AskLav: Another improbable comeback

By Ryan LavnerNovember 15, 2012, 5:35 pm

Charlie Beljan won last week on the PGA Tour after he was strapped to a gurney, rushed to a hospital and forced to chug Gatorade just to keep himself upright. The New York Times breathlessly described the rookie’s Disney title as “a triumph over the most mental of games.” For his troubles, Beljan received an $846,000 first-place check, a get-out-of-Q-School-free card and a two-year exemption.

That Friday 64, when he thought he was going to die, has to be considered one of the best rounds of the year, if not the best.

That two-shot victory at the Magic Kingdom, when he entered the event needing a top-10 finish just to keep his card, has to be considered one of the best comebacks of the year. From the ambulance to the CT scan machine to the first tee to the victory celebration with Mickey Mouse. Of course.

Not bad, Charlie, but that was far from the most inspiring performance in the past seven days. 

That’s because one day last week – with no camera crews present – I spent 7 ½ hours in a dentist’s chair and lived to tell about it. It was the longest-ever visit in that office, nearly requiring a full 8-4 shift. At the end, the dentist’s empty stomach sounded like a golf cart rumbling over a wooden bridge. All I got out of the deal was a renewed fear of drills, an astronomical bill and a few tubes of Sensodyne toothpaste. And my exemption lasts only six months!

Here’s hoping this week’s mailbag doesn’t cause dry mouth:

 @RyanLavnerGC Who are the players you are watching at Q-School? Predictions on players like N. Begay or J.Parnevik? #AskLav

Obviously I’ll be paying attention to the four college players who are currently competing in second stage – the reason why can be found here – and also guys such as former European Ryder Cupper Ross Fisher and erstwhile can’t-miss-kid Jamie Lovemark and brain-surgery patient Jeff Klauk. So many compelling stories.

As for the two players you mentioned: Well, it’s difficult to forecast success for two guys who combined to make eight PGA Tour starts in 2012, with one cut made. This season, Begay was better known for his fine work as a Golf Channel analyst and Parnevik for his “Gangnam Style” video. Advancing to the finals would be a stretch, but hey, at least their second careers appear promising.

@RyanLavnerGC What's your Social Security Number? #AskLav

Tweet sent on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 10:24 a.m.: Still time to send in Qs for this week's mailbag, to go up Thursday. Use the hashtag #AskLav. Nothing off-limits ... well, kind of.

Needless to say, I need to adjust my laissez-faire approach.

@RyanLavnerGC Going to miss Q School? #AskLav
@RyanLavnerGC #s say #webdot grads on avg. do better than QSchool grads. Don't ppl want to see the exceptional not the avg? #AskLav #Beljan

How convenient: I can answer the first question with another of this week’s queries. Sure, beginning next year, Q-School will no longer be able to produce the romanticized story of an unheralded player navigating through each stage and eventually making it onto the PGA Tour. That’s probably a good thing. Little staying power. Instead of having the same names recycled in Q-School each year, the Tour has become the official proving ground for the PGA Tour – just like the commercial says! – and the number of winners via each route in the past few years supports that. Everyone loves an underdog story, but not at the expense of a potentially stronger product.

 @GolfChannel @RyanLavnerGC The long putter, is it legal to anchor to the body? #askLav

Hello there. Good afternoon. It could not have been comfortable living under that rock. But since you briefly disappeared, Rory has supplanted Tiger as golf’s dominant player, President Obama was re-elected and, yes, it is still legal to anchor the putter to a part of the body … for now.

 @RyanLavnerGC do you agree with no masters invite for opposite-field and fall series events winners? #AskLav

Rory and Tiger seemingly simplify the task at times, but if nothing else 2012 showed it’s hard – really hard – to win on the PGA Tour, no matter if the event is played during the West Coast Swing, the Florida Swing, the Texas Swing or the Fall Series. Only 16 times in 44 stroke-play events did the 54-hole leader go on to win the tournament. Golf might be the deepest it has ever been. But Augusta National still can run its own tournament as it sees fit. If the green jackets don’t want their field size to tip the scales at 100, then it won’t. Clearly, in their collective minds, at least, those fall events are still viewed as second-tier.


To avoid long-term injury, Hulk should seek immediate medical attention for any rash lasting more than four hours.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.