Social media a tough balancing act for stars

By Ryan LavnerMarch 12, 2016, 12:15 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Nearly 2.5 million people follow Ian Poulter on Twitter and Instagram, so whenever he posts about his Ferrari collection or his clothing line or his latest result, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

The majority of the responses are positive and optimistic, kind and supportive.

But then he will scroll through this:

maybe you could play aff the womans tees. Give U a chance.

time for retirement …..

start makin more putts for birdie instead of bogey and you might actually play

The problem, of course, is that Poulter admittedly reads it all – the good, the bad and the downright vicious.

“I’m an idiot,” he said. “I’ve had enough warnings, and unfortunately you can have a hundred good messages and one bad one, and the one bad one really pisses you off.

“So note to self: Don’t (expletive) read the comments.”

The explosion of social media has made politicians, TV stars and athletes more accessible than ever before. Sadly, that also has its drawbacks.

It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest complications of the Internet age: the free exchange of ideas also offers the angriest and most miserable people a voice, a platform, where they muster up the keyboard courage and spew hatred without consequence.

Valspar Championship: Articles, photos and videos

To leave a comment on this website, users must register an account with Facebook or Google Plus. The thinking is that it would discourage an anonymous fool from polluting what can be sensible discourse. But peruse the comments left on social-media posts by LeBron James, Bryce Harper and Tom Brady. Some are complimentary. Many are sadistic, racist, homophobic or sexually explicit.

Granted, those superstars have it worse, the battle lines drawn because of their team affiliation, their significant others, their big-money contracts, their spirited style of play. Oftentimes, they are despised simply because of the logo on their jersey.

But it’s more personal in golf, because it’s an individual pursuit, and the high-profile players are targets for the fans’ vitriol. Sift through the carnage … sorry, comments … on any website, on any given day, and the world’s best golfers apparently are hacks, clowns, spoiled, thin-skinned, overrated, phonies and losers.

Justin Thomas noticed that the same few users will comment every time he shoots an over-par round, almost as if they’re waiting on their phone for the score to become official.

“A lot of them are honestly hysterical,” Thomas said, “and people hide behind their phones and say whatever, and once they get called out, from anybody, they quickly go back into their little hole and support you.”

When a Twitter user needled Jason Dufner about his winless drought, Dufner responded with a picture of him holding the Shark Shootout trophy. A month later, when he won again in Palm Springs, he reached out to the same fan with another trophy shot, this time with the caption: “another one..”

In one of the most memorable social-media interactions last year, Rickie Fowler buried a pair of haters on Instagram – one who insulted his then-girlfriend, another who criticized his swing.

Taking a blowtorch to the trolls publicly may produce an avalanche of retweets, likes and attaboys, but many wonder why a public figure even acknowledges the haters.

Perhaps more than any other Tour player, Poulter has engaged in numerous cyber scuffles. When asked why he responds to the naysayers, Poulter took a few seconds to process the question. Then he shrugged. 

“Don’t know,” he said. “Sometimes you want to please the fans. It’s nice to read nice comments, but unfortunately there are dangers with doing so. Those dangers are a few idiots, a few very sad, lonely, pathetic, unhappy individuals who like to try and make misery for other people. So you have to manage what it is you want out of social media, but at times it’s tricky to be able to do that.”

Do the negative replies sting?

“Of course,” he said. “I try and brush it off, but when there are lots of idiots who say lots of things, then unfortunately it gets frustrating at times and you retaliate occasionally when you probably shouldn’t.

“Sometimes it’s very unjust. You work very, very, very hard to do something, and you put all the hours in, and somebody accuses you of being lazy or telling you to go practice and work harder and that you’re rubbish – and those are the polite versions – then it really annoys you and you want to tell that person, ‘Would you like to go forth and multiply?’ But you can’t do that. Then it’s out there in the outside world and you can get punished for it.”

A global superstar like Jordan Spieth has, incredibly, dodged much of the Internet bashing. He is good-natured, unfailingly polite and thoughtful, the total package, an All-American kid who is already a star pitchman. Polarizing, he is not.

And so it was a surprise to see Spieth get snippy on social media Thursday night. First he fired back at an Instagram user, who said that he was “garbage,” and then he called out the PGA Tour’s official Twitter account, which had highlighted a post-round comment that was made in jest.

Spieth said that he was “bored” and saw the nasty comment as he scrolled through his feed. Already frustrated after a poor round, he tapped out a reply. He’s human.

“You’ll probably never see me do that again,” he said Friday. “Obviously it was seen and known. It’s just really frustrating. I should never respond to any of that. Just let it go and by the time the next tournament rolls around, no one even remembers it anyway.”

This represents an ongoing inner struggle for Spieth, how to deal with social media, with the fallout and the bullies and the so-called experts. Earlier this year at Kapalua – a tournament he won by eight shots – he talked about trying to “quiet the noise” of the detractors while living in the spotlight.

The task is actually made easier at the majors. When he won wire-to-wire last year at the Masters, Spieth went on a social-media hiatus, passing the time at night by playing pingpong and watching movies at his rental house.

But it’s unrealistic to live in a bubble the rest of the year. He’s 22, after all. Even if he purposely tries to avoid the noise, he’s bound to notice a few criticisms or quips on his timeline or in his mentions. It’s unavoidable.

“There’s going to be plenty of people that have their own opinion,” he said. “There’s going to be plenty of people who don’t like the way I play the game or the way I handle things. I’ve just got to be confident in what I’m doing and know many more do appreciate it. … I got over it quickly.”

Sorry, haters.

Getty Images

Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

Getty Images

Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

Getty Images

Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

Getty Images

Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”