Low expectations

By Jason SobelSeptember 25, 2011, 6:01 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Mark Mulder has traded pinpointing strike zones for pummeling fairways. He has given up trying to avoid the long ball for encouraging it. His wild pitches are now accompanied by awkward bellows of, “Fore!”

A veteran of nine Major League Baseball seasons, the former pitcher is no weekend hacker. He carries a 0.3 index at prestigious Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he often competes against some of the world’s best players.

As a former professional athlete and scratch golfer, Mulder must give some of the elite pros a run for their money, right?

“Uh, no,” the two-time all-star said with a laugh. “Pat Perez is one of my best friends. I’ve probably played 100 rounds with Pat and never beaten him. That’s with me having career days and him playing in flip-flops.

“But I’m lucky because I get to play with these guys. Most people don’t understand the pressure that those guys are under and how good they do and how well they perform. They play with me and shoot 65 with their eyes closed. That’s what people don’t realize. When the pros miss a shot, they miss by five yards and they’re mad. If I hit the green, I’m like, ‘Sweet!’”

Mulder is hoping to hit plenty of greens this week, as he competes in the Championship Flight of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour national championships.

Competitive golf is nothing new to him, either. Last year, Mulder qualified for this event, but was forced to withdraw when he also reached the U.S. Mid-Amateur on the same week. He’s also played in the last four editions of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe, finishing in a share of 23rd place this year.

Despite such an advanced golfing pedigree, he came into this week’s event with low expectations. Mulder is splitting time these days between his Arizona home and Bristol, Conn., where he serves as a television analyst for ESPN’s baseball coverage – which doesn’t leave much time for teeing it up.

“It’s been awful for a few months now,” he said of the current state of his game. “I’m doing this because I want to have fun. I have a few other buddies who are playing and it’s a good time no matter how bad I play. But my expectations aren’t very high. I’ve never taken a lesson in my life and when I’m down like right now, I don’t know how to fix it.”

A member of the 2006 World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals, Mulder believes there are similarities between playing golf and pitching, though they have less to do with technicalities like mechanics and footwork and more to do with the mental side of each pursuit.

“To me, it’s more the mindset,” he said. “In baseball, nothing can happen until I throw that ball; everything is on me when it comes to that pitch. It’s the same in golf. Everything is on me. If you think about it, those are the only two places in sports where you can think too much. Everything else is a reactionary thing, but pitching and golf are the only two things where you can overthink it. They’re different than anything in any other sport.”

Despite that correlation, don’t expect Mulder to follow his pitching career with a pursuit toward an occupation in professional golf anytime soon.

“You know, when I played baseball, I always thought when I was done playing, I’d try to make the senior tour,” he said. “But to be honest with you, now that I’m done, I realize the game is a getaway. It’s my time away.

“I played a professional sport and worked out and trained at the highest level. I don’t care to do that again. I know the work that I put in for baseball and there’s no chance I ever want to put in that work for golf.”

Mulder will enjoy epitomizing “amateur” in Golf Channel Amateur Tour this week. And even if his game doesn’t improve soon, he’ll still be smiling when it’s over.

“If I took this game too serious,” he said, “I wouldn’t enjoy it.”

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Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters: