The Mystique

By Randall MellJanuary 14, 2011, 7:52 am
Jack Nicklaus admitted it. Sometimes, he just waited for players to beat themselves.

As Nicklaus built his skill, as he built victory upon victory, he also built an intimidating mystique that added to his edge.

Tom Weiskopf once captured the nature of the edge with a classic quote.

Tiger Woods
Players have found Tiger Woods less intimidating after his worst season. (Getty Images)
In a telephone conversation from his Arizona office this week, Weiskopf remembered the psychological battle so many players encountered when paired with Nicklaus in a final round with a championship within reach.

And those memories led Weiskopf to repeat his classic quote.

“As you looked at Jack Nicklaus at the first tee, you knew that he knew that you knew that he was going to beat you that day,” Weiskopf said.

So much of golf, tour pros will tell you, is played in the mind. If you don’t step on the first tee believing you can beat somebody, you probably won’t. Nicklaus won a lot of duels before they even began.

Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe it was Nicklaus’ foes who lost before teeing it up.

“Belief is a huge factor,” Weiskopf said. “There is no doubt about it.”

That’s what makes Woods’ quest to break Nicklaus’ record for most professional major championship victories so difficult to figure as Woods prepares to rebound from the worst year of his career and renew his chase.

How much of Woods’ quest will be about regaining his confidence? And how much will be about the confidence his foes have gained?

How much more difficult will winning majors be for Woods without the psychological edge he built? How much more difficult will it be with his competition emboldened?

Weiskopf’s career fell in such a way that he had a unique view of three of the most formidable mystiques in golf history.

Weiskopf played against Nicklaus, and he also played against Ben Hogan late in Hogan’s career, when Hogan was still an intimidating ball striker but not as good with the putter. Though Weiskopf never played against Woods, he’s played three practice rounds with him, and he’s watched him a lot.

In Nicklaus, Hogan and Woods, Weiskopf got to see how an intimidating aura tilted the playing field.

Nicklaus and Hogan eventually lost their advantages between the ropes, but the loss came in a slow fade, with age and the deterioration of skills. They never lost their mystique off the course.

Woods is different. He lost his mystique all at once, on and off the course.

Woods’ mystique might have been more formidable than Nicklaus’ or Hogan’s because he was even more successful with a lead in the final round of a major. Woods appeared more unbeatable than Nicklaus or Hogan. Woods was 14-0 with the lead in a final round of a major before Y.E. Yang beat him at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in 2009.

The personal turmoil that’s followed revelations of Woods’ infidelity, the loss to Yang, the winless struggles last year and the head-to-head loss to Graeme McDowell have dramatically changed the way players look at Woods.

“I think it will be very difficult for Tiger now because of the perception people have of him,” Weiskopf said.

You can hear the emboldened nature of Woods’ competition today.

“Bring it on,” Rory McIlroy said when asked about Woods’ improving game while in New York this winter.

This was after McIlroy said European Ryder Cuppers were eager for a chance to beat Woods last fall.

Ian Poulter called Woods “No. 2” at the Chevron World Challenge after Woods lost his No. 1 ranking, a bold little payback for Woods chiding Poulter in the past.

And then there was PGA Tour veteran Scott Verplank, who last month said Woods’ “shield of invincibility has been dissolved” and that players were not all that worried about Woods anymore.

The playing field is less reverent for Woods, less hospitable.

Plus, tour pros aren’t being peppered with questions about what makes Woods so great. In fact, for nearly a year, they’ve been asked what they see hindering his game and if they think he’ll regain his winning form.

Weiskopf, who claimed 16 PGA Tour titles, including the ’73 British Open, wonders like everyone else how Woods will respond in this new environment.

“Perception is very difficult to achieve, but just as difficult to overcome,” Weiskopf said. “I wouldn’t want to bet against Tiger, because time is on his side, but he had the perception of being perfect. Everything about him was marketed correctly. And the way he answered questions, he was almost infallible, more perfect than the pope. Well, that perception is gone.

“Tiger has now experienced what everyone who has played the game has experienced. He has gone through injury, he has gone through troubling times.”

As formidable as Nicklaus was, Weiskopf believes Woods’ advantage over this generation was greater than Nicklaus enjoyed in his time.

“Only time is going to prove what I’m going to say, but I do believe Jack Nicklaus competed against a more experienced, proven group of champions,” Weiskopf said. “I think there was less intimidation, more desire and belief in those individuals Nicklaus competed against. Look at the Hall of Famers he played against. I think there was more belief that they had a chance than there was in the first 10 or 12 years of Tiger’s career.”

But there’s another factor that Weiskopf gives to Woods that Weiskopf believes is overlooked.

With dramatic advances in club and ball technology, Weiskopf says equipment has been a great equalizer for the foes trying to beat Woods. It’s more difficult today, Weiskopf believes, for Woods or any skilled player to separate himself.

Still, Weiskopf favors Nicklaus when asked who he believes will be remembered as the greatest player. He says the greatness in Nicklaus goes beyond the 18 majors he won. He says it’s in the fact that Nicklaus finished among the top three in an astounding 46 majors.

“Nobody’s ever going to do that again, ever,” Weiskopf said. “Only time will prove whether Jack was the greatest player or not, but I think he is.”


Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 11:56 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match play format provides fireworks. Almost always.

In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.

This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.

The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the later when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.

“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and it needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”

Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. They were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed to only be inside the top-eight after 72 holes to advance to the match play portion of the event.

But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.

On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match play stalwart the past three years.

Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.

But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.

Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.

Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched of Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.

Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match behind, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to be the one to decide the NCAA title.

Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, thick rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.

With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore failed to put pressure on Abe and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.

In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.

“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”

Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite awhile but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.

“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot, that’s all we can ask.”

Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2

Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3

Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3

Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2

Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up

Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''