Hawk's Nest: Wear and tear of age affecting Tiger

By John HawkinsAugust 4, 2014, 3:10 pm

You certainly can’t evaluate his health by examining the state of his golf game. Tiger Woods used to win three or four tournaments a year from the right trees. Before the back spasms, the knee issues and the hydrant, Woods’ inability to drive the ball straight only made his dominance more astounding.

Time waits for no one, however, and when Woods returned to action earlier than expected at the end of June – Graham DeLaet needed almost twice as long to recover from the same surgery – the reaction was generally gung-ho. Rust removal? Makes sense. The next two majors at venues he once conquered? Gotta get ready for those.

You’re chasing history and you’re losing ground, so you proclaim yourself fit as a fiddle and gas up the jet. “Obviously, I’m going to get stronger and faster as time goes on, but the risk is minimal, just like every round we play,” Woods said at Congressional in his first start back.

He would repeat the stronger-and-faster thing several times, no doubt believing it, as people who will themselves to so much accomplishment tend to believe everything they say. There’s a reason most premier athletes retire in their mid- to late-30s, however. Their physical skills erode. Not only do their bodies betray them, they begin breaking down on a regular basis.

Woods broke down again Sunday at Firestone. Another funky shot from trouble after missing right, another mid-round departure, another poor performance punctuated by injury. There is a lot not to like about the situation, although one shouldn’t get the sense this latest setback occurred because Tiger came back too soon.

The man played nine full rounds of competitive golf before his back acted up. He put himself in more treacherous situations than a cat burglar over those 5 ½ weeks and emerged without a hitch. This isn’t about a premature return. It’s about the wear and tear of age and a guy who insists on going after the ball like someone half as old.

Speaking of which, the future of golf is tugging on our shirt like a restless child – and Tiger’s status will swipe much of the attention worthy of better causes: Rory McIlroy’s ride to greatness, Rickie Fowler’s vast improvement, Sergio Garcia’s re-emergence.

America’s Red Shirt infatuation wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if he was still performing at a high level, but that hasn’t been the case for a while. You blame the media? I can’t swing a 7-iron without hitting a pile of data that tells us Woods is the only golfer many, many people care about. It’s sad in a way, but I was saying five years ago that the Tiger Hangover would have a far-reaching effect on the game’s sensibilities.

Seriously, I hate it when I’m right about stuff like that.

DUSTIN JOHNSON’S LEAVE of absence from pro golf hit some folks like a locomotive. I was about halfway into a live chat last Thursday when the news broke, leading to a rash of insensitive reaction and unwitting ignorance to the situation overall.

Was I surprised by Johnson’s announcement? Not even a little bit. Whispers about his off-course behavior have been circulating on the PGA Tour for years – the tipping point occurred when he missed almost three months of the 2012 season with what was described as a back injury.

There was some chuckling that spring among those who knew better, and when I broached the subject of Johnson’s physical status with a member of his camp at Quail Hollow, I was shooed away like a rabid dog. Given the wonderful disposition of the person I approached, let’s just say it was a highly unusual response to a fairly standard inquiry.

So when Golf.com reported last Friday that Johnson was suspended by the PGA Tour after a positive test for cocaine, his third failed test since 2009, the whispers became a roar. The Tour would release a statement claiming Johnson is not serving a suspension, which is basically a moot point – a cross between damage control and semantics:

“This is to clarify that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour.”

In other words, Johnson chose not to file an appeal and took the initiative of enrolling in some type of substance-abuse program. That basically takes precedent over any form of disciplinary action, at least for the time being, by Camp Ponte Vedra.

Why mention all this? Because the Tour’s policy of not releasing information regarding fines and suspensions is a joke. No other professional sports league dabbles in such obtuse paranoia. Out of respect for its fan base and the acknowledgement that it does business in the United States of America, every organization but the PGA Tour is forthright in its obligation to release pertinent information.

Our circuit carries on with its head in the sand. Why? Because the Tour cherishes its “sanitized reputation” perhaps more than any of its other qualities. The squeaky-clean factor goes a long way toward selling title sponsorships and driving corporate interest in general.

Someone such as John Daly isn’t necessarily tolerated, but commissioner Tim Finchem can look a CEO in the eye and tell him that such cases are very, very rare. Why feed the media something that can only smear the image, scare away primary investors and potentially jeopardize the revenue stream?

Nobody ever said pro golf lives in the real world. And if they did, they might want to consider a breakfast ball.

MY NEXT-DOOR neighbor is an outstanding human being. Nicest guy in town, a little tight with a buck, but he’ll drop what he’s doing on a moment’s notice if someone needs help. Oh, and he can’t stand Sergio Garcia.

Many of you get it, and a fair number of you surely agree with Tom. Garcia has done some stupid stuff over the years, pretty much running the table on everything from poor sportsmanship (spitting into a hole at Doral) and whining about bad breaks (2007 British Open) to his embarrassing comments about the color of Woods’ skin.

He’s on the short list of the greatest antagonists in Ryder Cup history, but of all the roles Garcia has played over the years, he’s probably best known as Woods’ pigeon – or Tweety Bird, as the case may be. Sergio would have been a superstar if Red Shirt hadn’t thumped him so often in the good old days.

Instead, he’s become the handsome villain, and pro golf has always been more interesting when someone wears the black hat. Jack Nicklaus as the young predator to Arnie in the early 1960s. Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, who piloted the evil empire’s migration from Europe in the 1980s …

What makes Garcia such an ideal bad guy is the Wile E. Coyote factor. The anvil always seems to land on his head come Sunday afternoon. We saw it happen again at Firestone. The putts stopped falling, and though Garcia didn’t miss any short ones, he did little enough to let McIlroy wipe out the three-stroke deficit almost immediately.

For all the anti-Sergios, it was another reason to rejoice, but I have a funny feeling about this week, and it’s telling me Garcia will finally win his first major title. We’re talking about a guy who has always played his best golf in binges, and he’s certainly playing well this summer. The greens at Valhalla are not severe, although Sergio has proven he can miss them just about anywhere. Still, it should be a ball-striker’s PGA.

Valhalla isn’t a long course by today’s standards. All three tournaments I covered there were notable for the great atmosphere. “It may not be a great golf course, but it’s a great place to play golf,” said Paul Azinger, who captained the U.S. Ryder Cup team to victory at Valhalla in 2008.

It should be an interesting week. With or without Woods.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 9:00 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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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh hit a perfect approach to set up the winning playoff birdie. His celebration as the ball rolled into the cup was nowhere near as spectacular.

Singh closed the door on Jeff Maggert on the second playoff hole to win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday, giving an understated fist pump as his birdie putt dropped from about 2 feet. It was the first major title on the PGA Tour Champions for the 55-year-old Fijian, a past winner of the Masters and two PGA Championships.

''It's a little different,'' Singh said. ''It's a senior major, you know, so it's - any time you win a tournament no matter what it is, you feel accomplishment, and that's what I feel. I feel like I played well, and it's a win. A win is a win.''

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268 at Exmoor Country Club. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert began the day tied with McCarron and Bart Bryant for the lead. Singh was one shot back, but a crowd at the top of the leaderboard thinned out, turning it into a two-man race.

''I wasn't really watching the scoreboard or Vijay,'' Maggert said. ''Like I said, I thought I needed to shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under today to really kind of ice it. So I was really focused in on making seven or eight birdies today. ... You know, I thought some other scores would come into play there toward the end, but the last two or three groups looked like they were struggling, other than me and Vijay.''

Singh and Maggert posted identical scores through the first 15 holes. But Maggert bogeyed 16, and then missed chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

''We played toe-to-toe all day,'' Maggert said. ''He hit a nice shot on 18, and I had a chance to make a few putts throughout the day, but they just didn't go in.''

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

Singh made just one bogey this week, and that came in the third round. He had five birdies Sunday and made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But Singh blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par and send a senior major to a playoff for the first time since the 2015 Regions Tradition.

Singh played sporadically on the over-50 tour during his first few years of eligibility but is playing more often against men his age these days.

''To win the first major on this tour, I'm really excited about that,'' Singh said. ''Winning my first tournament at the beginning of the year was big, and now I've won this one, so I look forward to winning a lot more now. I always say, the first one, you get the first one out of the way, you can win a lot more after that.''

McCarron was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

Bryant (72) and Kenny Perry (68) finished in a pack at 16 under. Illinois golf coach Mike Small (71) finished one shot behind them, while three-time champion Bernhard Langer closed with a 74 to finish at 12 under after starting the day two strokes back.