Hawk's Nest: What were they thinking?

By John HawkinsJanuary 21, 2013, 3:03 pm

Most people wouldn’t wake up at 3 a.m. to watch a golf tournament, and I’m no exception. It’s easier just to stay up all night, which makes it more likely I’ll fall asleep before play ends but also guarantees that I’ll catch a majority of the action. Is there anything better than a Tiger Woods f-bomb after he misses the 11th fairway at 5:42 in the morning?

OK, so Tiger’s language and my discretion in the wee hours aren’t for everybody. I made it to about 6:20 last Friday, then woke up two hours later to the clatter of my 9-year-old daughter. By 8:25, I’d been told Woods had missed the cut in Abu Dhabi because of an illegal drop and subsequent two-stroke penalty.

Time waits for no one. Rust never sleeps, although it will take four weeks off when it belongs to Rory McIlroy – more on that shortly. An imbedded ball in a sand-based lie? Fans moved an obstructive boulder for Woods at the Phoenix Open back in 1999. No penalty there. In 2006, Tiger hit a 9-iron that bounced onto the roof at Firestone CC. For crying out loud, he was given a free drop.

Justice eventually prevails, but last week’s MC is merely the latest sign: An older Tiger Woods isn’t the same as the old Tiger Woods, if you know what I mean.

HE TURNED 37 late last month, the cusp of middle age, a point at which a man is expected to act responsibly and feel comfortable in his own skin. That said, there’s no way Woods would have made a television commercial with his most formidable opponent – a legitimate rival, an obvious impediment on his climb up Mount Nicklaus – 10 years ago.

In the early 2000s, Tiger was far more likely to make fun of those who threatened his reign, at least privately. Any friendship he had with Sergio Garcia was over before they played together in Sunday’s final pairing at the ’02 U.S. Open. Vijay Singh was clearly a competitive enemy. On and off the course, Woods and Singh spoke to each other only when absolutely necessary.

Phil Mickelson has earned an increased measure of Tiger’s respect over the years, but differences in their personalities (and Mickelson’s accomplishments) have always kept them from getting close. There were times when Woods joked about Lefty’s expanding waistline or his reckless style of play, and if you wondered how serious he was, it really didn’t matter because nobody did much about it.

Eldrick Almighty beat them all on a regular basis, but not anymore. Rory McIlroy is the new sheriff, owner of two major titles by eight strokes apiece – a deft impersonation of Tiger at his most dominant. So what if they were never actually together when filming the new Nike ad? Perception is nine-tenths reality, and besides, the commercial’s message is rather apparent.

Woods may get the last laugh by knocking a ball in McIlroy’s drink, but the two are presented as nothing less than equals. Call it maturation, call it a concession, but in terms of Tigerology, I would’ve called it impossible until recently.

MY FIRST TWO live chats of 2013 were lightly attended but full of excellent questions and comments by knowledgeable golf fans. Frankly, I enjoy the smaller audiences over the crowds of several thousand – perhaps half of which sign in only to complain about TV coverage. As if I have even an ounce of pull there.

Last week’s most relevant topic was McIlroy’s switch to Nike equipment and the utter lack of precision he displayed with the clubs and ball. It’s so easy to blame the manufacturer for any such performance. With the better players, it falls somewhere between a kneejerk reaction and an assumption.

McIlroy would say only that he was rusty, then announced he wouldn’t play again until mid-February. Really? Dude, don’t you need real-game reps with the clubs? Anyone can get comfortable with new equipment on the range. Why not change you schedule? Have you gotten so busy – or so consumed by the parameters of success – that you can’t sneak a tournament onto your calendar in an effort to expedite the transition to Nike?

Perhaps McIlrust will return from his lengthy break and win his first tournament back by a half-dozen shots. Until that happens, I think he should be playing in live events. He can sit on the porch and sip margaritas later this year – after the Swoosh stuff has started to deliver.

A QUICK RANT on the decision to deny David Duval a sponsor’s exemption into the Humana Challenge: shame on everyone who chose not to give the guy a spot in the field. I understand that Duval isn’t nearly the player he once was – and that the tournament has undergone numerous changes in recent years – but we’re talking about a guy who shot perhaps the best round in PGA Tour history to win the event in 1999.

We’re talking about a weak-field event that should be begging for attention, but as one keen observer noted on last Friday’s chat, if they can bump Bob Hope off the shingle, they certainly can say no to David Duval.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that Woods was supposedly denied an exemption into this same tournament back in 1992, angering Tiger’s father, Earl, to a degree that the kid privately vowed never to play in the event, and he hasn’t. When I asked Tiger about it years ago, he issued a two-word response that is unsuitable for this particular forum. Suffice it to say the damage was irreparable.

DOES COLIN MONTGOMERIE belong in the World Golf Hall of Fame? I think not, but then, I gave back my WGHOF vote years ago, and those who didn’t obviously feel compelled to enshrine a contemporary player every year. This hardly is a felony, but the added commercial value that comes with such an induction is obvious, if not all that significant.

Very few, if any, of the 1,345 tweets I’ve posted have generated more agreeable replies than the series of Monty-doesn’t-belong blurbs I tossed into Twitterville a couple of weeks ago. My argument is fairly simple: as terrific as Montgomerie was in several Ryder Cups, those performances aren’t nearly enough to outweigh his career-long inability to win even a single major title.

The guy never won an official event in the United States and never won a World Golf Championship. No question, Monty dominated the European Tour for much of the 1990s, winning seven consecutive money titles (officially known as the Order of Merit), but this was at a time when the Euro circuit wasn’t as deep as it is today – before the WGC series added premium-field width to the earnings ledger.

The goal here is not to belittle or even downplay Montgomerie’s accomplishments. He was a very good player with a couple of huge holes in his resume, but the number that speaks the loudest is that he got in despite receiving just 51 percent of the vote on the international ballot – an agenda-driven constituency if ever one existed.

Bottom line? Halls of Fame should be special, unaffected by any form of performance-related compromise. Congratulations, Monty. You fooled 'em all again.

AS MUCH AS I enjoy “Pardon the Interruption” and the opinions voiced by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, the show’s longtime, multitalented co-stars, I was taken aback by the sloppiness of their takes on the two-stroke penalty Woods received in Abu Dhabi. It was the first item out of the final commercial in last Friday’s show. Unless I was hearing things, Kornheiser said Tiger was “DQ’d” just as the show headed into that break.

Both men wondered why Woods called over fellow competitor Martin Kaymer to examine the now-infamous imbedded ball. Wilbon even surmised that Kaymer, a German who now lives in Scottsdale, was summoned by Tiger because he plays a lot of desert golf. The actual reason was very simple – Kaymer was keeping Woods’ scorecard.

They wondered why Tiger didn’t call in a rules official. Obviously, Red Shirt didn’t think he was committing a violation. For those who think Woods might have been looking for an early jet home, forget it. The incident happened on the fifth hole. Tiger hadn’t gotten off to a good start, but he had a ton of golf left that afternoon – and would eventually work himself back into the weekend mix before the penalty knocked him to the wrong side of the cut.

One constant about rules infractions: the cut-and-dried nature of golf’s law does not allow much room for interpretation. Tiger took an illegal drop – simple as that. He declined an invitation to ride back out to the area right of the fifth fairway and re-examine the scene of the crime. Why? Because he knew the ground was sand-based. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have plugged.

What’s amazing is how infrequently Woods has had to deal with rules situations over the years. Almost every shot he hits in competition is on television. A million eyeballs are on his egg at all times; his on-course honesty is beyond reproach. To paraphrase noted golf guru Carl Spackler, he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.


A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”