Avid skier Johnson shaking off rust - and snow

By Rex HoggardFebruary 20, 2016, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday to various Major League Baseball camps, beginning the annual renewal that is spring training.

For the next few weeks, big leaguers will ease their way back into the ebb and flow of competition. It’s a luxury that’s not afforded to their professional counterparts on the PGA Tour.

For Tour types, the closest thing they get to spring training is a few relaxed days in Maui before the start of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions - if they’re lucky. If not, it’s straight back into the cauldron in Palm Springs or Pebble Beach.

For players like Dustin Johnson, there is no such thing as spring training, which at least partially explains the bomber’s start to 2016.

At the limited-field opener in Maui, he tied for 10th; at the Farmers Insurance Open, he tied for 18th; and last week at Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he finished 41st. All pedestrian starts by any measure for a player who has won every year on Tour since 2008.

Just ask him.

“I was playing terrible. To me, I was,” Johnson said on Friday at the Northern Trust Open, where he is tied for third and two strokes off the lead following a second-round 66. “I just wasn't striking it good with the irons. Wasn't hitting it solid with the driver. Everything was just a little bit off.”

With a mountain of respect to the folks in Maui, Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, for players like Johnson – whose seasons now run well into the fall with the creation of the FedEx Cup playoffs and whatever team match is on the docket that year – there is a value in putting the clubs away and showing up to start the year ... well, cold.

Northern Trust Open: Articles, photos and videos

In Johnson’s case, icy cold, following multiple skiing trips to Aspen, Colo., which has become something of the official past time on the PGA Tour.

“To be honest. It really wasn't surprising that I wasn't playing very well, because I had not practiced at all,” he said.

At all?

“At all,” he said. “I might have touched [a golf club], but I didn’t swing it.”

Johnson explained he arrived a few days early to practice in Maui, his first start since the Hero World Challenge the first week of December, but followed that start with a skiing trip before heading to Torrey Pines, which he also followed with another skiing trip.

Johnson, who estimated he’d be a 2-handicap as a skiier, wasn’t the only Tour player to trade fairways for slopes this off-season.

Justin Leonard moved his family to Aspen last August and said following the OHL Classic in Mexico in November that he didn’t touch a golf club for 35 days.

In Leonard’s defense, there aren’t many options to ply his chosen trade in Aspen during the winter.

Leonard, who is tied for seventh at Riviera Country Club following a second-round 68, said his training during the offseason consisted of three or four days a week in the gym, where he would simulate swings.

“My work, when I'm not here at a golf tournament, is simply in the gym. I don't have a place to hit balls,” said Leonard, who missed the cut in his first two events of 2016. “I take my clubs out of the travel cover to make sure nothing's broken, and then they sit in the corner until I pack them up again.”

If it only makes sense that a large number of National Hockey League players escape to the golf course in their down time, why wouldn’t Tour players find similar solace on the slopes?

Johnson and Leonard don't have any illusions that skiing is somehow beneficial to their day jobs.

“It’s a good leg workout,” Johnson shrugged sheepishly.

Leonard was more tongue in check with his response when asked about the biomechanical benefits skiing provides for the golf swing.

“Oh, absolutely. I can’t go into it,” he smiled. “I’ve talked myself into believing that skiing is actually helping my golf. That’s why I need to get in at least five days a week when I’m at home.”

The psychological benefits of skiing or any other extracurricular activity is another story. Whatever the distraction of choice, leaving the clubs packed away, however difficult that may be given the modern schedule, has become standard fare for the game’s best players.

Even Rory McIlroy, whose dance card is particularly crowded given his status on both the PGA and European tours, found time for non-golf-related activities. Given his social media posts of late, it seems the Northern Irishman’s offseason was mpstly spent in the gym, but then renewal can be found in the most curious places, And in his first Tour event this year, he’s tied for seventh after a 69 on Friday.

Players like Johnson and Leonard have found a downhill solution to what has been an uphill struggle for those searching for an outlet outside of golf, even if that means shaking off the rust in real-time.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”