Waiting is the hardest part

By Mercer BaggsJune 7, 2011, 3:47 pm

Jack Newman waited. And waited. And waited. He went back to his hotel room. He sat in his car and listened to music. He played games on his phone. He talked to friends. And finally – finally – he got the message he was patiently waiting on: he was in a five-man playoff for three spots in the Melwood Prince George’s County Open.

Newman’s 5-under round was just good enough during qualifying last week for the chance to compete on the Nationwide Tour.

He sent a text message at 5:36 p.m. ET saying that he was waiting – and waiting – on everyone to finish up their rounds to see if his number was good enough. At 7:57 p.m. he sent his next message: Sank a 40 footer for bird on first hole. Boooooom baby!

“I hit a 3-wood into the rough and had 155 (yards) to the hole,” he recounted this past Monday. “I had a gnarly lie so I hit down on an 8-iron and gave it everything I had. It just got over the first bunker, in front of the green – there was also water there.

“I had 40 feet. It was right-to-left, about 4 feet, with a 2-foot ridge. I hit a decent putt but didn’t know if it was enough. It went in with about a half-a-ball roll left.”

Boom, baby!

Due to inclement weather, the qualifier was pushed to Tuesday. With a pro-am on Wednesday, Newman was able to play but nine holes prior to competition, before walking the back nine.

He didn’t make the cut, shooting 73-77. Steve Wheatcroft won the tournament with rounds of 66-60-65-64.

“That was incredible,” Newman said of Wheatcroft’s tour-record 29-under total. “Most players on the PGA Tour wouldn’t have been able to beat him that week.”

Two weeks prior, Newman shot four under-par rounds to tie for 16th in the Hooters Tour’s Cherry Blossom Classic in Georgetown, Ky. That gave him confidence heading into his 2011 Nationwide Tour debut. But confidence is fickle, especially when you are still trying to put together the pieces of a new swing.

“It’s still just a matter of trust,” he said. “A good example is during the qualifier, on one hole it should have been 4-iron-sand wedge, but I hit a poor tee shot and had an 8-iron into the green. I knocked it to 7 feet and made the putt.

“During the tournament, though, I expected every shot to be perfect. I wasn’t accepting of a poor shot. Instead of rolling with the punches, like in the qualifier, I was trying to be perfect and getting upset when I wasn’t.”

It’s easy to relate. From weekend hacks to the greatest of professional players, no one is exempt from the pressures of live competition. Hitting the ball well on the range is one thing; taking it to the course is another. Even Tiger Woods, holder of 14 major titles, can attest to that.

Newman didn’t cash a check in College Park, Md., but he gained some valuable experience. He also got a close-up look at the differences from playing on a mini-tour compared to that of playing on the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit.

“It’s a lot different out there than on the Hooters Tour,” Newman said. “There’s more people. The fairways are firmer, the greens are firmer – not faster, but harder. The rough is higher and, there is a lot of talent on the Hooters Tour, but these guys are just one step away from the PGA Tour.'

From Maryland, Newman traveled to Greensboro, N.C., for another shot at qualifying on the Nationwide Tour. He didn’t make it, but he was far from disheartened as he was making the car trek back to his home base in Oxford, Ohio.

“I feel really good about my game. I feel like I’m definitely headed in the right direction and getting better,” he said. “I just have to have confidence in myself – not doubting what I’ve been working on when I put it into play.

“When you’ve done something your whole life, and now you’re doing something different, it takes time to find your comfort zone. I’m trying to hit the ball both ways now, left to right and right to left. My (swing) plane is different.  I know that no one ever really owns their game, but I’m working to get as close as possible.”

And so the road continues – literally.

“I’m at 2,176 (miles) right now on this trip,” Newman said. “I went from Oxford to Kentucky to North Carolina to Maryland back to North Carolina and now back to Oxford.”

After a return to Ohio and a week’s rest, it’s off to Oklahoma for a Hooters Tour event and then to Texas for another. He’ll then head to his true home in Iowa and try to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in nearby Silvis, Ill., where he received a sponsor’s exemption to play in 2009, the same year he competed in the Masters Tournament after winning the ’08 U.S. Public Links Championship.

“I’m staying positive,” he said. “You have to. Even when you’re not playing well, if you keep working at it, things will pay off eventually.”

Getty Images

Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

Getty Images

Cut Line: Farewell to the mouth that roared

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

Getty Images

S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

Getty Images

'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.