My 2016 moment: Matsuyama-Fowler duel in Phoenix

By Ryan Reiterman December 25, 2016, 8:35 pm

It's not as rare as an albatross, but watching two stars battle on the back nine of a stroke-play event doesn't happen as often as we would like.

But we were spoiled in 2016.

There was Scott vs. Garcia at the Honda, Day vs. McIlroy at the Match Play, Garcia vs. Koepka at the Nelson, and – perhaps the greatest duel in major championship history – Mickelson vs. Stenson at The Open.

I was fortunate enough to witness another amazing showdown – Matsuyama vs. Fowler at the Phoenix Open – and it was my favorite moment of 2016.

The two twentysomethings were tied entering the final round, and it looked like Fowler was going to take home his second trophy in three starts after winning in Abu Dhabi. The three-time PGA Tour winner led by two strokes with two holes to play, but he gave away his advantage on the 317-yard par-4 17th, and he would eventually hand the tournament to Matsuyama on the same hole an hour later.

After barely missing a birdie putt on the raucous par-3 16th, Fowler's drive on 17 looked perfect in the air, but bounced hard in front of the green and rocketed across the putting surface and into a pond behind the hole.

He bogeyed, Matsuyama got up and down from in front of the green for birdie, and just like that they were tied again heading to 18.

Reiterman: Fowler moved to tears after wild, watery loss

Fowler dropped his approach from 95 yards to 9 feet, well inside Matsuyama's. It was all set up for Fowler to make his birdie and win the tournament, and everyone would be home for the kickoff at the Super Bowl.

Matsuyama, however, had other ideas.

He drained his birdie putt from 17 feet to stun the pro-Fowler crowd, and it ignited a punch-counter punch that would continue for three playoff holes until Fowler finally blinked.

Fowler made his birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff, and then he turned the tables on Matsuyama on the first extra hole. Fowler drained his birdie putt from 14 feet, but then Matsuyama answered right back.

They exchanged pars on 18, and then headed to the par-4 10th. Matsuyama again had the advantage, but Fowler drained a tester for par and forced a fourth playoff hole at the 17th.

This time Fowler used the right club off the tee (a 3-wood), but he tugged his drive to the left and it plopped into the water in front of the green. Matsuyama made a routine par and closed Fowler out.

As the dazed crowd shuffled out of the tournament, Fowler was in the media center tearing up after a painful loss.

''The hard part is having all my friends and family and grandpa and my dad who haven't seen me win,'' Fowler said, trying to hold back tears. ''But I will be able to kind of hang with them tonight. I'll be all right.''

Fowler's season was kickstarted by the win in Abu Dhabi, but after the loss to Matsuyama he never got his year back on track. He failed to collect another trophy, and he missed the cut in the Masters, Players, Memorial and U.S. Open and didn't reach the Tour Championship. He started the season ranked sixth in the OWGR, but he fell to 12th.

Matsuyama went the opposite direction.

He rose from 15th to sixth in the OWGR thanks to wins in Phoenix, the Japan Open, WGC-HSBC Champions, Taiheiyo Masters in Japan and the Hero World Challenge.

He also finished in the top 10 at the Masters, Players, PGA and Tour Championship.

Matsuyama's breakout year started in front of a crowd that he estimated was 99 percent against him, but he showed some serious stones that will serve him well in 2017 as he tries to take his game even higher in the world rankings and major championships.

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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.