Give Us Something to Talk About

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 9, 2005, 5:00 pm
We talk a lot, dont we? We, the media. Some of us talk ' or write ' to self aggrandize. Some of us do so to sway opinion. And some of us actually do so to inform.
 
There was a lot of talk prior to the start of this past weeks Mercedes Championships about what a wonderful season for which we were in store. And it must be said ' or written ' that so far, so good.
 
While its still a little early to get super pumped up about a PGA Tour season in its infancy, we can only hope that the majority of the golf tournaments to which we will bear witness in 05 can match the Mercedes ' at least in terms of seeing the big names near the top of the leaderboard.
 
The talk before Ryan Palmer struck the opening salvo of the season was that this year had the potential to be a blockbuster ' a year in which the top players in the world had all the possibility of playing up to their prolific potential.
 
We talked about Vijay Singh perhaps even surpassing his accomplishments of a year ago, which will certainly be difficult to do, since he will have to work like a hummingbird ' how their wings flap a million miles per hour just to stay fast ' just to stay in the place he has carved out for himself.
 
We talked about Tiger Woods returning to his 2000 form. We talked about Ernie Els topping both Woods and Singh for No. 1. We talked about Phil Mickelson making the Big Three a Big Four. We talked about Retief Goosen making the Big Four a Big Five. We talked about Sergio Garcia being a Major player.
 
But we didnt do a lot of talking about one Mike Weir.
 
Vijay talked about him, and so did Ernie. But we, the media, didnt have much to say.
 
Lets start talking.
 
Weir, much like Goosen and even David Toms, often gets overlooked when we debate as to who are in golfs upper echelon. Hes won seven times on tour, including the Masters Tournament, the Tour Championship, a WGC event and back-to-back Nissan Open titles.
 
However, even the diminutive and reserved Canadian knows hes not quite on the same level with the likes of Singh, Woods and Els. But hes not too far removed. And this he also knows.
 
Yeah, I think Im real close, he said following his second-round 10-under 63 at Kapalua. I need to have a very good year this year.
 
That 63 was Weir peak effort for the week. On the heels of tying his personal best on the Plantation Course, he entered the weekend two back of Singh. He then shot 71-76 to finish tied for 13th.
 
Weir was on the minds of many after winning three times in 2003, including the Masters. But he slipped from many of those minds after winning only once in 04.
 
Weir successfully defended his title last year at Riviera, but then missed the cut in his defense at Augusta. He went on to earn a couple of top-10s in the U.S. Open and British Open, yet never really contended at either.
 
However, it was his Bell Canadian Open collapse thats yellow highlighted.
 
Weir had a three-stroke lead entering the final round in Ontario, and was looking to become the first Canadian in 50 years to win his National Championship. But, with an entire nation leaning on him and some 25,000 fans vocally backing him first hand, he made three back-nine bogeys on that Sunday and missed three putts that would have awarded him an unparalleled personal victory.
 
He admitted that he took the loss to heart, much more so than after other tournaments he had lost.
 
It was a little more to recover from than maybe, you know, probably the PGA, he said in reference to the 1999 PGA Championship, when he was tied with Woods entering the final round at Medinah, only to shoot 80.
 
I think looking back if I could have done something different, I would have been a little bit more focused, he said of his Canadian Open setback. I think I was interacting with the crowd so much that possibly that may have been a factor. Maybe I did get caught up in it a little bit, because I was having funYou know, you live and learn every tournament.
 
That loss may have turned out to be Weirs gain, because he said he learned more from that defeat than just maintaining focus ' he learned that he had to improve his putting.
 
The way I was playing, it was one of those weeks that was magical, ball-striking-wise. I just had everything working together that week and had a lot of close shots but didnt capitalize on hardly any of them, he said. If I would have been putting like now ' I guess thats the Holy Grail of golf, to get everything going together at once.
 
Weir, whose proficiency with the putter won him the green jacket in 03, ranked 21st on tour in putting average a year ago. Thats a good number. But for a guy who ranked 138th in driving distance, 101st in driving accuracy and 95th in greens hit in regulation, it wasnt enough ' at least not enough to move him into the atmosphere of rarefied air taken in by the worlds top 5 players.
 
He now believes he can once again reach that upper plateau ' if he can be a little less fidgety on the greens.
 
Im a real feel-oriented putter, and when I get into a feel, it lasts for a while, he said. The feels Ive used for certain tournaments and the thoughts Ive had for certain tournaments that have won me tournaments were not carrying over last year very consistently, so I had to make a change.
 
As I processed it in this off-season, looked at some video of my putting throughout last year, I noticed that some things were a little sloppy. I was moving around a little bit; I noticed there was a lot of movement in my posture.
 
Im working on ' I dont know what the word is ' maybe grounded, or I think stable might be the best word I could use.
 
Weir worked diligently on his game in the off-season with swing coach Mike Wilson, rather than chasing Dollar Bill around the globe like he did the year prior, when he was a newly anointed major champion.
 
In addition to stabilizing his putting, he also tried to tighten his swing.
 
I was getting a little bit of a reverse pivot, and the length of my swing was getting very long, he said. It was causing me some problems.
 
Weir entered the Mercedes eighth on the world ranking list. And if he can continue to putt like he did in his first outing this season ' particularly the second round, when he needed only 24 swipes on very suspect surfaces ' he should be able to move back into the top 5, and back into the forefront of peoples minds who reside outside of the Great White North.
 
Such an ascent would delight his legion of fans. Its almost impossible to comprehend just how popular he is north of the American border (as Paul Casey pointed out, Americans are quite insular, after all).
 
He's a sporting national hero ' heck, even Singh was almost apologetic after denying him his country's most prestigious golf title.
 
In Utah, where I live now, I can pretty much go unrecognized, unless Im at the golf course and golf fans are around. Where in Canada, I think Im probably a little more recognized, not only by just golf fans, but by everybody, said Weir, who was voted the countrys Athlete of the Year in 2003.
 
Canadian sports fans are currently deprived of professional hockey. They just lost one of their professional baseball teams. Canadian football season is over. They have but one sorry professional basketball team for which to root.
 
All they have right now, sports-wise, is Mike Weir ' and curling season. And while golf might not be the most galvanizing sport, it sure beats watching a bunch of people in matching sweaters try and brush-sweep ice.
 
Hopefully, Ill give them something to cheer about (this year), Weir said.
 
And plenty to talk about.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Getty Images

Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.




Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Woods' message to young rivals: Bring it on!

By Randall MellAugust 13, 2018, 11:24 pm

Bring it on!

OK, I’m not fluent in body language, and maybe that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods was communicating with his exuberant fist pump after closing out a 64 Sunday at the PGA Championship, but there was so much hope in the excitement he let loose with his closing birdie.

Hope beyond what was still going on behind him at Bellerive.

Hope in what lies ahead.

Bring it on!

You know Woods wanted Brooks Koepka to hear his legion roar, to let Koepka know he better not stumble back there behind him. You know he also wanted Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and all today’s stars to hear all those roars, to let them know he’s finally fit for a fight again.

Bring it on!

Yes, Koepka refused to flinch, and Woods ultimately finished second, but that rollicking last fist pump told you what Sunday’s finish meant to Woods.

He’s going to win again.

That’s the confidence won closing the way he did, celebrating at the 72nd hole in a way we’ve only ever seen him do on his way to hoisting a trophy.

Because that’s where he is headed again.

He can and will win again.

Bring it on!

That’s the thrilling promise Sunday brought to all of golf.

Koepka wasn’t about to get out of Woods’ way, in the fashion the players of another era seemed to do when weekend roars preceded a Woods stampede. Koepka did today’s players a favor sending his own message. He was a rock. He didn’t flinch and didn’t fold in the wake of all those deafening Tiger roars.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


If Koepka flinches Sunday, it sends the wrong message to all these other young guys. It gives them all pause. It makes them all wonder if Tiger’s aura really does come with some unfair advantage, with a one- or two-shot advantage in his ability to ride the noisy chaos to heights they can’t. We heard more than one young star complain this spring about the boisterous crowds that followed Woods.

These young guys don’t need that in their heads.

So Koepka didn’t back down, and Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, Spieth, Day, Fowler and Rahm aren’t likely to, either.

That’s the great fun Woods’ comeback brings. The battles all these young guys say they want with the legend are real possibilities now, with all those Tiger birdies and Tiger roars confirming Sunday that he is ready to begin giving them what they want.

“I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger,” Jordan Spieth said during The Open last month. “Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true, just to have the opportunity.”

The wonder in Sunday’s finish is that Woods was so good spraying his driver all over the place early in the round. Back in the day, he would have said he shot that 64 with his “B” game. You won’t hear him say things like that now, but the beauty in the round was knowing how he may have turned a 70 into a 64. It was in knowing how much better he still might get on these old legs.

It’s a shame we have to wait eight months for the Masters to see if his run of T-6 at The Open and 2nd at the PGA Championship continues on a majestic trajectory, because the message I heard in his last fist pump is still ringing in my ears.

Bring it on!

Getty Images

Eight Men, Four Women Advance to "Tennessee Big Shots," Airing Monday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. ET Live on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2018, 7:25 pm

Airing Live on Golf Channel, Fourth Televised Event of 2018 is Final Tour Stop Prior to Season-Culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship

Field Boasts Six of Top-10 in World Led by No. 1 Justin James, Three-Time 2018 Winner Will Hogue; & Two-time World Champion Phillis Meti

The World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season continues tonight with the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital, airing live at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The live telecast will showcase the eight men and four women having advanced from preliminary rounds where they’ll compete in single-elimination matches until respective champions are crowned. The Open (Men’s) Division field will feature six of the top-nine competitors in the World Long Drive rankings, including No. 1 Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) along with Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), who has accumulated three wins to-date in 2018. The Women’s Division will feature two-time world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) and Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.,) who won the Clash in the Canyon earlier this year. Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.,) also is returning from injury in her first competition of 2018 in what will be a de-facto “home game,” while LPGA Tour player Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) is the fourth semifinalist, competing in her first-ever WLDA competition.

“We’ve finally reached the home stretch of the season,” said Jonathan Coachman, play-by-play host for World Long Drive Association events on Golf Channel. “With the World Championship only weeks away, the competitors understand the need to be on their game. I’ve always said that champions show up anytime, anywhere, for anything. They better have that mind-set, beginning with tonight’s Tennessee Big Shots.

 

OPEN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL MATCHES (Seeded by world ranking):

(1) Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. (25) Wes Patterson (St Louis, Mo.)

(5) Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. (8) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.)

(4) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (9) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

(2) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (24) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

 

WOMEN’S DIVISION SEMIFINAL MATCHES:

Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.) vs. Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand)

Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.) vs. Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.)

 

Being staged from Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport, Tenn., the inaugural event – in partnership with Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital – is the fourth WLDA event of 2018 scheduled to air live on Golf Channel. Tennessee Big Shots is being contested in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. The eventalso marks the penultimate WLDA competition of the year, with the season-culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Tennessee Big Shots will air on Golf Channel from 6-8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 13, with Golf Central previewing the event from 5-6 p.m. ET. Encore showings of the competition are scheduled to air on Golf Channel following the live telecast, from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET and 12:30-2:30 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. An overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) will display the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

BROADCAST TEAM: Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play alongside Art Sellinger, World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91). Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Tennessee Big Shots by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Tennessee Big Shots leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

 

2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

DATE

EVENT

LOCATION

WINNER(S) / DEFENDING CHAMP

March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

Justin Moose

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

Alexis Belton, Will Hogue

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

Phillis Meti, Will Hogue

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

Sandra Carlborg, Mark Costello

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

Will Hogue

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Rowan, Ont., Canada

Ryan Steenberg

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

Kyle Berkshire

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

(New Event)

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

Sandra Carlborg, Justin James

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events throughout 2018 are staged through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, along with an all-encompassing international qualifier for the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

Getty Images

Making Ryder Cup picks: Furyk begins his toughest task

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2018, 6:41 pm

ST. LOUIS – By the time Brooks Koepka teed off for the final round of the PGA Championship, Jim Furyk was already back at his rental house and settled in to watch what would be an eventful final round.

Furyk's day was just getting started.

Although he’d been up since dawn and had already put in a full day at Bellerive with a 7:56 a.m. tee time, Sunday began a process the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has prepared for and anticipated for two years.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week,” Furyk conceded on Sunday following a closing 71 at Bellerive. “At times I found myself with my mind wandering. The afternoon tee times I’m sitting around in the morning and my mind starts wandering and I start looking at stats and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. There’s a million things going on.”

The American captain is officially on the clock. The final round of the year’s final major was the deadline to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup team, and Furyk now begins the process of narrowing the list of potential captain’s picks.

Davis Love III, who took two turns in the captain’s chair, will tell you this is the toughest part of the gig. Forget about pairings and course setup and vice captains - getting the picks right is what separates a good captain from a great one.

“I saw him around this week kind of frazzled like I was; they are pulling him everywhere,” Love said. “Now it’s a tough couple of weeks. At dinner the other night we were talking about what we were going to do [regarding picks] and I was like, ‘Well, you have to wait for [Sunday] and you’ll get a better idea.”

On that front, the wait is over. The top eight players on the U.S. point list are now locked in and Furyk and his vice captains – Love, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods – can begin the artful process of creating a list of possible picks based on a wide variety of criteria.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


The automatic qualifiers are Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, who held on to the final spot thanks to his tie for 19th at the PGA.

“For some guys we’re going to look at the body of work for a year, for some players we’re going to look at a hot player right now, some guys we’re going to look at pairings and how they fit into the team we have right now,” Furyk said.

Furyk will make three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3 following the Dell Technologies Championship and his final selection a week later after the BMW Championship.

The short list of possible picks would include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau, Nos. 9 through 15, respectively, on the final point list.

Schauffele and Finau had something of a playing interview at Bellerive when they were paired with Furyk for Rounds 1 and 2.

“Tony made a pile of birdies, he’s explosive as far as firepower and how far he hits it but I was impressed with his putting, to be honest with you. I knew he could hit it far and kind of knew how he played, but he really played well,” said Furyk, who also played with Finau on Saturday at the PGA.

Mickelson will be a particularly interesting option for Furyk. For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, which began in 1995, Lefty failed to qualify for the U.S. side and the de facto team room front man would be tough to pass over.

“His game has been in a good position all year, he’s putted great, I think Jason Day is the only player with better putting stats this year,” said Furyk, who met with Mickelson after he missed the cut in St. Louis. “He’s working on a couple of things in his game right now that we talked about.”

Woods also creates some interesting scenarios. His runner-up finish at the PGA vaulted him from 20th to 11th on the final point list and essentially assured what many believed to be a foregone conclusion. Woods will be among Furyk’s captain’s picks, the only real question when it comes to the 14-time major champion is whether he can play and drive a vice captain’s cart.

“He’s on that list we’ve talked about and I think we still need to hash that out,” Furyk said. “Is it possible [to do both jobs]? Sure, we just need to decide if that’s best for the team.”

If Woods and Mickelson have already been penciled in as picks, which many believe they have, that essentially leaves a half dozen players vying for the final two spots.

An 11th-hour charge over the next three weeks could certainly sway Furyk, and he’s made it clear that Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches outside of Paris, favors a certain type of game, think a fairways-and-greens type like Kisner or even Brian Harman, who finished 17th on the point list.

“I’ve taken a look at the golf course and what I think will really work,” Furyk said.

There’s also an undercurrent of interest in Furyk going young with his picks to give a player like DeChambeau or Schauffele a chance to experience the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup “road game,” but Furyk didn’t seem as interested in developing future talent as he is in winning.

“Our goals for long term are important and young blood is a good thing, but I would never sacrifice this team or 2018 for 2022,” he said. “The goal is still to go to Europe and try to retain the cup. That said, having a mix of veteran and young players is a good thing.”

If Furyk sounds a little vague when it comes to his potential picks it should be no real surprise. Getting the picks right is the most demanding part of any captain’s job and he’s just getting started.