Golfers Who Give Back: Morgan Freeman

By Golf DigestNovember 30, 2012, 7:35 pm

Way back when teenage caddie Morgan Freeman was earning a dollar or two 'carrying a heavy bag for 18 holes,' all he really wanted to do was be in the movies. So now that he has starred in films with most of the greats, names like Redford and Newman, Hackman and Hoffman, Eastwood and Nicholson, now that he has an Oscar and a Golden Globe and, most recently, the 2012 Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment ... what he really wants is to become a better golfer. For the time being, he'll have to rely on just one hand, the result of a car crash in 2008 that essentially paralyzed his left hand from the wrist to his fingernails. At 75, Freeman is certifiably obsessed with golf. He plays at Bayou Bend when he's home in Mississippi, and he watches the Golf Channel and tour events as much as anyone he knows. Interviews and photo shoots aren't among his favorite assignments, but for golf and Golf Digest, Freeman was in a giving mood, so he drove 90 minutes in his BMW 7 Series to meet us for a couple of hours in Memphis. 'That was painless,' he said when we wrapped.

Q: Good to see you're alive and well. Did you read the Internet hoax in August that Morgan Freeman had died?

A: It wasn't a hoax. I think it was just misinformation. A friend of mine, an actor named Al Freeman Jr., who was a professor at Howard University, died in August. So ... Freeman, an actor ... well, that was enough for whoever got wind of it. It's the era we live in.

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Q: You're 75 and still working nonstop. What are your latest projects?

A: I did three movies this year. First one's called 'Now You See Me,' an interesting story about magicians making money disappear from banks. Did one with Tom Cruise called 'Oblivion,' a science-fiction, futuristic film. And I just did one called 'Olympus Has Fallen,' an action-adventure about a takeover at the White House. Now I'm getting ready to do one with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline, called 'Last Vegas.' It's about these four old guys who've been friends since childhood going to Vegas for one of the guys' bachelor party.

Q: What's harder: playing God, playing Mandela, or playing golf?

A: Playing God is the easiest of all. Mandela I found to be very, very easy, and an awful lot of fun. Golf is hard. Very, very hard.

Q: How much golf can you play with that work schedule?

A: I've easily played more than 20, 25 rounds this year. When you're making movies, you have a lot of time off, days they're shooting scenes you aren't involved in. Those are all golf days for me. Whatever city I'm in, I get to the golf course. When I was in New Orleans, we played just about every other day.

Q: Do you play with other actors? Maybe Cruise or Nicholson, your co-star from 'The Bucket List'?

A: No, I haven't played with either of them. I play with my stand-in; he's a longtime golfer. My driver likes to play. And you always meet somebody on these courses who wants to play. I also spend a lot of time with my son in Southern California, and we play on a public course out there near Torrance. I've played down in San Diego at Torrey Pines. And I really enjoyed Seven Canyons in Arizona.

Q: And you're playing with only one hand.

A: That's right; I swing the club with just my right hand. I was in a horrendous car accident four years ago. I don't know what happened, whether I passed out, went to sleep or what. But I left the highway, and the car just rolled and rolled and rolled ... and the left side of me was pretty much torn to pieces. The upshot is a paralyzed left hand. I literally can't use it. It won't work.

Q: Yet you still play golf?

A: I don't seem to be any worse than I was with two hands. [Laughs.] I can't hit it 240 or 260 yards like some of these guys I play with, but I enjoy trying.

Q: Who knew Morgan Freeman loved golf so much? When did this happen?

A: I remember caddieing in Greenwood, Miss., when I was 13, 14 years old. But that didn't get me interested in golf. I didn't get turned on to playing until 10 or 12 years ago. Sometime after the advent of Tiger Woods.

Q: You and the Plan!t Now Foundation partnered with Michael Douglas & Friends earlier this year, and that's only one example of how you've given back through golf. What else?

A: I don't pat myself on the back all that much about giving back, but if life's been good to you, you should be good to life. And that's really as far as I go with it. Playing golf in charity tournaments is the easiest, most pleasant way to - and I put this in quotes - 'give back.'

Q: Is there a Morgan Freeman foundation?

A: It's called the Rock River Foundation. I set it up because I realized once I got out in the world that I really got a good education at my segregated school in Greenwood. Now I go back, and it's the worst school system in the country. Literally. Somehow, that has to be dealt with. So I set up a foundation to do that.

Q: Describe your greatest moment on a golf course.

A: It has to be the time I parred holes 17 and 18 at Sawgrass. Vijay Singh had wandered over to say, 'Hi, I'm a fan,' and blah, blah, blah. So he joined us for the last five holes, and he started giving me swing pointers. And they worked! We get to the 17th, and I knocked it on the green. Must have been a 9-iron for me. Then on 18 I hit a good drive and a good approach and made my par.

Q: And your most embarrassing moment?

A: That would have to be at the Humana Challenge in January. The first day I couldn't hit the ball at all. I'd either hit two inches behind it or I'd top it. All kinds of dreadful stuff.

Q: Nerves?

A: Of course!

Q: Not to mention, you were playing one-handed. Think you'll ever play in that again?

A: Oh, yeah. It's more about the charity. You aren't there to look good playing golf. I mean, I'd like to, but it isn't about that.

Q: You watch golf more than almost anything else on television, and you've immersed yourself in the game and want to get better. Why do you love it so much?

A: Golf is the only sport I've been able to take part in as an adult. I used to bowl, and I used to roller-skate, but that was years and years ago. Golf is something you can do until you drop dead. Hit that last drive and just keel over. And I wouldn't mind doing just that.

Interview conducted by Craig Bestrom; Click here to visit

Photography by Walter Iooss Jr.

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Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.