A Quick Round with Brad Faxon

By Randall MellMarch 26, 2010, 2:14 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Brad Faxon is bringing his insight to television this year as a rookie analyst for NBC. He'll be working Golf Channel’s telecast Thursday and Friday as a roving course reporter at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Faxon, 48, an eight-time PGA Tour winner known as a gifted putter, has long been regarded by media as one of the best quotes on Tour. He will be working from the tower for NBC at Bay Hill on the weekend, covering the fifth, ninth, 13th and 14th holes.

Though he’ll be working as an analyst for seven PGA Tour events, Faxon is not done as a player. He expects to play at least 20 events this year.

Faxon, who made his TV debut at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral earlier this month, talked about his new TV role in a Quick Round:

So what’s it like with a microphone in your hand instead of a golf club?

It’s exciting, but it’s nerve-wracking. I was way more nervous at Doral than I ever would have thought. I am more comfortable with a golf club in my hand.

Anything particularly unusual about your debut at Doral that you care to share?

We had to wear a coat and tie. It was a World Golf Championship. I was rushing to get my coat on because I was about to go on the air, and I whacked my head into this metal thing on the door and I started bleeding. This girl, Wendy, had to fix me up before I went on. I’ve still got the bump on my head.

Bleeding probably ranks among the things you are not supposed to do on the air.

Tommy Roy (NBC executive producer) gave me a list of things not to say on the air. You can’t say pin placement. You have to say hole location. You can’t say playing partner. You have to say fellow competitor. You can’t say tournament. You have to say championship. You can’t say sand trap. You have to say bunker. When you have all these things you can’t say, you get a little more nervous. I was also told not to use the word great too much.

How would you grade your debut?

I think I got about a B. I tend to be critical of myself, to go over the things I said and the way I said them and the way I wished I would have said them. I got my right ear lit up a few times making a mistake. I know going forward I will make mistakes, but I am very comfortable working with all the NBC folks.

How would you describe your role?

I am trying to talk about golf as I see it. People have asked me about my style. I don’t know what my actual style is going to be. I think my strength will be knowing a lot about the current players and also having a good short game. They can plug me in to talk about a particular golfer’s strengths and weaknesses and do some analyzing.

Do you see criticism as part of your role?

I know it’s the name of the game now. If you are not critical, you are not doing the right thing. There’s a way to be critical that’s not condescending to someone. We all hit bad shots, and I think you have to call a spade a spade at times. I think I know how to say a guy wishes he had that shot over without beating him up.

Did criticism from the media bother you as a player?

I think a lot of people thought that because I was a good putter, I was just lucky to be out here. People think you are either a good putter or you are not. That bugged me. I worked hard for a long time to become better and better. I don’t think it’s lucky.

Will we see you challenging Johnny Miller’s strong opinions?

I hope. I think Tommy Roy wants that. Tommy has said if Johnny says something you don’t agree with, and we have time, let’s discuss it. I think the fans and the spectators want to hear different opinions. I am impressed with Johnny and the way he prepares. He’s out here early on Saturday and Sunday mornings. When he’s talking about which way a particular putt will break, he knows. He’s been out there rolling balls on those holes. He’s already said a couple things where I felt like I could battle with him. He’s very honest, and he’ll come right back at you if he doesn’t agree.

Tiger’s dominating the news with his return to golf at the Masters. Do you think he can win there?

He certainly could. I think there’s probably a heck of a lot of people who are rooting for him and a heck of a lot of people who aren’t rooting for him. I just think it’s good people are talking about his return and that he’s playing golf again, rather than all the talk about the personal stuff. It’s good for the players and the networks to see he’s coming back.

But you think he can win the Masters.

I don’t know how those first few days are going to be for him in competition. He’s a human being. He’s shown in these first few interviews that this is hard for him. Facing his friends for the first time will be difficult. He’s shown some remorse, that he has feelings about what he did and that’s healthy. He’s told us he’s still working on some rehab issues. That’s great. My prediction would be Thursday and Friday would be a hell of a lot more difficult for him than Sunday afternoon.

Do you sense other players will be looking for vulnerability, that they’ll be looking to see if Tiger has lost his edge?

I don’t think any of the off-course stuff will affect his ability on the course. I see no relationship, none at all. I see him being able to step right back in. I would be a little surprised if he came into the Masters and played great right away. But he’s surprised us with everything he’s done in his golf career.

Jackson Van Paris at the 2018 U.S. Amateur (USGA/Chris Keane) Getty Images

Van Paris' historic week at U.S. Am ends in Rd. of 32

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 7:41 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Standing to the left of the 16th green Thursday, Jackson Van Paris clasped his hands behind his head and grimaced as Mason Overstreet ended his historic week at Pebble Beach.

It was little consolation to him afterward, of course, but earlier this week Van Paris, 14, became the second-youngest competitor to win a match at the U.S. Amateur.  

The only player younger? Bob Jones. In 1916.

Good company.

“I learned that I can hang with all these players,” said Van Paris, who lost to Overstreet, 3 and 2, in the Round of 32. “I can play with these guys. I played with two of the best players in the field and hung with them for the majority of the matches.”

After qualifying for match play, Van Paris took Australian Dylan Perry – the 30th-ranked amateur in the world – the distance and then holed a chip shot on the final green to prevail, 1 up. His second-round opponent was no slouch, either: Overstreet, a junior at Arkansas, was the 2017 NCAA individual runner-up.

Overstreet is 6-foot-1 and sturdily built, and he took advantage of his lengthy by pounding it past the tall and skinny Van Paris. On the ninth hole, Overstreet caught the downslope in the fairway and had only a wedge into the green. With his body still developing, Van Paris maxes out at 270 yards off the tee. About 60 yards behind his opponent, he hit 5-iron into a firm green that had about a 10-foot circle to get it close. Overstreet made birdie, took a 2-up lead, went 3 under for his first 12 holes in windier conditions and easily won the match.

“Mason played great, and he’s a really good player,” Van Paris said, “but I felt like it was nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Those in junior golf circles know all about Van Paris, a rising sophomore who lives about five minutes from Pinehurst No. 2 and is already one of the top prospects in the Class of 2021. A two-time AJGA winner, he’s verbally committed to play college golf at Vanderbilt, alongside his friend Gordon Sargent, the beginning of what he hopes is a dream team during his four years in school.

The Commodores’ affable coach, Scott Limbaugh, the facilities and the team’s recent success were key factors in his early decision, but so were the academics. “I’d rather get a 99 on a test than top 10 in a tournament,” he said.

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Tuesday was the first day of school at O’Neal High School, a college prep school in Southern Pines. Before his match, the students and teachers sent him a photo of them holding up a “Let’s Go, Jackson! Go Low!” sign in front of the school. Once Van Paris knocked out his first-round opponent, he was flooded with texts, emails and Snapchats. One note in particular stood out: The head of the school joked that Van Paris’ absences the rest of the week were unexcused.

Asked what he’ll tell his classmates when he returns to school, Van Paris said: “That I went to the coolest place in the U.S, played the coolest golf course in the country, played the biggest amateur tournament in the world and got 17th.”

His experience at the U.S. Amateur – where he competed against players who were at least four years older – was nothing new for Van Paris. He’s been playing up since he was 6.

“He’s always wanted to play against the best players he could find,” said Van Paris’ father, Todd. “But now that he’s old enough to play against his peers, it’s been a different dynamic – he’s not the underdog, he’s the favorite. It’s going to be an interesting transition.”

Todd Van Paris said that his son has grown about six inches and added about 40 yards over the past year. He’ll only pack on more muscle over the next few years, shortening the distance gap between him and players like Overstreet.

Van Paris’ goal Wednesday was to win both of his matches and reach the quarterfinals. Then he’d be fully exempt into next year’s U.S. Amateur … at Pinehurst No. 2, just down the street from his parents’ house.

“I know that he’s proud of what he’s accomplished this week,” Todd Van Paris said, “but I guarantee you that he thought he could win the tournament. He really thought he could do it. That’s what makes him special.”

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After opening up, Lexi shoots 'comfortable' 68

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2018, 6:27 pm

Lexi Thompson looked at ease, smiling and laughing in a solid start in her return to the tour Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, where she felt the benefit of her month-long break.

“It was very relaxing out there,” Thompson said. “I felt very comfortable where my game was at. I just tried to go out and let my game show and not put too much pressure on myself.”

Thompson, 23, the defending champ, opened with a 4-under-par 68, four shots behind Angel Yin, the early leader. Thompson skipped the Ricoh Women’s British Open two weeks ago to take a “mental break” and address emotional struggles that built up through last year’s highs and lows.

In a news conference Wednesday, Thompson was candid sharing the challenges she has faced as a prodigy who has poured so much of herself into the game, and how she has recently sought the help of therapists in building a life that isn’t all about golf.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

“I’m not just a robot out here,” Thompson said in heartfelt fashion in her news conference. “I need to have a life.”

Thompson said she took almost two weeks off without touching a club after her last start at the Marathon Classic.

After Thursday’s round, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz asked her about her decision to share her struggle.

“It was very hard for me to take the break, because I didn’t want to show that weakness, but at the same time it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge you need that kind of break, and to take time for yourself,” Thompson said. “Especially when you are in the spotlight like this, it can get hard, to just live your life for you, and figure out what makes you happy.”

Thompson is the highest ranked American in the world at No. 5 in the Rolex rankings. She was the Golf Writers Association of America female Player of the Year last season and also claimed the LPGA’s Vare Trophy for low scoring average, but it was still the toughest year of her career. She watched her mother battle cancer and dealt with the death of a grandmother. She also endured tough competitive blows, losing the ANA Inspiration after being hit with a controversial four-shot penalty in the final round. At year’s end, she lost out on a chance to ascend to world No. 1 and win the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year award after missing a short putt on the final hole in the season finale.

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Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:19 pm

Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.

Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.

Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.

Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.

Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.

Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.

"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."

Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

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Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.

Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.

"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"

But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.

"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”

Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.

"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."