Yes Golfers are Athletes

By Rex HoggardMarch 25, 2011, 3:49 am
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – On Wednesday, Tiger Woods predicted he’d be the “Corey Pavin” in his group that included Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland. He was, although “faux Corey” was the low card on Day 1 at wind-whipped Bay Hill.

Hitting first almost all day, Woods signed for a 73 that looked like 77 but felt like a 67 when the dust and debris stopped swirling. Johnson pounded away with abandon while Woodland kept a weary pace following last week’s victory in Tampa. Both finished with 77s.

But the scorecards missed Thursday’s subtext. Lost amid the mania and minutia was a testament to the new Tour athlete. If Woods made golf cool, the likes of Johnson and Woodland are making it athletic.

The new face of golf is strong and agile and was on display Thursday, regardless of score.

Woods couldn’t help but think to himself as he gazed across the first tee on Thursday that he was seeing something familiar. The Woods-Johnson-Woodland grouping was not so much a conversion of the past and present as much as it was three sides to the same coin.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods shot 1-over 73 in the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Getty Images)
Well before “Hello, world” in 1996, Woods was a superior athlete. The kind of gifted soul who would have excelled at any number of sporting endeavors but he broke the mold and picked golf.

That mold is now slowly becoming the norm, thanks in no small part to Woods – the victim of his own perfect paradigm.

“Growing up we all looked up to Tiger. He’s changed the game for us,” said Woodland, who was playing with Woods for the first time on Thursday. “Growing up, where I’m from you play football or basketball or baseball. Golf wasn’t cool and he’s changed all that for us.”

If Thursday’s opening 18 was pro golf’s version of the combine it would be difficult, if not impossible, for even the most seasoned NFL scout to pluck a No. 1 pick from the 12:56 p.m. tee time.

Woods, the veteran with a proven Hall of Fame record but a litany of concerning injuries; Johnson, who at 6-foot-4 once recorded a standing broad jump of 10-feet-8, which was better than 80 percent of that year’s NBA combine, and Woodland, who once injured many of the ligaments in his right hand and yet still played an entire season at point guard for Washburn (Kan.) University with two fingers on his shooting hand tapped together.

“If you compare them to other athletes,” said Randy Myers, the Sea Island (Ga.) Resort-based fitness guru who works with Johnson, among others, “Dustin is a pitcher or Randy Moss-type wide out, the Scottie Pippen athlete. Woodland is a short stop or point guard and then you look at Tiger, he is what athletes looked like before. He inspired other athletes to join the game.”

Even Woods – not the most reflective, at least publicly, person in the game – acknowledged on the eve of Thursday’s opening round that his playing companions represented a new breed.

“The next two days is a perfect example of where the game has changed, where you've got two guys who used to play basketball are now playing golf and that's what I've been alluding to all these years,” Woods said.

“We are finally going to get athletes. Guys who can dunk. Guys who could have played baseball or could have played football at the (NCAA Division I) level, but no, they are playing golf instead. Now with all of that speed and power and fast twitch are playing golf. And this is a perfect example of it.”

And the phenomenon goes well beyond pure power, although Johnson regularly out-drove the elder statesman of the group by 57 yards (No. 4), 31 yards (No. 5) and 20 yards (No. 9), to name a few. The fearlessness that drove Woodland onto the court with a potentially career-ending injury at Washburn now fuels a game plan without boundaries.

At the par-4 18th hole on Thursday, for example, Woods played well back from the hole’s water hazard, hitting fairway wood like he has done so many times before, while Johnson hit driver high into the afternoon sky, playing a cut toward the water with a helping wind with a mixture of indifference and invincibility.

Watching Thursday’s collision of the Tour’s new “Bash Brothers” the NFL axiom of drafting the best athlete available, with no regard to position or pedigree, comes to mind. Making the perfect pick is virtually impossible. Having such a difficult choice, however, shows how far the game has come.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
Getty Images

Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

Getty Images

Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

Getty Images

Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”