Controversy Anger Lots of Talk

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 14, 2008, 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.
GOING ISLAND HOPPING: K.J. Choi led wire-to-wire to capture this week's Sony Open in Hawaii. Choi just held on for victory Sunday at the Waialae Country Club with a 1-over 71, good enough for a 14-under-par 266. Rory Sabbatini made a run late, but eventually fell short at 11 under.
Backspin The PGA TOUR is officially underway after this week's first full-field event, and we couldn't be more excited. It was another great week of golf with another exciting finish. Sabbatini almost let his clubs do his talking for him, getting within two shots late, but couldn't close as the ever steady Choi won for the fifth straight time leading after 54 holes.
CUT CONTROVERSY: The PGA TOUR has changed the way the cut line works. The new policy allows for top 70 and ties, but when the number of players who make the cut exceeds 78 players, only the closest number to 70 players return for the final two rounds. In this week's case, 69 players finished at 1 under and 18 players were sent home early with $9,699 in official money, 46 points toward the FedExCup, but no tee time for the weekend.
BackspinMany of the players were unaware that the rule had even been changed. John Daly was particularly unhappy being sent home after 'making' the cut. Daly said, 'I don't understand the rule. I grinded my butt off to shoot even. Then I find out on 18 you may not be playing. I just wish we would have known.' The thing is, they did know ... or should have known. The TOUR doesn't just make rules changes in secret. Players just don't take the time to pay attention to what is being said.
KELLY TILGHMAN: Wed be remiss if we at Backspin didnt include the hottest story of this past week, Kelly Tilghmans comments concerning Tiger Woods and her subsequent two-week suspension from GOLF CHANNEL. Tilghman made the gaffe while chatting with co-host Nick Faldo on how the younger set could compete with Woods.
Backspin Public reaction was slow to develop, but eventually spread like wildfire. News agencies, far removed from the golf world, weighed in on the story. Viewer reaction varied from those extremely supportive of Tilghman to those penning grossly offensive remarks. Tigers people called it a non-issue. Well see if the embers languish after the flames die down.
THE NEXT TIGER WOODS? Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa turned professional this past week at the age of 16. Ishikawa became the youngest player to ever win on the Japan PGA Tour, doing so as an amateur last May.
Backspin So who cares, right? Well, when you are called your countrys Tiger Woods, it tends to draw attention ' especially when you consider the inevitable boon of Japanese golf. Ishikawa may want to talk to Ai Miyazato, who is one of Japans top-3 athlete/celebrities. Miyazato was bigger than Godzilla when she left Japan for the LPGA Tour, but, despite routing the field in the 2005 Q-school, she has yet to win in the U.S. The bigger the bowl, the easier it is to drown. Also, does this mean there is a Tiger Woods in every country ' a Lithuanian Tiger, a Sri Lankan Tiger, a Turkish Tiger?
CHALLENGING TIGER?: 19-year-old Australian Jason Day thinks he's ready to challenge the world's no. 1. Said Day, 'I'm sure I can take [Tiger] down.' The PGA TOUR's youngest player is full of cofidence and talent, making the cut in five out of the seven TOUR events he played last year. His best finish was a tie for 11th at the Reno-Tahoe Open, and he was the youngest player to win a Nationwide Tour event.
Backspin Maybe Jason Day should ask Rory Sabbatini or Stephen Ames how giving Tiger Woods bulletin board material worked out for them. Maybe Day should let his clubs do the talking, at least at first, because the last thing we'd want is to give the best golfer on the planet any motivation to play better against us. For the record, Day made as much money playing this week's Sony Open as did Tiger.
HARMON TELLS DALY TO SHAPE UP: There was a lot of talk in the off-season of John Daly working with swing coach extraordinaire Butch Harmon. But as reported by our own Brian Hewitt, when it came time for the two to start working, Harmon told Daly he needs a comitment. If Daly wants to work with him, he's going to need to recommit himself to the game of golf both on and off the course.
Backspin After falling off the earth in terms of world rankings, 525, Harmon is right. If Daly wants to work with the best, he's going to have to give his best effort. It is easy to forget that Daly has two major championships to his name, but we're all for a re-energized John Daly. But is Daly up for it?
SABBATINI vs. WOODS: The Rory Sabbatini-Tiger Woods controversy heated up once again this past week when Tigers camp told Insider Brian Hewitt that if Sabbatini should qualify for this years Target World Challenge, We would certainly encourage him not to accept his invitation.
BackspinThe issue stems from Sabbatini dropping out of Decembers Target, Tigers limited, personal event, before the final round. Sabbatini and his people gave multiple excuses as to why he up and ran, but apparently none were satisfactory for Woods. This wasnt the first time the two butted heads and it likely wont be the last. If Tiger cant have a rival on the course, at least hes got one in the media; though, Sabbatinis New Years resolution appears to be: become a Mime who plays golf.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Big Break VII: Reunion champion Tommy Gainey made his debut as a card-carrying member of the PGA TOUR at the Sony Open; Todd Demsey made his first start as an official TOUR member in over 10 years in Hawaii; The European Tour picked up on its 2008 season with its first tournament in the calender year. Richard Sterne birdied the second hole of a three-man playoff to win the Joburg Open in South Africa.
Backspin Gainey made the cut in Hawaii - but missed it, too. He was a part of the group at even par, who made some money, but didn't get to play over the weekend; Assuming Steve Stricker wont win Comeback Player of the Year for a third straight season, Demsey is the early favorite for the award. He was sidelined for a spell due to misdiagnosed back problems and a golf ball-sized tumor in his brain; the Euro Tour's quiet start to '08 didn't keep from an exciting finish as Sterne walked away with the victory in his native South Africa.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open in Hawaii
  • The Japanese 'Tiger'?
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”