Winning Titles Shedding Titles

By Rex HoggardMay 10, 2010, 5:12 am

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On the eve of Sunday’s final round at The Players Championship one long-time PGA Tour observer laid down a surprising truth, “Not only is Tim Clark the best player without a Tour title, he’s the best without a major.”

Less than 24 hours later on a golf course baked hard by heat and humidity the wee South African inched 1 ½ innings closer to shedding both titles with a fairways-and-greens schtick that never played well at the March Players but is custom fit to the May version, and an oversized putter that made quick work of the meanest greens this side of Oakmont.

Clark won the Bridesmaids Open on Sunday over perennial also-rans Lee Westwood and Robert Allenby, not with a roar but an authoritative clearing of the throat.

Clinical was Clark in his maiden Tour breakthrough, hitting 42 of 56 dusty fairways, 55 of 72 springy greens and 63 of 67 putts inside 10 feet. All total one would have thought the mid-length Clark was exactly what Pete Dye had in mind when he dug TPC Scruffy out of the swamp.

“A part of me is a bit disappointed because now no one is going to talk about me anymore. At least you had something to write about before. Now I'm just another guy with a win,” smiled Clark, who shot one of just two rounds in the 60s on Sunday (67) for a 16-under 272 total and one-stroke victory over Allenby.

For the record, the last two Tour standard bearers, Rory McIlroy last week at Quail Hollow and Clark at TPC, posted the rounds of the day on Saturday and Sunday, proving once and for all that weekends are made for winners and relegating Rounds 1 and 2 to qualifying laps.

The Players was Clark’s 206th Tour start, a record of futility that had started to weigh on Clark’s narrow shoulders for some time as he piled up the near-misses (eight runners-up and 40 top 10s).

“He told me a few months ago, ‘I can’t win, I can’t win,’” said Allenby, undone, again, by an uncooperative putter. “And then he goes out and beats me.”

The TPC dance card is officially full with Clark’s victory. Since the move to May in 2007 the crystal has been hoisted by the bombers (Phil Mickelson, 2007 and Henrik Stenson, 2009) the ballstriker (Sergio Garcia, 2008) and now the plodder thanks, in large part, to a perfectly storm-free week.

Hard and fast conditions took driver out of most players’ hands – Lucas Glover, for example, hit no more than four drivers each day. Clark, however, was able to keep the ball in play with the driver and play from the same spots as those he’s usually chasing.

The quintessential moment of length equalization occurred on the 18th hole on Sunday when Clark roped a driver perfectly into the fairway while playing partner Charley Hoffman had to lay back with a fairway wood and ended up some 70 yards behind Clark.

“He said, ‘I need to get some adrenaline because I’ve never hit a drive that long in my life,’” Hoffman said.

Yet as inspiring as Clark’s breakthrough was, Westwood’s also-ran had the look of a trend that is starting to lurch toward a habit. The Englishman was quoted recently that he is the second-best player based on how well he is hitting the ball. Thursday through Saturday it’s a hard point to argue. Sundays, however, are a different game altogether.

Westwood has racked up more silver and bronze of late than Canada, finishing second at last month’s Masters, this year’s Dubai Desert Classic and either second or third in half of the last eight majors.

Tiger Woods famously once opined that “second sucks” and no one knows that better than Westwood.

At Sawgrass it seems Karma, more so than a suspect short game or a spotty closer’s record, would explain Westwood’s Sunday misfortunes. The Englishman skipped the event last year and leveled the ultimate slight last week at Quail Hollow.

“The Players probably used to be regarded as the fifth major, and it felt that way back in the late '90s,” Westwood said. “But since the invention of the World Golf Championships, I think it's actually stepped back from that. They have to go in now before The Players Championship. So what is it, eighth on the list now?”

On Sunday Westwood began the final 18 holes at the “eighth major” with a one-stroke lead, missed four of his first seven fairways and dropped into a tie for the lead when Clark birdied the 11th hole. At the 14th Westwood had tree trouble, made bogey and the freefall was on.

“I just didn’t play well enough on Saturday and Sunday,” said Westwood, whose last shot at Players’ glory dropped into the pond surrounding the famed 17th hole and he finished tied for fourth place after a closing 2-over 74.

Allenby’s chances lasted a bit longer but ended in familiar fashion: an eagle left hanging on the lip at the 16th hole and a birdie putt at the 17th that stopped a roll short.

The Australian remains winless since 2002 but found a surprising amount of solace in his eighth runner-up finish on Tour and his third this season.

“My turn will come, that’s for sure,” Allenby said. “I’m not disappointed.”

It’s a good bet that neither is Clark. Not after his performance over the last 36 holes at TPC Sawgrass. Not after nine seasons of heartbreak.

“I think had I not won a tournament and come to the end of my PGA Tour career, there would have been some issues,” Clark admitted as the bagpipes echoed across Sawgrass. “At the end of the day, these are tournaments that you do judge your career on, The Players Championship and majors.”

With 36 near-flawless holes, Clark shed the better part of two unwanted titles. Not a bad weekend.

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Cops called in bizarre ending to Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 20, 2018, 7:16 pm

In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

Both in his statement to police and in a subsequent phone interview afterward, Golden, 33, said that the alleged incident stemmed from a rules dispute on the ninth hole during the championship match. As he surveyed his putt, Golden asked Dull whether the cup was damaged or if there was loose debris around the edge.

“Don’t worry about it,” Hibbs reportedly told Golden. “If you’re going to make it, you’re going around it.”

With tensions already running high because of what he perceived as breaches of etiquette by his opponents, Golden informed the rules official in the group that he believed Hibbs’ statement constituted advice. The penalty was a loss of hole, giving Golden a 2-up lead at the turn.

At that point, Hibbs told police, he recused himself and returned to the clubhouse. Dull and Golden continued their match, heading to the 17th hole all square when they were pulled off the course because of inclement weather.

Golden told police that he headed to the parking lot at 2:45 p.m. to retrieve some dry clothes from his car when Hibbs “approached him, apologized, then punched him on the left side of the face,” causing him to fall to the ground.

“I had a moment where I was happy to see him, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to apologize,’” Golden said last week in a phone interview. “By the time he finished I was being punched.”

Asked why he believed Hibbs would strike him, Golden said: “It was from the earlier ruling, 100 percent. He had anger toward me because I called him out on a ruling.”

In a statement given to police, Hibbs, 36, said that he had “been in the clubhouse the entire time and did not batter [Golden], nor was he in the parking lot.” Hibbs, who caddies with Dull at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida, did not return a message seeking comment.

Police wrote in the report that there were no witnesses to the alleged attack, nor was there any surveillance video from the parking lot. While observing Golden the officer noted “no swelling or abrasions to the face,” but there was “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip.” Hibbs’ hands and knuckles showed “no scrapes or abrasions.”

Golden, however, said that there were three bloodstains on his shirt and punctures inside his mouth that proved he’d been struck. He also described himself afterward as “dizzy” and seeing “weird shades of colors,” and that the area between his wrist and thumb was “very sensitive” from catching his fall. Still feeling woozy, he met with his doctor the day after the alleged incident and also underwent a CT scan on Friday.

“I was extremely shaken up,” he said. “I had concussion symptoms.”

Golden declined to press charges – he said later that he wasn’t given the option, because of a lack of physical evidence – and refused medical attention.

Reached by phone last week, Dull said that he had no knowledge of the alleged attack and was only made aware once the police arrived. He said he had waited out the delay in a storm shelter.

“It was shocking,” he said. “[Hibbs] said to me, ‘I didn’t touch the guy.’”

Once the police left, it was up to the FSGA to determine how to proceed.

With the course now playable after a two-hour delay, under the Rules of Golf, the players were expected back on the 17th hole.

Golden asked Dull whether he would concede the match.

“I said that I wasn’t going to concede,” Dull said. “Why would I concede the match when I was sitting in the shelter, and when I come back someone is accused of being hit?”

So Golden then decided to concede, handing the Mid-Am title to Dull, the reigning FSGA Amateur Player of the Year.

“I just wanted to get home,” Golden explained later.

Asked last week for more details about the final result, Jeff Magaditsch, the organization’s director of tournament operations, said in an email that Golden “expressed concern about a wrist issue” and that “not much additional information is available.”

A day later, once the details of the police report became available, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that Golden “didn’t want to play anymore.”

“Regrettably, the golf course was very playable and Jeff understood that he needed to resume the match,” he said. “I think he was just ready to go.”

When asked to comment on the alleged attack, Demick said that the police “found absolutely no evidence of an assault.”

Last week Golden, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and is now a tennis pro at Palencia in St. Augustine, appealed the FSGA’s decision, writing in a letter that tournament officials shouldn’t have accepted his concession.

Dull said that he was “annoyed by the whole incident.”

“I think it taints the entire championship,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. No golf tournament should end that way.”

Getty Images

Delayed start for Nelson might mean Monday finish

By Will GrayMay 20, 2018, 6:04 pm

DALLAS – Inclement weather  pushed back final-round tee times at the AT&T Byron Nelson by more than four hours, increasing the likelihood of a Monday finish in the tournament’s debut at Trinity Forest Golf Club.

With the field already scheduled to play in threesomes off split tees, the opening tee times for the day got pushed back from 9:23 a.m. CT to 1:23 p.m. because of steady rain in the area. The delay means that the final group won’t start their round until 3:35 p.m. local time.

With sunset in the Dallas area scheduled for 8:23 p.m., the leaders will likely have just under five hours to complete their rounds or face returning to the course Monday morning. Threesomes have been used for each of the first three days, and in part because of the intricacies of the new layout rounds have routinely approached 5 hours and 30 minutes in duration.

Should play spill over into Monday, those playing next week’s event will face one of the Tour’s shortest commutes, with Fort Worth Invitational host Colonial Country Club less than an hour away.

Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise share the 54-hole lead at 17 under, four shots clear of the field. They’ll be joined in the final trio by Australia’s Matt Jones, who is tied for third with Kevin Na.

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

Getty Images

Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”