Bunker Shots Hail to the Chiefs

By Randall MellOctober 6, 2009, 7:17 pm

With the Presidents Cup in strong focus, we set the week’s storylines with American presidents guiding the way.

Norman, Couples lead parade of stars

“We grow great by dreams. All men are dreamers.”  Woodrow Wilson

They were golf’s superstars when Tiger Woods came along.

Nick Faldo might have won more major championships in the pre-Tiger era, but Greg Norman and Fred Couples were more popular.

The Shark and Boom Boom were two of the game’s biggest draws in much of the ‘80s and ‘90s, big hitters with even bigger personas, charismatic presences with movie-star looks.

Norman and Couples step back onto golf’s center stage this week as captains of the International and American Presidents Cup teams.

The Presidents Cup may not have the Ryder Cup’s history or its passionate following, but it has stars galore. Michael Jordan will be more than a spectator at Harding Park this week. He’ll be an honorary assistant captain to Couples. Woods and Phil Mickelson will draw giant galleries.

Though Norman and Couples won’t hit a shot all week, their personalities promise to loom large in the storylines.

It’s a shame, though, that these captains won’t play Sunday singles. They can still summon magic. Norman, 54, nearly won the British Open last year. Couples, 50, tied for third at both the Northern Trust Open and Shell Houston Open this season and also tied for fifth at the Wyndham Championship.

A captains’ match might add some compelling competitive history to their relationship because it’s surprisingly lacking.

Norman and Couples were full-time players in 14 seasons together on the PGA Tour, but it’s as if they competed in parallel universes. In Norman’s 20 PGA Tour victories, Couples never finished second to him. In Couples’ 15 PGA Tour victories, Norman never finished second to him. In all of their years together, they shared a 54-hole lead just once. They were tied atop the leaderboard through three rounds of the 1991 Western Open, but neither won. Russ Cochran charged late to claim the title.

The closest they came to dueling in a PGA Tour event was the rain-shortened Memorial in 1990, when they reached the 54th and final hole tied and Couples handed Norman the title with a double bogey.

In the 67 major championships they played together, Norman and Couples never seriously contended together coming down the stretch. In all those majors, they finished in the top five the same year on two occasions. They each tied for fifth at the ’88 Masters won by Sandy Lyle. Couples tied for third at the '82 PGA Championship, four shots behind Raymond Floyd, with a Sunday 66. Norman tied for fifth five shots back.

Perhaps this Presidents Cup will mark the most serious collision of their parallel universes.

Norman’s bid for re-election

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Teddy Roosevelt

Norman never saw the Presidents Cup as a two-year investment of himself.

He saw it as a four-year commitment. The Shark’s always had his eye on also being the captain when the Presidents Cup is staged at Royal Melbourne in his native Australia in two years, but the PGA Tour has yet to announce those assignments.

“That was part of my discussions with Tim Finchem when he asked me initially to be captain at Harding Park,” Norman told Mark Wood, Tim Rosaforte and yours truly during a Golf World On-Air radio interview earlier this year. “I said, `Tim, quite honestly, if I was ever going to be captain, I was hoping to be captain in my home country of Australia in 2011. Let’s just face reality. If I had a choice, I would rather stand down for the Harding Park Presidents Cup and be available for the 2011 Presidents Cup. We talked about it, and we had very good conversations about it. There weren’t any guarantees, but at the same time 2009 has a good chance of leading into 2011.”

You get the feeling it will be an unpleasant shock for Norman if he isn’t designated to stay on as captain at Royal Melbourne.

A celebrated return to golf is at hand

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

As far as all the stars on display this week, count Phil Mickelson’s wife among them.

Amy Mickelson’s arrival might be the most celebrated.

Amy is expected to make her first appearance at a PGA Tour event since it was announced five months ago that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tour wives enjoy elevated status at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. They’re allowed inside the ropes and are frequently shown on camera rooting or fretting. Amy’s sure to find the camera’s focus often if she does make an appearance.

Amy’s return is good timing. October is breast cancer awareness month.

The heart is a lonely hunter

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence . . . The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

While Amy’s arrival promises to be uplifting, Norman’s arrival without his wife of 15 months, tennis great Chris Evert, comes with a sad undertow.

With the couple announcing their separation last week, Norman will be without the woman he credited with inspiring his run at winning the British Open last year. It’s only human nature that his players, PGA Tour officials, media and fans will be watching to see how the split affects the captain's spirits. If Norman were actually hitting shots this week, matters of the heart might really matter in the outcome, but he’s not.

Dancing with a Tiger

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”  Thomas Jefferson

Remember when captains couldn’t find a good match as partner to Woods in team events?

It wasn’t that long ago, tour pros appeared lost alongside Woods, consistently failing to deliver their best when paired with him in the Ryder or Presidents cups.

Now Americans are practically jostling in line for the chance to play with him.

Jim Furyk lobbied for the pairing when he played with Couples at the PGA Championship in August. Steve Stricker and Woods talked about how they wanted to pair up this week while they played the Deutsche Bank Championship in September. Sean O’Hair left the Tour Championship wanting to team with Woods, and then there’s Anthony Kim, who has made no secret of his desire to see what he and Woods can accomplish together.

It’s a nice problem for Couples, who was the very first partner to Woods in a Presidents Cup. Couples and Woods teamed to rout Ernie Els and Vijay Singh 5 and 4 in the ’98 matches. Woods, however, went 1-3 with teammates that year, the start of his inexplicably poor start in partners golf. Woods was cumulatively 10-17-2 with partners in his first three Presidents Cups and first four Ryder Cups, but he turned his fortunes around with Furyk at the ’05 Presidents Cup. The Woods-Furyk team combined to go 2-0-1 that year. They’re 5-3-1 as foursomes and four-ball partners in international team competition.

Will Tiger get a rematch?

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”  Harry S. Truman

Y.E. Yang said he didn’t want a rematch after he defeated Woods to win the PGA Championship in August.

But he may have no choice this week.

Unlike the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup matchups aren’t blind luck. Captains can arrange matchups. Instead of a blind submission of their lineups, the captains get together with one submitting a team, or singles player’s name, and the other allowed to counter with whomever he sees as the best counter punch. The captains take turns doing that.

Fate brought Yang together in their Hazeltine duel in Augusta. Something more contrived appears in order this week.

Unwanted golf vacations ahead

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be the nearest.” William McKinley

Angela Stanford won’t get to defend her title at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Mobile, Ala., this week.

The Bell Micro was postponed this year and moved to next spring. The LPGA is off for the next three weeks with play scheduled to resume Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in South Korea (Hana Bank-Kolon Championship), move to Japan Nov. 6-8 (Mizuno Classic) and then hop to Mexico Nov. 12-15 (Lorena Ochoa Invitational) before returning to the United States for the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship in Houston Nov. 19-22. 

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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh hit a perfect approach to set up the winning playoff birdie. His celebration as the ball rolled into the cup was nowhere near as spectacular.

Singh closed the door on Jeff Maggert on the second playoff hole to win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday, giving an understated fist pump as his birdie putt dropped from about 2 feet. It was the first major title on the PGA Tour Champions for the 55-year-old Fijian, a past winner of the Masters and two PGA Championships.

''It's a little different,'' Singh said. ''It's a senior major, you know, so it's - any time you win a tournament no matter what it is, you feel accomplishment, and that's what I feel. I feel like I played well, and it's a win. A win is a win.''

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268 at Exmoor Country Club. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert began the day tied with McCarron and Bart Bryant for the lead. Singh was one shot back, but a crowd at the top of the leaderboard thinned out, turning it into a two-man race.

''I wasn't really watching the scoreboard or Vijay,'' Maggert said. ''Like I said, I thought I needed to shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under today to really kind of ice it. So I was really focused in on making seven or eight birdies today. ... You know, I thought some other scores would come into play there toward the end, but the last two or three groups looked like they were struggling, other than me and Vijay.''

Singh and Maggert posted identical scores through the first 15 holes. But Maggert bogeyed 16, and then missed chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

''We played toe-to-toe all day,'' Maggert said. ''He hit a nice shot on 18, and I had a chance to make a few putts throughout the day, but they just didn't go in.''

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

Singh made just one bogey this week, and that came in the third round. He had five birdies Sunday and made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But Singh blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par and send a senior major to a playoff for the first time since the 2015 Regions Tradition.

Singh played sporadically on the over-50 tour during his first few years of eligibility but is playing more often against men his age these days.

''To win the first major on this tour, I'm really excited about that,'' Singh said. ''Winning my first tournament at the beginning of the year was big, and now I've won this one, so I look forward to winning a lot more now. I always say, the first one, you get the first one out of the way, you can win a lot more after that.''

McCarron was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

Bryant (72) and Kenny Perry (68) finished in a pack at 16 under. Illinois golf coach Mike Small (71) finished one shot behind them, while three-time champion Bernhard Langer closed with a 74 to finish at 12 under after starting the day two strokes back.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.