The Players Choi-ce

By Rex HoggardMay 16, 2011, 3:12 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Fitting that the week the golf world buried Seve Bellesteros, the 'Cliff’s Notes' version of the 30th edition of The Players Championship can be pulled from one of the Spaniard’s greatest quips, 'I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.'

As in K.J. Choi, who missed more 4-footers than an 18-handicap; or David Toms, who missed the one 3 1/2-footer that mattered; or PGA Tour officials, who missed much of the game’s marquee last week.

But like Ballesteros, Choi finally rattled one in, a 5-footer at the 72nd hole to force a playoff he won when Toms three-putted the island-green 17th hole, his first three-jack all week.

“Today I missed a lot of 5-footers, maybe three or four, so when I had the same 5-footer to make (on the 72nd hole) I knew there was a chance I could miss it, but what I said to myself was let’s just get the rhythm correct,” said Choi, who closed with a 70 for a 13-under 275 total.

By contrast, no one thought Toms – who hadn’t missed anything, or so it seemed, for four days – would miss his par attempt in the first extra frame. Not even Choi, who was already preparing for the second extra hole.

If Toms was the sentimental favorite to win a Players that was noticeably void of a handful of the game’s biggest and brightest, Choi was not a bad consolation prize. The Korean is a Ponte Vedra Beach local of sorts, having lived and played out of TPC Sawgrass when he first ventured to the United States in 1999.

The eight-time Tour winner has been in a state of transition of late, settling into a swing that was retooled to facilitate a draw (read, more distance) and a new-found dedication to an often-suspect short game.

“That up and down at the last, that just hasn’t been his game,” said Steve Bann, Choi’s longtime swing coach. “In the past he always would go out and chip and putt for a while but he wasn’t really practicing. That’s been his biggest improvement.”

Although he hadn’t won since 2008, Choi was solid last year, if not spectacular, and went into the back nine on Sunday at The Masters with one arm in a green jacket. Coming into The Players he’d finished T-6, T-8 and T-3; and even when he fell three shots behind Toms through seven holes and missed putts of 4 feet at the ninth for birdie, 4 12 feet at the 11th for par, 9 feet at the 15th for birdie and 5 feet for birdie at the 16th, he never came unhinged.

He also received some help from Toms, who until he fanned his hybrid into the pond at the 16th hole had the look of a man who was going to nickel and dime his way into a Players title.

“Sixteen . . . I wish I would have talked him into laying up,” said Toms’ caddie Scott Gneiser. “We got to the ball and he asked, ‘What do you think of 2-iron (hybrid)?’ and I liked it with a one-shot lead. He just hit it against the bottom of the club and it ran into the water.”

In 2005, Toms was rushed off the golf course at the late 84 Lumber Classic and diagnosed with Supraventricular Tachycardia, a rare condition that causes a rapid heart rate. Through the better part of four days at TPC Steamy it only seemed as if the 44-year-old didn’t have a heart rate at all.

Funny then that it’s his heart, of all things, that seems to have rejuvenated the veteran. Of all the things Toms misplaced on his road to middle age – his health, his confidence, 10 yards off the tee – it was his passion for the game that had been holding him back.

But that spark has been rediscovered on the fairways of his home club in Louisiana alongside his 13-year-old son, Carter. “When I was really winning a lot of tournaments, he knew about golf and he was around some, but he didn't play it and wasn't into it. But now he is. It would have been nice to win today for him,” said Toms, who has been slowed late in his career by a litany of wrist and back injuries.

At this juncture, Tiger Woods can only hope for such an acute recovery from all that ails him. For the second consecutive Tour Sunday echoes of “Go Tigers” have filled the Sunday air, but they have been for Tigers (Clemson alum Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd last week and LSU’s Toms’ at TPC) of another tune.

Woods limped around a half loop on Thursday like Kevin Na and bounded off property like Kevin Durant, another WD from the game’s “fifth major,” another injury to fuel the uncertainty.

The TPC Sawgrass mounds were filled with more conspiracy theories than the knoll adjacent the Dallas book depository. All that is for certain is that Woods wasn’t ready to play. Everything else is conjecture.

“We are in the evaluating phase right now and will determine the next steps,” Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg said via email after his client went out in 42 strokes on Thursday and home before the afternoon wave had teed off.

What else is certain is that the May Players rewards consistency, regardless of age or medical history.

If the true measure of any “real” major is the collective disdain for a golf course, TPC Sawgrass may have finally arrived. Rees Jones, the “U.S. Open doctor” who is destined to suffer his share of slings and arrows at next month’s national championship, can exhale – Pete Dye’s swampland-turned-Sawgrass is officially under review.

“When I design golf courses, I try not to screw the player like that. I try to keep it a little bit fair,” Phil Mickelson said following a double bogey at the 13th hole on Thursday with an 8-iron.

Graeme McDowell was a tad more diplomatic, but he shouldn’t have been after his approach to the last green early Sunday morning to finish his rain-delayed third round bounced and bounded across the green and into the pond.

“Eighteen was a tough break, but it's just one of those things. This golf course is dangerous. If you get out of position, you will pay the price,” said McDowell, whose final tally on Sunday was five water balls and a closing 79.

At least he made the trip to north Florida. His fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, to say nothing of world No. 1 Lee Westwood, didn’t feel compelled, all of which added to the feeling that something was missing from the 30th Players.

Final analysis: maybe the only thing missing was Ballesteros, and Choi did his part to honor the short-game magician in the only way he knew how.

“That shot on the 16th hole,” said Bann of Choi’s punch shot under a tree to 5 feet, “the same week they buried Seve . . . it was very fitting.”

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”