Hawk's Nest: Dealing with swing problems

By John HawkinsJanuary 20, 2014, 3:00 pm

In a perfect world, every PGA Tour event would seem like a big deal. The game’s best players would show up almost every week, not less than half the time. Those gatherings would be held at the game’s most hallowed venues, not the TPC at Bulldozer Mounds.

Instead of having two major tours – one of which allows a golfer to make more money for entering a tournament than winning it – the leagues would merge and create a dynamic international presence. The season would be trimmed (40 weeks) to maximize player incentive and increase pro golf’s mainstream market value. Isn’t the NFL so successful because every game really matters?

Back when he was preparing to rule the earth like no one else in the game’s history, Tiger Woods played in six of the eight stops on the 1999 West Coast swing. In the last 15 years, however, Woods and basically every top-tier player have dropped one or two of those events to spend part of the early season on the Persian Gulf.

Even Phil Mickelson, a native San Diegan and a homebody if ever there was one, has journeyed to Abu Dhabi twice in the last four years.

This collective migration has weakened the local product. In the simplest of terms, the PGA Tour has suffered because its own players are getting paid to perform for the European Tour, which makes it a rival company. Given the amount of money being exchanged these days, that amounts to an obvious conflict.

Since the players are independent contractors, there’s not much anyone can do. The PGA Tour has added four World Golf Championships and a playoff system to bring the top golfers together more often, but that has hurt the West Coast swing, too. Playing a bunch of early-season events doesn’t have a huge effect on your overall position in the FedEx Cup derby, as the last few years have shown.

Dating back to 2010, those in the top 10 in FedEx Cup points after exiting the West Coast remained there just 27.5 percent of the time. Some of that has to do with the fact that the Mark Wilsons of the world aren't given $200,000 just for traveling to Abu Dhabi – middle-class players aren’t offered the same financial rewards as those in the game’s top tier. Still, that doesn’t do anything to make the appearance-fee premise seem less corrupt.

Woods could begin his PGA Tour season in March, win four or five events and finish atop the regular-season points race by a comfortable margin. Perhaps Camp Ponte Vedra should consider it a blessing that both he and Mickelson will be at Torrey Pines this week. After all, Woods did skip the Farmers, a tournament he has won seven times, to play in Abu Dhabi in 2012.

Blood is thicker than water, and money is stronger than common sense.

TWENTY YEARS LATER, Mickelson rarely ceases to amaze me. His third-round 63 in Abu Dhabi was outrageously good – three strokes better than anyone else in the field. It vaulted him squarely into the mix Sunday, and Mickelson responded with a 68.

There was just one little problem.

He tripled the 13th hole. In typical Lefty fashion, it was as good a triple as you’re ever likely to see.

His 3-wood off the tee landed squarely in a bush left of the fairway. After pondering a drop that would have cost him a penalty stroke, he took a right-handed swipe at his ball with a long iron and double-hit it, leaving him in no better shape than he’d been. At that point, Philip did take relief, so now he’s lying 4 and still has nothing.

He managed to slap a ground ball into a nearby bunker, where the lie wasn’t very good. At this point, Phil’s chili was running a bit hot. Without further ado, he struck his sixth shot (he appeared to be about 100 yards from the green) to the fringe – and holed out a 20-foot chip for a 7.

“If I could just get the ball to go 10 feet, I would have been fine,” Mickelson said of his second shot. “I make my bogey and try to make up ground later on.”

Now there’s a lot to examine and discuss here, some of it relevant to the situation. Some media reports have depicted Mickelson’s decision as reckless, at best overly risky. Anyone who saw the sequence knows that simply wasn’t the case. His options included going back to the tee, which tour pros rarely do, playing the ball as it lay, or accepting the penalty and taking relief as far back as he wanted while remaining in line with the flagstick.

That final option was a non-starter – the entire area behind Mickelson was full of unplayable brush. The verdict? Lefty got unlucky. In golf, bleep happens. When you’ve won 42 Tour events and five majors, it seems to happen quite often, but when you pull off more crazy stuff than just about anyone in golf history, you occasionally wrap your arm around failure’s shoulder.

This situation was remarkably similar to one in the final round of the 2012 Masters, when Mickelson missed the green left at the par-3 fourth and tried to play a shot with one hand and his back to the hole. That one also led to a triple bogey, but of course, Philip had already won the Masters three times by then.

He can play in that tournament until he’s 100 years old if he wants. By finishing T-2 at Abu Dhabi, Mickelson has no obligation to return as the defending champion. He can show up at the Humana Challenge and help a tournament that could really use some star power.

BACK TO 1999. It was a year of memorable performances, none more spectacular than David Duval’s victory at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Duval’s final-round 59 has to be one of the five greatest rounds in golf history, majors included. Not only was it the first time someone shot the magic number on a Sunday, it wiped out a seven-stroke deficit and allowed Duval to beat Steve Pate by a single stroke.

Having spent more than a decade in search of his long-lost form, Duval might be more popular as golf’s most famous hardship case than as one of the game’s best players. His collapse and repeated attempts at a comeback are among the most consistent topics on my live chats. A valiant performance at the 2009 U.S. Open (T-2, two strokes back) fueled optimism and thickened the plot, but since the start of 2012, Duval has made just five cuts in 28 starts.

Like a lot of golf fans, I find Duval’s persistence remarkable, but it appears his attempts at a career revival are nearing an end. His status has all but evaporated. Last year’s changes to the Tour’s qualifying process and the wraparound schedule have made it more difficult for unproductive veterans to get starts.

Duval continues to write letters to tournament directors, searching for sponsor exemptions, but at some point, hope collides with reality. “You shouldn’t have to ask for help year after year,” he told me this past weekend. “You have to prove yourself on the golf course. You have to take care of business.”

We don’t talk as often as we once did, but my relationship with Duval has survived nicely through all his ups and downs. No way could I have envisioned the level of perseverance he has shown over the years. There was a time during his prime when he almost seemed bored with the grind of tournament golf – he made it clear during one of our conversations that he could walk away from pro golf and not feel an ounce of remorse.

Go figure: He still sees his game a work in progress 11 years later. A terrible start last season led Duval to swing coach Chris O’Connell, whose work with Matt Kuchar has become one of the modern era’s more notable reclamation projects. O’Connell was able to restore many of the nuances of the unorthodox-but-successful swing that made Duval so good in the old days.

Then, something weird happened. “My putting just got completely disastrous, which is something I’m not used to,” Duval said. “There were weeks when I should have been in 20th place after two days and I’m sitting on 67 putts – no pro golfer can survive that way. At the McGladrey I’m 1 or 2 over and I’ve got 36 putts. Get me back to 29 and I’m right there.”

For all his struggles, Duval’s optimism has remained unyielding – almost too unbreakable when you consider all he’s gone through. I think he originally saw his downfall as a great personal challenge, a chance to show himself what he was made of. As the years went by and things didn’t get better, the guy basically told himself he’d invested too much time and energy in the fight to simply walk away.

He might get into a couple of tournaments before the Masters – the only sure things at this point are the Puerto Rico Open and British Open, which he won in 2001. I’m perplexed as to why the people who run the Humana Challenge (formerly the Hope) denied Duval’s request for a sponsor exemption for a second consecutive year.

Take a look at the names in last week’s field and tell me he didn’t deserve a spot.

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"Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 10:15 am

Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie

Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open

To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.

“It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”

Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:

  • Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
  • Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
  • A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.


“This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like

that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange


“I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico


Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 8:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.