Newsmaker of the Year No. 1: Controversy

By Randall MellDecember 31, 2013, 1:10 pm

The top newsmaker on our list in 2013 has been around since before the ancient game was invented.

While this entity has always been a part of the game, it has never defined a year in golf quite like it defined this past one.

Controversy is our No. 1 newsmaker.

The caretakers of this sport like to think golf is different, that it’s a gentleman’s game, able to rise above both the meaningful and petty squabbles that are part of the human condition. There seemed so much to rise above this year, so many meaningful conflicts and so many petty ones. From questions about “cavalier” treatment of rules, to disputes between players, from clashes between players and governing bodies, to confrontations between the heads of governing bodies, the year was marked by more contentiousness than this genteel sport is accustomed.

When rancor between Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods emerged at The Players Championship, we weren’t surprised. They have a history. But when Garcia made his crack about inviting Woods over for “fried chicken,” we were beyond surprised. Sixteen years after Fuzzy Zoeller got into a heap of trouble for a similar crack, we couldn’t believe we were hearing it again.

When players pressed the USGA’s Mike Davis about a proposed ban of anchored strokes in a players meeting at Torrey Pines back at year’s start, we weren’t surprised. A lot of players were upset about the rule, or the rule’s timing with anchoring having been allowed to become so vital to so many players for so long. But when players at that meeting stood up and questioned why the USGA even has authority over the pro game, we were surprised.

And we were equally startled when contentious differences over anchoring became so public between R&A chief executive Peter Dawson and PGA of America president Ted Bishop. We did more than raise our eyebrows when it spilled beyond anchoring, with Bishop questioning the R&A’s “unwillingness to accept women as members.”

The intensity of arguments over Woods’ drops at the Masters and The Players Championship gave us pause. So did the debate over whether Woods caused his ball to move in a two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship. While few were surprised that analyst Brandel Chamblee would challenge Woods on anything, many were surprised when Chamblee gave Woods an “F” for being “a little cavalier with the rules” in a column for

For a sport whose players take pride in policing themselves, there was a lot of legal wrangling this past year.

You want controversy? Get lawyers involved. There are a lot of them involved in golf disputes today.

The game didn’t seem so genteel when Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, threatened legal action against Chamblee.

Or when Vijay Singh actually did sue the PGA Tour after it sanctioned him for using deer antler spray but then dropped its doping case against him. Singh accused the Tour of exposing him to “public humiliation and ridicule.”

The game didn’t seem so genteel when players suggested they were considering suing for the right to use anchored putters.

Or when Oakley filed suit against Rory McIlroy over terms of his new Nike deal, or when McIlroy sued his former management company after splitting with them, or when Horizon Sports counter sued. Though the Oakley suit was settled, McIlroy’s legal battle with his former management company continues.

So what in the name of Bobby Jones is going on in golf?

Is the game more contentious? More rife with conflict? Less civil?

Probably not. Human nature is human nature. It’s likely there were disputes over lies when Scots started hitting rocks out of dunes in the middle ages, but there wasn’t so much scrutiny as there is in today’s age of instant information. The web, Twitter, blogs and social media commentary have made us so much more aware of the controversy that does exist.

Controversy is social media fuel, and golf isn’t immune to it.

As reporters, we’re taught to always write about conflict when we encounter it. Where there is conflict, something important usually hangs in the balance, something that matters. Sure, controversy titillates, and controversy sells, but controversy can also enlighten.

We’ll remember 2013 for how much we were titillated, but also for how much we were enlightened about both petty and meaningful developments in the game.

More Newsmakers in 2013:

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 2: Tiger Woods

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 3: Adam Scott

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 4: Phil Mickelson

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 5: Anchoring

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 6: Inbee Park

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 7: Rory McIlroy

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 8: Henrik Stenson

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 9: Jordan Spieth

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Vijay Singh

Newsmaker of the Year: Honorable mentions

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Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

“I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

“I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

“A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

“My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

“I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

“As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.