What We Learned: Titleholders

By Jason SobelNovember 18, 2012, 11:00 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from recent tournaments and news developments. This week, our writers weigh in on the never-ending sport that is golf and some impressive weeks from Na Yeon Choi, Michael Campbell and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

I get so bored during golf's offseason. There's just such a lack of anything worthwhile taking place this time of year. Take this past week as an example. Luke Donald won in Japan to pass Tiger Woods as No. 2 in the world. Ho-hum. Oh, and Adam Scott held off Ian Poulter to claim the gold jacket in Australia. Yawn. And Na Yeon Choi, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Henrik Stenson each won titles. Big deal. Second stage of Q-School? Only the most important week of some players' careers. Blayne Barber shakes off his recent DQ to win again on the NGA Tour? Just a terrific story, that's all. Toss in continued underlying subplots such as Rory McIlroy fleeing to Nike and the USGA's expected decision on anchored putters to break the downtime monotony. Well, guess what? These all add up to one definitive conclusion about golf's offseason: It doesn't really exist. – Jason Sobel

Kimchi is apparently like Popeye’s spinach.

For Na Yeon Choi, Korean cabbage cooked by her mother has the same mystical effects.

Choi won the CME Group Titleholders Sunday with her mother making the trip from South Korea. It marked the first time Choi's mother, Jeong Me Song, saw her daughter win outside South Korea. Her mom cooked Galbi, Korean barbecue, on the eve of the final round. She cooked kimchi all week with dinners.

“I had kimchi every day,” Choi said. “Whenever I hit my driver far, my caddie always says, `That’s the kimchi power.’” – Randall Mell

We might be witnessing Michael Campbell’s slow, long-awaited climb back to relevance. The latest example was this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, where the New Zealander shared the 54-hole lead before finishing joint eighth. This, after a solo third last month in Portugal.

No, this isn’t to suggest that Campbell will top the Order of Merit in 2013. And no, this isn’t to suggest that Campbell will even win another European Tour event. But you can’t help but marvel at the man’s perseverance.

It’s been 2,618 days since his last victory, the 2005 World Match Play. That’s the year he won the U.S. Open, when he was ranked 23rd in the world. Seven years later, at that same event, he was 893rd.  

Campbell has eight European Tour victories, a combined career earnings of more than $15 million. So why continue to battle, to tee it up every week when he went 84 starts without recording a top 10? Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s the belief that the winning form is in there, somewhere. Maybe it’s about the money, or the respect. Maybe – probably – it’s because competing is the only thing he knows.

Whatever the reason, seeing Michael Campbell’s name on a leaderboard has never been a more welcome sight. – Ryan Lavner

Rory McIroy and Tiger Woods operate on desire. The difference is, Tiger never turned his off in his prime. When Rory's head and heart are engaged fully, he's a clear-cut No. 1. When they are not, he's a guy with weekends off. Woods never got out of Superman mode. Sometimes McIlroy just wants to be Clark Kent. – Mercer Baggs

In one of the pictures showing Miguel Angel Jimenez hoisting his third UBS Hong Kong Open trophy, he is also wielding a cigar between two fingers of his left hand.

Jimenez’s smile is a mile wide.

Can you blame him?

On Sunday, Jimenez became the oldest winner in European Tour history at 48 years and 318 days, beating back a strong field for one of the more unexpected wins in 2012.

It had been more than two years since Jimenez’s last European Tour victory. Of late, he’d warranted camera time more for his pre-round stretching routine than his golf. On Sunday, El Mecanico reminded the world that he still had a few good swings left.   It was the 19th European Tour victory of his career.

Jimenez will probably fall short of the World Golf Hall of Fame, but the exhibit could do worse than to honor him in some way. I have a suggestion. In one of the rooms place a glass box with an amber lock from his ponytail, a large wine glass and a burnt cigar. – Damon Hack

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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.

Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.