Backspin Start of Fall End for Norman

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 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.
IN THE FLES(C)H!: Steve Flesch won for the second time this year at the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship. Flesch used rounds of 66-65-66 to take a four-stroke lead into Sunday and then held on with a 1-over 73.
BackspinThis is the second win in eight weeks for Flesch. Ironically, neither victory qualifies him for the Masters, as Augusta National doesn't recognize Fall Series events as qualifiers to their tournament, nor opposite field events (one of which, Reno-Tahoe, was also won by Flesch). No worries, though, as the left-hander is now 25th on the money list, with the top 30 at season's end getting into the first major of 2008. And even if he doesn't, for some reason, get into that event, he'll have plenty of other places to play for the next three years.
AUTUMN IS HERE: On the heels of the inaugural FedExCup Playoffs, the PGA TOURs inaugural 'Fall Series' got underway in New York with the first-ever Turning Stone Resort Championship. As mentioned, Flesch walked away with the first-place prize -- but he wasn't the only winner.
BackspinThis seven-week chase is more than just about who wins and loses each week, and in that way can make it far more compelling than its Cup predecessor. Just ask Michael Allen. The Q-school regular wrangled a second-place showing at Turning Stone and thus secured a place to play in '08. Expect storylines like this one on a weekly basis.
THE STRAIGHT DOPE: The leading governing bodies of the world of golf - the PGA TOUR, European Tour, LPGA Tour, the U.S.G.A, Royal & Ancient Golf Club, Augusta National Golf Club and the PGA of America ' all signed off on an anti-doping policy to take effect some time in 2008.
BackspinIn a sport where players are routinely praised for calling penalties on themselves during competition, the governing bodies apparently decided that the players might not be calling every infraction on themselves off the course. On one hand, its foolish to remain nave about sports-enhancing drugs in todays world, but on the other hand lets hope the sport is as squeaky clean as its public image has always been. Somewhere Barry Bonds is wishing he'd had taken up hitting golf balls and not baseballs. Or maybe not.
AUGUSTA IN '96? GOOD TIMES: Greg Norman and his now former wife Laura have reportedly settled their much public and very contentious divorce. Their marriage lasted 25 years.
BackspinThere are, however, a few points still needing to be settled, such as determining how they will split the tax liability on Norman's jet. Norman is now a business man, and perhaps even better at making money than he was at winning golf tournaments. We can only wonder which hurts more: Losing major money or losing major championships.
REMEMBER ME?: Lee Westwood won the British Masters over the weekend, closing the tournament with a 7-under 65 that included a 40-foot putt for birdie on the 16th hole and a 30-footer for eagle at the 17th. It was his second win this year.
BackspinWestwood was a shooting star in the golf world from 1998-2000, winning an astounding 18 times on the European Tour during that stretch. He then experienced a David Duval-like fall from grace, at times not sure if he would continue to play the game. As to be expected, his big win quickly went to his big head, as he said: 'I'd like to get back into the top-5 (in the world rankings).' Slow down Lee; no need to make Tiger's ears perk up.
FIRST TIME'S A CHARM: Playing in his first event on the Champions Tour, Mark Wiebe shot 18 under par to capture the SAS Championship. He became the 12th player to win in his debut on the senior circuit.
BackspinWith all the hype surrounding the arrivals of Nick Price, Mark O'Meara, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Jeff Sluman this year on the Champions Tour, it's the little known Wiebe who has the only title among this group. Wiebe, who's last TOUR-related win came in 1986, might not sell tickets at the gate, but he's going to be taking home some serious money on the senior set.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: John Daly withdrew from the Turning Stone event in the first round due to 'flu-like symptoms;' Hawaiian teen Tadd Fujikawa again missed a cut - his third straight MC as a professional, this time coming on the Nationwide Tour; The U.S. won the PGA Cup, an event which pits American club professionals against their European counterparts, 13 1/2 -12 1/2; And finally, The Ginn sur Mer Classic has offered exemptions to twins Derek and Daryl Fathauer for next month's event in Florida.
Backspin Daly had talked just prior to the start of the event about how he was looking forward to finishing the season strong. Again, he talked about a strong finish; The 16-year-old Fujikawa didn't make it to the weekend, but he did provide some highlights as he became the youngest player in N'Wide Tour history to record an ace; The U.S. win sets up a possible clean sweep for America in recent 'Cup' play - Walker Cup, Solheim Cup, PGA, and now, perhaps, this week's Presidents Cup; This will mark the first time identical twins have played in the same PGA TOUR event since Curtis and Allen Strange in the 1981 Texas Open. Here's wondering which of the two Fathauer boys will become Curtis and which will become Allen?
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Turning Stone Resort Championship
  • Norman's Divorce
  • More Headlines
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    What's in the Bag: CJ Cup winner Koepka

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 23, 2018, 12:50 am

    Brooks Koepka closed strong to win the CJ Cup in South Korea, and he also took over the No. 1 ranking. Here's a look inside his bag.

    Driver: TaylorMade M3 (9.5 degrees)

    Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)

    Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3); Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW)

    Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees)

    Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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    HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

    Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

    Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

    That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

    "We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

    There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

    Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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    Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

    By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

    Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

    His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

    That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

    For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.

    1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

    Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

    Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

    2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

    It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

    3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.

    4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

    While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

    Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

    5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

    He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

    6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

    Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.

    7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

    The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

    No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    “I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

    8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

    9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

    “Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”

    Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

    Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

    It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

    This week's award winners ...  

    Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

    Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

    Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

    Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.

    The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

    Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

    That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

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    Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

    There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

    Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

    "I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

    Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

    "That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

    When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

    "I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."