Q and A with John Smoltz

By Win McMurryMay 7, 2010, 11:33 pm

Golf Channel’s Win McMurry spoke with future Major League Baseball Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Smoltz Thursday from Boston. The former Atlanta Braves pitcher is playing in the qualifier Monday for the U.S. Open at Marietta Country Club in Kennesaw, Ga. Smoltz also will face off against former Braves teammate Tom Glavine in the season finale of Donald J. Trump's Fabulous World of Golf on May 17.

When did you begin playing golf?

I didn’t play until I was 19 years old. When I got to Class A ball I realized I had a lot of time on my hands so I took up golf and fishing. I’m just self-taught and as I traveled I just started playing more and more. It kept me from going crazy, kept me sane.

What golfer do you try to emulate?

I don’t know if there is one. In baseball I was able to emulate a lot of different things because I did it growing up, but I go about golf in my own unique way. So much like baseball growing up where I’d throw against a wall, I just went out there and tried to teach myself. I never had any lessons in baseball; I just watched on TV and tried to copy what I saw. But I never watched golf on TV until I got into golf.

You play to a plus-2 handicap, what was your best round and where was it? Who were you playing with?

My best round is 63. I shot it at the Floridian. I always say score isn’t indicative of your best round though. My best round was at Seminole. I had seven birdies and an eagle and had a chance at 18 to make the course record, or amateur record, but had another double bogey to shoot 67. But I could have shot 64.

Why did you decide to try to qualify for the U.S. Open this year for the first time?

Someone just told me I should do it – a club pro at Hawk’s Ridge. He told me to consider it and it happened to fit into a day I wasn’t doing TV or anything. It’s not like I’m beating a bunch of balls trying to qualify. I’m just trying to see how I do. It’s a good measuring stick for me. These other guys out there I know will have been trying really hard to get ready but I just think it’s going to be interesting to see how I stack up.

Is the U.S. Open the major you like the most?

What’s funny is I like watching it the most. Not playing it. It’d be the ultimate challenge. Like trying to survive an All-Star line-up in four straight starts. You’re going to suffer because you’re playing the best. It’s the most humiliating test of golf. It’s funny because it’s set up for a different golfer for the straightest hitting golfer. You don’t have to be long, just keep it in the fairway. . . and by the way it wouldn’t be me. I like to bomb it.

What do you feel your chances are of qualifying?

My schedule hasn’t let me play. But I think I’ll be able to shoot between 66 and 75. We’ll just have to see which me shows up out there!

How many times have you played Pebble Beach and what’s been your best round there?

I had the dream day off, an off day before we went to San Francisco. We drove down and played Cypress Pointe in morning, Spyglass in the afternoon, and then Pebble the morning of the next day game. At those three I shot par at Cypress, 1 or 2 under at Spyglass…and I think my best was 72 or somewhere around par at Pebble. But I don’t have a chance to play these courses in prime condition. It’s usually after a ton of people have been playing them.

I know that you and Tiger Woods are friends and have played many rounds together. If you do get into the U.S. Open, would you let Tiger Woods play a practice round with you?

I’m one of these guys, if I could live out a reality I’d have a hard time on the PGA Tour. I like guys talking to me. In golf there doesn’t seem to be much conversation. I just like to have fun and talk. I mean I’m grinding, but even in the midst of competition, I like to have fun out there.

Have you ever beaten Tiger, I’ve heard you’ve competed with him pretty closely?

I’ve come pretty close. We don’t play stroke play, it’s match or Nassau. But when the stars are aligned, I believe I’m going to. Tiger’s redefined golf as a sport and made it athletic. You know the greatest measure is if you can do it for four rounds and can you be better than the 120 or 140 or whatever they start off with in the field.

Of the top-100 golf courses in the world, how many do you feel you’ve played and what are your favorites?

Through baseball I think I’ve played 70 of the top 100 courses in the U.S. It’s difficult for me to rank the top-5. I’m a spoiled golfer. I like courses in premiere condition. I’ve always liked Butler National in Chicago, Oakmont, Pine Valley, Merion, and if I had a choice I’d rather play a Medinah or a northeastern course, I like all the grass they have to work with up there and the greens. Early in my career, I got to go to the San Francisco Golf Club and I didn’t know golf history or etiquette, it wasn’t until later when I realized what I had done and it was my first intro to golf in its place in history and tradition. Half Moon Bay was one of the first places I learned to play. And it’s so beautiful there with the holes by the water.

Have to ask you about the John Smoltz Country Club, the three-hole course you have in your backyard. Did you model any of the holes after favorite holes you’ve played?

It came together piece by piece. Every shot value was something I wanted to work on personally. A right to left here or if there was a certain distance I wanted to work on. My short game was all set up that way too. Honestly it’s one of the greatest toys in the world, and it’s made me a better golfer. It’s pretty unique. You can hit every shot in your bag in the backyard. I just love it.

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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.