Stenson's peaks and valleys before major summit

By John FeinsteinJuly 19, 2016, 12:29 pm

Soon after Tiger Woods had finished off his 1997 masterpiece at Augusta National, winning the Masters by 12 shots, he was asked if there was any possible way he could play better than he had during that memorable April weekend.

Woods smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Well,” he said, “I did shoot 40 on my first nine holes.”

If someone had asked Henrik Stenson on Sunday evening at Royal Troon if there was any way he could possibly have played better on his way to an historic final-round 63, he might well have said, “Well, I did three-putt twice.”

In a sense, those two three-putts are what make Stenson’s victory in the 145th Open so amazing. Phil Mickelson, the man he beat in one of golf’s great duels, played a flawless round: an eagle, four birdies and no bogeys en route to a historic 65. If not for Stenson, they’d have written songs and made documentaries in future years about Mickelson’s performance at Troon.

They’ll still make the documentaries, but Mickelson will have to settle for the award as best supporting actor. This was Stenson’s star turn and it was both a long time coming and more than well deserved.

The irony is that Stenson’s nickname, the Ice Man, doesn’t fit him at all. Oh sure, he rarely shows emotion on the golf course and his eyes, the proverbial windows to the soul, are often hidden behind sunglasses.

It’s amazing what sunglasses can do to a player’s image: David Duval was always thought of as cold and reserved in large part because he almost always wore sunglasses when, in truth, he’s both warm and funny. And smart. Stenson is all those things. He also has a temper, which has on occasion, caused golf clubs to come to sudden, violent ends.



He’s also resilient. Three years ago, after an epic post-round locker room meltdown in Chicago, he came back a week later to win the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Of course, playing poorly in Chicago was a tiny blip compared to other events in his life.     

The ups and downs in his career, on and off the golf course, are well documented. The plunge he took after a swing-change not long after his first victory in Europe; the even-deeper dive he took shortly after he had won the 2009 Players Championship – a drop that took him from a ranking of No. 4 to No. 230 in the world.

That slump – slump being a vast understatement – was caused by two potentially life-altering events: the loss of about $8 million in the Stanford Investments Ponzi scheme in 2009 and the loss of about 25 pounds of muscle after a bout with viral pneumonia brought on by coming into contact with a water-born parasite while on vacation in the Maldives.

Either disaster – financial or health – would have ended many careers. Stenson came back from both. If he’s justifiably bitter about having so much money stolen, he rarely shows it. “I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “I had the chance to recover from what happened. A lot of people didn’t have that chance.”

He recovered emphatically in 2013 when, after finishing second to Mickelson at Muirfield, he won both the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai. In all, he won close to $18 million in his last 11 tournaments that year.

But if the hole in his bank account was comfortably filled by his play three years ago, the hole in his resume – the lack of a major title – remained. Unlike a lot of players who play the, “you know I’ll be very happy with my career if I don’t win one,” game, Stenson took the opposite tack.

“It would be silly for me to pretend it doesn’t matter,” he said, sitting in a Charlotte restaurant a couple months ago. “I can count. I just turned 40. I only have so many more chances left. I think I’m playing well enough to get into contention and, if I do that, I hope I can close the deal.

“I thought I had a real shot at it at Muirfield three years ago, but Phil just played too well that day.”

Which is why, as much as he likes and respects Mickelson, Sunday at Troon had to be about as sweet as it gets. Which is also why, disappointing as it was for Mickelson to lose, he could understand why the victory meant so much to Stenson.

“He deserved it,” Mickelson said. “He’s a really good guy and a great champion.”

There are all sorts of numbers that put into perspective the show the two men put on with the world watching.

The 11-shot margin between Mickelson and J.B. Holmes – which topped the 10-shot margin between Jack Nicklaus and third-place finisher Hubert Green at the end of the ‘Duel in the Sun’ at Turnberry in 1977. The 14-shot margin between Holmes and Stenson was three shots clear of Tom Watson’s margin over Green.

There was more: in golf’s greatest crucible – a Sunday in contention at a major – Stenson beat everyone in the field not named Mickelson by four shots. Rory McIlroy had the only 67. Thirteen players broke 70 among the 81 who teed it up Sunday and seven of them shot 69. Stenson and Mickelson went way low on a golf course that was a long way, literally and figuratively, from the desert courses of the Coachella Valley.

There will, no doubt, be much gnashing of teeth among golf fans about Mickelson’s loss. It isn’t a coincidence that the player he is most often compared with is Arnold Palmer, both in playing style and fan appreciation. Mickelson has spent years courting the public and has been re-paid for that with status as one of the most beloved players of all time.

For years, he practically blew off The Open, feeling he just didn’t have the game to win on links courses. Plus, he didn’t enjoy making the overseas trip. He would frequently fly on Monday night, practice on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, then tee it up Thursday.

“I’m just not that comfortable over here,” he said, standing on the putting green at Troon in 1997. “It takes me time to adjust to the time, to the weather, to the roundabouts, to the food and to the showers. Not to mention the golf courses.”

The next day, Mickelson shot 76 before bouncing back to finish T-24. Seven years later, on the same golf course, he finished third, one shot out of the Todd Hamilton-Ernie Els playoff. That close call changed his attitude. He began coming over early, playing in the Scottish Open to get used to all the differences and to embrace them. Nine years later, he won both the Scottish and The Open, his Sunday 66 at Muirfield perhaps his best round of major championship golf ever.

Now, he’s an adopted Scot, beloved there as almost everywhere else. He is the unquestioned leader of the American Ryder Cup team, the group’s “papa bear,” as Zach Johnson calls him.

But inside the locker rooms of both the PGA and European Tours, there’s probably no one better liked than Stenson. He’s famous for his pranks and his one-liners. In 2014, after his spectacular 2013, Golf Digest’s Franz Lidz asked if what he’d accomplished had changed his life much.

“Mostly it’s changed the amount of media attention I get,” Stenson said, deadpan. “Before, I rarely had more than five people come in when I was in the interview room. Now it can be as many as seven.”

Those days are now long gone. Stenson will get plenty of attention from the media in the future. More important, his legacy now has the exclamation point he wanted, and deserved, for so many years.

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Jimenez wins first Champions major at Tradition

By Associated PressMay 20, 2018, 9:32 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Miguel Angel Jimenez finally got to light up a victory cigar after winning a senior major championship.

Jimenez won the Regions Tradition on Sunday for his first PGA Tour Champions major title, closing with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. He celebrated with a big embrace from fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, who hoisted him in the air.

After a round of photos and speeches from local dignitaries, Jimenez finally got to break out the celebratory cigar.

''It's time to have a medal in my pocket and it's nice to be on the first major of the year,'' he said.

Jimenez held or shared the lead after every round, taking a three-shot edge into the final round at Greystone Golf & Country Club. The Spaniard finished at 19-under 269 for his fifth PGA Tour Champions victory.

''It's been a wonderful week,'' he said. ''My game was amazing, really.''


Full-field scores from the Regions Tradition


Steve Stricker, Joe Durant and Gene Sauers tied for second.

It was the third time Jimenez had entered the final round of a senior major with at least a share of the lead but the first one he has pulled out. He tied for third at the 2016 Senior British Open and for second at the 2016 U.S. Senior Open.

Durant and Sauers finished with matching 69s, and Stricker shot 70.

Jimenez birdied two of the final three holes including a closing putt for good measure.

Jimenez entered the day at 17 under to tie Gil Morgan's 21-year-old Tradition record through 54 holes. He got off to a rough start with an errant tee shot into a tree-lined area on his way to a bogey, but he never lost his grip on the lead.

Jimenez had three bogeys after making just one over the first three rounds, but easily held off his challengers late.

His approach on No. 18 landed right in the center of the green after Stricker's shot sailed well right into the gallery. He had rebuilt a two-stroke lead with a nice birdie putt on No. 16 while Durant and Stricker each had a bogey among the final three holes to leave Jimenez with a more comfortable cushion.

Stricker and Durant both had par on the final hole while Sauers also birdied to tie them. Durant had produced two eagles on No. 18 already in the tournament but couldn't put pressure on Jimenez with a third.

Stricker's assessment of his own performance, including a bogey on No. 17, was that he ''made quite a few mistakes.''

''Just didn't take care of my ball, really,'' he said. ''I put it in some bad spots, didn't get it up and down when I had to a few times, missed a few putts. Yeah, just didn't have it really, didn't play that good, but still had a chance coming down to the end.''

Jeff Maggert finished with a 64 and was joined at 15 under by Scott McCarron (67) and Duffy Waldorf (66).

Jimenez made a birdie putt on No. 16 one hole after falling into a tie with Stricker with a bogey. Durant faltered, too, with a bogey on No. 16.

''When (Stricker) made birdie and I make a bogey on the 15th, everything's going up again very tight,'' Jimenez said. ''It's time to hole a putt on 16, for me that makes all the difference.''

Stricker had two wins in his first four senior tour events this year and remains second on the money list. He has finished in the top five in each of his events.

Bernhard Langer finished five strokes off the lead in his bid to become the first to win the Tradition three straight years. He shot 66-67 over the final two rounds after a slow start.

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Cops called in bizarre ending to Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 20, 2018, 7:16 pm

In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

Both in his statement to police and in a subsequent phone interview afterward, Golden, 33, said that the alleged incident stemmed from a rules dispute on the ninth hole during the championship match. As he surveyed his putt, Golden asked Dull whether the cup was damaged or if there was loose debris around the edge.

“Don’t worry about it,” Hibbs reportedly told Golden. “If you’re going to make it, you’re going around it.”

With tensions already running high because of what he perceived as breaches of etiquette by his opponents, Golden informed the rules official in the group that he believed Hibbs’ statement constituted advice. The penalty was a loss of hole, giving Golden a 2-up lead at the turn.

At that point, Hibbs told police, he recused himself and returned to the clubhouse. Dull and Golden continued their match, heading to the 17th hole all square when they were pulled off the course because of inclement weather.

Golden told police that he headed to the parking lot at 2:45 p.m. to retrieve some dry clothes from his car when Hibbs “approached him, apologized, then punched him on the left side of the face,” causing him to fall to the ground.

“I had a moment where I was happy to see him, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to apologize,’” Golden said last week in a phone interview. “By the time he finished I was being punched.”

Asked why he believed Hibbs would strike him, Golden said: “It was from the earlier ruling, 100 percent. He had anger toward me because I called him out on a ruling.”

In a statement given to police, Hibbs, 36, said that he had “been in the clubhouse the entire time and did not batter [Golden], nor was he in the parking lot.” Hibbs, who caddies with Dull at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida, did not return a message seeking comment.

Police wrote in the report that there were no witnesses to the alleged attack, nor was there any surveillance video from the parking lot. While observing Golden the officer noted “no swelling or abrasions to the face,” but there was “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip.” Hibbs’ hands and knuckles showed “no scrapes or abrasions.”

Golden, however, said that there were three bloodstains on his shirt and punctures inside his mouth that proved he’d been struck. He also described himself afterward as “dizzy” and seeing “weird shades of colors,” and that the area between his wrist and thumb was “very sensitive” from catching his fall. Still feeling woozy, he met with his doctor the day after the alleged incident and also underwent a CT scan on Friday.

“I was extremely shaken up,” he said. “I had concussion symptoms.”

Golden declined to press charges – he said later that he wasn’t given the option, because of a lack of physical evidence – and refused medical attention.

Reached by phone last week, Dull said that he had no knowledge of the alleged attack and was only made aware once the police arrived. He said he had waited out the delay in a storm shelter.

“It was shocking,” he said. “[Hibbs] said to me, ‘I didn’t touch the guy.’”

Once the police left, it was up to the FSGA to determine how to proceed.

With the course now playable after a two-hour delay, under the Rules of Golf, the players were expected back on the 17th hole.

Golden asked Dull whether he would concede the match.

“I said that I wasn’t going to concede,” Dull said. “Why would I concede the match when I was sitting in the shelter, and when I come back someone is accused of being hit?”

So Golden then decided to concede, handing the Mid-Am title to Dull, the reigning FSGA Amateur Player of the Year.

“I just wanted to get home,” Golden explained later.

Asked last week for more details about the final result, Jeff Magaditsch, the organization’s director of tournament operations, said in an email that Golden “expressed concern about a wrist issue” and that “not much additional information is available.”

A day later, once the details of the police report became available, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that Golden “didn’t want to play anymore.”

“Regrettably, the golf course was very playable and Jeff understood that he needed to resume the match,” he said. “I think he was just ready to go.”

When asked to comment on the alleged attack, Demick said that the police “found absolutely no evidence of an assault.”

Last week Golden, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and is now a tennis pro at Palencia in St. Augustine, appealed the FSGA’s decision, writing in a letter that tournament officials shouldn’t have accepted his concession.

Dull said that he was “annoyed by the whole incident.”

“I think it taints the entire championship,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. No golf tournament should end that way.”

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Delayed start for Nelson might mean Monday finish

By Will GrayMay 20, 2018, 6:04 pm

DALLAS – Inclement weather  pushed back final-round tee times at the AT&T Byron Nelson by more than four hours, increasing the likelihood of a Monday finish in the tournament’s debut at Trinity Forest Golf Club.

With the field already scheduled to play in threesomes off split tees, the opening tee times for the day got pushed back from 9:23 a.m. CT to 1:23 p.m. because of steady rain in the area. The delay means that the final group won’t start their round until 3:35 p.m. local time.

With sunset in the Dallas area scheduled for 8:23 p.m., the leaders will likely have just under five hours to complete their rounds or face returning to the course Monday morning. Threesomes have been used for each of the first three days, and in part because of the intricacies of the new layout rounds have routinely approached 5 hours and 30 minutes in duration.

Should play spill over into Monday, those playing next week’s event will face one of the Tour’s shortest commutes, with Fort Worth Invitational host Colonial Country Club less than an hour away.

Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise share the 54-hole lead at 17 under, four shots clear of the field. They’ll be joined in the final trio by Australia’s Matt Jones, who is tied for third with Kevin Na.

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.