Crazy will get crazier with Woods at TPC Scottsdale

By Jason SobelJanuary 9, 2015, 2:50 pm

The usual pandemonium outside the ropes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open will seem like a serene stroll through an uninhabited wasteland compared to what’s coming later this month. Not only will the tournament coincide with a little thing called the Super Bowl in town during the same week, but a certain 14-time major champion has added his name to the entry list.

This won’t be a keg party anymore. It’ll be Woodstock.

That’s right. Tiger Woods has committed to the Phoenix festivities – and I don’t use that term lightly – which should come as a surprise for a multitude of reasons.

First is the fact that, as golf’s resident creature of habit, Woods has made a practice of crossing tourneys off his annual schedule, not adding them. As folks from Silvis, Ill., to Kapalua, Hawaii, will attest, once he’s gone, there’s no changing his mind – even if he does need the “reps,” as he so often insists.

More shocking is that he’s returning to golf’s biggest party. For a guy who likely breathes a sigh of relief in the solitude of such unique confinements as Augusta National’s 12th green, far from any spectators, choosing to hang with a half-million strangers for the week is more than a bit quizzical – even if he does have some sweet seats on the 50-yard line that Sunday evening.

When it was rumored last month that Tiger was contemplating a return to the most raucous PGA Tour stop for the first time in 14 years, I started doing a little digging into exactly why he originally removed it from his schedule.



After all, this was the site of what is still one of his most famous shots in a career filled with ‘em – a 9-iron at the boisterous 16th hole that two-hopped into the cup for an ace, followed by the requisite fist-pumps and high-fives and raise-the-roofs. The surrounding gallery was so delirious with excitement that many fans could merely scream at the top of their lungs and launch their beers into the air, a shower of suds and cups forming the background as Tiger pushed two hands skyward in celebration.

Two years later, his tee shot on the par-5 13th came to rest behind a boulder. No worries, though. Woods and then-caddie Mike Cowan famously enlisted a handful of spectators to move the not-so-loose impediment. He reached the green in two, made birdie and even got the stingy USGA to admit that no rule had been violated in the process.

With memories like those, why would he ever want to leave?

Well, because those weren’t the only memories. There were other memories, too, less fond ones.

Over the years, they’ve become the stuff of myth. The kind of memories golf fans recount to each other while hoisting a cold beverage at the 19th hole.

Like that time – the same year as the boulder episode – when a squawking heckler following Woods was detained by security personnel and found to have a gun in his possession. That would be enough to unnerve any player, but especially one who had received his share of death threats in those early days.

Or, two years later, when Tiger was on the putting green and had an orange hurled in his direction. Just a few inches closer, legend has it, and he could have not only been injured, but shone a spotlight on the potential dangers of athletes plying their craft in front the untamed masses.

So, why would he ever stop going to Phoenix? Perhaps the better question is: Why would he ever come back?

Because, as one longtime tournament official recently told me, those incidents have been wildly exaggerated over time.

“Like fish stories,” this official scoffed, “the heckler and orange stories seem to get embellished as the years go on.”

The heckler? Well, yes, he was yelling in the direction of Woods, but never pulled out the firearm nor did he threaten to shoot. In fact, Scottsdale police officers quickly approached the man and found the gun tucked away in his fanny pack. If there’s a less menacing way to carry a weapon, I’ve never heard of it.

The orange? It wasn’t hurled directly at Woods. In fact, it wasn’t hurled at all. It was rolled across the practice green by a teenager – hardly an innocent act, but not quite as malicious as the folklore would have us believe.

That doesn’t mean he won’t be a target this time around – at least for some verbal abuse. As one PGA Tour veteran told me upon hearing the news that Woods will compete, “I’ve been going there for five years now, and it’s gotten worse every year.”

“It” refers to the atmosphere surrounding the tournament, which set a single-week attendance record of 563,008 last year; “worse” refers to the collective buzz that envelops the action, a party where the traditional courtesies of golf are defiantly ignored.

Following his 2009 victory, Kenny Perry recalled meeting a woman who lived nearby. When he asked whether she attended the event each year, she excitedly responded, “Oh yes, I go there every night!”

Point being, everything is flipped upside-down in Phoenix, where birdies and bogeys take a backseat to the rowdiness. Not only does this tournament generate more spectators than any other by a long measure, it also leads the circuit in both booze and boos – one leading, ultimately, to the other.

Woods knows this. Even if his memory is hazy after all these years, even if the tournament has grown monumentally in stature since then, he understands the absolute anarchy that his mere presence will incite.

Golf’s biggest party is about to get much, much bigger.

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Spieth reflects on Masters run: 'I could have shot 59'

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 4:21 pm

AVONDALE, La. – After he nearly staged a historic comeback at the Masters, Jordan Spieth rewatched the final-round coverage to see what he could learn.

His biggest takeaway?

“I look back on it and I actually thought that I truly could have shot 59 without doing much more other than making a few more putts,” he said Wednesday at the Zurich Classic, where he’ll team up with Ryan Palmer for the second consecutive year. “I put myself in opportunities on each hole to shoot 59 that day, which is really, really cool.”

Spieth roared from nine shots back Sunday to eventually tie Patrick Reed’s lead. He went out in 31 and added four more birdies, but his tee shot on 18 clipped a tree, leading to a long second shot and a bogey. He settled for a 64 and solo third.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“I felt like Houston, but really at Augusta was the best my swing has ever held up under the gun, especially my driving,” he said. “I wanted to see what that looked like compared to other times.”

Spieth said he developed a good feeling with the last six or seven balls he hit on the range before the final round, and that he noticed on the coverage that he was more stable and patience during his swing.

“In all honestly, I made a couple putts, but it wasn’t really a hot day with the putter,” he said. “I just put myself in position to birdie just about every hole.”

Big picture, Spieth said that after his Masters week he “got on the right path.”

“I was working on things throughout the year, thinking I was doing the right things, and I feel like I got the short game back on track in Houston and Augusta," he said. 

“And to hit some of those putts under pressure and see some go in, I think that will be very beneficial going forward this year. It very well could be a spark for a really solid year.”

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Another team event? Sure, and do it with the LPGA

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 4:07 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The revamped Zurich Classic is already such a smashing success that it naturally leads to another question: Is there room for one more team event on the PGA Tour schedule?

“It’d have to be something unique and not really out there already,” Billy Horschel said.

Agreed, so it’s time for the PGA and LPGA tours to bring back a mixed-team event.

The two tours previously sponsored a team event for nearly 30 years, the JCPenney Classic, but it hasn’t been played since 1999. When the PGA Tour announced a “strategic alliance” with the LPGA two years ago, one of its core missions was to showcase the deep talent pool and lift both tours to new heights. There’s no better way to do that than to combine forces for an event – especially with the PGA Tour about to unveil a major schedule shakeup and reduce a portion of the fall season.

The field here at the Zurich is proof that there’s a willingness among the players to try something new.

The New Orleans-area stop has never been a must-play for Tour types; the tournament is hosted on a nondescript TPC course and sandwiched between the Masters and The Players during a slow part of the schedule. And yet this is the first time in seven months that all four reigning major champions are in the same event. It’s the strongest field the Zurich has ever had, and if the tournament offered world-ranking points – more on that later – the strength of field would be identical to the Genesis Open, which anchors the West Coast swing.

There’d be a few issues to iron out, of course, including the timing and how the field is assembled.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last year that there’s a “realistic” chance that the men and women could compete at the same time at Kapalua, for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but that option won’t be quite as appealing when the season is condensed. Players who tee it up in paradise are not only looking forward to a working vacation but also trying to get a head start in the FedExCup race.


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If the Tour targets Kapalua for its mixed event, the idea of a “tournament of champions” might also need adjusting. The LPGA (34) has 10 fewer events than the PGA Tour (44), which means fewer opportunities for the players to earn their way into a winners-only event. The simplest solution is to create more of an all-star showcase, filling out the rest of the women’s field with the leading LPGA money earners who didn’t win.

The format is another question. Fourballs and foursomes are familiar to most players, but at the Zurich there’s a growing interest in a third format.

“I’m waiting on a scramble,” said William McGirt, echoing the sentiments of a few other players interviewed. “I don’t care who I’m playing with – I want to play a scramble, just one time.”

And the final piece is the stakes. The Zurich offers Ryder Cup points, (reduced) FedExCup points and a two-year exemption to the winners, but there are no world-ranking points available. For some, that’s a lost week, especially with the top-60 cutoff for the U.S. Open looming. But for others, like Jordan Spieth, who likely won’t have to worry about his world ranking for the next two decades, it’s a chance to “be in a different space than you usually are,” with more emphasis on fun than the result.

Men and women already compete together at the Oates Vic Open in Australia. Co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Australian Ladies Professional Golf and Ladies European Tour, the two events are held concurrently, on the same course, with the men’s and women’s tee times staggered throughout the day. The prize money is split evenly.

More impactful, however, would be mixed teams, competing for a title together.

Steve Stricker still has fond memories of playing in old JCPenny Classic, alongside Vicki Goetze. Last week, at the PGA Tour Champions event, he talked to Davis Love III about how today’s players would gravitate toward another tournament like that.

“We’re in the position to do it again for sure,” he said. “I know I personally respect and look up to those female golfers, and to interact with them would be a lot of fun.”

Horschel, who has played alongside big-hitting Lexi Thompson during the CVS Charity Classic, said he would sign up for a mixed team event on Tour “in a heartbeat.”

“I’d take Lexi or Brooke Henderson or another top girl right now,” he said. “I’ll make a call right now. I don’t care if it’s two years in advance. I’ll reserve them, put down a down payment for their partnership. It’d be really cool. It’s time for someone else to step up and do it.”

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Cancer patient who fulfilled dream of meeting Woods dies

By Will GrayApril 25, 2018, 2:55 pm

Shane Caldwell, who fulfilled a dream of meeting Tiger Woods earlier this month at the Masters, died Monday after multiple bouts with cancer. He was 52.

Caldwell's stepdaughter, Jordan Miller, gained national attention with her social media campaign to get Caldwell to Augusta National to meet Woods. That dream became a reality Thursday of tournament week, when Caldwell was greeted by Woods behind the practice area and offered a signed glove. Caldwell, from Columbia, S.C., also attended the tournament during the final round.

Caldwell had twice beaten colon cancer and was battling Stage 4 lung cancer. According to a report from The State (S.C.), Caldwell's family was told two weeks ago that the cancer had become "too aggressive to fight," and Caldwell opted to stop treatment rather than face further radiation. His oncologist reportedly told his wife he had two or three months to live, but Caldwell died just 13 days later.

According to the report, Caldwell was still showcasing the glove bearing Woods' autograph up until the day he died.

"It gave him hope to see the love that was shown to him," Miller said.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

 

ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.