Bumps Along the Way

By Rex HoggardSeptember 16, 2010, 1:19 am

The transformation of Dustin Johnson began in a Whistling Straits closet turned scoring hut with an eraser, of all implements.

Or maybe the epiphany came on Pebble Beach’s second hole on Sunday at this year’s national championship. Or a Las Vegas office in April with a tough decision, or a dark South Carolina byway in 2009 following a bad decision. Or was it another nondescript cubicle in Myrtle Beach, S.C., some six years before that?

If all great careers begin with an “ah ha” moment, Johnson’s ride to the top has been dotted with more turns and detours than a southern California “shortcut,” but the day he arrived on campus at Coastal Carolina in 2003 seems a logical jumping off point.

Allen Terrell, the Chanticleers’ golf coach who recruited Johnson, remembers 6 foot, 4 inches of talent that was filled with insecurity which manifested itself in an attitude that wasn’t always productive. What Terrell liked about his new charge, beyond his obvious physical gifts, was his ability to learn quickly, like the time he showed up late to a team meeting.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson suffered heartbreak at this year's PGA Championship. (Getty Images)

“He got three hours in the range picker listening to Allen’s life lessons,” Terrell recalled during a conversation in June. “He was never late again.”

From there Johnson blossomed, a Walker Cup and PGA Tour card (2007) were followed by a victory his rookie year (2008) and another just months later at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (2009).

But in the spring of 2009 there was a wrong turn in his rise when he was arrested in Myrtle Beach for driving under the influence.

“Eight years ago, however long ago, I couldn’t see myself being here,” Johnson said after his ’09 Pebble Beach victory. A little over two months later the rest of the golf world began to understand what he meant.

It’s a testament to Johnson’s drive and talent that he has climbed as high as he has, No. 12 in the world and among a half dozen contenders for the Player of the Year trophy heading into next week’s Tour Championship, having faced as many demons as he has in a life that has been less than charmed.

A little over a year later he followed that “bad” decision with perhaps the toughest choice of his short professional life when he approached Butch Harmon for swing advice. He’d worked with Terrell since coming to Coastal Carolina, and, luckily for Johnson, the coach said the two still talk regularly about the golf swing as well as life. But that didn’t make the decision any easier.

Many within “Camp Dustin” say that first meeting between prospect and swing professor in Harmon’s Las Vegas office set the tone for the rest of 2010.

“We sat down in Butch’s office and he put down pictures of Dustin and (Harmon’s father, Claude) at the top of their back swings,” Johnson’s caddie Bobby Brown recalled. “Claude was shut at the top, just like Dustin and (Harmon) said he wasn’t going to try to change that.”

What followed was an unforgettable summer. The highlight shows will remember the triple bogey on Pebble Beach’s second hole and final-round 82 at the U.S. Open, but all Johnson recalls from that fateful Sunday was that he put himself in the hunt to win a major championship.

Pete Dye’s penchant for poorly placed bunkers and Johnson using his eraser to add one will be the lasting collective snapshots from the PGA Championship, but Johnson’s revisionist history recalls only birdies on two of his last three holes of regulation.

It isn’t so much that he won last week’s BMW Championship, Tour titles seem like foregone conclusions at this point, it’s how quickly he processed mounting heartbreak and moved on.

Similarly, it’s not how he’s handled victory or defeat it’s how he’s co-opted the two into a singular bulletin board message – improve.

We’ve watched plenty of singular talents fall well short of potential, the byproduct of unrealistic expectations, wavering focus or both. But Johnson has won big, lost big and has never stopped thinking big.

Randy Myers, Johnson’s Sea Island (Ga.) based trainer, calls Johnson the next generation of golfer. During a different time Johnson would have played basketball, like his grandfather at South Carolina, or football or baseball.

“This guy is a race horse,” Myers said. “He’s the Randy Moss of golf. The Derek Jeter. They used to say Cal Ripken was too tall to play shortstop, now they are all 6-foot-3. Once you can teach these guys to be athletic, one of these guys will change the game.”

Earlier this year at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Johnson underwent a sports performance assessment test. On a whim, Myers had his results compared to that of NBA players. His vertical leap was in the 70 percent range for an NBA player and his speed and strength were also comparable.

Whether Johnson is golf’s new professional prototype is a question for the next generation. Where he counts among the current crop, however, is starting to become more apparent.

Johnson is the only current twenty-something with more than three Tour titles and his BMW performance was impressive to the extreme. Consider Sunday’s card at Cog Hill, he led the field with a 313-yard driving average, contain your surprise. What may warrant a double-take is that the big man hit 10 of 14 tree-lined fairways. Not bad for a bomber.

During a quiet dinner last Tuesday in Chicago Myers noticed a change. “I saw this calm in him that I hadn’t seen in him for a long while,” he recalled. “We knew he had the physical capabilities, but the thing was his power under pressure. All these things finally started coming together.”

Perhaps his BMW breakthrough, an emotional accomplishment more so than a competitive eureka moment, will be remembered as the pivotal moment in his career. With Johnson, you can pick your epiphany, they all lead down the same road.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

LeBron's son tries golf, and he might be good at everything

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 5:36 pm

LeBron James' son seems well on his way to a successful basketball career of his own. To wit:

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Finally got it down lol

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But with just a little work, he could pass on trying to surpass his father and try to take on Tiger and Jack, instead.

Bronny posted this video to Instagram of him in sandals whacking balls off a mat atop a deck into a large body of water, which is the golfer's definition of living your best life.

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How far, maybe 400 #happygilmore

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If you listen closely, at the end of the clip, you can just barely hear someone scream out for a marine biologist.