Half Empty or Half Full?

By Rex HoggardJuly 13, 2011, 3:53 pm

SANDWICH, England – There is an iconic line from the cult classic movie “The Princess Bride,” when lovable antagonist Inigo Montoya asks the masked Dread Pirate Roberts for his identity.

“No one of any consequence,” Roberts smiles.

“I must know,” Montoya presses.

“Get used to disappointment,” Roberts deadpans.

Golf fans far and wide should take a cue this week from the masked pirate when they huddle in around flat screens to watch the proceedings, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. In this case the worst is any number of little-known tour types who turned up at Royal St. George’s. Names filled with vowels that your off-the-shelf golf fan couldn’t pick out of a lineup if you spotted them a first name and middle initial.

It’s difficult on the eve of the year’s third major to go all claret jug half-empty, but the truth and the tea leaves suggest an outcome this week as bleak as the skies that hang low over the south coast of England.


Consider history, both recent and otherwise.

With apologies to Louis Oosthuizen, last year’s surprise champion golfer at St. Andrews and perhaps the most understated man to ever lift golf’s oldest keepsake, he is the square peg in the round hole that is the Old Course.

St. Andrews champions are plucked directly from the history books, or the marquee depending on one’s point of view – Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones.

As a general rule, the ancient links adjacent the Auld Grey Toon doesn’t yield to one-hit-wonders or one-offs, and yet the golf world spent championship Sunday last year trying to pronounce WUST-haze-un.

Perhaps Louis the farmer goes on to become Louis the great, not that any major champion is required to validate, but if one is scoring at home the South African’s victory was not exactly the stuff of legend.

Nor was Ben Curtis’ victory here at Royal St. George’s in 2003 straight out of central casting. Curtis is as nice a fellow as one could meet, devoted family man, multiple winner on the PGA Tour, but by any definition his British breakthrough, in his first major championship no less, was best dubbed quirky.

But then “fluky” champions aren't out of the norm at St. George’s, which hosted the first Open Championship played in England in 1894. Bill Rogers, anyone?

Whether this phenomenon is the byproduct of a particularly quirky course or simply bad luck is a pub debate without end. St. George’s status within the Open rotation as an acquired taste, however, requires much less deliberation, at least for those who make a living on its lunar-like fairways.

“I would say it's a bit of a fiddly golf course,” Adam Scott said earlier this month at the AT&T National. “You know, a lot like those old courses that they've built over there. They were built so long ago, and the game has changed so much since they were built, it's kind of – you've got to just manage yourself around it like all the other great links courses.

“It's not my personal favorite, no.”

Links golf, as a rule, is capricious, but St. George’s peaks and valleys seem to deal out more than their share of haphazard results.

As he eased down the third fairway on Wednesday Davis Love III, a 25-time Open participant who finished fourth in 2003, was rolling with St. George’s rolling punches like an Open rookie.

“We were playing yesterday and (Jim Furyk), who had been about 20 yards behind us all day, hit this drive that was 60 yards ahead of me and Lucas (Glover),” Love gushed. “You’re like, what did he hit?”

There will be no shortage of similar St. George’s moments this week. To be fair, as Lee Westwood pointed out, there is also the occasional “good” bounce to go along with all that caroming calamity, just not for those marquee names that everyone expects to see hoisting the claret jug on Sunday.

At this stage of the season it’s difficult to imagine golf’s luck holding up, what with Tiger Woods’ injury-induced hiatus and Phil Mickelson’s prolonged slump. All total, the top 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking have won a combined two major championships. Despite Luke Donald’s victory at last week’s Scottish Open, there is still a “No. 1-by-committee” feel to the game and at 22 years old it may be asking too much of Rory McIlroy to continue his inspiring march, although a second consecutive major for the Ulsterman would certainly qualify as a keeper.

The U.S. Open gave us history, The Masters delivered a historic Sunday. Similar histrionics almost seem too much to ask of hapless St. George’s.

On Wednesday, Royal & Ancient Golf Club chief executive Peter Dawson raved about St. George’s saying, “This is very firmly on the list of courses we use for the Open Championship.”

Good news for southeast England, not so much for those who find the parched and pitched turf a tad too whimsical for the game’s oldest championship.

“We’re all pretty spoiled, and when we hit it down the middle of the fairway we expect it to be in the middle of the fairway, but that's not how golf works over there,” Scott said. “So that's why we're saying these things. But we're all going to have to deal with the same things.”

In short, like Inigo Montoya, players and golf fans alike should get used to disappointment.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.