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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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.