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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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.