for the next three hours while the leaders finished, alternating between watching the golf (with sandwich in hand) and playing with his newborn son, Frankie. He was on the chipping green when Brooks Koepka completed play at 1-over 281, successfully defending his title and finishing one shot ahead of Fleetwood.

“Brooks kept giving me like a little bit of hope, and then he’d hole a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I always just had that feeling that I was one shy, so I never really got massively, massively excited.”


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


This was the first year the U.S. Open would have gone to a two-hole, aggregate playoff, so Fleetwood needed to stay loose for a possible overtime that in previous years would have instead been an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He emerged from the locker room and headed to the range to warm up after Koepka birdied No. 16 to take a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

“I just thought, 'I should really go up, because you never know,'” Fleetwood said. “I mean, the worst thing that could happen is if something did happen and I wasn’t really ready, so it’s better warming up with that intention.”

The solo runner-up is a career-best major finish for Fleetwood, who also finished fourth last year at Erin Hills. He now shares a piece of tournament history, becoming just the sixth player to shoot a 63, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh and Justin Thomas.

And after torching a demanding layout to the tune of eight birdies, he insisted he won’t dwell much on the final putt that got away – even though Koepka’s closing bogey meant that it ultimately made the difference.

“The putt on 18, I actually wanted more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing for the tournament,” Fleetwood said. “Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week, and I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”

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DJ and more congratulate Koepka on social media

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2018, 11:31 pm

Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills. Dustin Johnson, his friend and playing competitor on Sunday, was quick to congratulate Koepka. And he wasn't alone.