Hawk's Nest: Recalling a crazy 2003 major season

By John HawkinsJuly 29, 2013, 12:51 pm

You want weird? Let’s go back 10 years to golf’s oddest row of ducks: the 2003 major championships. Collectively, we’re talking about John, Paul, George and Wacko – a season when rhyme and reason were replaced by Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel.

With the PGA Championship returning to Oak Hill CC next week, it’s worth revisiting the succession of strangeness a decade ago. The 2003 Masters was one of the most highly anticipated tournaments I’ve ever covered, the debut of extensive course modifications by former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson. Everyone expected the so-called “Tigerproofing” to kill any remaining chances for the game’s shorter hitters.

It rained all week. Golf’s grandest competitive stage was playing at about 7,800 yards. And Mike Weir, who would rank 68th on the PGA Tour in driving distance that year, won in a playoff over Len Mattiace, who ranked 153rd. Hootie must have thought he didn’t move the tees back far enough. Two additional alterations would soon follow.

Conventional wisdom missed the cut at Augusta National, but things couldn’t have gone more to form at the ’03 U.S. Open. The day before play began, veteran caddie Joe LaCava told me no course setup catered to a player more than Olympia Fields did to Jim Furyk, and Furyk won rather easily on a dull, somewhat unmemorable week. Logic reigns. At least for about a month.

The summer of ’03 featured perhaps the biggest back-to-back major stunners in golf history. Ben Curtis didn’t just win the British Open. He beat Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Thomas Bjorn, who basically gave away the tournament. One could argue, however, that Micheel’s victory at the PGA was even more astonishing.

Curtis triumphed on a bouncy, pot-luck Royal St. George’s – controlling the ball on some holes was virtually impossible. Anybody could win that week, and anybody did. Micheel outlasted Chad Campbell on a much fairer test. The rough at Oak Hill was far more menacing than at most PGA’s, and if you didn’t drive it in the fairway, you had little chance of hitting the elevated greens or making par.

It was the kind of meat-and-potatoes test you’d expect Woods to thrive upon. He wound up T-39, his worst finish at a major in 28 starts as a pro. Tiger did win five other tournaments in 2003, but it was the first year he’d failed to claim a big trophy since 1998. Back then, those stretches were referred to as “slumps,” and Eldrick Almighty didn’t approve of that word.

It just so happens that ’03 remains the only full year Woods was without a swing coach. His relationship with Butch Harmon had ended the previous summer, and if Hank Haney served as a pair of eyes out at Isleworth, he didn’t officially join Camp Tiger until the spring of ’04. Seeing how reliant Woods has been in regard to on-site counsel, perhaps it’s no coincidence 2003 failed to meet his imperial standards.

Phil Mickelson had the worst season of his career in ‘03. It’s the last year in which he failed to win an event of any kind – the only other time it happened was in 1999. Lefty’s streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one victory is by far the longest on Tour. In 2003, however, he was a distracted player whose wife, Amy, endured serious medical issues during the birth of their third child that March.

Both mom and baby made it through labor, but with three kids under the age of 4, Mickelson didn’t always look like a guy who wanted to be at a golf tournament. His year ended in dismal fashion with an 0-5 record in the Presidents Cup, which led to a rededication to golf heading into ’04 and his first major title four months later.

So here we are, midway into the back nine of 2013. Woods has returned to the top in the Official World Golf Ranking. Mickelson has regained the No. 2 position by virtue of his British Open triumph, and the three guys who rented the No. 1 spot while Woods rebuilt his life all find their careers in a mild crisis.

Luke Donald can’t win a tournament. Lee Westwood can’t win a major. Rory McIlroy is a mess. Pro golf is a star-driven enterprise, dependent on its superstars to move the mainstream needle. Thanks to the two best players of the last 30 years, the needle is alive and moving in 2013.

WHAT TO EXPECT at Oak Hill? Beats me. Campbell, who finished two shots behind Micheel in ’03, is a low-ball, right-to-left player whose flight wouldn’t seem suitable on a course with dramatic terrain. The greens are deceivingly difficult, yet Micheel’s putting numbers were awful across the board the year he picked up his lone Tour victory.

I’ve been saying it on my live chats all year: this is the major Woods would seem to have the best chance of winning. Heavy rain July 3 caused significant flooding of the grounds, forcing a shutdown of both courses and knocking down a large tree that guarded the right side of the eighth green.

A majority of Oak Hill’s bunkers were also damaged by the storm, but that stuff can be fixed, and there shouldn’t be any effects of Mother Nature’s wrath when the big boys arrive. Rain leads to thicker rough, however, and it will be interesting to see how PGA setup man Kerry Haigh has the mowers set for next week.

I don’t keep specific notes on such things, but Sahalee (1998) and the ’03 gathering were the toughest PGAs to play if you missed a fairway, but again, I’m not sure how that factors in to who will play well and who won’t.

My short list of favorites:

Matt Kuchar (15-1). A tie for second in Canada is probably the perfect result nearing a major. Mickelson won the week before claiming the British, but it rarely happens. Why mess with the golf gods if you don’t really have to?

Jason Day (18-1). You can look at the fact that he has one victory in 130 career starts – or the fact that he continues to make noise at the majors. A closing 77 felled him at Muirfield, but Day drives it a mile and ranks 21st on Tour in putting. Nice combo.

Tiger Woods (20-1). He’s 14 over par on the weekend at the last two majors and looks out of sorts the minute things go wrong, regardless of where he stands. Why is he on my list? Plenty of red shirts left in the closet.

Dustin Johnson (20-1). Strong enough to hit greens from any rough. Long enough to hit gap wedges in from the fairway. He plays well this time of year, and like Kuchar, the T-2 in Canada doesn’t hurt.

Adam Scott (22-1). His only top-10s in 2013 have come at the WGC in Miami, the Masters and British. Has developed a big-game mentality and drives it well enough to use the big stick whenever he wants. That shipment of confidence has finally arrived.

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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

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Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”