Play Ball

By Rex HoggardJanuary 7, 2010, 3:08 am

When the New Yankees wrapped up World Series title No. 27 on Nov. 5, catcher Jorge Posada packed his gear away for a well-earned break. It will be nearly 3 ½ months between last out and the first day of spring training for pitchers and catchers for the Bombers’ backstop.

Compared with golf, Posada & Co. have got it made. For Tour players an offseason, at least in the traditional sense, is a misnomer at best, and an oxymoron at worst, much like unforced errors and four-hour rounds at Pebble Beach.

For most Tour types, particularly those playing the season-opening SBS Championship this week, their last official tournament was in late September, followed by the Presidents Cup (Oct. 11) for some or an assortment of silly season offerings that stretch deep into December.

What offseason there is for the game’s elite is a hurried blur of swing and equipment changes and goal setting, and how that postseason “to do” list is accomplished is as varied as the golf swing.

Zach Johnson, fresh from his most consistent season on Tour, has what is probably the most structured offseason regimen. In late October Johnson assembled “Team Zach” – which includes his caddie, swing coach, sports psychologist and trainer – at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort for two days of dissecting and detailed planning for 2010.

“It easily could have been four days,” Johnson said.

Much of a player’s offseason routine dovetails with his personality, and Johnson, a detail-oriented type, sets specific statistical goals to reach and creates an intense offseason program to achieve those numbers.

“For example, scrambling ... if I can get to a certain level and keep everything else like it has been, my driving and greens in regulation, then that’s going to take me to another level,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s early-season success, four of his six Tour titles have come in the spring, including last year’s victory at the Sony Open, suggests his offseason intensity is working. Yet offseason regimens are not of the one-size-fits-all variety.

Fresh from his worst year on Tour, Lucas Glover put his golf clubs away after his last event in 2008 (BMW Championship in early September) and didn’t see another Tour tee sheet – or nearly any other tee sheet for that matter – until the end of January. The result? His best year on Tour including his breakthrough victory at Bethpage and six top 10s.

Glover followed the same formula at the end of 2009, going home to Greenville, S.C., after playing the Chevron World Challenge in December, taking a vacation with his wife to Blackberry Farms in Tennessee and spending time with his grandfather before leaving for Hawaii on Jan. 1.

“It was basically the same thing,” said Mac Barnhardt, Glover’s manager with Crown Sports. “He just needed some time at home to unwind and get ready for 2010.”

Somewhere between Johnson’s multifaceted preparation and Glover’s relaxed approach is Dustin Johnson, the long-hitting second-year phenom.

Johnson’s last official Tour event was at Turning Stone in New York in early October (he did play the low-key Shark Shootout in December). In between he enjoyed almost equal parts work with swing coach Alan Terrell and relaxation.

“He took 18 days off after Turning Stone and that really helped,” Terrell said. “It’s a short off-season for these guys so you have to balance it. Usually he’ll work six or seven days hard and then take a couple off. He’s not a guy who will go five days a week for two months.”

Johnson’s ebb-and-flow routine worked well in 2009, when he started the season with an 11th-place finish at Kapalua followed by his second Tour title at Pebble Beach and a tie for 10th at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.

His offseason program also favors a player who relishes the long courses found on the Tour’s West Coast Swing. In 2010, Johnson plans to play seven of the first eight events, with his only West Coast miss being Phoenix.

Whichever route a player takes to ready for the new season, it’s vastly different then the formula used by previous generations. Before the Tour ballooned to nearly 50 events and the silly season became a two-month circuit, players had the option of a month or two of no golf and a few weeks to prepare for the next calendar.

“In the old days the season was over in October and players would take eight of the 10 weeks left in the year off,” said Rocky Hambric, president of Hambric Sports Management. “There was only a Skins Game, not a million other tournaments to play in like Tiger’s event. You had a real offseason. They’d put the clubs away and they’d go to Arizona or California to get ready.”

Before the World Golf Championships, many players would start their seasons at the Bob Hope, where “golf in a dome” assured favorable conditions for rusty swings, before moving on to Doral to ready for the year’s first major in April.

But now that window has collapsed to a few days, not weeks, and players have to find the right offseason formula for them, because in golf there is no spring training – just Thursday’s opening day in Hawaii.

Play ball.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.