Hawk's Nest: PGA Tour digs in on anchoring

By John HawkinsFebruary 25, 2013, 2:00 pm

Oh, the perils of being a middle-aged male. You wake up some mornings feeling like you carried it 26 times against the Ravens, then attempt bodily functions you took for granted in 1984. The telephone has become an enemy. The mailbox is an outdated cynic, much like the man walking down the driveway to empty it.

Communication is best viewed as a necessary evil, which takes us to the golf course, where my buddies and I talk for four hours and say absolutely nothing.

“What does Tom’s wife do?” my own spouse asked last summer.

“No idea,” I shrugged.

“You guys spend all that time out there, and you don’t know what his wife does for a living? What do you talk about?”

So I asked. Tom said Jodi sells bow ties, which didn’t make any sense, although I didn’t bother with a follow-up question. I’ve since come to learn that Jodi actually sells Botox, which I’m guessing is a lot more lucrative. Still I wouldn’t think any differently of her whether she sold 19th century neckwear or 21st century cosmetics.

It’s not that I don’t care – anything but. Meaningful conversation is rarely a priority when I’m playing with the guys whose company I enjoy most. Amid the salty references, fun-poking and occasional strategically related dialogue, there isn’t much time or energy left to talk about important stuff.

Why is the dog referred to as man’s best friend? Because the pooch doesn’t say much. Same goes for the guys in my weekend foursome. Why is that? I’m not sure. I’ve never asked them.

WHEN IT COMES to talking a lot and saying little, few have been more adept over the years than PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, but that wasn’t the case during his visit to the NBC booth during Sunday’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship final. Finchem enunciated the Tour’s opposition to the anchored-putter ban and acknowledged that 13 of 15 pros on the player advisory committee don’t like the proposed change.

Upon further review, it’s easy to see how some Tour types have softened their position on anchoring. If everyone’s getting rich out there, why institute a punitive measure on a select group when evidence of a competitive advantage remains inconclusive? In other words, you leave well enough alone.

[Anchoring] has been around for a generation, and the game has done quite well,” Finchem said. “Unless you have a compelling reason to change it, you shouldn’t.”

While others were writing that the Tour might adopt an anchoring ban at the end of this season – more than two years before the U.S. Golf Association proposal would go into effect – I was saying this thing could get complicated, even messy, and it is. Finchem exercised an adroit touch of passive aggression by saying, “We all agree the rules should be the same for everybody. We’d like to see a positive, open discussion [with golf’s governing bodies]. We’re all friends.”

I don’t doubt that for a second, but I disagree with my buddies all the time. At the end of the day, you do what’s best for you. The Tour is opposed to bifurcation but doesn’t support the anchoring ban. Translation: It just tossed the matter back to the USGA/R&A in the form of a grenade.

Now what? If you’re the USGA, you have to think long and hard about imposing the ban at the recreational level only, which couldn’t have been what was intended. That would suffice as an admission that the USGA doesn’t hold any official jurisdiction over pro golf and compromise the original ideal, but it could also force Finchem into the rule-making business he doesn’t want to enter.

Or it could just renege on the entire premise and wipe the egg off its face. There won’t be any easy answers here.

DON’T TELL ME now about the huge mistake Davis Love III made, leaving Hunter Mahan off last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. It’s nothing but cheap hindsight, dated by the five-plus months between Love’s picks and Mahan’s runner-up finish to Matt Kuchar Sunday at the Match Play.

Mahan was angered by Love’s snub, but his case for inclusion on Team America was flimsy at best. Yes, he won last year’s Match Play, then again in Houston the week before the Masters, but he managed just one top 10 in his next 13 starts – a five-month stretch leading right up to Love’s four captain’s picks.

He would miss the cut at the PGA Championship and The Barclays, two crucial weeks in the eyes of any skipper. Having risen to fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking after the win in Houston, Mahan had fallen to 20th when Love made his selections. Simply put, he was trending sharply in the wrong direction and passed by more deserved players.

In terms of subjective data, Mahan received zero percent of the vote when I asked readers who should have made the team during a live chat on GolfChannel.com last September. Not to wear out a theme, but sometimes, people can say an awful lot when they say nothing at all.

BOY, THAT SNOWFALL at Dove Mountain last Wednesday sure was funny. I’d gone out earlier that afternoon to pick up some lunch and get my car washed, then returned home to see I’d missed a call from my editor, Jay Coffin.

“There’s three inches of snow on the ground in Tucson,” Coffin told me with a straight face – at least straight enough to let me know he wasn’t kidding. “We need you. How soon can you go up?”

I figured a couple hundred people would be waiting when I logged in. Turns out there were more than 7,000 – far more than I can remember for any non-major, especially without live golf going on. Regardless of what you think about my knowledge of the game or the Tour, I definitely know snow.

No way they’re playing today, I told the assemblage. In fact, I guesstimated that a late-morning start the following day would come about only after a superb job by the field staff at Dove Mountain, which was indeed the case. I reiterate all this not so much to slap myself on the back but to address the repeated cries of those who believe this tournament needs to be relocated.

First and foremost, the Tour’s contract with title sponsor Accenture runs through next year – it’s not going anywhere before then. Secondly, Accenture is quite fond of Dove Mountain. Seeing how the company has sponsored the Match Play since its 1999 inception, you don’t need a degree from the Wharton Business School to understand how moving the event might jeopardize one of the Tour’s most valuable partnerships.

So that’s the reality for now, be it in three inches of snow or 70 degrees of sunshine. That doesn’t mean we can’t build the perfect beast, however, and with that in mind, the Tour really should consider transferring the Match Play to Las Vegas. More than one player has surmised that a legal-wagering element would illuminate the tournament’s profile, stimulating mainstream interest in ways a simple conversion to the match-play format can’t accomplish.

I’m not a gambler, but I think the betting factor would be pretty cool. I’m also sure my friends in Camp Ponte Vedra see it very differently. If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. And if it is broke, you don’t talk too much about it.

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Davies wins Senior LPGA Championship

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 10:45 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Laura Davies won the Senior LPGA Championship on Wednesday at chilly and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two senior major events of the year.

Davies birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri. The 55-year-old Englishwoman won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open in July at Chicago Golf Club. In March in Phoenix, she tied for second behind Inbee Park in the LPGA's Founders Cup.

''I wish there were more of them to play,'' Davies said about the two senior majors. ''This was a real treat because I've never put three good rounds together on this course. With the wind today and the challenging layout, I think 2 under par was a really good score.''

Full-field scores from the Senior LPGA Championship

Davies led wire to wire, finishing at 8-under 208 on The Pete Dye Course. She birdied three of the four par 5s in the final round, making an 8-footer on No. 18.

Alfredsson also shot 70, and Cavalleri had a 71. Michele Redman was fourth at 1 under after a 73. Brandie Burton, two strokes behind Davies after a second-round 66, shot 77 to finish fifth at 1 over.

Juli Inkster followed an 80 with a 73 to tie for 12th at 6 over.

Davies earned $90,000 for her 86th worldwide professional victory. She won four regular majors.

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For Korean women, golf is a double-edged sword

By Randall MellOctober 17, 2018, 10:30 pm

There is always a story behind the tears.

For In Gee Chun, it’s a story about more than her victory Sunday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

It’s about the other side of the Korean passion that runs so deep in women’s golf and that makes female players feel like rock stars.

It’s about the unrelenting pressure that comes with all that popularity.

Chun explained where her tears came from after her victory. She opened up about the emotional struggle she has faced trying to live up to the soaring expectations that come with being a young Korean superstar.

Her coach, Won Park, told GolfChannel.com on Wednesday that there were times over the last year that Chun wanted to “run and hide from golf.” The pressure on her to end a two-year victory drought was mounting in distressing fashion.

Chun, 24, burst onto the world stage when she was 20, winning the U.S. Women’s Open before she was even an LPGA member. When she won the Evian Championship two years later, she joined Korean icon Se Ri Pak as the only players to win major championships as their first two LPGA titles.

Following up on those victories was challenging, with Chun feeling as if nothing short of winning was good enough to satisfy Korean expectations.

After the victory at Evian, Chun recorded six second-place finishes, runner-up finishes that felt like failures with questions growing back home over why she wasn’t closing out.

“There were comments that were quite vicious, that were very hard to take as a person and as a woman,” Chun said. “I really wanted to rise above that and not care about those comments, but I have to say, some of them lingered in my mind, and they really pierced my heart.”

Chun struggled going from the hottest star in South Korea to feeling like a disappointment. She slipped from No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings to No. 27 going into last week’s KEB Hana Bank Championship. Maybe more significantly, she slipped from being the highest ranked Korean in the world to where she wasn’t even among the top 10 Koreans anymore.

“Some fans and the Korean golf media were hard on her, mostly on social media,” Park wrote GolfChannel.com in an email. “It caused her to start struggling with huge depression and socio phobia. She often wished to run away from golf and hide herself where there was no golf at all.”

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Socio phobia includes the fear of being scrutinized or judged by others, according to the Mayo Clinic’s definition of conditions.

Though critics of South Korea’s dominance have complained about the machine-like nature of some those country’s stars, we’ve seen quite a bit of emotion from South Koreans on big stages this year.

After Sung Hyun Park won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in July, the world No. 1 with the steely stare uncharacteristically broke into tears.

“This is the first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said back then. “It’s been a really tough year for me.”

It was the second of her three victories this season, a year in which she also has missed seven cuts.

“A lot of pressure builds up,” said David Jones, her caddie. “That’s just what happens when you’re that good, and you’re Korean.”

While American players admire the massive popularity Koreans enjoy in their homeland, they see what comes with it.

“Koreans really do elevate their women players, but at the same time, they put a ton of pressure on them,” American Cristie Kerr said. “There’s pressure on them to not only be good, but to be attractive, and to do the right things culturally.”

So Yeon Ryu felt the pressure to perform build as high as she has ever felt with Koreans trying to qualify for the Olympics two years ago. The competition to make the four-woman team was intense, with so many strong Koreans in the running.

“This just makes me crazy,” Ryu said back then. “The biggest thing is the Korean media. If someone is going to make the Olympics, they're a great player. But if somebody cannot make it, they're a really bad player.”

Ryu didn’t make that team, but she went on to share LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors with Sung Hyun Park last year. She also won her second major championship and ascended to world No. 1.

LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park was under fire going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was coming back from injury and there was growing criticism of her. She was hearing clamor to give up her spot to a healthy player, but she went on to win the gold medal.

“I almost cried on air,” said Na Yeon Choi, a nine-time LPGA winner who was doing analysis for Korean TV. “Inbee had so much pressure on her.”

After the Koreans won the UL International Crown two weeks ago, there was as much relief as joy in their ranks. Though viewed as the dominant force in women’s golf, they watched the Spaniards crowned as the “best golfing nation” in the inaugural matches in 2014 and then watched the Americans gain the honor in 2016. There was pressure on the Koreans to win the crown at home.

“There were some top Koreans who didn’t want to play, because there was going to be so much pressure,” Kerr said.

Chun got the nod to join the team this year after Inbee Park announced she was stepping aside, to allow another Korean a chance to represent their country. Chun was the third alternate, with Sei Young Kim and Jin Young Ko saying they were passing to honor previous KLPGA commitments.

Chun went on to become the star of the UL International Crown. She was undefeated, the only player to go 4-0 in the matches.

“In Gee made up her mind to devote herself to the team and played with an extremely high level of passion and focus,” Won Park wrote in an email interview. “She took the International Crown as a war in her heart. She did not play, but she `fought’ against the course, not against the opposing team . . . During all four winning matches, she gradually found her burning passion deep in her heart and wanted to carry it to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank.”

Park explained he has been working with Chun to change her focus, to get her to play for herself, instead of all the outside forces she was feeling pressure to please.

“She was too depressed to listen for a year and a half,” Park wrote.

So that’s where all Chun’s tears came from after she won the KEB Hana Bank.

“All the difficult struggles that I have gone through the past years went before me, and all the faces of the people who kept on believing in me went by, and so I teared up,” Chun said.

Park said Chun’s focus remains a work in progress.

“Although it will take some more time to fully recover from her mental struggle, she at least got her wisdom and confidence back and belief in her own game,” Park wrote. “This is never going to be easy for a 24-year-old young girl, but I believe she will continue to fight through.”

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Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.