Season Starts a Little Early for Some

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 6, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The sun rose Monday morning to find a Kapalua crew doing its best to make sure the Plantation course was up to par for Thursdays first round of the Mercedes Championships, which will officially begin the 2003 PGA Tour season.
 
But while the crew beat the sun to work, even the workers were following in the spike marks of some of this weeks participants.
 
A few of the players in the exclusive field of 2002 tour winners were on site earlier than normal. A glance down the range Saturday morning saw the likes of Jeff Sluman, Shigeki Maruyama and, of course, Vijay Singh pounding balls.
 
Rocco Mediate was already out on the course with friends.
 
Some, like Englands Luke Donald, have been on the tropical paradise that is Maui for nearly a week now.
 
This event is more than the lid-lifter to the 2003 campaign. Its more than players trying to get a jump-start on those not in attendance. Its a relaxing and utterly enjoyable week (or more) sprinkled in with a few rounds of competitive golf.
 
Monday marked the beginning of the work week for most. Players made their ways to the practice range and greeted one another with the expected 'How ya doin and 'Happy New Year'.
 
There were 38 different winners on the PGA Tour last year, 36 of which are here on the island. The two exceptions: the top-2 ranked players in the world.
 
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are absent. Woods had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in December and will likely be out of commission until February. Mickelson is at home with his family. Following a hectic off-season schedule, the left-hander is spending time with his wife, who is expecting their third child in April, and two daughters.
 
Family is also a big part of the Mercedes Championships experience. 'Bringem if Youve Gotem' seems to be the mantra. Got a wife, bring her. Got a girlfriend, bring her. Got children, bring them. Even Chris DiMarcos dad was observing on the practice range.
 
But while there are several distractions this week ' the beauty, the exotic foods, the countless recreational activities, the appeasement of family with all of the above ' there is the matter of a $1 million first-place check on offer.
 
Sergio Garcia was the benefactor a year ago, when the payout was a measly $720,000. He shot 64 on Sunday to overcome a three-stroke overnight deficit.
 
The 22-year-old Spaniard is one of only two past winners in the field. Jim Furyk won in 2001, and earned a return trip in 03 with his victory in last years Memorial Tournament.
 
However, its the number of first-timers on hand that stands out. Half of the field is making their maiden starts in the Mercedes.
 
There were a record 18 first-time winners on tour last season. In addition to the new blood, Nick Price is returning for the first time in four years, while Gene Sauers is making his first trip since 1990 and Dan Forsman since 1993. That was before the Mercedes moved to Hawaii in '99. It was at La Costa from 1969 through 1998.
 
Only four of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are competing: Els, Garcia, Retief Goosen and Singh.
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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.