Mother Nature, Father Time taking their toll in 2013

By John HawkinsJanuary 9, 2013, 1:30 pm

NOTHING FREAKS ME OUT quite like the giant pile of mail collected by our neighbor while we’re away for Christmas. All those unpaid bills and holiday cards featuring photos of kids growing up way too fast – it doesn’t seem right that a man can feel old and broke at the same time.

This year’s stack featured a package from a friend in the golf industry. I tore it open to find two pairs of performance socks, one in gray, the other in white, and though neither came with an instruction manual, I was amused to see each sock conspicuously marked as “LEFT” or “RIGHT.”

Like most mortals, I put on my socks one leg at a time, but I certainly don’t need them giving me orders. Anyway, I went along with the program and found some sneakers, then headed downstairs to the exercise bike, where it was never a contest. I believe the Christmas calories closed out the new footies on the 14th green.

Honestly? I don’t want my socks to perform. Sammy Davis, Jr. was a performer. The Flying Wallendas? Performers. All I ask of my socks is that they hang out together in one place – and not disappear somewhere between the hamper and the bedroom dresser.

THERE WAS A lengthy period last Sunday when I thought the year’s first golf tournament would also vanish. As much as I disapprove of the PGA Tour season beginning while the confetti is still being swept up in Times Square, I’m certainly satisfied with how Camp Ponte Vedra handled a difficult situation, insisting on 54 holes and adding an extra day of play, travel schedules be damned.

The two false starts (Friday and Sunday) don’t bother me in the slightest – not when they occur with an ultra-small field in the first round. Last year’s West Coast swing was played without a single weather delay, which is rare, as is any suspension of play at Kapalua. On my four or five trips to the northwest tip of Maui, however, I do recall a hearty breeze and more than an occasional shower. Paradise with a mean streak.

Honolulu is full of cement, commotion and lousy take-out, but Waialae CC, home of the Sony Open, is the flattest course the Tour plays all year, and thus, a more accommodating, competitive-friendly environment. If Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson no longer show up at Kapalua for myriad reasons – too far, too early, too hilly, too windy – Mother Nature’s antics last weekend surely did nothing to persuade them otherwise.

OF COURSE, THERE’S no Tiger at the Sony, either, but it did rain cats and dogs at Waialae a couple years back. Looking at all weather-related stoppages on the West Coast over the previous six seasons, you might be surprised to learn that just one of the eight events has a spotless record over that stretch: 

• Hyundai (2): rain in 2009; rain in 2007.
• Sony (1): rain in 2011.
• Humana (5): rain in 2010; frost twice in 2008, and twice in 2007.
• Farmers Insurance: None.
• Waste Management (7): Multiple frost delays in 2011, 2008 and ’07.
• Pebble Beach (1): shortened to 54 holes by rain in 2009.
• Northern Trust (1): rain in 2011.
• WGC-Match Play (4): frost/snow/hale caused two suspensions in 2011; rain 2010; frost in 2007.

For all that data and whatever conclusions might be drawn, Torrey Pines probably earns the prize for the sloppiest overall conditions of the bunch, with Riviera ranking a reasonably close second. An Englishman named Albert Hammond had a top-five hit in 1972 with the song, “It Never Rains in Southern California.” I’m thinking the dude was missing the first two months on his calendar.

AS IF ANYONE needs to be reminded, there are very few guarantees in pro golf when it comes to career success and longevity. Things can change pretty fast, then not change for months on end when a player wants them to. The following five guys are big-name types squarely at the crossroads, their careers in some form of flux, most of them in need of a big 2013 to retain their competitive hierarchy.

Jim Furyk: Let’s recap the last three years: FedEx Cup overall champion in 2010; then his worst season as a pro while struggling through equipment changes; then a winless 2012 with late blown leads at the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Furyk turns 43 in May, so his window is shrinking by the hour, but after ranking 150th in putting in 2011, he climbed all the way to 18th last year. Were last summer’s meltdowns an aberration? Conflicting evidence at this point.

Rickie Fowler: If the mustache didn’t fly, neither did his attempt to make the Ryder Cup team. It was easy to expect big things after Fowler beat Rory McIlroy (and D.A. Points) in a playoff at Quail Hollow last May, but his season was derailed by a final-round 84 while (playing with Woods) at the Memorial a few weeks later. Li’l Rickie drives it a long way and is as good an iron player as anyone in the game, so why doesn’t he win more? Is he really a superstar on the verge – or another Charles Howell III?

Brandt Snedeker: Of the two semi-veterans who made their first U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall, I like Snedeker over Jason Dufner for a couple of reasons. One, he’s a better hard-course player, and that’s what most majors are contested on. Two, he led the Tour in putting last year while continuing to increase his length off the tee. Sneds has the perfect disposition for handling success; I would not be surprised at all if he continued his ascension – another multi-win season and his first major title.

Lee Westwood: His 40th birthday arrives two weeks after The Masters, and if the significance of that number lies in the fact that just six of the last 70 majors have been won by guys in their 40s, it’s also worth noting that it has happened in each of the last two years. It’s interesting that Westwood and Colin Montgomerie, two of Great Britain’s most decorated golfers, have been unable to claim one of the game’s grand prizes. Hey, Andy Murray ended one English drought. Is Westwood ready to escape Montyville? Hmmm….

Jason Day: Perhaps the game’s hottest young star after consecutive runner-up finishes at the 2011 Masters and U.S. Open, Day vanished from the competitive radar altogether in 2012. His highest regular-season finish was a T-8. He barely made the FedEx Cup playoffs, for crying out loud, ranked 183rd in driving accuracy and 167th in GIR. I’m not quite sure what happened here, but for Day’s sake, it best not happen again.

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

Getty Images

After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

Getty Images

Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”