Hawks Nest: Early odds for the Masters

By John HawkinsFebruary 11, 2013, 2:28 pm

YEAH, WE GOT a little snow in Connecticut last week. Thirty inches, give or take a flake, which left me with a tough decision. Do I start shoveling 25 yards of driveway when it’s 19 degrees out and still blowing like hell, or do I watch celebrity Saturday at Pebble Beach?

I chose the blizzard. Do I really need to sit through another frame-by-frame analysis of Huey Lewis’ golf swing? Am I in a better place because Bill Murray is sporting extended mutton chops? Seriously, you could run a rebroadcast of the third round in 2007 and no one could tell the difference. They need some new blood at that tournament. Sorry, but celeb-a-chop ain’t my thing.

The problem with 30 inches of snow is that you’re out there for like an hour and clear about 4 feet of earth. The payback comes when your daughters start laughing because their snowman just tipped over. Or when they pull out the inner tube and find 20 minutes of joy while sliding down a mound created by the excess from the driveway.

My guess is that Tiger Woods, who grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles (is that a redundancy?), never threw snowballs as a kid. February in the Northeast isn’t for a lot of people, but a few uppercuts from Old Man Winter are of little bother to me. Cold weather and all its inconveniences are only as bad as you allow them to be – it’s not half as brutal as watching washed-up actors hit lousy golf shots.

Tell you what, though. By the time you read this, my next-door neighbor and I will have already split the cost on a snowblower.

BOY, DO I love Brandt Snedeker. He plays faster than fast, has the coolest little follow-through and acts like he’s been there before, even if he hasn’t. He also wears one of those old-school visors – the 1980s design you’re more likely to see on some rich old lady to keep the sun off her face. I like a man comfortable in his own skin.

That 65 Sneds fired Sunday to win at Pebble Beach was a textbook round of golf, a performance reflective of a dude rapidly approaching the game’s highest level. And that has me thinking about the Masters, which is still almost two months away, but I’ve seen enough in the first six weeks of the season to formulate some very early odds.

Woods (7-1): Hasn’t won an emerald sportcoat since 2005, hasn’t putted well at Augusta National for just as long, but his recent win at Torrey Pines was fueled by an airtight short game. He knows he needs to get moving up Mount Nicklaus. The harder the conditions, the better his chances.

Rory McIlroy (10-1): Nike surely will adjust the dials on his new clubs, but that doesn’t mean he’ll hit it any better than he did at Abu Dhabi. where he missed the cut. Hasn’t played since – why is the kid taking such a long break? Still the world’s best player, but more than ever, it’s a what-have-you-done-lately world.

Snedeker (12-1): Fell apart with the final-round lead in 2008, but this is a totally different player now. I’m blown away by the dramatic improvement in Sneds’ ball-striking consistency. The guy missed a grand total of four fairways last week, more proof that swing coach Todd Anderson is one of the best in the business. On the greens? The Visor has never needed an adviser.

Phil Mickelson (12-1): His putting stroke had better fluidity and pace throughout the win at TPC Scottsdale – so much for that ninth rendition of “Phil is Phinished.” I’m not a huge fan of the way-left miss, as you can’t play Augusta National from the wrong fairway, but Lefty didn’t win three jackets by virtue of his pinpoint accuracy, either.

Louis Oosthuizen (15-1): Won a European Tour event in his native South Africa at the beginning of the year, continuing a stretch of fine golf that has continued for a while. Lost the Masters playoff to Bubba Watson last year. When he’s on, he’s really, really on. And when he’s not? No one will remember I had him as a favorite in February.

UNLESS MY MEMORY fails me, which is entirely possible, I’ve played in three official pro-ams during my 18 years as a golf writer, all of which were multi-round events similar to the one last week. I’ve worked with people who have played in a bunch of the Wednesday gatherings on the PGA Tour. Most of those folks either sold ads or sat behind a desk telling guys like me what to do.

What I vividly recall are the half-dozen or so times I’ve played a casual round with one of the game’s biggest stars.

Fred Couples – Lucky me, getting the assignment to do a full-length interview with Couples for Golf Digest in the spring of 2003. Fortune smiled again when he won the Shell Houston Open the day before we met at his home in Southern California, a victory that remains Fred’s last on the big-boy tour.

The original plan was for me to leave early Tuesday evening. I know I was still hanging around Thursday morning, and I must admit, an afternoon nap feels even better when Fred Couples is snoozing on the other couch. We teed it up at the Valley Club in Santa Barbara with his buddy John Pate, an outstanding amateur and brother of Steve.

At the par-5 first, Couples hit driver-5-iron to 20 feet and made the putt, literally continuing the conversation while striking all three shots. He birdied the second with a turkey sandwich hanging out of his mouth, then the third and fourth, and at that point, I was just a wee bit impressed. You could see Couples getting a little bored with it all, however, as if the game had become too easy. I have no idea what he ended up shooting. I’m pretty certain he didn’t, either.

Phil Mickelson – One of the most important rounds I’ve ever played in terms of improving my game. The day after the 1999 Tour Championship, I was asked to join Lefty, his caddie, Jim Mackay, and amateur-extraordinaire Danny Yates III for a game at Peachtree CC in Atlanta. Since Mackay, a scratch player at the time, was only the third best player in the foursome, we basically had three A players and a G-minus.

My little 4 handicap held up quite well, however, especially with Mickelson reading the greens. “If this one’s gonna go in, it has to enter the hole right here,” he would explain, pointing to a spot on the edge of the cup. It was as if someone beat me over the head with a burlap sack full of common sense.

Mickelson read putts “backwards” – from the hole to the ball instead of ball-to-hole – and basically envisioned the line in his head, which allowed him to account for speed and dismissed terms such as “right edge” or “two cups out” from the equation. Rocket science? Maybe not, but we won some bread that day, and I’ve been a fairly decent putter since.

Jesper Parnevik – I’m a trifle embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember when and where we played; probably Mirasol or Old Palm in the mid-2000s. What I’ll never forget was a fiercely contested match pitting Parnevik and Tim Rosaforte vs. myself and caddie Lance Ten Broeck, who holed a putt on the 18th for the W.

We were warming up before the round and Rosaforte wasn’t hitting it very well, which immediately got Parnevik’s attention. The Swede came over and spent the next 20 minutes searching for a cure, spending most of the time on one knee and literally teeing up each practice ball for Rosaforte’s next attempt.

I’d never seen a Tour pro do something like that before, and it’s highly likely I’ll never see it again. What always made Parnevik so appealing to me is that he couldn’t spell “ego” if you spotted him the g and the o.

John Cook – Orlando’s Isleworth G&CC had recently been lengthened and toughened up when we met Cookie there for a round in March 2005. I had begun my season playing well and was looking forward to showing the pro my game. It even crossed my mind that I’d out-drive the old man once or twice, if not all day, seeing how Cook had become one of the Tour’s straightest but shortest hitters.

Not a chance, fella. I spent the afternoon in the right bermuda, 30 or 40 yards behind Cook, who might have missed one fairway. He shot a 69 without an ounce of wasted breath on a behemoth course, reminding me that writers should stick to writing and Tour pros should make their 8-footers.

BY THE WAY, one of the worst golf experiences I’ve ever endured was a round with trashy talk-show host Maury Povich back in the mid-1990s. I mean, the guy was a nice player, and if you don’t believe me, ask him – he’ll be happy to tell you. An unfortunate victim of fame and illusion, Povich’s love affair with himself was hard to digest for 4 ½ minutes, much less 4 ½ hours.

The son of legendary Washington, D.C., sportswriter Shirley Povich, one of the nicest people ever to sit behind a typewriter, Maury was all the proof I’ve ever needed. Sometimes, the apple falls miles from the tree.

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''