Thoughts from an airport bar

By Jerry FoltzAugust 30, 2010, 12:59 am

Another Sunday afternoon. Another airport bar. This time it’s Newark, N.J., but there aren’t any players to be found. Most of them this week have their own planes and don’t often have to deal with TSA and overpriced drinks – those are included with the jet.

Once again I’m watching the end of the tournament I was covering (The Barclays) while waiting for my flight (and no sound again, which is kind of sacrilegious for my occupation) and contemplating Tiger Woods and what he accomplished this week.

First off, he hit the ball much better this week than he has in ages. Not perfect, but way better than I’ve seen him hit it in a couple of years (sorry, Hank). He had his hiccups, and as only Tiger can do, those hiccups are epic – like his first tee shot in Rd. 3, which evidently was found somewhere near Far Hills, N.J.

But he did accomplish goal No. 1 – he’s on to the next week of the playoffs. Who would have ever thought we’d have to contemplate that possibility? Not me, that’s for sure. And he’s in great position to play solidly next week and keep advancing.

In our fantasy picks this week, I selected Tiger because I thought that in his mind, the only way for him to salvage this season would be to win the FedEx Cup, and that possibility is still alive. Sure the optimism was rampant when he opened with 65 and people were speculating that Tiger was back. Not so quick – as that tee shot yesterday illustrated.

Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo has been saying all along that the changes will take time – a lot of time – and one good round doesn’t put all those demons to rest. But Faldo believes, as does Peter Kostis, Brandel Chamblee and I, that he’s is on the right track. Granted, the previous track was so panned by his peers in private conversations that any change from the way he was swinging had to be an improvement. And he has definitely improved.

Now comes the really tough part. Can he take a new swing that as he said, “Is not natural yet,” and continue on like the Tiger we’re accustomed to? Time will tell, and that time is less than a month away. Can Tiger win the FedEx Cup? Really, is that possible after the accumulation of mental luggage that has occurred over the last nine months? I don’t know. I do know that if anyone can do it, it’s Tiger, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

But something in me is pulling for him. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m hoping he makes a run at it. It wouldn’t be remembered this way, but I would consider it one of the greatest comebacks in history. The man has been through a self-induced hell, and he’s not out of the woods (really, no pun intended) yet. He’s never had as much doubt in his head when standing over a shot than he has right now, and yet he still managed to manufacture some amazing shots this week.

It’s the playoffs, and regardless how maligned they are in the print media, I think they’re spectacular. The ramifications of every stroke continue to mount each day, and we wouldn’t have ever dreamed it three years ago. And Tiger is going to provide much of the drama – whether it be to simply advance each week, or perhaps, just perhaps, have a chance to win.

Update: Still no players, and still no sound.

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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.

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“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.