Old Ryder Cup Foes Go Separate Ways
Both their careers have seen their best years. Ballesteros has suffered with a wrenched back and has not won since 1995. Azinger was at the height of his career in 1993 when he was blindsided by cancer.
Ballesteros appears to be sidelined permanently now, withdrawing from a string of events on the U.S. tour this year when his spine just wouldnt hold up to the rigors of tournament golf. Reports last month had him holed up at home Spain, where he was spending a considerable portion of each day laboring to get out of bed.
Azinger, also plagued by a problem back, has not had a prognosis nearly as disheartening, but his golf game has been somewhat underwhelming the past year. He had missed four straight cuts beginning with Honda until, suddenly, he showed some very strong signs of life at Houston.
It was there that he finished in a tie for 6th.
And it was the latest in a career-long series of makeovers for Zinger. He has been on the roller coaster for so long he is beginning to look like a bobble-head doll. He was among the worlds best when he competed so fiercely for the American Ryder Cuppers, then almost lost his game ' and his life ' when he was mowed down by cancer at the end of 93. He slowly built up his skills to the point where he won in Hawaii in 2000, was a captains pick at the 2002 Ryder Cup.
In 2003, he was down again. He went to the starting gate 26 times, missed the cut 14 times and withdrew twice. The back, you know ' isnt that perennially the ailment with golfers?
Finally, he went to see Jim Hardy, much better known of late as a course designer with Peter Jacobsen. That was in October of last year, after Azinger spent most of his earlier career of working with John Redmond. Hardy told Azinger exactly what he wanted to hear ' that there would be no six-month waiting period to see what the results might be. If youre not hitting it better in the next five or 10 minutes, Hardy said at the first meeting, then Im telling you wrong.
Azinger has been much improved over what he was last year. Hardys words were, indeed, exactly what the doctor ordered. Azinger cringes when he thinks back to the in-again, out-again swerves his career has taken.
When I first came out, I was great, said Azinger, And then I just was awful. And then I got OK and then I got awful, then I got actually pretty good. And for a point I got really bad again last year.
The hardest thing is - you think experience will make you play good, but it's experience with desire. None of us can see ourselves, so we have to have good information. If you're not getting good information, it doesn't matter how strong your desire is.
Azinger and Hardy have been working towards flattening out Azingers swing ' the same pattern as it was during the time Zinger was among the worlds best. Azinger had gradually gotten more upright down through the years. Now that he is beginning to see the light, he also has begun to hit the ball squarely in the back instead of the inside.
My swing was just not functional, said Azinger. He (Hardy) was kind enough to work with me. He's not really - I don't even think he fancies himself a teacher because he only works with guys he feels - when he feels like doing, it for the most part. He's got several guys that he'll work with any time, but he's really not allowing too many other players to - he just doesn't have time. He's really busy in golf course design and all that.
And Azinger is beginning to get the feel of the new swing, although to him it is much more a case of getting back to the old swing.
I'm real comfortable right now that I'm not going to be just completely swing-conscious on the golf course, he said. But you have to have some keys. Everybody has a few keys, and I'm just working on a couple keys, and I think I'm going to be just a little bit more effective than I was when I was up there.
Hes just like any other golfer who has found it, then lost it. Nothing is quite as frustrating as having once been one of the best in the world, then watch it slowly erode away.
I think anybody out here who has a talent is either getting good information or bad information, he explained, and I think that most of us out here would jump through a hula hoop and swing if that was a perfect technique to hit good shots.
But it's not, so we would try it and try it and if someone says that's the way I need to do it, you wouldn't hit good shots. The golf ball is going to tell you if the information is good or not.
My point is, I guess, I would say just about everybody out here has the skill to produce whatever someone is asking them to do in a matter of minutes. And it shouldn't take weeks and weeks or months.
Maybe Zinger can do something for his old foe Ballesteros. Azinger himself apparently is on the right track.
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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.