Recent strange stories lead to skepticism

By Jason SobelJanuary 21, 2015, 4:42 pm

Don’t believe everything you hear.

That isn’t just some old adage. It’s a general rule instilled in most of us as young children, one that permeates our subconscious as adults. It implores us to not see the world through rose-colored glasses and innocent naiveté, but to view it through a prism of skepticism.

It’s also a rule that doesn’t often apply in golf.

Hey, this is a game based on an honor system. Competitors don’t foot-wedge their ball out of a gnarly lie; they don’t write 6 on the scorecard when they’ve knowingly hit it seven times.

There are few occasions to not believe what you hear. If a golfer insists he hit the ball great but couldn’t putt it into the ocean, you tend to take him for his word.

Three separate golf-related stories in the past few days, however, have stretched the limits of what we can believe and stirred our collective sense of skepticism.

Robert Allenby said he was kidnapped, beaten and robbed on Friday night after missing the Sony Open cut. Tiger Woods said he was bumped by a cameraman at a ski race, knocking out his left front tooth. Dustin Johnson, while admitting to having personal “issues,” said that he’s never had problems with cocaine or alcoholism.

You’re allowed to believe every word of what these three players have said in regard to their specific stories. You can choose to believe none of it. Or you can think each instance is – like they say in the movies – “based on a true story,” some mixture of accuracy and embellishment and denial that has morphed into their public assertion.

Like trying to prove a false negative, none of these contentions can be deemed unsubstantiated until there exists confirmation to negate them.

In the curious case of Allenby, the investigation is still ongoing. Four days after he sustained facial contusions and a blow to his left eye that left it swollen shut, the Honolulu Police Department issued its first public statement, essentially verifying what we already knew – that no arrests have been made and detectives are still poring over surveillance tape.

Since the story went public Saturday, Allenby has been bewildered by social media postulations that there’s something implausible about the entire scenario. And he has a valid point: Unless you believe those contusions were self-inflicted – a near-impossible assertion even for the most cynical among us – there is proof that something happened to Allenby that night.

And yet, there is a sense of skepticism surrounding the case.

In the hours after the incident, Allenby’s memory was hazy; he insisted he couldn’t remember anything between leaving the Amuse Wine Bar and being rescued in a park by a homeless woman and a military veteran. In the days since, he maintained that he was driven six miles away (reported witnesses have said they found him in a park, around the corner from the wine bar) and suggested that the woman must have been paid off by the assailants to keep her silence (in fact, it was Allenby who later gave her a $1,000 gift card for being a good Samaritan).

Can he be forgiven for failing to know all the details after being beaten and bloodied? Absolutely. But he similarly shouldn’t fail to see how some faraway observers aren’t convinced all the details are true, simply based on those claims.

Woods surprised girlfriend Lindsey Vonn at the Olympia delle Tofane super-G event in Italy on Monday, watching in person as she claimed a record 63rd World Cup victory. The sweet gesture and historic title were quickly overshadowed, though, by another story. When Woods pulled his skeleton ski mask down from his mouth and smiled, photographers caught him without one of his front teeth.

“During a crush of photographers at the awards’ podium,” explained his agent, Mark Steinberg, “a media member with a shoulder-mounted video camera pushed and surged towards the stage, turned and hit Tiger Woods in the mouth. Woods’ tooth was knocked out by the incident.”

Vonn was there, and corroborated the story in a Facebook post.

Never mind the fact that photographs showed no blood and no other damage; never mind that race organizers and security personnel insist they were near Woods the entire time and never witnessed any such incident.

All of which leads to skepticism. Who’s telling the truth here? What really happened? None of it, however, answers this question: If the world’s most famous athlete wasn’t bumped by a photographer, why would he show up in public sans front tooth and just where, exactly, did that gap in his grill come from?

That tooth has always been yellower than his others, a fact which can be determined after examining old video and photos like the Zapruder film. When it comes to Camp Woods, where spin control is often the first line of defense, the normal reaction to such rhetoric is often skepticism – which is why so many are having trouble digesting this assertion.

Of course, it all underscores what this really means: Unlike the Allenby case, a criminal matter in which the authorities are searching for suspects, it was either an accident or some bizarre tale that has yet to be told. It’s a missing tooth that will soon be replaced. That’s all.

Johnson’s story is shrouded in similar mystery, though it holds greater importance to his ultimate well-being. When he first took a curious leave of absence from professional golf last August, it was amid speculation that he was suspended for recreational drug use. That speculation soon became reported as fact, when wrote that he’d been banned from the PGA Tour for six months for that very reason.

This week, Johnson broke his silence to Sports Illustrated, speaking in varying ambiguities about his personal struggles.

“I did not have a problem,” he said when asked explicitly about cocaine. “It’s just something I’m not going to get into. I have issues. But that’s not the issue.”

To summarize: Johnson took a leave of absence from competition to – in his words at the time – “seek professional help for personal challenges.” He conceded this week that he didn’t enter rehab and wasn’t addicted to drugs, but did “have issues.” Without directly addressing those issues, though, Johnson has left himself open to public skepticism.

All three of these cases – the assertions by Allenby, Woods and Johnson – have been opened to interpretation. Each allows us to understand what we’ve been told, then issue judgment based on the veracity of the story and the background.

Again, you can choose to believe every word. You can choose to believe none of it. Or you can choose to believe some combination thereof. 

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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."

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Scott returns to Valero with major streak in jeopardy

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 8:34 pm

Adam Scott is back in the Lone Star State as he looks to keep alive a majors streak that has stretched across nearly two decades.

The Aussie tends to play a relatively light schedule during the spring, often times skipping every event between the Masters and The Players. But this time around he opted to return to the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the form he found two weeks ago at Augusta National, where he tied for 32nd.

"Hopefully kind of pick up where I left off on the weekend, which was really solid, and get a bit of momentum going because that's what I haven't had this year," Scott told reporters. "Trying to put four good rounds together and get the most out of my game for a change."

Scott has won each of the four stroke-play events held annually in Texas, completing the so-called "Texas Slam" before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play relocated to Austin. That includes his win at TPC San Antonio back in 2010, when he closed with rounds of 66-67 for a one-shot victory.

After a seven-year hiatus, Scott is back San Antonio after a solid but underwhelming spring stretch. He cracked the top 20 at both the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, but his worldwide top-10 drought stretches back nearly a year to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. As a result, the former world No. 1 has dropped to No. 59 in the latest rankings.

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"I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results," Scott said. "To kind of change that, I've got to change something, otherwise I'm just going to do the same thing."

That ranking will become even more important in the coming weeks as Scott looks to keep his streak of consecutive majors intact. He has played in 67 straight dating back to The Open in 2001, second only to Sergio Garcia's 75 among active players. But Scott's five-year exemption for winning the 2013 Masters has run its course, meaning he is not yet exempt for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Barring a win next month at TPC Sawgrass, Scott's only way to avoid a trip to sectional qualifying will be to maintain a position inside the top 60 in the world rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The key for Scott remains easy to identify but hard to fix. While he ranks fifth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he's 194th in strokes gained: putting. Scott won in consecutive weeks in 2016 with a short putter, but otherwise has largely struggled on the greens since the anchoring ban took effect more than two years ago.

"Hopefully a quick turnaround here and things start going in the right direction, because I think I can have a really great back end of the season," Scott said. "My ball-striking is where I want it; I like where my short game's at. I just need to get a bit of momentum going on the greens. It's easy to do that on the putting green at home, but that doesn't always translate out here. I think I've just got to make it happen out here."