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Meet Tom Whitney: From nuclear missiles to PGA Tour

By Nick MentaNovember 3, 2017, 2:30 am

Update: Whitney shot 71-76--147, 5 over par and four shots above the projected cut line of 1 over.

LAS VEGAS – You’ll forgive Tom Whitney for being less than nervous on the first tee of his very first PGA Tour event Thursday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

For starters, there weren’t Ryder Cup-style grandstands with screaming fans, leaving him a fairly calm environment.

He’s also had plenty of experience playing professional events on mini tours, PGA Tour Latinoamerica, and the Tour.

And he already knew his playing partners - Abraham Ancer and Andrew Landry - from his time in the minor leagues, so there wasn’t an opportunity to be starstruck.

But the primary reason Whitney didn’t sweat his first round on Tour was probably the result of the time he spent underground in a missile silo with his finger on the button.

Yes – THAT button.

Whitney, 28, was an intercontinental ballistic missile operator in the United States Air Force ... and that means exactly what you think it means.

“At F.E. Warren [Air Force Base], we have 150 nuclear missiles on alert at all times,” Whitney said.

“Our primary mission was to send the launch command if we were given the command from the president. Um, of course, we’ve never done that.”

And grateful we all are.

Backing up a bit, Whitney entered the Air Force Academy in 2006, was commissioned in 2010, and left the Air Force in May 2014 to finally pursue his dream of playing professional golf.

“My passion was a little bit stronger for giving myself a shot at this game than continuing in the military. Put it this way, if I didn’t have golf, I’d still be serving,” he says standing outside the clubhouse at TPC Summerlin, having just birdied the 16th hole before darkness suspended play Thursday night.

He will return Friday morning at 7:30 a.m., even par with two holes remaining in his first PGA Tour round.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Articles, photos and videos

To be clear, Whitney didn’t just randomly decide to take up golf. He has always been able to play. He won five events while competing for the Air Force Academy’s Division I program and was in the top 25 of the individual ranking his senior year. He turned pro after college, knowing it would be four to five years before he could play full-time, and kept practicing as often as his day job would allow him while he was in the military.

Of course, he could only hit balls above ground, which was an issue during the 96 days a year he would spend underground.

Once he left the Air Force to take his shot at professional golf, he estimates he won eight mini-tour events and finished second nine times, a record both impressive and imperative for a mini-tour type with higher aspirations. He picked up his first victory on the E-Tour just seven days after departing the military.

Whitney and his family make their home in Fort Collins, Colorado. His wife Jessica, whom he met at the Academy, just transitioned to Air Force Reserves in July after spending seven years on active duty. The Whitneys have one boy, four-year-old Sky, one girl, two-year-old Zoey, and one more baby on the way. Whitney wears his children’s names on his golf spikes.

As for exactly how he wound up at the Shriners, Whitney made his way to PGA Tour Latinomerica in 2016, and earned his way to the Tour in 2017, where he made 8 of 15 cuts and recorded a season-best solo fifth at the Charity Championship. After finishing 89th on the money list, he was going to spend this week preparing for the second stage of Qualifying School next week in Texas as he attempts to regain his status, but ended up shooting a 9-under 63 to Monday qualify for the Shriners.

“The funny thing was, I was indifferent if I qualified or not,” he says with a smile. “My backup plan was to head out to TPC Craig Ranch for second stage. I was going to get four or five rounds in out there, just relax, enjoy the week, and now I’m hoping to fly out Sunday, and get a practice round Monday for the Tuesday start.”

Considering the winding road Whitney has taken to get here, it’s a detour he’s unlikely to mind.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.