Punch Shot: Most anticipated early-season event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 2, 2013, 3:49 pm

The 2013 PGA Tour season begins this Friday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii. In this Punch Shot, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the early-season tournament they most anticipate.


The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Feb. 20-24, will mark the first gathering this year of the game’s biggest stars.

Yes, you can argue that the season will feel as if it’s beginning in earnest Jan. 17-20 on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will make their ’13 debuts, but the Accenture Match Play Championship will adorn Woods and McIlroy with a deeper all-star cast.

The World Golf Championship event gives us our best early perspective in how the stars are aligning themselves in the new season. Plus, the nature of match play, with its win-or-go-home finality, deliciously ratchets up the intensity right from the first tee shot. While stroke play is like a long-distance race, with contenders pacing themselves for the final back-nine Sunday push, match play creates pressure from the opening tee shot. There’s winning and losing from the first hole. The first day of the Accenture Match Play Championship may be the best day in golf outside the majors and the Ryder Cup.


Sure, Kapalua is loads of fun to watch – radiant sunshine, white-capped waves, a bombers’ track. But the field is too weak.

And yes, Abu Dhabi packs the most intrigue – Tiger and Rory, Rory and Tiger, making their 2013 debuts. But there is also a nine-hour time difference.

So the early-season event I’m most looking forward to? The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a U.S. Open test with majestic views, Tiger and Phil, Brandt and Rickie, DJ and Bubba.

Still not intrigued? Consider that there also is a mandatory players’ meeting on Tuesday of Torrey Pines week, when they are expected to discuss and decide when to implement the anchoring ban (perhaps as soon as October). Heck, that meeting alone could provide the early pyrotechnics. 


Sitting here at Kapalua right now, you can accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid. At least, that's what I thought was in this tall glass with the mini umbrella on top.

I know the Hyundai Tournament of Champions doesn't have the greatest field; in fact, the eligible players who aren't here easily outshine the ones who are. And I also know that this event has some issues; the fact that players are rewarded this season because of something they accomplished last season has always bugged me.

But there's something about the gorgeous vistas that signifies a fresh start to the new year. Watching elite PGA Tour players compete while framed by a background of bright rainbows over the mighty Pacific is like golf's version of calling out, 'Gentlemen, start your engines!'

I love the Sony Open, because it provides a first opportunity to watch new players at the game's uppermost level and I can't wait for the Farmers Insurance Open and Abu Dhabi Championship to duke it out from opposite sides of the world on the same week.

Give me Kapalua, though, for what it symbolizes. And let me raise my glass of Kool-Aid for a toast: Here's to new beginnings.


Not far from the Yas Island links that will host this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship looms Ferrari World and what is billed as the world’s fastest roller coaster, a white-knuckle ride that leaves riders pinned into their seats by excessive G-Forces and in search of a Dramamine milkshake afterward.

It is, all things considered, the perfect metaphor for the unofficial start of the 2013 season. With apologies to this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua – not to mention the Farmers Insurance Open, which previously held the title – Abu Dhabi has firmly established itself as opening day.

Last year’s stop in Abu Dhabi gave us Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy paired together for three days, in some ways a precursor to how the season would unfold, and this year’s event, which will be played Jan. 17-20, promises even more early-season intrigue.

Included in this year’s field will be world No. 1 McIlroy, who will likely be announced as Nike Golf’s newest staff player on Jan. 14 in Abu Dhabi, and No. 3 Woods, both making their ’13 debuts.

Adding even more intrigue to the week will be the European Ryder Cup captain’s announcement, and that’s all before the first official shot is hit at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It’s a start almost as fast as that roller coaster at Ferrari World.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said 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 on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

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

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

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.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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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.  

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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.