Barnes burning for his first Tour victory

By Jason SobelJune 3, 2011, 6:00 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – As each competitor at this week’s Memorial Tournament strolls up the dastardly finishing hole, he is serenaded by a public address announcer reciting a resume of career accomplishments.

Or maybe they are career goals.

That’s because when Ricky Barnes made that jaunt to the final green just before noon on Friday, his name prominently affixed to the nearby leaderboard, the awaiting gallery was told, “… he has one PGA Tour win …”

Actually, he has one fewer than one.

In the announcing business, we call this an unforced error. In the prognostication business, though, it may simply be construed as foreshadowing.

“Maybe they're foreseeing something this week,” Barnes later said with a laugh. “I'm hoping.”

While the golf world awaits the initial professional victory for Rickie, it may indeed be Ricky who breaks through first. Following last year’s T-3 result here at Muirfield Village, the latter has opened with scores of 68-70 to enter the weekend very much in contention yet again.

“Yeah, I'd love to get it,” Barnes said of the elusive first title. “I was pretty good early on in the year, keeping myself calm once I got into that position at Honda and Hilton Head. I was making some good swings, unlucky bounce on a few holes there. But I'm feeling more mature on the golf course and a little more at ease once I get into that position.”

Maturity is a running subplot in the Barnes storyline. No longer is he the teen heartthrob who first hit the scene with a T-21 finish at the 2003 Masters. Now 30, he got married in October and the couple is expecting their first child in August.

He is now nine years removed from winning the U.S. Amateur, eight years past earning that low amateur status at The Masters and three years from developmental tour purgatory, the last of which kept him in its grasp for a half-decade before he finished 25th on the 2008 money list to earn the final PGA Tour card that season.

Since then, Barnes has built a reputation as a steadily improving player, ascending from 120th on the money list as a rookie to 43rd last season. He often sees his greatest successes on difficult golf courses, finishing in a share of second place at the 2009 U.S. Open, T-10 at last year’s Masters and already with a pair of fourth-place results at tough venues this season.

And, of course, Jack’s place certainly qualifies, too.

“I've always liked a course [where] par is your friend,” he explained. “You're making pars even on what some people call easy holes. You're not losing shots much to the field. Even out here, you chip away a lot of pars and grind the round out and steal a few birdies. And that's kind of what I did to get myself back into the round.”

Barnes didn’t let early bogeys on two of the first three holes characterize his round, nor was it defined by his eagle and four birdies, either. Instead, it was a pair of gutsy par-saving efforts on the final two holes – a 17-footer on No. 17 and an 8-footer on 18 – which kept him battling for the top position.

Those are the types of Friday putts that lead to Sunday victories.

Ask those close to him and they’ll maintain that Barnes’ maiden voyage to the winner’s circle is on the impending horizon.

“I really think he’s a player who is definitely capable of a couple of wins a year, definitely a top-50 player in the world, no doubt,” said caddie Ray Farnell, who has been on the bag for close to two years. “All parts of his game are really good. It’s just a matter of biding your time. Everyone waits for that win, but you can’t just go get it. You sort of have to work hard and grind away at it. He’s still young, he’s still maturing and he’s got it all ahead of him.”

His career arc parallels that of Matt Kuchar, a can’t miss-kid who – for so many years – missed. The winner of the U.S. Amateur two years prior to Barnes, Kuchar struggled to fulfill his potential until having it all come together two years ago.

If the analogy continues, that may mean Barnes will soon reach his destiny, too.

“I'd like to get to that point in my career,” Barnes said. “Am I there yet? No, but like I said, I keep putting myself into positions.”

He’s in position to win once again this week. If he can claim the title, well, that announcer on the 18th hole will be proven as a soothsayer.

“Yeah, I think it will be nicer when he says I have a Tour victory,” Barnes joked, “and that it's true.”

Getty Images

Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

Getty Images

Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

Getty Images

Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

Getty Images

Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”

Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.