Penalty continues to hang over emotional Lexi

By Randall MellApril 27, 2017, 12:15 am

IRVING, Texas – Lexi Thompson bowed her head and wiped away the tears she couldn’t choke back in the middle of her news conference Wednesday at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.

Almost a month after a controversial rules infraction cost her a chance to win the ANA Inspiration, she still looked emotionally wracked.

“It was kind of a nightmare,” Thompson said.

One she can’t quite shake with the rules snafu dragging into yet another week - with the USGA and R&A releasing a new rules decision Tuesday that players are calling “The Lexi Rule,” a new standard for limiting use of video evidence.

Thompson’s emotional state Wednesday was revealing, showing how deeply the controversy wounded her, even as she returns to play Thursday at Las Colinas Country Club.

Thompson’s statements were just as revealing, showing how much she and her team have struggled to accept the ruling.

“It’s been an interesting three weeks,” Thompson said. “It’s been really hard on me. A little less sleep than usual, but I’ve just been spending a lot of time with my family and friends and working out a bunch, and just taking time for myself, just trying to regroup myself and get back to practicing a lot.”

Wednesday’s highly-anticipated news conference must have grown a little more nerve-wracking for Thompson, as she waited in the wings almost 15 minutes for a tech team to fix an audio problem before she could talk to the assembled media. Her parents, Scott and Judy, watched in the back, with her agent Bobby Kreusler, standing just off stage. The room was full, but only with about a half-dozen reporters, as LPGA and tournament staff made up much of the audience.


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Thompson, 22, has been in a sort of self-imposed exile since the ANA setback, where she looked as if she might run away with her second major championship title before getting blindsided in the final round. She got hit that Sunday with a two-shot penalty for improperly returning her ball to its mark on the 17th green in Saturday’s third round. Because a TV viewer alerted the LPGA to the violation on Sunday, Thompson was also socked with a two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Enhanced video showed Thompson returning her ball to different spot on her ball mark, closer to the hole.

Thompson did not answer directly Wednesday when asked if she thought she committed an infraction.

“It was not my intention at all,” she said.

Thompson said she marked the 15-inch putt because her father told her not to rush short putts in majors. She also said she twisted the ball slightly before returning it to its mark, because she uses a dot on the ball as a focal point for making her stroke.

Thompson was asked a second time to explain how video came to show her returning her ball to a different spot on her mark, a violation that many of  her fellow players agree warranted the first two-shot penalty.

“I have seen the video, and I can see where they’re coming from with it,” Thompson said. “It might have been, I guess, me rotating the ball, but like I said, I’ve always played by the Rules of Golf. Growing up with two older brothers, they were always on me for playing by the Rules of Golf.

“There’s no need for me to improve anything. Those greens were absolutely perfect, and the whole week there was nothing in my line to be moving it from anything. So, I have no reason behind it. I did not mean it at all.”

What Thompson didn’t say Wednesday speaks volumes about the still unresolved nature of this entire thing within her team’s ranks. She didn’t acknowledge she committed an infraction.

Late last week, Kreusler was pushing the LPGA to divulge the name of the TV viewer, demanding a “true and transparent” accounting of the details of the viewer’s intervention.

“The field and all of the LPGA players are deserving of knowing exactly how the email happened, who was responsible, so we can make sure it was an honest, fair and equitable playing field for all,” Kreusler said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have that feeling right now and there are an awful lot of people out there who feel exactly the same way.”

While Thompson prepares to move ahead Thursday at the Volunteers of America Shootout, this continuing pressure from the Thompson camp makes it appear they aren’t ready yet to move on.

In fact, Kreusler gives the exact opposite impression, the feeling that the ANA’s finish remains unresolved, with the hope a more satisfying end game is out there.

Fellow players aren't sure that does Thompson any good.

“For Lexi’s sake, we need to move on,” two-time major champion Stacy Lewis said. “I know she’s had some trouble dealing with everything. If she can handle this the right way, it can completely change the way people look at her. It can be better than winning a major, if she handles it the right way, and if her team handles it the right way. So, for her sake I hope they can do that.”

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb said she admired the way Thompson fought back from the penalty that Sunday at the ANA, making birdie on three of the final five holes to force a playoff.

“In the heat of the moment, I thought it was quite incredible how Lexi handled herself,” Webb said. “I think that’s going to go a long way for her as a person, on and off the course, and how people view her as a player and a person.”

But . . .

“To move on from the ANA, I think her team just needs to let it go,” Webb said. “She can’t move on from it if everyone around her is talking about it still.

“Having an investigation, what do you get out of that, besides prolonging it all? It still doesn’t mean she will win the ANA championship. It doesn’t give her that, so what is the point?”

The last question Thompson fielded was yet another about marking her ball, if she’ll change anything about her practice going forward.

“I’m just going to continue to mark my ball,” Thompson said.

There was a certain defiance in the answer that hung over her exit.

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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.


8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.


8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.


12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.


12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.