When DJ plays like this, 'What can you do?'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 12, 2016, 12:08 am

CARMEL, Ind. – Forget the NFL. Sunday at the BMW Championship, Dustin Johnson was creating his own matchup problems for the opposition. 

Because when he’s driving it this absurdly long and straight, and when he’s putting this confidently, it doesn’t always seem like a fair fight for the rest of the field.

There were the 30-yard gaps between his and Paul Casey’s drives. 

There was the resiliency with five front-nine birdies after two early bogeys. 

And there was the cold-blooded eagle on the 15th hole, after Casey, for a few precious moments at least, trimmed the deficit to a single shot. 

“I ran into a buzzsaw today,” Casey said with a shrug.

No player on the PGA Tour – not Jason, not Rory, not Jordan – makes extraordinary golf look as simple as Johnson. Sauntering around Crooked Stick, he led the field in driving distance and ball-striking, and ranked second in putting.

At 23-under 265, Johnson won by three over Casey and likely locked up PGA Tour Player of the Year honors in the process.

“It’s still a fair fight,” Spieth said, “but it means you have to have your A-plus game, and that doesn’t come around that often.”

After his third victory and eighth top-10 in his past 10 starts, Johnson still sits more than two world-ranking points behind Day. But he has never been closer to world No. 1. 

It’s the first time in Johnson’s career that he has won three times in a season, the realization of the awesome potential that he has flashed ever since he broke on Tour in 2008. He has won at least one event in nine consecutive seasons, the longest active streak on Tour, but before this year it always seemed as though he’d yet to maximize his incredible talent. His unmatched skill set also worked against him, because shouldn’t a player who can drive the ball that long, and that straight, and possess such obvious gifts win multiple times a year and capture majors in bunches?

Probably so, but Spieth said one of the biggest differences this year is Johnson’s consistency off the tee, that he lacks the foul balls each round that could result in a double bogey. Instead, Johnson smashes a 330-yard power cut that keeps him in play – and ahead of his playing competitors. Even his mis-hits off the heel, Spieth said, “find the right side of the fairway and are just as long as if I bomb out.”

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One of the other knocks on Johnson’s game over the years was that he didn’t take full advantage of those mammoth drives. He gives himself more wedge opportunities per round than, say, Spieth, but he didn’t capitalize on all of those chances. That has changed this year, after he purchased a Trackman to help dial in his distance with his wedges. Four years ago, Johnson ranked 166th on Tour in proximity to the hole from 50-125 yards (20 feet, 5 inches). Entering this week, he was fifth (15 feet, 11 inches). The Tour leader in driving distance (313.9 yards per pop), he’s also tops in proximity to the hole and third in putting average. 

Little wonder his scoring average is a Tour-best 69.17.

What’s scary is that Johnson says there’s still “a lot of room for improvement.” His mid-iron play, normally his bread and butter, “wasn’t very good” at the BMW. And he still torched the place.

“What can you do?” Casey said. 

On Sunday, Johnson gave only brief glimmers of hope to Casey, his lone challenger on this day. 

Johnson had a shaky track record with a 54-hole lead (he was 2 of 6), and he opened with a pair of bogeys in his first three holes to drop into a share of the lead.

After the third round, Casey marveled at how Johnson seemed to lead the Tour in strokes gained-attitude – that he doesn’t get flustered by either a string of poor shots or surges in adrenaline. Sure enough, Johnson shook off those early bogeys with a 21-foot birdie on 4 and then a 6-footer on 5. Just like that, he was three clear again. 

“It was just brilliant,” Casey said. “There’s not that many guys out here who have that ability to deal with good and bad. Brilliant.”

Asked later whether he agreed with Casey, that he had the ideal temperament for golf, Johnson stared blankly at the questioner. 

“Sure …?” he said. 

Johnson’s victory lap was interrupted on the par-5 15th when Casey rolled in a 25-footer for eagle to pull within a shot. Then Johnson stepped up and, using a putter he’d put in the bag just four days earlier, calmly rolled in the 18-footer to match. So overcome with emotion, he barely pumped his fist. 

“Afterward,” Johnson said, “I was like, man, I could have gave a good fist pump there. That would have been pretty nice.” 

Indeed, the beauty of Johnson is his simplicity. He has little use for any of the attention-grabbing theatrics of his superstar peers. Rather than mark his 6-inch putt on 18 so that he could receive the loudest ovation, he instead tapped in first, politely doffed his cap and raised his right hand to the crowd. He hugged his brother/caddie Austin, but that was the extent of the on-course celebration. It was perfectly DJ.

Left to make sense of the past few days was Casey, whose 20-under total would have won or forced a playoff in all but five events this season. It was his second consecutive runner-up, but his narrow losses have come to two of the game’s powerhouses, McIlroy and now Johnson. 

What will it take to get over the hump? Casey smiled, then nodded at Johnson, who was heading across the walkway, toward the trophy presentation. 

“Having him not in the field?”

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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.