Hawk's Nest: While we're young, Tiger and Phil

By John HawkinsJune 17, 2013, 5:45 pm

When my wife and kids weren’t looking, I spent much of Father’s Day in front of the bathroom mirror, clutching my neck and pleading “While we’re young!” in repeated attempts to sound like Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddyshack.” It was a total waste of time, however. When it comes to impersonations, call me Rich Very Little.

While we’re young?

Are we talking about speeding up pace of play or Phil Mickelson winning a U.S. Open?

That’s six runner-up finishes, of course, this time in Fail-a-delphia, a loss Mickelson described as tougher than any of the previous five. So what if Justin Rose became the first Englishman to win the national championship since 1970? Once again, heartbreak reigns across this great land, but if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, some leave us hanging, others show us guts.

Rose rallied to beat Mickelson in a crucial singles match at last fall’s Ryder Cup – the bomb he made for a birdie at Medinah’s 17th was the biggest putt anyone holed all year. Now this. All from a guy who had once blown more 54-hole leads without a victory than anyone on the PGA Tour. A guy who didn’t win in this country until midway into his seventh full season.

What struck me about Mickelson’s latest runner-up showing was the way in which he ended up there. He’s normally a fairly average iron player who converts more mid-range putts (eight to 20 feet) than maybe anybody. At Merion, he hit his irons better than I’ve ever seen – and didn’t take advantage of what seemed like countless scoring opportunities.

While we’re young? Hey, you never know, but only Hale Irwin (1990) has won a U.S. Open at a more advanced age than Mickelson is now. On Lefty’s 43rd birthday, it turns out he couldn’t have his cake and win it, too. And you thought that jet ride back to San Diego for his daughter’s graduation was long …

FOR SOME STRANGE reason, “Caddyshack” has held onto its standing as an American movie classic, a cultish gem despite its pathetically thin script and quadruple-bogey ending. Not just the stupid gopher thing as Carl Spackler blows up the course to rid it of varmints, but the part just before that, when opposing players in the big match are actually seen sharing a putter.

Is that not a violation of Rule 4-4b?

The winning putt is struck by Danny Noonan – take a look at the condition of the green in that last scene. It’s almost totally dirt, leaving me to wonder why they chose such a cruddy spot on which to film this pivotal moment. Wealthy guys like Al Czervik (Dangerfield’s character) would never join such a dump. Spackler should have detonated the place on account of its lousy shape alone.

Don’t tell me rodents were responsible for leaving Bushwood CC in such an awful agricultural state. That would have entitled Noonan to a free drop under Rule 25-1b/19. Not that I’m a stickler for authenticity or anything, but no wonder the sequel was such a bomb.

SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. DON’T take me seriously. I loved “Caddyshack” the first 77 times I saw it. And if my friends at the USGA don’t show a sense of humor when they set up U.S. Opens, the bluecoats have made some pretty good commercials over the years. The boy who makes a hole-in-one but (almost) nobody sees. The two guys sitting on a bench under cover, waiting out a torrential downpour.

“While we’re young!” is another big winner: a campaign with a purpose, a message delivered with a lighthearted twist. It’s a combination that can leave an imprint, and at last, somebody is trying publicly to defeat slow play. My favorite WWY is the one where the snail heads off to the beverage cart and orders an Arnold Palmer, then runs into the King himself. The one with Tiger Woods and the kids doesn’t really work for me, but at least Woods got involved.

How about we show the entire series of ads to every competitor at next week’s U.S. Women’s Open?

SO ELDRICK ALMIGHTY fails again in his quest to win a 15th major title. If no news = good news then old news ≥ no news, good or bad. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to a point where Tiger’s performance isn’t a primary topic of discussion – he looked out of sorts from the very start at Merion and was quickly felled by an inadequate short game.

On several occasions over the course of the week, it struck me that Woods looked unprepared to pull off shots this difficult venue was asking him to execute. Did he play enough holes during the practice rounds? Did he hit enough different shots on the holes he played? It got me thinking – and looking stuff up.

• Tiger has won 16 times since the start of 2008. All but one of those victories (the ’08 Match Play) occurred on courses where he’d won before.

• Twelve of those triumphs came at places where Tiger has turned winning into an industry: Torrey Pines (three times beginning in ’08), Bay Hill (four), Memorial (twice), Congressional, Firestone and Doral. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with winning the same tournament over and over, but in those five-plus years, only last month’s victory at The Players would qualify as something of a surprise.

• Since he plays a very similar schedule every season, Tiger doesn’t play many events on courses where he’s never competed. The majors are an obvious exception; three of them move around. While Woods could seemingly win three or four times a year with his eyes closed, simply by visiting his favorite haunts, he looks like a different guy at places he hasn’t been.

Merion certainly qualified – Woods had never played the course until just recently. In the old days, Red Shirt was a relentless on-site practice presence. I’m not absolutely positive he isn’t now, but the evidence might help you form a conclusion.

THE GOOD NEWS, at least for Tiger, is that one of his corporate sponsors (Rolex) featured him in a non-golf television commercial for the first time since his personal life unraveled in late 2009. Nike has continued to use him, obviously, and Woods made a cameo in a Swoosh spot for a skateboarding shoe during that stretch, but the Rolex ad represents old ground rebroken.

It’s a cool commercial, too, with Sir Eldrick walking through a museum-like hall adorned with oversized portraits of golf’s greats. Wristwatch companies really love pro golfers, seeing to the compatible demographics and all, and I suppose you could make a case that the Hydrant Era has been over long enough for someone to use Woods to peddle a product.

It’s a much less risky decision than to wear those octopus pants Billy Horschel had on Sunday.

OK, I’LL ADMIT it. There was a time this spring when I found Horschel to be just a few feet higher than over the top. The cocksure disposition, the physical theatrics, the look-at-me factor in general – I’m a golf fan, too, and Horschel got off to a bogey-bogey start with me. Anyone who refers to himself aloud by his real name after a poorly struck shot needs to work on his self-deprecation skills.

Acceptable: “You dumb--s! Why are you hitting in there?”

Unacceptable: “Oh, Billy! Come on….”

Upon further review, two things have become abundantly clear. Horschel doesn’t hit many bad shots. And he’s different, which is a good thing in a league where unemotional, wanna-be stars are produced regularly by the Tour’s cookie cutter. The guy does a lot of things well, and the U.S. Open, where he finished T-4, was another step forward in Horschel’s competitive evolution.

His numbers are crazy-good. The win in New Orleans and six other top-10s, sixth in total driving, sixth in the all-around stat, second in birdie-conversion percentage. Horschel recovers from bogeys well and is very good at saving par after barely missing a green, which isn’t often. I don’t know if he’s ready to win a major, but if he doesn’t win another event in 2013, I’ll get myself a pair of those octopus pants and wear them up to the Little Brown Dog.

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG? Steve Stricker really isn’t anymore, and his performance on Merion’s early holes Sunday was enough to leave you thinking he’ll never win a major, but his “I’m a savage” spot for Avis has already claimed my award for the year’s best TV commercial featuring a pro golfer.

Pretty damn funny if you ask me.

A couple of other potential campaigns featuring our favorite players:

• Tiger and Rory, all buffed up and ready to go in their Swooshies, approach the Merion clubhouse together, only to find the door locked.

• In honor of Camp Ponte Vedra’s streaming app, we find Philly Mick walking into a crowded workplace, climbing up on someone’s desk and unleashing a 2-wood on a replica of the U.S. Open trophy. Unfortunately, the shaft snaps, the clubhead goes flying – and the USGA chalice doesn’t bear a dent.

Jason Dufner hits a little pitch to 10 or 12 feet below the hole, as was the case at Merion’s fourth hole last Friday, then hurls the wedge into a greenfront creek. The offensive club begins floating downstream, and Dufner, whose physical composition does not resemble that of Usain Bolt, begins chasing after it.

“While we’re young!” some ancient guy in a USGA blazer hollers, tugging on his wrinkled neck.

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Watch: Jesper hits rock, flies bridge, makes par

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 20, 2018, 5:18 pm

It's not often you'll hear an accomplished professional declare that he made one of his greatest par saves on a par-3 course. But Jesper Parnevik can - and did - make that claim.

Playing the Top of the Rock layout on Day 2 of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge, Parnevik's tee shot at the 130-yard sixth, his 15th hole of the day, flew the green. It bounced off a rock, caromed over a bridge and landed on dry land. He then chipped over the bridge, but underneath a tree limb, and got his ball within 15 feet from the hole. He then converted the putt.

What made the par save more impressive was the fact that his partner, Jeff Maggert, had already hit his tee shot in the water during the fourball portion of the event. And in a team event, you just can't drop shots.

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McIlroy on winning the Masters: 'It'll happen'

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 4:16 pm

Nearly two weeks after letting a shot at a green jacket slip through his grasp, Rory McIlroy remains confident that he'll still someday find a way to capture what for him has become golf's most elusive prize.

McIlroy had a spot alongside Patrick Reed in the final pairing at the Masters, and he insisted that all the pressure was on his counterpart who was seeking his first career major title. But from his first wobbly tee shot, it was clear that McIlroy was feeling plenty of heat himself as he looked to round out the final leg of the career Grand Slam on a course where he has come up barely short a number of times in recent years.

McIlroy started the day three shots behind Reed, but he never challenged once the pair hit the second nine as Reed beat Rickie Fowler by a shot while McIlroy fell into a tie for fifth, six shots off the pace.

"I got onto that first tee, and I was quite nervous. Even though I was three behind, I still felt like there was a little bit of pressure there for some reason," McIlroy told CNN's Shane O'Donoghue. "I just couldn't get into my rhythm like I could the first three days."

Given time to reflect, McIlroy has adopted a positive outlook on his week in Augusta: another chance to contend on a major stage, another sign that his game is, for the most part, where he wants it to be heading into a busy summer stretch.

For McIlroy, the disappointment was not in failing to win major No. 5, it was in his inability to make Reed work for it during the early stages of their round together as McIlroy failed to mount much of a challenge after missing a 4-foot eagle putt on the second hole that would have given him a share of the lead.

"I was just disappointed that again I didn't put any pressure on the leader. I guess that was my thing," McIlroy said. "If I had just put a little pressure on, it might have been a different outcome."

Instead, McIlroy left with a respectable yet unsatisfying result from the season's first major for the fifth year in a row. Left to wait another 11 months before his next crack at a green jacket, his belief is unwavering that he'll one day join Reed among the tournament's decorated list of champions.

"Look, it'll happen. I truly believe it'll happen," McIlroy said. "I play that golf course well enough. I've five top-10s in a row, I've given myself a chance. It didn't quite work out. But just, the more I keep putting myself in those positions, sooner or later it's going to happen for me."

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.