Backspin Leftys Clubs and Mouth Do the Talking

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 4, 2007, 4:00 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.
LABOR DAY FIREWORKS: Phil Mickelson beat Tiger Woods head-to-head Monday in Boston to win the Deutsche Bank Championship. The victory -- just his second ever on TOUR after the month of August -- vaulted Mickelson to No. 1 in the FedExCup Playoffs.
BackspinNo offense to Brett Wetterich or Arron Oberholser -- two other Deutsche Bank principals -- or even last week's winner Steve Stricker, but the Playoffs need the best players in the world going head-to-head against one another. That's what 'playoffs' are all about -- the best against the best. That's what we got this past week. And that's just what these inaugural Playoffs needed.
OH, NO HE DIDN'T: In his post-victory comments on live televsion, Mickelson said that he was undecided on whether or not he was going to play in this week's BMW Championship outside of Chicago. Mickelson blamed his indecision on PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, saying Finchem didn't follow through on some Mickelson requests, and that because of Finchem's actions -- or lack thereof -- he wouldn't feel guilty for skipping Playoff Week No. 3.
BackspinMaybe Mickelson was feeling 10 feet tall and bullet-proof after his Tiger taming. Whatever his motivation, Mickelson's comments -- at least in the docile world of golf -- were boarderline scandalous. Heading to Cog Hill, these Playoff have an intrigue factor of 10, about double what they had after Week 1. But Phil, and not the TOUR, may be the ultimate victim if Mickelson decides to skip. This could prove to be a $10 million point he is trying to make.
HARD LUCK BOSTON STORY: Steve Flesch had a miserable Labor Day Monday, shooting 7-over 78 to fall from 70th in the FedExCup points standings to 71st, thus missing the cut for this week's BMW Championship. Peter Lonard also missed out, falling from 69th to 72nd after missing the Deutsche Bank cut.
BackspinInstead of feeling sorry for Flesch and Lonard, we can feel happy for Bo Van Pelt and John Mallinger, both of who played well enough to crack the top 70 and move on. Isn't it odd, however, that only two players each of the first two playoff weeks have been able to play their way into the following tournament. We smell a tweak for 2008.
FROM CHUMPS TO CHAMPS: Even before this round of The Playoffs concluded with Phil out-dueling Tiger, it began with the hype of Phil and Tiger playing together -- along with Vijay Singh. The marquee threesome -- ordered by their positions on the FedExCup points list -- played alongside one another over the first two rounds. Friday they combined to shoot 3 over. Saturday it was 19 under.
BackspinThe grouping of these three looked to be the perfect remedy to Playoff malaise for Finchem and Co. It started with a thud, literally, with Singh four-putting the opening hole. But in Rd. 2 on Saturday, the trio set off fireworks - Woods and Mickelson shooting the low rounds of the day (7-under 64s) and Singh not far behind with a round of 65. And then, of course, there was the Monday excitement. Playoff fever! Catch it!
THESE GIRLS ROCK: Sherri Steinhauer held off a hard-charging Christina Kim to win the State Farm Classic. Holding a one-shot lead coming to the 18th, Steinhauer almost gave away the tournament before miraculously holing a putt from off the green to save par and win her sixth career title.
BackspinKim, who felt slighted from being left off this year's Solheim Cup team, let her clubs do the talking on Sunday, closing with three straight birdies - two from off the green - to put the heat on Steinhauer. And after the heroics on the final green, Kim turned from competitor to cheerleader, celebrating Steinhauer's clutch winning putt with class.
THE GOOD DOCTOR: Dr. Gil Morgan began the final round of the Wal-Mart First Tee Open tied with Hale Irwin and proceeded to shoot a flawless 5-under 67 to capture his 25th career Champions Tour title at none other than famed Pebble Beach.
BackspinIt didn't quite make up for what happened to Morgan in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach -- where he became the first player ever to reach double digits under par in an Open, only to let it all slide away -- but it was a very satisfying victory. And beating old nemesis Hale Irwin was icing on the cake.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES': Tim Finchem announced in a press conference that a new drug testing program will be in place for the PGA TOUR during the 2008 season.
Backspin Obviously pressed into action by the scandals befalling Major League Baseball, the NFL, track and field, cycling and others, PGA TOUR headquarters had to do something. Whether or not this new policy unearths any wrongdoings by the players, it should at least help ease the minds of conspiracy theorists. And perhaps more importantly, make Finchem look like the anti-Bud Selig.
A TOAST TO VICTORY: Scotland's very own Marc Warren became the first countryman to win the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland (which happens to be the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup matches). Warren's birdie putt on the 72nd hole got him into a playoff with Simon Wakefield.
BackspinWarren now has two career European Tour titles to his credit. Both of those victories have come in playoffs. And strangely enough, both wins were decided on the second playoff hole. The way he played on Sunday -- check out his scorecard -- Warren could have won easily or finished outside the top 10.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The R&A announced that the Mark H. McCormack Medal will be presented annually to the leading player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking; Bernhard Langer made his Champions Tour debut this past week at Pebble Beach; Colin Montgomerie confirmed that he is engaged to Gaynor Knowles.
BackspinMcCormack is the founder of IMG, his first client being none other than Arnold Palmer; Rookie Langer found out just how tough those old buggers are, finishing in a tie for 10th; Here's hoping Monty's soon-to-be wife is a soft talker.
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    Mickelson: 'Not my finest moment ... 'I'm sorry'

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 2:41 pm

    Days after his putter swipe ignited a controversy that threatened to overshadow the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson offered an apology.

    Mickelson received a two-shot penalty for purposely hitting his ball while it was still in motion on the 13th green during the third round at Shinnecock Hills. In the eyes of the USGA, his actions fell short of a disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules, and the 48-year-old ultimately matched his age with a T-48 finish after returning to play the final round.

    Mickelson declined to speak to reporters after a Sunday 66, but Wednesday he sent a note to a select group of media members that included Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte in which the five-time major champ offered some contrition.

    “I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend,” Mickelson wrote. “I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

    Mickelson’s actions drew ire from both media members and his fellow competitors, with members of both groups implying that his actions merited disqualification. His most recent remarks seem to indicate that the decision to run up and stop his ball from tumbling back across the 13th green was more of an impulse than the calculated use of the rule book he described after the third round at Shinnecock.

    “It’s certainly not meant (to show disrespect). It’s meant to take advantage of the rules as best you can,” Mickelson said Saturday. “In that situation I was just, I was just going back and forth. I’ll gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

    Mickelson is not in the field this week at the Travelers Championship and is expected to make his next start in two weeks at The Greenbrier.

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    Hubert Green, Hall of Famer, dies at 71

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 20, 2018, 2:06 pm

    Hubert Green, a World Golf Hall of Famer who won 19 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 U.S. Open and 1985 PGA Championship, died Tuesday from complications following a lengthy battle with throat cancer. He was 71.

    A remarkably consistent player, Green used his distinctive swing to finish in the top 25 in a third of the PGA Tour events he entered. He also played on three Ryder Cup teams (1977, 1979, and 1985) and was undefeated in singles play.

    A native of Birmingham, Ala., Green graduated from Florida State University in 1968. While at FSU, he won the Cape Coral Intercollegiate tournament by eight strokes and the Miami Invitational, the nation’s largest collegiate tournament, by five strokes. He turned pro in 1969, earned his Tour card in 1970 and was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 1971.

    Green's first PGA Tour win was the 1971 Houston Champions International, in which he beat Don January in a playoff. Between 1973 and 1976 he won 10 more times, including a three-week stretch in 1976 when he won at Doral, Jacksonville and Hilton Head.

    Green won the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., despite being informed of a death threat against him that had been anonymously telephoned to the course. He received the news after putting out on the 14th hole of the final round. He decided to keep playing, and wound up winning  by one stroke over Lou Graham.

    A seldom-remembered fact about Green: he finished third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in their 1977 "Duel in the Sun" Open Championship at Turnberry. He was 11 strokes behind winner Watson.

    Green won his second major championship in 1985, taking the PGA Championship at Cherry Hills. By a margin of two strokes, he denied Lee Trevino's bid to win back-to-back PGAs. It would be Green's last win on the PGA Tour. Afterward, Trevino praised his opponent, saying “He’s a great sand player and probably the best chipper we’ve got. Every time he got into trouble, he chipped it close to the hole.”

    Green joined what is now known as the PGA Tour Champions in 1997 and went on to win four times, the first win coming in 1998 in his hometown of Birmingham.

    Green was also involved in golf course design, including courses such as TPC Southwind,  Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.; and Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham.

    Green was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer in 2003. Treated with chemotherapy and radiation, he continued playing golf. In 2005, he was named the Champions Tour's Comeback Player of the Year. He also received the Ben Hogan Award at the Masters that year. In 2007 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Green is also remembered for his philanthropic efforts. Over the years he participated in hundreds of charity tournaments and community fund-raising events that supported a wide range of causes including childhood cancer, united cerebral palsy, and other illnesses.

    Green is survived by his wife Becky Blair, of Birmingham; three sons, Hubert Myatt Green Jr. of Hurricane, Utah; Patrick Myatt Green; and James Thomas Green (Adrienne) of Panama City, Fla.; sisters Melinda Green Powers and Carolyn Green Satterfield and brother Maurice O. V. Green, all of Birmingham, step-sons Richard O’Brien of New Orleans and Atticus O’Brien of Dallas, Texas, and several grandchildren.

    A memorial service is being planned at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, and details are pending. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Highlands United Methodist Church Community Ministry or to a charity of your choice.

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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    Hailed as a hero to some and as golf royalty to others, Peter Thomson, a five-time winner of The Open and the only player in the 20th century to win the championship for three straight years, died Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members, Golf Australia said.

    The first Australian to win The Open, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by American Tom Watson.

    The Australian's wins came in 1954, '55, '56, again in 1958 and lastly in 1965 against a field that included Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

    Only Harry Vardon, with six titles between 1896 and 1914, won more.

    Thomson also tied for fourth at the 1956 U.S. Open and placed fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played the PGA Championship.

    In 1998, he captained the International side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

    Asked by The Associated Press in 2011 how he'd like to be remembered, Thomson replied: ''A guy who always said what he thought.''

    Veteran Australian golfer Karrie Webb was among the first to tweet her condolences, saying she was ''saddened to hear of the passing of our Aussie legend and true gentleman of the game .... so honored to have been able to call Peter my friend. RIP Peter.''

    Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Thomson was ''a champion in every sense of the word, both on the course and in life.''

    ''Many know him as a five-time champion golfer of the year or as a three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International team.'' Finchem added. ''But he was also a great friend, father, grandfather and husband. He was golfing royalty, and our sport is a better one because of his presence.''

    Former golfer and now broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, called Thomson his ''hero'' - ''Peter - my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence and valuable guidance over the years.''

    From Britain, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers praised Thomson's plans for the game's future.

    ''Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going, which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf,'' Slumbers said. ''He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of The Open.''

    Born in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Brunswick on Aug. 23, 1929, Thomson was a promising cricketer. He scored an unbeaten 150 runs for the Carlton club against a men's side as a 15-year-old.

    But golf became his passion, and he turned professional in 1947.

    He won the national championships of 10 countries, including the New Zealand Open nine times and Australian Open three times. He first played on the PGA Tour in the U.S. in 1953 and 1954, finishing 44th and 25th on the money list, respectively. He won the Texas International in 1956.

    Thomson won nine times on the Senior PGA tour in the U.S. in 1985, topping the money list. His last tournament victory came at the 1988 British PGA Seniors Championship, the same year he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Overall, he won 26 European Tour events, 34 times on the Australasian PGA tour and 11 on the seniors tour in the U.S, as well as once in Japan.

    In later years, Thomson wrote articles for many publications and daily newspapers, was club professional at Royal Melbourne and designed more than 100 golf courses. In the 2011 Presidents Cup program, Thomson provided an insightful hole-by-hole analysis of the composite course at Royal Melbourne.

    Thomson was always reluctant to compare his wins with anyone else's.

    ''All records are qualified in that they were made at a certain time in history,'' Thomson told golf historian and author Brendan Moloney for a story on his 80th birthday.

    ''The circumstances change so much, and so do the players' attitudes. In golf, only in the last 30 years or so has there been a professional attitude to playing for money. The professionals in the USA and Britain and anywhere else all had club jobs as a backstop to their income.

    ''When they did play and make records, you have to understand that they were taking time off from the pro shop,'' he said. ''So the records that were set were pretty remarkable.''

    Thomson always had stories to tell, and told them well. With a full head of hair and a lineless face that belied his age, the Australian wasn't afraid to let everyone know his feelings on any subject.

    That was true as far back as 1966. As president of the Australian PGA, Thomson was indignant that Arnold Palmer's prize for winning the Australian Open was only $1,600, out of a total purse of $6,000, one of the smallest in golf.

    ''Golf Stars Play for Peanuts,'' blared the headline of a story he wrote. ''Never before has such a field of top golfers played for what $6,000 is worth today. Canada offers 19 times that. I know 19 other countries who give more.''

    But he was always happy on the golf course.

    ''I've had a very joyful life, playing a game that I loved to play for the sheer pleasure of it,'' Thomson said. ''I don't think I did a real day's work in the whole of my life.''

    Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years and worked behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf, and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas 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.