One Time With Tiger: Bradley Hughes

By Ryan LavnerNovember 28, 2016, 11:00 am

Standing on the first tee at TPC Boston, Bradley Hughes glanced at the clock and wondered if he’d be playing alone. On his personal bucket list, Hughes, then a 38-year-old Australian, had already ticked off rounds with Seve Ballesteros and his childhood hero, Greg Norman. Now he awaited an early-morning tee time with Tiger Woods.

It was Labor Day 2005, and the crowd, eager to catch a glimpse, swelled 10 rows deep several holes ahead. Somewhere in that throng were a few of Hughes’ buddies from Connecticut, who made the 90-minute drive to Norton, Mass., to witness a round they’d talk about for the next decade. Hughes was relieved when Woods finally strode to the tee, about 30 seconds before his name was announced.

Woods won six titles that year and didn’t finish worse than fourth in the majors (including two victories), but he didn’t make a great first impression. On the opening hole, he dumped his approach into the lip of a greenside bunker, needed two shots to escape and walked off with a double bogey. “The joke I always tell now,” Hughes said, “is that I must have made him nervous.”

Truth is, it was an oddly comfortable pairing. There was no final-round intensity, with both players well out of contention, beginning the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship in a tie for 41st, seven shots back. And Hughes had known Woods’ longtime caddie, Steve Williams, for nearly 25 years, since he was 13. In 1981, Williams served as the assistant pro at famed Rossdale Golf Club in Melbourne, and Hughes used to caddie for him in tournaments.

“That helped ease the tension,” Hughes said. “There was a bit of banter going on, and when I mentioned that I used to caddie for Steve, Tiger said, ‘Well, since I’m going this bad, maybe I can caddie for Steve instead.’”

As a two-ball, there wasn’t much time for conversation. But back on the tee …

“Steve had a bit of gas going on,” Hughes said, “so he was letting it loose in front of the gallery and we were all just laughing.”

Over the years, many players have expressed the difficulties of playing alongside Woods. There are more nerves. More fans. More distractions. But Hughes actually found it easier to be inside the ropes with the world No. 1.

“There’s a lot more tunnel vision,” he said. “With that many people, there’s a strip down the fairway, and you don’t see the hazards or the trees or the O.B. stakes. And if you do happen to hit one off-line, well, they’re not going to get out of the way, so you’re going to stay in play.”

Neither played well that day – Woods shot 71 (T-40), while Hughes (T-51) slumped to a 73 near the end of a trying season – but even now Hughes can vividly recall the difference in the sound of Woods’ shots, how the contact was flush, how the ball sizzled through the air.

Afterward, Williams took a picture of Woods and Hughes in the scoring tent, and Woods even fetched Hughes’ now ex-wife an ice cream from the clubhouse.

“It all goes by so quick,” he said.

Hughes would play only five more events on the PGA Tour, going through a divorce and losing his desire to compete. That post-round photo now hangs in his office in Greenville, S.C., the headquarters for his teaching academy that he started in 2008.

“It’s pretty cool to say you’ve played with him,” Hughes said. “He was on TV every minute during those years, but I’ll never forget being able to stroll down the fairways with him, to be the center of attention with him, even though no one was watching me.”

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.