Roland Thatcher's memorable moment of 2012

By Jason SobelDecember 13, 2012, 8:48 pm

Ah, December. That time every year when we in the golf media hand out awards like jolly old St. Nick giving presents on Christmas Eve, our gift to you coming in the form of things like best story and biggest newsmaker and most lasting image from the previous 12 months.

OK, so it’s part-gift and part-something to keep us from getting ourselves on the naughty list in the offseason. (Although truth be told, the 2013 golf season officially kicked off with the European Tour’s Nelson Mandela Championship, which took place before the final PGA Tour-sanctioned event of 2012, the PNC Father/Son Challenge, meaning the offseason actually accounted for negative days, leaving us in some warped model of a faulty space-time continuum.)

There may not have been a singular event for which this year is always remembered – think 1986 and an image of Jack Nicklaus winning The Masters at age 46 is instantly conjured; 2000 is recalled for Tiger Woods taking three of four majors, including a 15-stroke U.S. Open triumph; even 2009 brings back memories of what could have been for Tom Watson at the Open Championship – but it was hardly devoid of drama.

Back in olden times, we’d have to conduct some Internet poll in order to find the most lasting moment of the year, but this being 2012, I simply posed the question on Twitter and received automatic feedback. Europe’s comeback in the Ryder Cup and Bubba Watson’s mind-bending, ball-bending approach in the Masters playoff finished neck and neck atop the list, furlongs ahead of everything else in what was deemed a two-horse race.

But the great thing about sports is that every result means something a little different to everyone. Take the Ryder Cup, for example. Half of the respondents will remember it for the sheer thrill of victory; the other half will remember it for the agony of defeat.

By the same token, one moment – a specific performance, a single shot, an individual image – can mean nothing at all to one person and everything to the next. You know – one man’s trash, another man’s treasure.

As such, I could write in this space about being inside the ropes when Tiger Woods chipped in on his way to winning The Memorial Tournament or standing just yards away from Ernie Els on the Royal Lytham practice green when he heard Adam Scott miss his par attempt and realized he’d won the claret jug, because each lives in the category of goosebump-inducer.

Instead, I’ll pick a moment that I won’t forget for a long time – and one that was likely never even noticed by most observers that day.

Five years ago, when he was leading the money list on what was then the Nationwide Tour, Roland Thatcher asked me to caddie for him at the Chattanooga Classic. We didn’t know each other, but he wanted to create some good pub for the developmental circuit and invited me to write a series of columns on the experiment. Long story short, we were on the leaderboard at one point Friday, then in the blink of an eye put up a few big numbers and missed the cut. End result: We spent the weekend watching a lot of football, eating a lot of pizza and drinking a lot of beer.

Since then, we’ve remained in pretty close contact, catching up for more moderate amounts of football, pizza and beer whenever we’re at the same event. That’s what we were doing on Saturday night of the Travelers Championship when Thatcher appeared as if he could be on the verge of his first career PGA Tour win. Staring at us inquisitively, our waiter first asked if we had attended the tournament that day, then asked if we were playing (I appreciated him including me in that query), then asked how Roland was faring. When he revealed he was tied for the lead, he was instantly offered a celebratory meal at the establishment in 24 hours time.

That looked like a bad omen early on in the final round. He bogeyed the first … and the fourth … and the sixth. At one point, he wasn’t even in the top 15. But he bounced back with an eagle and three birdies and reached the final hole needing a birdie to force a playoff with Marc Leishman. His drive safely in the fairway, Thatcher selected a wedge for his second shot to a front-right hole location, nestled just over the greenside bunker.

I positioned myself inside the ropes about halfway between him and the ball, some 60-70 yards from each. When he swung, the shot looked perfect, until – like one of those slow-motion dramatizations in the movies – the briefest gust of wind blew in his direction. Instead of finding the front part of that green, the ball landed just under the lip of the bunker. And then, trying to pull off the miracle hole-out, he instead flew one past the hole and two-putted for bogey to finish in a share of fourth place.

Not so bad, you say? Well, no. But consider this: It was his only top-10 finish in a season that found him 159th on the final money list. He went back to Q-School, but didn’t advance past second stage. And now, well, he’ll be fighting to make it back, all because of a poorly timed gust of wind.

I’ll remember that moment not just because of what it meant for Thatcher and how his career hung in the balance, but because of how common that scenario really is. Every golf fan in the world remembers Scott losing at Lytham, but few recall – or ever knew – about the dozens of other times that a gust of wind or a bad lie or a slim tree branch served as the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Every sport has been referred to as “a game of inches” at some point, but rarely in any professional pursuit do those inches represent such a dichotomy of success and failure. Golf’s thin line was very much on display once again in 2012, from the most memorable moments to those which many observers never even realized.

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.

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Hahn: 'My fault for not expecting the worst from fans'

By Grill Room TeamMarch 24, 2018, 8:35 pm

Fan behavior has made headlines all year long on the PGA Tour, and the topic of conversation doesn't look like it’s going away anytime soon.

The latest example came on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies March Play, when James Hahn took to Twitter to complain that a fan deliberately yelled in his backswing on the 15th hole during his match with Jason Dufner, which he lost 3 and 2.

“Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”

The two-time PGA Tour winner followed up his original tweet, clarifying that he can expect bad behavior from all golf fans while still loving and respecting them.

He also pointed out a major difference in comparing golf to other sports, saying some PGA Tour players go to far greater lengths than the typical NFL star to engage with fans on a daily basis.

The incident comes on the heels of several recent player run-ins with fans, including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sergio Garcia earlier this week at Austin Country Club.

On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that inappropriate fan behavior related to alcohol sales is something his staff is monitoring.