Eason scores redemption, takes on haters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 25, 2017, 6:22 pm

Greg Eason: Name sound familiar?

He’s the Web.com Tour player who failed to break 90 in his first three rounds of the year.

91-95-90.

Good speeds for a major-league pitcher. Bad scores for a professional golfer.   

Someone on social media suggested that the 24-year-old Englishman take up another sport, like tennis.   

Another asked if he was actually playing in a Golf Channel Am Tour event.

One even asked for his phone number, to see if he could play in their Saturday game at the club.

Eason was one step from the PGA Tour, but he never felt further away.

“It was horrible,” he said by phone Wednesday from the Bahamas. “It was genuinely worrying. I was thinking about not coming out here to play these events. It’s a horrible feeling when you’re teeing it up and playing against some of the guys who are going to be in great form, but you know it’s going to be difficult for yourself to make the cut.

“That was the hardest bit about it. You’re not playing well, you hadn’t seen good shots in a while, and you’re waiting for it to click. It’s madness, really.”

There was little to suggest he was capable of these blowup rounds.

A former top-10 amateur in the world, Eason has been a steady presence on the developmental circuit. Last year he had one top-10, three top-25s and missed only seven cuts in 24 starts. With more than $64,000 in earnings, he finished 74th on the money list.

Even more telling: His worst score, in 82 rounds played, was an 81. 

But there were warning signs entering the year. He couldn’t keep his driver on the planet, missing both ways. Then Mother Nature intervened, and Web.com players were greeted by 45-mph winds in the season opener. It resulted in the tour’s highest cut ever, 11 over par.

Eason was 42 over.

“I had no chance, to be honest,” he said. “It was petrifying to stand on the tee and not know where it’s going.”

After a week of practice at home in Orlando with his swing coach (and former coach at UCF) Bryce Wallor, Eason returned to the Bahamas eager for a redemptive performance. All he got were a few more layers of scar tissue.

Eason was already 8 over for the day when he came to the 18th, a 572-yard par 5 that played as the third-easiest hole Monday. He hit five drives, none of them good. He found his third provisional, which was unfortunate. From the hazard he took a few hacks, and a few more drops, and his score piled up.

Live scoring has been unreliable, so initially there was some doubt as to his score on the hole. But then it was confirmed: Two weeks after losing 32 balls in two days, Eason had carded a decuple-bogey 15.

“An absolute nightmare,” he said. “I can’t even remember making a 10 before.”

Rather than withdraw – “I really never saw myself quitting” – Eason had a range session late Monday with fellow competitor Rhein Gibson that turned around his game. Gibson noticed that Eason’s downswing was too steep, creating spinny shots that were blown off-line by the gusty winds. “It was a pretty simple fix,” Eason said, and for an hour he felt as though he was playing a push draw. He smoked a few drives down the center. 

“On the tee Tuesday, I felt better than I’ve felt in months,” he said. 

Eason was solid. Sharp, even. Starting on the back nine, he made six consecutive pars before a birdie on the par-4 16th.

Then came 18, the source of his latest embarrassment, the hole where he recorded the worst score in the history of the Web.com Tour. He made 4. Birdie.

He added a pair of birdies on the inward nine for the bogey-free, 4-under round – 22 shots better than Monday.

That, too, is a record. For the largest turnaround in a Tour-sanctioned event.

“It was one of the most pleasing rounds of golf I’ve had in a while,” he said.

Reenergized, he spent the rest of the afternoon with friends, kayaking to a nearby island with a cooler full of beers. “A lovely way to celebrate, really,” he said.

Eason isn’t active on social media, but he felt compelled to tap out a tweet Tuesday night:

It was retweeted more than a thousand times. Anyone who has played bad golf knew the feeling.

“To be honest, I thought the criticism was a little unfair,” he said. “I played three rounds of bad golf on some pretty tough courses in bad conditions. It’s amazing how small people will make you feel for shooting a couple of scores in the 90s. Like, you really feel belittled. And so it’s a whole other challenge of getting yourself out of that hole that you’re in.

“I tried as hard in that round as any round I’ve played. I really wanted to prove to everybody jumping on the bandwagon that I’m absolutely fine.”

Eason has a week off before the Web.com Tour season resumes, in Colombia. He’s more hopeful than he’s been in months.

“That round really has changed my mindset,” he said. “This was a massive step in the right direction, to be able to cure and get over something that was personal and a deep-rooted problem. It’s just enlightening to me that you can get through adversity on the golf course.

“Now, I feel fantastic. I feel like I could take on the world at the minute.”

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.