Two Too Many Swings

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2008, 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.
MONSTER MASHED: Geoff Ogilvy earned his first PGA TOUR victory since capturing the 2006 U.S. Open by winning the WGC-CA Championship Monday at Doral at 17 under. The event was extended an extra day due to inclement weather in the Miami area. Ogilvy made par on each of his final nine holes Monday to secure fourth career TOUR title.
Backspin Ogilvy is one of the most honest players on TOUR. He's also never one to back down from a challenge. Of the Aussie's afforementioned four TOUR victories, two have come in WGC events (2006 WGC-Match Play) or in majors. And just like he at Winged Foot in '06, a chip-in for par late in the round helped save the day.

DRIVE ENDS AT FIVE: Tiger Woods PGA TOUR win streak was halted at five at the WGC-CA Championship. Woods finished in fifth place with a score of 15 under. The loss alos ended his three-year run at champion at Doral.
Backspin Well, it turns out hes human after all. But even on an off week, if you can call it that, Tiger still had a chance to win in the end. But instead of focusing in on what went wrong, lets appreciate his incredible run. This is the first time Woods has lost since finishing second to Phil last September, and the first time he didnt place in the top two since July! Five official PGA TOUR wins in a row, seven total, including his tournament and the Dubai Desert Classic, and 9 of the last 10. Truly remarkable. Next up: The Masters Tournament.

BIG EASY'S BIG MOVE: South African Ernie Els told the press this week about his intentions of moving his home base from England to possibly south Florida. Els has lived alongside the famed Wentworth course in England for most of his professinal career.
Backspin Els' reasoning for the major move (he used to live in Lake Nona outside of Orlando) was partly because of the better winter-time climate in Florida compared with that of rainy, cold London. But most importantly was the fact that he believes that there are better opportunities Stateside that exist for his son, Ben, who Els recently revealed suffers from autism. 'The schools for Ben, especially theres really good stuff happening over here for him,' Els said.

HE'S KRAFTY: Greg Kraft earned his first PGA TOUR victory Sunday by outlasting Bo Van Pelt and Jerry Kelly, the highest-ranked player in the field, at the inaugural Puerto Rico Open. Kraft earned $630,000'more than hes made on the PGA TOUR combined since 2003.
Backspin Who loves opposite-field events more than the career journeyman. First, Brian Gay won in Mexico the same week of the WGC-Accenture Match Play and now Kraft in Puerto Rico. Anyone winless on TOUR with about 10 years service can next look forward to the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, the week of the British Open.

OWW WIE: .Michelle Wie withdrew from the Safeway International on Friday after tweaking an injury to her left wrist during practice last week. The 18-year-old Wie received a sponsor exemption to play in the upcoming event at Superstition Mountain in Arizona. She has played in just one tournament this year, and finished 20 strokes behind winner Paula Creamer in the Fields Open in Hawaii.
Backspin It is hard to tell whether this is a step forwards or backwards for Wie. On one hand she showed some common sense in not forcing the issue with her wrist, and risking further injury that would keep her out of future events. On the other this could be a nagging injury that could keep the Stanford freshman from ever reaching her full potential and living up to the lofty expectations placed on her. In other words, it's pretty typical for the on-going Wie saga.

BACK AND FORSYTH: Alastair Forsyth erased a five-stroke deficit Sunday before beating Hennie Otto in a playoff to win the Madeira Island Open. The 32-year-old Scot birdied the 18th hole twice, once in regulation and then again on the extra hole, to force and win the playoff to collect his first title since the 2002 Malaysian Open, when he overcame Australian Stephen Leaney for his first title.
Backspin The win was a complete change in fortune this year for Forsyth who had missed the cut in each of his five events this year. But his successful 7-footer in overtime earned him the $180,000 first prize and made him 2-out-of-2 in playoffs as a professional. Its the worst start Ive ever made, added Forsyth, but Id played well at the end of last season and just got a bit rusty over the winter. Otto was looking for his debut in the winners circle to regain his tour card but gave away his lead early in his round..

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Louis Oosthuizen arrived on Sunday for the WGC-CA Championship, although his clubs did not make it; Stephanie Sparks, GOLF CHANNEL personality, accepted a sponsors exemption to the third-annual Ginn OPEN, April 14-20 at Ginn Reunion Resort; Erik Compton underwent two heart procedures this past week.
Backspin Oosthuizen finally got his clubs and shot 74-72 alongside Tiger. He finished tied for 68th for the event; Sparks LPGA career was cut short after the 2000 season due to back surgery. But her attitude is thus, 'After my second back surgery I thought Id never have a chance of being inside the ropes again. Having this opportunity is unexpected, and I will be enjoying every single second of it. I dont know how Ill play, but its about taking in every moment of it.'; Just days after his surgery, Compton, a Miami native, was on-site at Doral. He first had a heart transplant at the age of 12. That heart lasted 16 years. He needs another one now to continue his life.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-CA Championship
  • Full Coverage - Puerto Rico Open
  • Full Coverage - Madeira Island Open
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    USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

    The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

    How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

    Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

    So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.

    After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

    “When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

    Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

    Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

    The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

    At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

    “They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”

    By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

    “I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

    That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

    It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

    “They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”

    But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

    The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

    “To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

    It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

    So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

    “I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”

    But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

    After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

    “It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

    Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

    Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.

    @bubbawatson on Instagram

    Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

    Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

    Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

    A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

    And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

    Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

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    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson


    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari


    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello