Walking the Walk

By Rich LernerFebruary 26, 2010, 12:06 am

Waste Management Phoenix OpenSCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Fresh off his first win in the U.S., Ian Poulter is changing American hearts and minds, one day and one win at a time. At the rate he’s going, he’ll soon have a gallery full of fans in teal, plaid slacks.

“Honestly, before I played with him I thought he was kind of flashy and arrogant,” said

Edison Peres, Poulter’s pro-am partner Wednesday at the Waste Management Open. “But he’s much more real and down to earth than I expected, like your next door neighbor.”

Peres is a senior vice president for Cisco Systems and has played in several pro-ams.

“Some pros don’t want to be there,” he said. “But with Ian it’s like a Sunday round with your buddies. Everyone wanted to take a picture with him and he accommodated them all. These are the kind of characters you want in golf.”

Mark and Erin Montgomery, vacationing from Richmond, Va., followed Poulter for a few holes.

“He talked to us for a little while and he was very pleasant,” Mark said. “I guess we thought he was a little more arrogant but maybe that’s the clothing. He was receptive.”

Poulter is well aware of his public perception, or rather misconception.

“I guess the misconception may be that I’m arrogant or cocky,” he told me as we walked during the pro-am. “But anybody who knows me understands that’s not really true.”

Not surprisingly, people look at Poulter with his bold outfits and Paris runway model strut and make assumptions.

“Of course they do,” Poulter added. “Because appearance is what people first get drawn to and I guess if I’m going to put myself out there in colorful outfits and looking different than the others then yes people are going to have their own opinions of why I’m doing it and what is his reason for doing it.

“But, to be honest, I just want to present myself on the golf course as well as I can. I always make sure that my stuff is ironed and pressed and you know I just want to take pride in how I do my job.”

That sounds a lot like Payne Stewart. And the Tour gives an award in his name every year to the player who presents himself in a manner that lifts the game.

Professional golf is still a show and if everyone dressed in khakis, well…“we’d be in trouble,” Poulter said finishing my thought. “Golf wouldn’t be half as interesting as it is.”

As a teenager, Poulter watched Stewart from behind the counter of the pro shop at his local club in England. Poulter left school at 15 to become an assistant pro and was a 4 handicap at the time.

“I was selling Mars bars and tee pegs,” he recalled. “And I guess coming from where I came from, dressing the way I do and being fairly outspoken I don’t think people felt that I could back it up or that I had. Now I can back it up.”

As he said it I thought that might come out in print as being arrogant, but knowing full well that it wasn’t, that it was just the declaration of a man who truly believes in himself.

“I do feel that if I play to my potential I’ve got a good chance to achieve anything I want,” he added. “That’s just what I’ve believed in for a while and last week to me proves that I’ve delivered on a bigger stage than what I’ve ever delivered in the past. But I’d felt that I’d been close. It just hadn’t come out yet.”

After his Match Play victory, Poulter spent a full day in Palm Springs shooting a TV commercial for Cobra. He’s had little time for reflection although he’s been asked to reflect several times in that same span.

“I don’t know what it means because I haven’t had time to sit down to work out what it means,” he said. But I said to Terry [Mundy], my caddie, walking to the range today, when I get a phone call from Greg Norman to say ‘Ian I just want to congratulate you for a great week’ and to have a call from Faldo, and a text message from Monty, I mean these were people I looked up to when I worked in the pro shop.”

Poulter is a virtual lock to play for Captain Monty at the Ryder Cup in Wales in early October. Monty and Poulter have had their differences, particularly over Poulter’s decision to skip last year’s Vivendi Trophy in Paris, a Ryder Cup style match between GB&I and Continental Europe.

This summer, Monty is hoping his Ryder Cup stalwarts show up at Celtic Manor for the regularly scheduled European Tour stop as a way to get comfortable with the course. It doesn’t sound like Poulter will be there because of a hectic schedule during that time.

“I’m doing a Mastercard golf outing at Celtic Manor the Monday of the French Open in June so I’ll get a really good look at the golf course,” he said. “So if I don’t play it’s not like I wouldn’t have been there.”

He’s also quick to point out that he had not seen Valhalla until Tuesday the week of the Ryder Cup and ended up playing pretty well there, going 4-0-1 as the only bright spot for the Europeans in a losing effort.

Near term, he’ll take next week off then play Doral. He’ll then take two weeks off before the Masters, but won’t just be ironing his clothes.

“I’ll go up to Augusta for three days during those two weeks off, do some homework so I can get it all done before the tournament,” he said. “I love that place.”

Poulter broke momentarily from our conversation, and turned his attention to Mundy, who has been on his bag for four years.

“Two-fifty-five to the front,” said Mundy, directing his boss to the second shot at the par-5 15th at TPC Scottsdale.

He handed his man a 3-wood. Poulter sets up beautifully over a golf ball, just the right knee flex, arms hanging with absolutely no tension. He swung in perfect balance. The ball took off low, steadily rising and dead at the flag, landing softly on the front of the green.

Poulter smiled and ambled down the fairway, and from the eyes of those fortunate to have seen it, this was not an arrogant man strutting away, but a content man walking with purpose.

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Randall's Rant: Woods' message to young rivals: Bring it on!

By Randall MellAugust 13, 2018, 11:24 pm

Bring it on!

OK, I’m not fluent in body language, and maybe that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods was communicating with his exuberant fist pump after closing out a 64 Sunday at the PGA Championship, but there was so much hope in the excitement he let loose with his closing birdie.

Hope beyond what was still going on behind him at Bellerive.

Hope in what lies ahead.

Bring it on!

You know Woods wanted Brooks Koepka to hear his legion roar, to let Koepka know he better not stumble back there behind him. You know he also wanted Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and all today’s stars to hear all those roars, to let them know he’s finally fit for a fight again.

Bring it on!

Yes, Koepka refused to flinch, and Woods ultimately finished second, but that rollicking last fist pump told you what Sunday’s finish meant to Woods.

He’s going to win again.

That’s the confidence won closing the way he did, celebrating at the 72nd hole in a way we’ve only ever seen him do on his way to hoisting a trophy.

Because that’s where he is headed again.

He can and will win again.

Bring it on!

That’s the thrilling promise Sunday brought to all of golf.

Koepka wasn’t about to get out of Woods’ way, in the fashion the players of another era seemed to do when weekend roars preceded a Woods stampede. Koepka did today’s players a favor sending his own message. He was a rock. He didn’t flinch and didn’t fold in the wake of all those deafening Tiger roars.


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If Koepka flinches Sunday, it sends the wrong message to all these other young guys. It gives them all pause. It makes them all wonder if Tiger’s aura really does come with some unfair advantage, with a one- or two-shot advantage in his ability to ride the noisy chaos to heights they can’t. We heard more than one young star complain this spring about the boisterous crowds that followed Woods.

These young guys don’t need that in their heads.

So Koepka didn’t back down, and Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, Spieth, Day, Fowler and Rahm aren’t likely to, either.

That’s the great fun Woods’ comeback brings. The battles all these young guys say they want with the legend are real possibilities now, with all those Tiger birdies and Tiger roars confirming Sunday that he is ready to begin giving them what they want.

“I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger,” Jordan Spieth said during The Open last month. “Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true, just to have the opportunity.”

The wonder in Sunday’s finish is that Woods was so good spraying his driver all over the place early in the round. Back in the day, he would have said he shot that 64 with his “B” game. You won’t hear him say things like that now, but the beauty in the round was knowing how he may have turned a 70 into a 64. It was in knowing how much better he still might get on these old legs.

It’s a shame we have to wait eight months for the Masters to see if his run of T-6 at The Open and 2nd at the PGA Championship continues on a majestic trajectory, because the message I heard in his last fist pump is still ringing in my ears.

Bring it on!

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Eight Men, Four Women Advance to "Tennessee Big Shots," Airing Monday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. ET Live on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2018, 7:25 pm

Airing Live on Golf Channel, Fourth Televised Event of 2018 is Final Tour Stop Prior to Season-Culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship

Field Boasts Six of Top-10 in World Led by No. 1 Justin James, Three-Time 2018 Winner Will Hogue; & Two-time World Champion Phillis Meti

The World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season continues tonight with the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital, airing live at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The live telecast will showcase the eight men and four women having advanced from preliminary rounds where they’ll compete in single-elimination matches until respective champions are crowned. The Open (Men’s) Division field will feature six of the top-nine competitors in the World Long Drive rankings, including No. 1 Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) along with Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), who has accumulated three wins to-date in 2018. The Women’s Division will feature two-time world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) and Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.,) who won the Clash in the Canyon earlier this year. Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.,) also is returning from injury in her first competition of 2018 in what will be a de-facto “home game,” while LPGA Tour player Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) is the fourth semifinalist, competing in her first-ever WLDA competition.

“We’ve finally reached the home stretch of the season,” said Jonathan Coachman, play-by-play host for World Long Drive Association events on Golf Channel. “With the World Championship only weeks away, the competitors understand the need to be on their game. I’ve always said that champions show up anytime, anywhere, for anything. They better have that mind-set, beginning with tonight’s Tennessee Big Shots.

 

OPEN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL MATCHES (Seeded by world ranking):

(1) Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. (25) Wes Patterson (St Louis, Mo.)

(5) Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. (8) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.)

(4) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (9) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

(2) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (24) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

 

WOMEN’S DIVISION SEMIFINAL MATCHES:

Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.) vs. Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand)

Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.) vs. Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.)

 

Being staged from Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport, Tenn., the inaugural event – in partnership with Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital – is the fourth WLDA event of 2018 scheduled to air live on Golf Channel. Tennessee Big Shots is being contested in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. The eventalso marks the penultimate WLDA competition of the year, with the season-culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Tennessee Big Shots will air on Golf Channel from 6-8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 13, with Golf Central previewing the event from 5-6 p.m. ET. Encore showings of the competition are scheduled to air on Golf Channel following the live telecast, from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET and 12:30-2:30 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. An overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) will display the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

BROADCAST TEAM: Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play alongside Art Sellinger, World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91). Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Tennessee Big Shots by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Tennessee Big Shots leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

 

2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

DATE

EVENT

LOCATION

WINNER(S) / DEFENDING CHAMP

March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

Justin Moose

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

Alexis Belton, Will Hogue

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

Phillis Meti, Will Hogue

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

Sandra Carlborg, Mark Costello

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

Will Hogue

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Rowan, Ont., Canada

Ryan Steenberg

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

Kyle Berkshire

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

(New Event)

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

Sandra Carlborg, Justin James

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events throughout 2018 are staged through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, along with an all-encompassing international qualifier for the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

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Making Ryder Cup picks: Furyk begins his toughest task

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2018, 6:41 pm

ST. LOUIS – By the time Brooks Koepka teed off for the final round of the PGA Championship, Jim Furyk was already back at his rental house and settled in to watch what would be an eventful final round.

Furyk's day was just getting started.

Although he’d been up since dawn and had already put in a full day at Bellerive with a 7:56 a.m. tee time, Sunday began a process the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has prepared for and anticipated for two years.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week,” Furyk conceded on Sunday following a closing 71 at Bellerive. “At times I found myself with my mind wandering. The afternoon tee times I’m sitting around in the morning and my mind starts wandering and I start looking at stats and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. There’s a million things going on.”

The American captain is officially on the clock. The final round of the year’s final major was the deadline to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup team, and Furyk now begins the process of narrowing the list of potential captain’s picks.

Davis Love III, who took two turns in the captain’s chair, will tell you this is the toughest part of the gig. Forget about pairings and course setup and vice captains - getting the picks right is what separates a good captain from a great one.

“I saw him around this week kind of frazzled like I was; they are pulling him everywhere,” Love said. “Now it’s a tough couple of weeks. At dinner the other night we were talking about what we were going to do [regarding picks] and I was like, ‘Well, you have to wait for [Sunday] and you’ll get a better idea.”

On that front, the wait is over. The top eight players on the U.S. point list are now locked in and Furyk and his vice captains – Love, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods – can begin the artful process of creating a list of possible picks based on a wide variety of criteria.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


The automatic qualifiers are Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, who held on to the final spot thanks to his tie for 19th at the PGA.

“For some guys we’re going to look at the body of work for a year, for some players we’re going to look at a hot player right now, some guys we’re going to look at pairings and how they fit into the team we have right now,” Furyk said.

Furyk will make three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3 following the Dell Technologies Championship and his final selection a week later after the BMW Championship.

The short list of possible picks would include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau, Nos. 9 through 15, respectively, on the final point list.

Schauffele and Finau had something of a playing interview at Bellerive when they were paired with Furyk for Rounds 1 and 2.

“Tony made a pile of birdies, he’s explosive as far as firepower and how far he hits it but I was impressed with his putting, to be honest with you. I knew he could hit it far and kind of knew how he played, but he really played well,” said Furyk, who also played with Finau on Saturday at the PGA.

Mickelson will be a particularly interesting option for Furyk. For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, which began in 1995, Lefty failed to qualify for the U.S. side and the de facto team room front man would be tough to pass over.

“His game has been in a good position all year, he’s putted great, I think Jason Day is the only player with better putting stats this year,” said Furyk, who met with Mickelson after he missed the cut in St. Louis. “He’s working on a couple of things in his game right now that we talked about.”

Woods also creates some interesting scenarios. His runner-up finish at the PGA vaulted him from 20th to 11th on the final point list and essentially assured what many believed to be a foregone conclusion. Woods will be among Furyk’s captain’s picks, the only real question when it comes to the 14-time major champion is whether he can play and drive a vice captain’s cart.

“He’s on that list we’ve talked about and I think we still need to hash that out,” Furyk said. “Is it possible [to do both jobs]? Sure, we just need to decide if that’s best for the team.”

If Woods and Mickelson have already been penciled in as picks, which many believe they have, that essentially leaves a half dozen players vying for the final two spots.

An 11th-hour charge over the next three weeks could certainly sway Furyk, and he’s made it clear that Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches outside of Paris, favors a certain type of game, think a fairways-and-greens type like Kisner or even Brian Harman, who finished 17th on the point list.

“I’ve taken a look at the golf course and what I think will really work,” Furyk said.

There’s also an undercurrent of interest in Furyk going young with his picks to give a player like DeChambeau or Schauffele a chance to experience the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup “road game,” but Furyk didn’t seem as interested in developing future talent as he is in winning.

“Our goals for long term are important and young blood is a good thing, but I would never sacrifice this team or 2018 for 2022,” he said. “The goal is still to go to Europe and try to retain the cup. That said, having a mix of veteran and young players is a good thing.”

If Furyk sounds a little vague when it comes to his potential picks it should be no real surprise. Getting the picks right is the most demanding part of any captain’s job and he’s just getting started.

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Lowry calls out official over drop ruling at PGA

By Will GrayAugust 13, 2018, 6:00 pm

Despite the fact that Shane Lowry matched his best worldwide finish of the year at the PGA Championship, the Irishman didn't mince words over a frustrating ruling that played out late in the final round.

Lowry was 10 under and four shots behind Brooks Koepka when he stepped to the 16th tee, but he sailed his tee shot on the par-3 well right and behind a TV camera tower. What ensued was a lengthy delay as Lowry consulted with rules officials over whether he was entitled to a free drop and where he might take relief.

According to Lowry, the two officials failed to render a final decision and left it up to the player as to how to proceed. He eventually opted to play the ball from its original position next to the tower, pitching it into some rough in front of him and eventually making bogey. He also bogeyed the 17th, turning a possible top-5 finish into a tie for 12th.

"I think the referee didn't have the balls to make a decision there, and if he did I would have had an easier shot," Lowry told the Irish Times. "If you put (European Tour official) John Paramor or any of the good referees out there, and he would have given me full relief. But he wasn't giving me full relief, he was telling me to drop it in a tree basically."

Lowry's discussion with officials dragged on to the point that his playing competitor, Justin Thomas, opted to play out of turn with a pitch shot of his own. He also went on to make a bogey, but after the round told reporters that he didn't blame Lowry for how the situation played out.

"It had nothing to do with Shane. The rules officials were having a hard time coming up with a ruling," Thomas said. "They were kind of looking at each other and saying, 'Well, what do we do?' And Shane's like, 'Look, just tell me if I get a drop or not.' And I'm a quick player, and that's why I went."

Lowry's title chances were gone long before the rules fiasco, but his poor close had other ramifications. The 31-year-old's three-year exemption on the PGA Tour for winning the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational expires after this week's Wyndham Championship, and the T-12 finish at Bellerive only moved Lowry from No. 156 to No. 139 in the season-long points race with the top 125 retaining full cards for the 2019 season.