Hegarty Headed Home

By Mercer BaggsApril 19, 2011, 9:29 pm

Editor's note: GolfChannel.com will be following fourmini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and JackNewman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Checkin each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

Home. There’s no place like it.

That’s Tim Hegarty’s sentiment, even if he doesn’t wear ruby red slippers.

Hegarty is in Blythewood, S.C., for this week’s eGolf Professional Tour’s Columbia Open. After he takes care of business in the Palmetto State, he’ll head back to his rented residence in Orlando, Fla., pack up his belongings, pick up his girlfriend, and then head north on I-95.

Orlando is a nice enough place. Hegarty’s oldest brother, Matthew, lives there, along with his sister-in-law, niece and nephew. His girlfriend, Amanda, goes to the University of Central Florida, and he knows plenty of people through golf and Matt.

But it’s not home. New York is home. Briar Cliff Manor, specifically.

“I’m jacked, man,” Hegarty said about his impending change in mailing address. “My girlfriend has her finals coming up, so she’s going to be able to come up with me. It’s the whole nine – I have more of a support group up there; I have a friend up there who I train with; better practice facilities; my friends and family are up there. It’s good for me.”

Hegarty grew up in Briar Cliff Manor and his parents, Michael – Big Mike, as Tim calls him – and Anita, still live there.  His swing coach, David Glenz, is nearby in Franklin, N.J., and his new mental coach, Nick Molinaro, is also in Jersey.

Hegarty is looking forward to seeing more of Dr. Molinaro – in person.  “We’ve had three or four sessions over Skype,” he said. “It’s exciting.  We’re working on imagery, internal and external imagery – proprioception.”

Proprioception sounds like an incurable disease, but it’s really the body's sixth sense. Without getting too technical – and overly confusing – it relates to the central nervous system and how the body functions. In Hegarty’s case, this is relevant to the way he swings a club. The brain has what is essentially a “golf swing” program that it employs when you want to hit a ball. Through optimization – what he and Dr. Molinaro are working on – that “golf swing” program can be revised and improved.

It involves neurons and muscle memory, a way in which Hegarty can implement an optimally repetitive swing. In even more simple terms:  Be the ball.

Professionally, Hegarty is fresh off a frustrating couple of weeks in North Carolina. He got a relatively inexpensive flight to travel to an eGolf event in Concord two weeks ago. That tournament was wiped out due to flooding and he had to rebook his ticket for an early return – and airlines don’t do that for cheap.

He drove last week from Orlando to Southport, N.C., for another eGolf event but missed the cut after rounds of 82-71.

A couple of bad swings on his back nine led to two O.B. balls and a pair of triple bogeys. It took him a few holes to regroup mentally, but he finished his first 18 with a birdie and then tacked on four more birdies and an eagle in Round 2.

The weekend wasn’t lost for Hegarty. It allowed him to join some friends for a bachelor party in South Carolina and play some leisure golf in Myrtle Beach.

“It was a good week, overall,” Hegarty said. “I actually feel pretty good. The last 18, 19 holes were promising and it was a good chance to have fun playing golf. It’s not always like that.”

On a serious note, Hegarty has minor surgery scheduled in Orlando, after he competes in Columbia, to remove two moles, which his dermatologist diagnosed as atypical and said could become cancerous if left untreated.

“It’s part of being part Irish and part German, and spending a lot of time in the sun,” Hegarty said.

And then it’s off to New York.

Aside from an eGolf event in Southern Pines, N.C., Hegarty will focus on events in and around the Empire State. He plans on playing a U.S. Open local qualifier at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., May 17. If he gets past that, he’ll go to Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., for sectional qualifying on June 6.

He’s three times advanced to sectionals and should he finally make it through both stages he would fulfill a life-long dream of competing in his National Championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

The summer months are the busy months for Hegarty as he will also try and qualify for the Westchester Open, N.Y. State Open and some Met Golf Association events, including the Met Golf Association Open Championship, which will be contested at his home course of Sleepy Hollow.

His game isn’t where he would like it to be at the moment, but he’s fine with that. There’s no need to be playing his best in the present, when the future is so filled with meaningful tournaments.

What gives him confidence is that he’s making every effort off the course to be successful on it. He believes in his instructor and his new mental coach, and everything the two are teaching him.

He’s always had a great deal of talent, just not the greatest outlook as he tends to side with anger when he can’t manipulate his ball properly.

“I’ve always been hard on myself,” he said a few months ago. “I know it’s cost me some strokes and caused me to miss some cuts. It’s something I have to work on.”

And now he is.

You can hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about the upcoming months. He’s ready to put to work all the mental and physical practice he’s going through. He’s got a positive vibe, his girlfriend by his side and he’s headed home.

“I like it,” Hegarty said about summer time in New York. “There’s something about being [at home] that makes me feel more accountable, like all eyes are on me and I have to play well. It’s a good time for all of this in my life.”

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You Can Never Go Home Again.” Certainly, the dynamics of home life change as you grow older and one can never truly recreate one’s youth. But as Maya Angelou countered, “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right.”

Briar Cliff Manor, N.Y., isn’t just a place for Hegarty to lay his head, not just a place where his parents live and his friends reside nearby. It’s in his heart. The kid’s a New Yorker – a Met and a Jet. And the heart never feels more fulfilled than when it’s surrounded by love and friends and support – when it’s home.

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USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.

After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

“When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

“They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”

By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

“I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”

But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

“To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

“I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”

But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

“It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.

@bubbawatson on Instagram

Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

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Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson


9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari


5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello