Backspin 13 Years in the Making

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
O ... YES: Lorena Ochoa overcame a quadruple bogey in the first round and a near meltdown in the final round to win the LPGA Tour season finale at the ADT Championship. With cuts being made and score being wiped clean after the second and third rounds, Ochoa shot 66-68 over the weekend to win by two and claim the $1 million first-place prize. Her 'best shot ever,' an approach from the rough on 18 to 3 feet -- on the heels of a double bogey at 17 -- sealed the deal.
Backspin Just as Tiger Woods did on the PGA TOUR, the women's No. 1 capped off a stellar season with a playoff victory; though, Lorena did manage to make it a little more exciting by nearly blowing a four-shot lead with two holes to play. For the record, Ochoa notched 8 wins, including one major, and nearly $4.365 million. Her money total smashed the old single-season record by $1.5 million.
O ... NO: Annika Sorenstams season came to a conclusion Friday afternoon when she lost in a three-way playoff to advance to weekend play at the ADT Championship. With two spots available to round out the top 16 for round three, Sorenstam bogeyed the second extra hole to give way to Natalie Gulbis and Ai Miyazato.
Backspin Fourteen starts, no wins. Its been nearly 14 years since shes been blanked in the victory department, dating back to her rookie season of 1994. Annika appeared almost defiant in her post-round assertion that she would be back in 2008. Its going to take that kind of attitude ' and a bit of good fortune in the health department ' to reclaim her throne atop the LPGA Tour.
PLAYOFFS?!?: The LPGA playoff format worked to perfection this past week. After the second round, Sorenstam, Gulbis and Miyazato highlighted a playoff to reach round three. After round three, four more players, including Christina Kim, Nicole Castrale, Sophie Gustafson and Mi Hyun Kim, played off for two spots. The final included a Hall of Famer (Karrie Webb), the reigning U.S. Open champion (Cristie Kerr), two of the most popular players (Gulbis and Paula Creamer), and the world's No. 1 (Ochoa), among the group of eight. And No. 1 won.
Backspin If the PGA TOUR could be guaranteed this kind of excitement, they'd probably abandon the FedExCup format immediately and shift to the LPGA version for 2008. This couldn't have worked out much better for ladies -- particularly Ochoa.
WINNING UGLY: Miguel Angel Jimenez won his second career UBS Hong Kong Open title despite making bogey on his final hole. Tied for the lead alongside Robert Karlsson, the Swede made double-bogey to hand the championship over to the grateful Spaniard.
Backspin Through two events on the 2008 European Tour schedule, we have two notable winners. First, Phil Mickelson won the HSBC Champions in China. And now, Jimenez has won in Hong Kong. We have also had two achingly awful finishes. Both involved the winner making bogey at the last, while his closest competitor made double-bogey. Mickelson had to win in a playoff over the unfortunate Ross Fisher. Jimenez got to smoke that victory cigar a little sooner.
WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY: The PGA and LPGA tours finally announced their drug policies for 2008. The LPGAs system will be implemented at the beginning of next season, while the PGA TOUR will have an education period until enforcing the policy in July.
Backspin There were some similarities between the two policies, like a player being suspended for one year for his/her first offense and a possible lifetime ban for three offenses. But the LPGA will not distinguish between performance-enhancing and recreational drugs (the PGA TOUR is still debating the issue). LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens is taking a hard stance with multiple offenders as well, saying that two violations will equal a two-year ban and players will be allowed to return, but with no status. Two violations will also prevent a player from Hall of Fame consideration.
SCHEDULED AFFAIRS: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem also announced this past week that the TOUR Championship would be moved back on the 2008 schedule to allow players a chance to rest before the Ryder Cup.
Backspin Initially, the Ryder Cup was to be played the week after the PGA TOUR Playoff finale. Now, there will be a week off between the third (of four) Playoff event and the Ryder Cup, and the TOUR Championship will take place the week thereafter. The move was lauded by U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, who, in his usual manner, managed to praise the decision and mock it at the same time. Somehow, we still think players will find something to complain about, like having to travel all the way from Louisville, Ky., to Atlanta, Ga., without a week off for rest ' and all for a lousy $10 million.
MORE SCHEDULING NEWS: The PGA and LPGA tours released their 2008 schedules. The men will start their season immediately after the turn of the calendar with the Mercedes-Benz Championship. The LPGA will open with the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, Feb. 14-16
Backspin Not much is different on the mens side, except the inclusion of a new event in Puerto Rico, the week after Bay Hill. And thats whats upsetting to some pundits. The Playoffs will pretty much stay the same; though, the winner will receive $9 million in cash and $1 million deferred, instead of the entire bonus deferred. On the LPGA side, there are still a few holes to fill, but with at least $55 million in total prize money, the ladies will be playing for their most money ever.
POULTER RISES AT PHOENIX: Ian Poulter won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan by holding off Spain's Gonzalo Castano. Luke Donald shared third place, while defending champion Padraig Harrington finished six back of Poulter.
Backspin Poulter has a knack for winning late in the year. Four of his seven career European Tour victories have come from the month of September on. This win was on the Japanese Tour, but no doubt will give him plenty of confidence for 2008. But will he be able to get off to a good start or once again stall until the end?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Former MLB pitcher Rick Rhoden was a co-medalist at the Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament; Butch Harmon will be lending an extra set of eyes to John Daly next year; Tommy Armour III won the Pebble Beach Invitational.
Backspin What a gyp -- the 31 players who qualified didn't even get tour cards, but only a chance to qualify Monday for nine spots in full-field Champions Tour events next season; Will Dr. Phil be Daly's life coach?; Armour beat Rocco Mediate and Ronnie Black. This is the kind of field you get when players have to earn their post-season money instead of getting paid up front.
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    USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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    Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

    Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

    So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

    He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

    So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

    “I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

    While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

    There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

    “I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

    That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

    Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

    “It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

    After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

    But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

    No pressure.

    “It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”