Shag Bag Blog Week 17

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2009, 4:00 pm
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Welcome to the Shag Bag, where the team and Golf Channel talent will regularly file thoughts and opinions from around the world of golf.

Lorena Ochoa faces an unexpected challenge in her bid to win the Corona Championship in Sunday's final round.
She's playing without her devoted caddie, Dave Brooker.
Brooker broke a foot in the caddie soccer game at the course on Saturday night, LPGA officials confirmed. Ochoa has a trustworthy sub, though. Rafael Alarcon, her coach, is toting her bag. Alarcon has been her coach since her junior days.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 26, 1:37 p.m. ET


After winning five LPGA events in 2007, Suzann Pettersen will be looking to end an 0 for 32 run on that tour in Sundays pursuit of Lorena Ochoa at the Corona Championship.
Some things you may not know about Pettersen (from
If you were not a pro golfer what would you be? Physiotherapist or professional skiier
Favorites loaded on your Thump or iPod? Coldplay, U2, Elton John and Snoop Dog. I just rediscovered the Backstreet Boys.
Do you have any other special talents? I love skiing
Favorite film? Caddyshack
Favorite books? Kjetil Andre Aamodt (most winning medalist in alpine skiing); Den neste er den beste
Favorite TV show? Friends
Five items I can't live without: Music, friends, family, golf, wine
Party animal or mellow TV on the couch? Depends on the season, but I could fall into the party animal category...
Any last words? You never know what will happen tomorrow, so be happy and smile.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 26, 9:47 a.m. ET


The 24/7 coverage of the NFL draft got us thinking ' as if anyone needs instant access to who the Denver Broncos pick in the fourth round ' how interesting it would be if Ryder and Presidents Cup captains were allowed to simply pick their players.
The first pick in any pool, naturally, would be Tiger Inc. On one leg or two, at Bethpage or Birkdale and whether its stroke play or match play, ETW is a franchise player any way you slice it.
Picks 2-5 are not as clear. Phil Mickelson may be the second-ranked player, but were going with the best athlete available. Give us Anthony Kim, Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy and . . . regardless of clubhouse synergy, Sergio Garcia.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 25, 8:20 p.m. ET


Suzann Pettersen will be aiming to spoil the party in Mexico on Sunday.
Give Pettersen credit on Saturday at the Corona Championship.
With Lorena Ochoa a national golf hero, and playing in her homeland with all the support that goes with that, Pettersen didn't back down in their head-to-head duel in the third round. Ochoa needed a birdie at the 17th hole to secure a one-shot lead going into Sunday's final round, where she'll be paired once more with Pettersen. Ochoa won this event by 11 shots last year.
After making a bogey early in the first round, Pettersen has made 16 birdies and two eagles without another bogey over the last 50 holes. With these birdie machines in good form, Sunday could be a shootout. Ochoa's at 20 under. The LPGA 72-hole record for scoring in relation to par is 27 under. Annika Sorenstam set the mark at the Standard Register Ping at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix in 2001.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 25, 6:56 p.m. ET


The swine flu that has killed nearly 70 people and sickened thousands more across Mexico will not affect the playing of this weekend's Corona Championship in Morelia.
'(The) tournament is being played as scheduled,' Connie Wilson, LPGA vice president of communications, told via e-mail.
According to the Associated Press, the disease has already reached Texas and California, with 24 new suspected cases reported Saturday in Mexico City alone. World Health Organization officials said it could reach 'pandemic potential.'
Morelia is about 130 miles west-northwest of Mexico City.
' Mercer Baggs
Posted April 25, 1:07 p.m. ET


LPGA fans who have been waiting two weeks for the tour to resume could be getting a terrific weekend treat.
Midway through Fridays second round of the Corona Championship, heres the leaderboard:
Karrie Webb (-9); Michelle Wie (-9); Lorena Ochoa (-8); Kristy McPherson (-8).
' Randall Mell
Posted April 24, 12:48 p.m. ET


This just in from, the world No. 1 will play next weeks Quail Hollow Championship, an event hes played three times and won in 2007.
Considering the health of his rebuilt left knee is no longer a concern and assuming at least a passing interest in playing the Tours 15-event minimum in 2009, Woods schedule the rest of the way is at least partially predictable.
After Quail Hollow, expect TW to play The Players ' which he has also committed to playing ' Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T National (which he has already committed to), British Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and Tour Championship.
Of course, our crystal ball didnt see an Angel Cabrera Masters victory coming, so you may want to hold off on that week-long pass at Firestone.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 24, 10:58 a.m. ET


The charmingly pessimistic Gavin Coles managed to shoot 4-under par in Round 1 of the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic on Thursday. Consider that Coles is one of the shortest hitters in professional golf, Kinderlou Forest measures 7,781 yards (the longest course in Nationwide Tour history) and it becomes a surprising round.
He may have had a premonition though as he was in a surprisingly upbeat mood early in the week. Remembering that he went toe-to-toe with Vijay Singh a couple years ago in Houston on a very long track, Coles didn't discount his odds this week. 'He definitely woke up on the right side of the bed this week,' Kay Cockerill noted in our production meeting.
The irony in this lies in the fact that Coles is never one to shy away from his opinion ' much to the delight of his peers. He receives more needling than just about anyone else. So much so that awhile back, in the player dining area, Dicky Pride walked in, saw Gavin, and instead of asking 'Is everything okay,' he asked, 'Anything okay, Colesy?'
After hearing me say that he woke up on the right side of the bed during the telecast, Gavin texted me, 'By the way, I fell out of bed and landed on my head.' The man is priceless.
' Jerry Foltz
Posted April 24, 9:23 a.m. ET


Kenny Perrys appearance at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans appears to be just what the doctor ordered.
Dr. Richard Coop, a professor of educational psychology at the University of North Carolina who works with a lot of tour pros, didnt have to be in New Orleans to hear something therapeutic in Perrys interviews with media this week.
He hears Perry, who opened with a 3-under-par 69 Thursday, making healthy attempts to purge his Masters disappointment.
Something like that, its better to talk about it than push it down, Coop said. When you push it down, it can be like pushing a beach ball down into a swimming pool. Eventually, its going to come shooting back up, and its going to come up with a lot of force, if you dont deal with it.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 23, 9:03 p.m. ET


In case you werent paying attention, the LPGA is back in action this week at the Corona Championship in Morelia, Mexico. The last time we saw the tour was three weeks ago in California when Brittany Lincicome eagled the 72nd hole to beat friend Kristy McPherson at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
But, the women are back in full force with Lorena Ochoa leading the way at a tournament that she essentially helped bring to her native country. A smooth 8-under 65 on the par 73 Tres Marias course gave the tours No. 1 player the first-round lead by a shot over three women.
One of those three women? Michelle Wie.
Thats right, after starting the season hot in Hawaii, shes cooled off a bit in her last two performances ' at the Phoenix LPGA and the Kraft Nabisco. But an opening round 66 (7 birdies, 2 bogeys and an eagle) all but guarantees that media types here in the U.S. will keep an eye on the 19-year-old to see if she can collect her first professional victory.
Itll be a tall order for Wie to go toe-to-toe with Ochoa the next three days. Stay tuned. . .
' Jay Coffin
Posted April 23, 8:33 p.m. ET


In consecutive days Brendon Todd covered the par-3 17th hole at the Nationwide Tours Athens Regional Foundation Classic in two strokes, two aces and six pops less than it took the Tour rookie to complete the par-4 fifth hole at TPC Louisiana on Thursday.
Keep up because this gets confusing. Todds second shot from 162 yards sailed over the green. No. 3 moved about 7 yards into some foliage and it took two more swings and a penalty stroke to reach the putting surface for a two-putt quadruple bogey-8.
The bad news? Golf gives and golf takes away. The good news? Todd proved that bad golf doesnt have to take forever, playing the fifth hole in less than 15 minutes.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 23, 3:46 p.m. ET


Not a good sign that a repeat is in the offing when Sergio Garcia returns to TPC Sawgrass in two weeks to defend his Players title with a belly putter in tow.
At the urging of putting guru Stan Utley, Garcia switched to a standard-length putter last year at Sawgrass and won the biggest title of his career, but the Spaniard has been less-than-prolific since that breakthrough and currently ranks a pedestrian 161st in putting average.
Garcia used the longer putter at Augusta, poorly, but plans to probably keep it in the bag for TPC.
I'm going to travel with it. I don't know if I'm going to use it, Garcia said Thursday.
Sometimes my grip kind of moves too much back and forward. So instead of kind of letting the face of the club do the work, you know, I kind of do it with the top of the putter. That's when I lose all my power and then my speed gets bad and my confidence kind of goes down a little bit.
Just a hunch, but the return to the long stick may have shaken the confidence of those looking for an El Nino double.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 23, 3:11 p.m. ET


Lanny Wadkins was introduced Thursday morning at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf as the newest member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Asked the one moment that stood out in a career that included a major championship (1977 PGA Championship) over three decades, he flashed back to the 1983 Ryder Cup.
He still treasures the memory of the shot he hit at the 18th hole to clinch the United States victory at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
I remember it to this day, Wadkins said. Wedge to one foot. Tom Kite slapped me on the back, and I turned to say something and nothing came out. First time in my life nothing came out.
Wadkins said he used the memory of that shot to draw strength from when faced with future challenges.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 23, 11:23 a.m. ET


Ever had your hard drive crash on your computer? I did last week and it was pure bliss. No computer and a cell phone that didn't work in my hotel. Felt like I was on vacation. But now, with a surgically repaired computer, I'm back and able to share a story from Brian Gay's first hole last Sunday at the Verizon Classic.
After two textbook shots into the first green, Gay stood over his 12-footer for an important opening birdie, which would send a message that he had no intentions on putting it in reverse. As he got into his pre-putt routine, a cell phone rang from a spectator 20 feet away on the back side of the green. It wasn't a loud ring but Brian's caddie, Kip Henley definitely heard it and assumed Brian did as well. Only, Brian never stepped away. He continued with his routine and calmly drained the message-sending downhill putt.
As Henley shared with me on the way to the second tee, Brian heard it too. Kip asked him why he didn't step away. 'I don't know, I just kept putting. I felt good,' Gay said.
It brings to mind the old Jack Nicklaus story when a reporter asked him if the low, loud jet flying overhead on a particular putt had distracted him. Jack's reply, 'What jet.'
' Jerry Foltz
Posted April 22, 4:46 p.m. ET


Look whos joining the Champions Tour this week.
Tom Lehman, who turned 50 on March 7, will make his debut on the over-50 circuit Friday at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at Westin Savannah (Ga.) Harbor Resort and Spa. Hes paired with Bernhard Langer in the two-man team event.
Lehman says hell go back and forth from the PGA Tour and Champions Tour this season but expects to play about 10 events on the senior circuit. A five-time PGA Tour winner, Lehman will be looking for his first victory in nine years. He missed much of last season with an elbow injury but showed a return to form finishing tied for eighth at the Transitions Championship in Tampa last month. That could spell trouble for his new/old peers.
Lehman says hes suspicious of what hes hearing in his welcome to the tour.
You get the same song and dance from everybody, a bunch of old guys that can't play anymore and just take it easy on us, he told reporters at the event. I know better.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 22, 2:04 p.m. ET


Danny Lee was asked what his expectations are in his pro debut this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Im really confident with my game this week, and, hopefully, Ill win this event and play in The Players Championship, he said.
Lee, who was 18 years and one month old when he bumped Tiger Woods as the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur last August, became the youngest winner of a European Tour event when he claimed the Johnnie Walker Classic in February. He was just the second amateur to win on that tour.
Woods tied for 60th at the Greater Milwaukee Open in his pro debut. He won his fifth start, the Las Vegas Invitational.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 22, 11:08 a.m. ET


Seems there are still some devils in the PGA Tours drug-testing details. During a player meeting at the Nationwide Tours South Georgia Classic on Tuesday officials were pressed about an apparent glitch in the policy.
Although testing can occur at any time, the cornerstone to any program, most players are asked after their rounds to comply. During a rain delay, however, the policy has become something of a problem.
One player at the meeting said he was tested after play was called at an event due to inclement weather and didnt complete the test until almost 9:30 p.m. Compounding the problem is an early restart the day after a weather delay.
The fix, according to one player who attended the meeting, seems to be an adjustment to the policy that would allow testing after a player has completed his round and signed his scorecard.
Of course, compared to other sports, if the biggest problem with testing for performance-enhancing drugs is timing, then golf should consider itself lucky.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 22, 10:35 a.m. ET


Your move, Tiger.
Phil Mickelson committed Tuesday afternoon to playing in next weeks Quail Hollow Championship. After their terrific Sunday final-round pairing at the Masters, where Woods and Mickelson jolted Augusta National with a symphony of roars, who isnt eager for a reprise? Friday is the deadline to commit to the Quail Hollow. Of course, even if Woods commits, theres no guarantee well see them paired together in another Sunday duel, but even the chance of a rematch intensifies interest in Quail Hollows start.
The likelihood Woods is going to commit appears strong with his caddie, Steve Williams. The Kiwi lists the Quail Hollow Championship among upcoming events on his Web site.
Mickelson might have gotten the best of Woods by a shot at the Masters (67-68) this year, but if youre keeping score, Woods is 11-9-4 in their head-to-head meetings. Theyre 3-3-1 in Sunday pairings.
Woods stroke average is 68.95 when theyre head-to-head, Mickelsons 70.12.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 21, 4:02 p.m. ET


Michelle Wies withdrawal from the pro-am before the Korean LPGAs Lotte Mart Womens Open last week wasnt the unexpected news it was presented to be in overseas news reports, according to Wies management team. Wie withdrew, it was reported, after she was informed that she wouldnt be allowed to use her caddie in the pro-am. KLPGA officials excluded regular caddies from the pro-am to promote better interaction between pros and their amateur partners.
Michelle was, in fact, given permission by Lotte, the title sponsor, to miss the Pro-Am after a miscommunication between Lotte and the KLPGA, Dave Haggith, communications director for IMG Golf, wrote in an e-mail response to a question about the Korean news reports. She merely accepted an offer from the title sponsor of the event to allow her preparation and practice time in advance of the event [which she obviously had very little of after getting to Korea]. All went very well that week, though, and Michelle was very appreciative of the invitation to participate.
Wie tied for 36th at the Lotte Mart Womens Open and is competing this week at the LPGAs Corona Championship in Mexico.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 21, 1:14 p.m. ET


Second most-asked question ' after the standard Do Tiger and Phil like each other? ' is who is our favorite Tour player? And the answer always surprises.
Truth is, financially-secure golf professionals have little in common with fiancially-challenged golf writers, and our favorites are usually players your off-the-shelf golf fan has never rooted for.
Thus we cheered Patrick Sheehans victory last week on the Nationwide Tour ' a good things happening to good people kind of deal. Sheehan was at his best last year at The Barclays following a non-descript 70 in Round 3. Most players sulk after a tough round, but all Sheehan wanted to do was play golf.
I cant wait to get home next week to play, he smiled. I just love to play.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 20, 5:04 p.m. ET


What are Michael Jordans chances of breaking 100 at Bethpage Black in Golf Digests U.S. Open Challenge?
He better hit it straight, Tiger Woods said during the AT&T National media day on Monday.
Jordan will join singer Justin Timberlake, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and an amateur to be determined by online voting in a round on Bethpage Black that will be taped and aired by NBC on Sunday, June 21, before the final round of the U.S. Open.
Woods suggested the nature of Jordans game depends on whats at stake. He and Jordan first played together in Chicago during the NBA playoffs, back when Jordan was still an NBA player. Woods said Jordan shot 88 in their first round together, then followed it up with a 73.
Obviously, I got suckered in and learned my lesson, Woods said.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 20, 3:16 p.m. ET


You can question the means, but not the ends to Briny Bairds week on Harbour Town Golf Links diminutive greens.
Baird switched to a belly putter for last weeks Verizon Heritage, a move that resulted in one of his most solid putting weeks of the year including a steely 62 for 67 from 10 feet and in.
Baird was prompted to go with the longer model after watching Angel Cabrera win last weeks Masters with a belly putter. The rub, of course, is that the Argentine doesnt use a belly putter, just a slightly longer version of a standard putter.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 20, 11:07 a.m. ET
@kharms27 on Instagram

Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

Getty Images

McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

@radiosarks on Twitter

Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

Getty Images

Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.