Golfers Who Give Back: Michael J. Fox

By Golf DigestNovember 30, 2012, 7:25 pm

Of all the golf lovers in this collection of game changers, Michael J. Fox might be the biggest giver. In 12 years, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has directed about $300 million to research on the disease. 'We have no agenda other than to cure this,' says, Fox, 51, the 'Back to the Future' star who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and announced it in 1998. Fox still loves to make people laugh, and he cracks up when recalling his start as a golfer in the early to mid-2000s, when his 'golf uncles' would urge him to stay still over the ball. 'Be still over the ball?' he'd say. 'If I could be still over my soup, I'd be happy.'

Q: It's been more than 20 years since your diagnosis. How are you doing?

A: I've been feeling pretty good lately and felt like I could work a bit more, so I did 'The Good Wife,' and I did an episode on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' and I've been speaking around the country and connecting with folks in a way I haven't since I did 'Spin City' and the 'Back to the Future' movies and 'Family Ties.'

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Q: Next is a sitcom for NBC, for fall 2013, loosely based on your life.

A: And I'm sure my character will be a golfer, and golf will be featured.

Q: We loved your willingness to display the effects of Parkinson's with Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'

A: When you have a disability, you have two things to deal with: your own experience, and everyone else's attitude toward your experience. That's what was fun about 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.' It was kind of like saying, Look, I know what I've got, and I know how to deal with it. I appreciate your support and concern, but I'm OK. I have a great family and a great life, and while I'm working toward a cure, I accept and understand my condition. But acceptance doesn't mean resignation. I can deal with the facts of it, but beyond that, I have a life to live.

Q: And golf has become a big part of your life.

A: I remember walking the course a few times with my dad when I was probably 5 or 6. I didn't play; he brought me to find balls. I'd scramble into the bushes that no one else would get into and get scratched by briars and bitten by bugs.

Q: You played hockey and lacrosse growing up in Canada. Why not golf?

A: I didn't have the wherewithal to play. There was no First Tee, and I wasn't from a well-off background. The money I did save for recreational sports I put into hockey and skiing. Then in my 20s, I had this kind of contemporary actors' attitude about golf that, There's plenty of time for golf - when I'm dead.

Q: But you picked it up.

A: Tiger was a big part of it, and Annika Sorenstam was really an inspiration. When she played in that first men's event, I thought, Wow! This is cool. This is a sport for risk-takers.

Q: How did you start?

A: I have these guys I call my 'golf uncles.' People like Tim Simpson, Cam Neely - and my friend Ted Davis, who would bring me out when it was embarrassing. But he persevered until I had a game when I could tee off at the first tee and actually get on the green in two. I said to my wife, Tracy, 'I've been thinking about all of my golf uncles and how they put up with me when I couldn't play that well. And, now, finally, I can play a little bit and it's great, and she goes, 'Yeah, they're crack dealers - and they got you addicted!'

Q: How well can you play with Parkinson's?

A: I'm a horrible golfer. [Laughs.] I've been so lucky to be celebrated for what I do and really kind of humbled about that. It's great to do something where I really suck. My best score for 18 holes is 46 out and 46 in, and I'm a 22-handicap.

My friend Clark Gregg, from the 'Avenger' movies, has a great description of me teeing off: He says I look like I'm between two subway cars with a foot on each platform. Then he says, 'And you hit the ball 220 yards, and I don't know how you do it.'

Q: How tired are you after walking 18 holes?

A: Oh, I'm on an IV! [Laughs.] It's hard for me to walk because I get too tired, but I got to play the National [Golf Links of America] this summer, and I had to walk. When I got off the 18th, I couldn't lift my Arnold Palmer.

Q: Do Tracy, your son or three daughters play?

A: There's a theater named after me in Burnaby, British Columbia, and they have a tournament I play in with my brother and his son. My son came last time; my sister who passed away used to play with us. My mom is 82 years old, and she was in the golf cart, and we got to where we weren't going to win, so we were just having fun. Anytime our putt was within 12 feet, we'd have my mom come out and putt it. And she drained six in a row! I've got pictures of us falling on the ground. It was hilarious.

Q: You watch a lot of golf. Who's your favorite?

A: Tiger. Ever since he was a kid. Rory is pretty exciting to watch, and I definitely root for Phil, too. But anytime anyone's been through something, whether they brought it on themselves or whatever, I love to watch them come back. I know what it's like to be 22 years old and go from just being a kid to having a Ferrari and girlfriends all over the place, and you can't pay for dinner in a restaurant. It's heavy stuff and hard to handle.

Q: What about your foundation makes you the most proud?

A: I always say when people affected by Parkinson's wake up in the morning and say, 'Who's trying to find a cure for this? We are!' What's been really impressive to me is people with Parkinson's who say, 'I hid this until you came out, but now when people ask me, 'What do you have?' and I say 'Parkinson's,' they say, 'Oh, like Michael Fox.' ' Now I feel like I belong to something. I'm not alone.

Q: Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, are helping in huge ways.

A: Sergey and Anne have been tremendously generous. Sergey has a connection to one of the genes that's an indicator Parkinson's is possible in that family, so he and Anne set up a challenge fund where for every dollar we raise from new donors through Dec. 31 this year, they'll match it. Nike auctioned off a limited series of the Mag shoes from 'Back to the Future II' on eBay, and we raised over $4 million. Sergey and Anne matched it, and it turned into almost $10 million.

Q: What can readers do?

A: One of the huge needs is for people to get involved with clinical trials. I'm talking about people who have Parkinson's and, especially, people who don't have Parkinson's. If you're a male in your 40s or 50s, this is a group we really need to tap into. If you want to do something good and feel good about yourself, check into the clinical trials at

Interview conducted by Craig Bestrom; Click here to visit

Photography by Walter Iooss Jr.

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Six players named in the race for Tour Player of the Year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 11:26 am

The PGA Tour announced six nominees for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award on Tuesday; although, to many, it won’t be a competition.

Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas have been nominated for the Jack Nicklaus Award.

DeChambeau won three times this season, including the first two playoff events; Johnson was also a three-time winner and had 12 top-10 finishes; Molinari had two victories, including The Open; Rose won the FedExCup, and Thomas had three victories. But if player reaction last week at the Tour Championship was any indication, they are all vying for second place behind Koepka.

Although Koepka only had two victories they were both majors, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, after missing a good portion of the season with an injury.

The Tour also released the five nominees for the Rookie of the Year Award, although that race appears to be a foregone conclusion as well. Aaron Wise was the only member of the rookie class to advance to the Tour Championship and also won the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Voting for both awards ends on Oct. 1.

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Promise kept as Poulter - and his fire - return to Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – In December 2016, in one of his lowest moments as a pro, Ian Poulter sat on stage at a PGA of America dinner and fielded questions from the audience.

One of the queries was this: What’s left for you in golf?

“I feel I’ve got more wins in me,” he replied that day. “And I’m going to make the team in Paris.”

That much appeared in doubt. 

Earlier that year, Poulter underwent foot surgery and missed the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Relegated to a vice-captain role, he could only watch as the Europeans got dismantled and saw their three-match winning streak come to an end.

Poulter’s own game suffered, too. Before the injury he’d already slipped outside the top 75 in the world – his lowest position since 2003 – and his freefall continued into early 2017, when he plummeted all the way to No. 207.

Then came a surprise runner-up finish at The Players that helped him secure his PGA Tour card for the next season, and then, at age 42, he enjoyed one of his best years. In April he won the Houston Open for his third PGA Tour title (and first since 2012) and then posted solid finishes at The Players, U.S. Open, Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Though he lacked the necessary points to qualify for the European team automatically, he was as much a lock for a captain’s pick as a healthy Tiger Woods on the U.S. side.

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“There’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you once were,’” he said. “But that’s been a goal for the last 20 months. It’s been something that has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.

“It was difficult being a vice captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past, and I wanted to help the team in any way I could. But I felt like this time around, I really wanted to make the team. I’m pretty proud.”

Poulter and Sergio Garcia are the heartbeats of the European side, veterans have who seen everything in the Ryder Cup, who have plenty of pull in the team room, who know how to handle the most stressful situations.

With a 12-4-2 record, no European Ryder Cupper has a better win-loss mark than Poulter. At Medinah, he seemed to single-handedly bring the visitors back from the dead, teaming with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy to win three matches, then capturing a point in singles, as well, as the Europeans matched the largest final-day comeback in tournament history.

“He’s a legend,” said European teammate Tyrrell Hatton.

Poll any U.S. team member, and Poulter is still the guy they most likely want to beat – not necessarily because he’s the best player on the European side, but because his success seems to fuel his teammates.

“I take it as a huge compliment,” Poulter said. “It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.”

Poulter was the first European player out on the range on Monday – he didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship – and captain Thomas Bjorn joked that Poulter “wanted to go midweek last week, if he could.”

“He looks forward to this,” Bjorn said. “We all know Ian’s history and feelings about the Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He’s that type of guy. He’s certainly ready to go.”

Some brave reporter asked Poulter whether he’s preparing for this to be his final home Ryder Cup, whether he’s trying to “drink it all in.”

It was a reasonable question – he will be 46 during the 2022 matches in Italy – but Poulter stared a hole through him.

“It won’t be,” he said flatly.

Then he softened.

“I’d like to think I’ve got more in me, I’ll say that,” he said. “I think how I’ve played this year is hopefully the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. The reason I answered it that way is I don’t want to think this is my last hurrah.”

But if it is, well, you can guarantee that Europe’s fieriest player will try and go out in a blaze of glory.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.