Hawk's Nest: Love lost, but plenty gained this week

By John HawkinsMay 26, 2014, 2:20 pm

A word to the wise: If Colin Montgomerie accepts your invitation to play in the member-guest this summer, you might want to warn your opponents about Monty’s antics when things slow to a crawl. The big fella does not like to wait. Unlike most tour pros, he has virtually no tolerance for tortoises, and that includes Bernhard Langer, a man whom Montgomerie has been competing against for more than a quarter-century.

“Bernhard is different,” Monty assessed after the third round of the Senior PGA Championship. “You have to adjust your own pace. There’s no point in playing faster to make up for someone who isn’t as fast.”

Of course, Monty’s idea of an adjustment isn’t the same as yours or mine. He goes into a tizzy, or at the very least, he gets quite demonstrative. His body language suggests that someone recently dumped a nest full of hornets down his trousers. As Langer goes to take a third look at that 7-footer for par, there is no letup. Have you ever seen a 9-year-old boy who really, really needs to use the bathroom?

When it’s finally his turn, Montgomerie barely comes to a standstill before slamming his putt into the back of the hole. He turns and heads to the next tee in that lumbering march of his, looking a lot more like a guy on his way to shooting 85 than leading the tournament.

I find his behavior rather hysterical, especially when he gets to the media center and talks about Langer in almost reverential terms. I’ve seen Monty lose the U.S. Open because he came unglued. I’ve also watched him dominate Ryder Cups, where the pace of play is often glacial, holing everything he stood over and maybe missing one fairway each day.

All these years later, I still can’t figure the dude out. How can such a brat be such an outstanding player? Would he have been even better if he’d exercised a little more composure? In victory and defeat, Montgomerie is the puzzle no one ever managed to solve, and in that respect, few players in the modern era have been more fascinating.


AND JUST LIKE that, golf’s two best young players turn their seasons around, winning tournaments six time zones and five hours apart. The Adam Scott-Jason Dufner playoff at Colonial was ultra-riveting, but Rory McIlroy’s triumph at Wentworth was a much bigger deal – over a premium Euro field in his first start since breaking up with fiancee Caroline Wozniacki.

Really? That’s all it took? I know McIlromantic is sincerely bummed out about losing his steady, but it’s hard not to read between the lines on this one. Distractions can be a serious problem for a 25-year-old kid with two major titles and more money than he knows what to do with.

From the very start, Tiger Woods had an ample support staff to handle anything that didn’t involve striking a golf ball. Not that McIlreality is doing his own laundry, but there are plenty of signs that indicate he hasn’t pursued greatness as a single focus. There has been a lot of change in his professional life since he crushed the field at the 2012 PGA – it’s hard enough to win when that’s all you’re thinking about.

Hey, if Thomas Bjorn doesn’t stumble to a Sunday 75, McIlroy grabs another top 10 and doesn’t resolve any issues as to which direction he’s heading. He hasn’t been playing poorly in 2014, but when a guy with his talent goes winless for 21 months, there clearly has to be a reason.


AS FOR THE tournament McIlrebound won, there is no reasonable explanation as to why the Euro Tour’s PGA Championship isn’t a WGC event. They launch one in China and and play it in November, which makes no sense, but Camp Ponte Vedra can’t see the credibility value by staging one in the United Kingdom?

Too bad. Wentworth is one of the game’s great venues. London might be the world’s coolest city, and to leave Europe out of the WGC equation altogether is just plain silly. It helps explain why every high-profile American player passes on the event year after year, but then, our guys only travel overseas when there’s a big fat appearance fee involved.

When the WGC series began in 1999, the third and final event of the season was played at Valderrama GC in Spain, which simply wasn’t a good idea – too remote a location, too underdeveloped as a golf nation, too goofy a layout. American Express was the title sponsor, however, so Valderrama it was, although the tournament soon began moving around until AmEx surrendered its host status in 2006.

A couple of those WGCs were played in Ireland, and in ’06, the AmEx was held in England. Other than the Open Championship, that was the last time a PGA Tour event was held on British soil. For all the interest shown in Asia by the game’s governing bodies, the motivation there is purely commercial.

That grow-the-game stuff is all well and good, but you’d think the neckties would sense an obligation to the part of the world where golf holds the most cultural significance.


NOT THAT I have any reason not to believe him, but it will be interesting to see if U.S. Ryder Cup skipper Tom Watson adds Woods to the team regardless of how he plays upon his return from back surgery. Watson has made it clear that he intends to use a captain’s pick on Sir Eldrick, but things can change, and we’re still a long way off before a decision has to be made.

There are several things to consider here other than Woods’ health and on-course performance. Tiger and Watson are not exactly buddy-buddy – the captain hasn’t been bashful about expressing negative opinions regarding Woods’ behavior over the years. And Tiger, as we all know, is one of the great grudge-holders in the history of golf.

Instead of thinking out loud, let’s turn to Paul Azinger, who knows both men well and was the last U.S. pilot to actually win a Ryder Cup. And Azinger did it without Woods, who missed the 2008 matches at Valhalla while recovering from knee surgery.

“I wouldn’t be giving Tiger a whole lot of thought at this point,” Azinger said. “You have no control over how he stands physically. I would have a hard time not picking him. I would put it to him as, ‘Do you want to help us avenge what happened last time [2012]’

“If you’re Watson, you go right to Tiger and ask him point-blank: Do you want to play? It becomes a terrific leadership option for Watson. Pick him or not, he becomes assertive either way. The day he makes that decision is the day he truly becomes the leader of that squad.”

An educated guess? Woods will want to play. His return remains the source of great speculation, but there’s a decent chance he’ll play in at least one major, perhaps two. He’s still Tiger Woods. He could win both and make it a moot point.

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

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S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Hataoka shot 69.

Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

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Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:



DEVON BLING

In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

“It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

“Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.



VIKTOR HOVLAND

Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

“That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

“I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.



COLE HAMMER

The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

They all seem to be dropping recently.

The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

“I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”



ISAIAH SALINDA

After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

“He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

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Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.


Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list


“I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

I'll get to rest.”

Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.