A time to reflect

By John HawkinsSeptember 11, 2011, 9:00 am

Tenth hole, Great River GC in Milford, Conn. Many Americans remember what they were doing and where they were doing it when they first heard of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – apocalyptic events usually receive special exemptions and head straight to the memory’s long-term vault. Details of the devastation were sketchy at first, but when someone tells you with a straight face that a couple of commercial airliners crashed into the World Trade Center, the location of a little white ball can seem rather insignificant.

Still, we hit our tee shots at what was then the par-3 10th, all of them poorly, then decided we didn’t want to play anymore. I live about 50 miles north of New York City and quickly remembered my wife was taking a train to midtown Manhattan that morning. Fifteen minutes earlier and she would have gotten stuck, probably for hours. Instead, she was back before noon, by which time grim reality had wrapped its hand around the nation’s throat.

Ten years later, the effects of 9/11, beyond those who lost friends or family, are most obvious during air travel. I’m no economist – a blissful 28 handicap when it comes to political matters – but I’m thinking the attacks did nothing to strengthen the dollar or shrink the gap between those who think our country is in shambles and those who think we’re doing just fine. Those issues are best left for the experts to ponder.

I’m a golf guy, and though the game looks a lot different competitively than it did a decade ago, that change has come about since 9/11, not because of it. The decline of Tiger Woods remains a big deal, much to the chagrin of some, but the emergence of the Europeans has done just as much to bulldoze the previous landscape. In September 2001, Phil Mickelson still hadn’t won a major. His career was becoming defined by those shortcomings, whereas David Duval, who had recently claimed the ’01 British Open, had also played better than Woods for an extended period in the late 1990s.

The PGA Tour reacted prudently to the terrorist attacks by canceling the World Golf Championships event that week in St. Louis, but I don’t think the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has anything to do with the bye week we’re in now. If you’re going to give the players some time off, it makes more sense to coincide that break with the start of the NFL season. Previously, the off-week was scheduled between Chicago and the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the field is much smaller and everyone goes home rich.

This is better, not just to avoid competing with the NFL, which is going to happen anyway, but to give 70 guys a break instead of 30 and let everyone recharge their batteries for the final two stops of the regular season.

There was no FedEx Cup playoff series in 2001. In fact, the WGC concept was in just its third year, and the tournament sponsored at the time by American Express had been held in Spain in 1999 and 2000. The Amex gathering was the one canceled in St. Louis – it then alternated between Great Britain and the United States before a new title sponsor came along and the tournament settled at Doral (2007).

That’s when the Tour introduced the playoffs. If there is no such thing as too many premium-field events in pro golf, the FedEx Cup has illuminated the lack of an identity with the WGCs, two of which are stroke-play tournaments held at longtime Tour venues and look very much like what was played there for decades before. The fields were always strong at Doral, always strong at Firestone. The fellas just tee it up for a lot more money nowadays, which is the Tour’s definition of progress.

The playoff format, meanwhile, is obviously packed into a five-week stretch with a $10 million carrot dangling above the finish line, which at least makes it a project with a purpose. As much as the Tour could do to make its postseason better – deprioritize its commercial sensibilities and corporate-dollar craving, for starters – the system in place now works fine. There is more top-tier golf than 10 years ago, and many of the game’s hardcore fans are going to show interest regardless of how much noise the NFL is making.

This pause in the action doesn’t kill any momentum because there wasn’t much momentum to kill. It is what it is, as they say. A week away offers us a chance to reflect on a lot of things.

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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

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Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

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Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”