Stat attack!: WGC-Cadillac Championship preview

By John AntoniniMarch 4, 2014, 9:15 pm

The old adage that the golf season doesn’t really begin until the PGA Tour comes to Doral was disproven years ago. With the European Tour building a strong Middle East swing, and the PGA Tour concluding its West Coast swing with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the world’s top stars have many places to shake out the winter rust before the Tour comes to Florida. This year, with the wraparound season beginning in October, 15 PGA Tour events were in the books before Doral appeared on the schedule. But for some players the venerable adage does hold some truth. Eight qualifiers for the Tour Championship a year ago are currently outside the top 100 on the 2013-14 FedEx Cup standings and the top three players on last year’s list – Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker (pictured) – would not qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. The Tour still has 26 events to go, so time isn’t quite running short, but this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral would be a good place for the players listed below to “start” their seasons.

2013 Tour Championship qualifiers outside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points in 2014

 Player 2013 rank 2014 rank
 Henrik Stenson 1 151
 Tiger Woods 2 T-226
 Steve Stricker 3 195
 Brandt Snedeker 12 116
 Brendon de Jonge 26 108
 Charl Schwartzel 27 109
 Luke Donald 28 117
 D.A. Points 30 158

The good news for Woods and Stricker is that they finished first and second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship a year ago. The bad news is that they are not returning to a course they are familiar with. As part of an overall $250 million renovation of the newly named Trump National Doral, the Blue Monster course underwent a redesign after last year’s championship led by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner. This was more than a tweak. Hanse and Wagner rebuilt every green, moved every bunker and made extensive alterations to just about every hole. Water now comes into play on 14 holes, up from six a year ago. Speaking on Morning Drive in December, Hanse said the Blue Monster was “basically a brand new golf course.”

Woods set a personal best (after an alignment tip from Stricker) when he needed just 100 putts a year ago. But any notes he has about the putting surfaces are obsolete, as it has been reported that the green complexes are larger and trickier than before with more undulations. There are more opportunities to tuck pin positions, and avoiding three-putts will be a tournament key for the seven players in the field are in to top 20 on Tour in three-putt avoidance.

Tour leaders in three-putt avoidance in the WGC-Cadillac field

 Player  Rank Three-putt percentage
 Matt Kuchar 2 1.19%
 Jonas Blixt 10 1.56
 Zach Johnson T-12 1.62
 Webb Simpson T-12 1.62
 Brendon de Jonge T-16 1.67
 Dustin Johnson T-19 1.74
 Hunter Mahan T-19 1.74

Of just as much importance to Simpson and the two Johnson’s is the fact it has been critical at this tournament to get off to a strong start – regardless of where the event is held. The eventual winner has been under par in the first round 13 times and only two champions were in the 70s after the first day. In addition, 12 of the 14 champions were in the top 10 after day one. Ernie Els, 16th after one round in 2004, was the only player outside the top 15 on Thursday to go on to win. Simpson, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson are all in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average in 2013-14.

Tour leaders in first-round scoring average in the WGC-Cadillac field

 Player Rank First-round scoring average
 Chris Kirk T-1 67.00
 Webb Simpson T-1 67.00
 Ryan Moore 3 67.29
 Zach Johnson 4 67.67
 Kiradech Aphibarnrat 5 67.75
 Keegan Bradley T-6 68.10
 Harris English 8 68.22
 Kevin Stadler T-9 68.25
 Dustin Johnson T-9 68.25

Unlike the Match Play, the WGC-Cadillac Championship has a history of identifying a world-class winner. The Cadillac champ was also a major champion in all but three years – and two of those three players, Mike Weir and Justin Rose, would eventually win major titles. (The Match Play champion had not won a major 11 times, and only two of those – Darren Clarke in 2000 and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 – would eventually win one.) In the seven years the Cadillac has been held at Doral, five champions were in the top 20 on the World Ranking and only one runner-up was ranked outside the top 50.

World rank of WGC-Cadillac winner and runner-up: 2007-2013

 Year Winner (rank) Runner-up (rank)
 2013 Tiger Woods (2) Steve Stricker (13)
 2012 Justin Rose (22) Bubba Watson (23)
 2011 Nick Watney (31 Dustin Johnson (14)
 2010 Ernie Els (20) Charl Schwartzel (35)
 2009 Phil Mickelson (3) Nick Watney (78)
 2008 Geoff Ogilvy (17) Jim Furyk (8), Vijay Singh (11), Retief Goosen (36)
 2007 Tiger Woods (1) Brett Wetterich (44)

One final note: Hanse gave PGA Tour players the opportunity to comment on the course before the redesign and to visit the course once much of the work was complete. Phil Mickelson was one of the few to take him up on the offer. Mickelson had success at the old Blue Monster, winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship in 2009 and finishing second to Woods in the 2005 Ford Championship.

If you haven’t already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc.

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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.