Hollywood Ending?

first_imgPINEHURST, N.C. – You can easily see a screenwriter walking into the office of a major Hollywood producer and pitching this big idea … “So there are these two superstar golfers – one is a veteran, a family man, a practical joker who’s almost universally beloved; the other is younger, on the verge of becoming a father for the first time, still trying to win the big one. You with me so far? “OK, so these two guys are paired together in one of the year’s biggest tournaments. It’s back-and-forth all day. More dramatic with each hole. Finally, at the end, the veteran makes an improbable putt on the last hole to win! But instead of running off to celebrate, he grabs the younger guy by the cheeks and tells him that he’s going to love being a father! I mean, how amazing is that? “The very next day, his first child is born. Happy ending, right? Wrong. Four months later, tragedy strikes. The veteran player dies in a plane crash. Incredibly sad. The entire golf community mourns, including the guy who lost to him that day. “Well, fast forward 15 years. That younger player isn’t so young anymore. He’s almost the exact same age as the veteran when he died. He now has three children. He’s also won every big tournament there is – except the one he lost that day. He keeps coming in second place! But now, this time, he’s back at the EXACT SAME COURSE where he lost to the veteran and …” ——————- By comparison, “Tin Cup” seems more plausible than the potential story of Phil Mickelson returning to Pinehurst No. 2 so many years after losing to Payne Stewart and finally claiming that elusive U.S. Open title. It’s a script layered with so much drama, so many inconceivable plot twists, that a Hollywood producer might decline on the grounds that it just sounds too unrealistic. And yet, here we are. The entire script has been written, except for the final act. “To do it right here where Payne and I had this moment,” Mickelson said Tuesday, “where he we talked about fatherhood, but he also talked about winning future U.S. Opens, although I haven’t won one yet, I’m still fighting hard and this would be a great place to break through and do it.” In major championship golf, we’re often lucky if the champion has one major storyline going for him on Sunday evening. Mickelson owns a confluence of them, the likes we’ve rarely – if ever – witnessed packaged together and wrapped in one neat bow, waiting to be ripped open. U.S. Open: Articles, videos and photos He would vanquish all those U.S. Open close calls of the past – six of them, to be exact, where he finished behind just one other player. He would triumph at Pinehurst No. 2, the first of those runner-up results, the one that started this chain of painful memories. He would fulfill the prophecy of Stewart, who told him that day, right on this course, that he would someday win this tournament. He would become just the sixth player in the game’s history to record a career grand slam, winning each of the four major championships. With such a combination of delicious narratives, even Mickelson admits that it has been impossible not to allow his mind to wander and think about what it would be like to win the U.S. Open this week. “I try not to,” he said, “because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But it’s only natural that it’s going to. Occasionally I’ll catch myself, but I really try not to, because I really just want to focus on what I need to do to get ready for Thursday. If I can do that, hopefully I’ll give myself a chance on the weekend. But when I jump ahead, that never really works out good, at least in the past.” ——————- “… and this time things are different! This time, he goes out there and …” “Let me guess,” interrupts the Hollywood producer, in between prolonged puffs on a Cohiba. “He wins the tournament, thanks the veteran player in memorium, then skips off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. The end.” “Well, yeah,” the screenwriter answers. “I mean, isn’t that what everyone wants to see?”last_img read more

Spieth wins Australian Open by six strokes

first_imgSYDNEY – Jordan Spieth played the best round of an already impressive career with an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Australian Open by six strokes, making his first trip Down Under a successful one. Spieth’s 72-hole total of 13-under 271 on the tough, windy Australian Golf Club made him the first American to win the Australian Open since Brad Faxon in 1993, when the 21-year-old Spieth was four months old. ”It’s the best round I have ever played, especially considering the conditions,” Spieth said. ”It was just kind of one of those rounds when you’re in the zone and you’re not sure what you’re at. It’s nice that it came on a Sunday.” Spieth birdied four holes on the front nine – three of them in a row – to lead by three strokes after nine holes, then made light of the challenging, windy conditions by adding four more on the back nine, never threatening to lose his lead. ”You don’t want any kind of crack in the door to be open and I felt like we kept it shut from the front nine on,” Spieth said. Spieth’s score was a record for the revamped Jack Nicklaus-designed layout which was being played as a par 71 for the first time. On Friday, Jamie Lovemark of the United States shot 65. Adam Scott shot 71 and finished fifth, nine strokes behind. Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who shot 76 on Saturday, finished with a 72 and was 2-over, 15 strokes behind Spieth. Three Australians who finished closest to Spieth earned trips to next July’s British Open. The Australian Open is the first qualifying tournament for the 2015 Open Championship and offers three spots to the top finishers not already exempt. Rod Pampling shot 68 to finish second, while former two-time Australian Open champion Greg Chalmers (71) and Brett Rumford (70) were third and fourth, respectively. All three will play at St. Andrews next year. Gusty northeasterly breezes played havoc all week with scores, and only eight players finished under par. Chalmers and Spieth were tied for the lead at 6-under after four holes, but Spieth birdied the par-5 fifth where Chalmers made bogey for a two-shot swing. The American also birdied the sixth and seventh holes, made a fine par save on the ninth, then did the same on the 10th from about five feet, pumping his fist as he edged closer to the title and the Stonehaven Cup trophy. It was Spieth’s first win of 2014, and second of his pro career – he won on the John Deere Classic in a playoff on the PGA Tour in 2013. Although he hadn’t won this year, he was runner-up in the Masters and had eight top-10 finishes in 24 PGA Tour events. He was reminded that last year’s Australian Open win by McIlroy was his only victory that year, and the Northern Irishman went on to win two majors and have an outstanding 2014. ”If I had the follow-up year that Rory had this year, I’d be pleased this time next year,” Spieth said. McIlroy’s 76 all but ended the defense of the title he memorably won in 2014 with a birdie on the last hole to deny Scott the Australian Triple Crown. ”It’s been tough all weekend,” McIlroy said. ”I was trying to get something going but with the pin positions and the wind, it was just very hard to get the ball close to the hole. It just wasn’t meant to be this year.” There were tributes around the golf course Saturday and Sunday for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died Thursday after being hit by a ball during a match at the nearby Sydney Cricket Ground. The number 63 was used in many of them, as that was the number of runs Hughes had scored before he was fatally injured. Spieth provided the final reminder – and an unintentional tribute – by finishing with a round of 63.last_img read more

Big Time

first_imgORLANDO, Fla. – Matt Every was so confident that he’d win the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, he shaved for his close-up and opted for a pair of red-and-blue plaid pants. He thought they’d nicely match the winner’s blue blazer. Keep in mind this is the same player who four months ago was playing so poorly that he was embarrassed to be on the golf course. Looking around at the star-studded field at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, he wondered what his fellow playing competitors must have been thinking. “Probably like, ‘This guy sucks! How is here?’” he said. Things didn’t get any smoother once Every returned to the mainland, either; in five full-field starts this year, he had collected about $40,000. Every’s ongoing work with swing coach Sean Foley may not have offered instant gratification, but that only made another success story that much sweeter. In contention for the first time since early June, Every buried a 17-foot birdie putt on 18 to cap a 6-under 66 that lifted him to a one-shot title defense. An upside-down year became even more so Sunday at Bay Hill. The last nine 54-hole leaders on the PGA Tour have coughed up the lead on the final day. Leave it to the guy without a top-45 finish this season to close out the tournament. No, even that stat isn’t sufficient. Consider: This was a player who had a scoring average north of 72, who had one top 25 since May, who entered this week ranked outside the top 200 in ball-striking. He is the 19th winner in 19 events this season. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos When Every won this tournament a year ago, even his caddie, Derek Mason, described his boss as a “flash in the pan,” a player who relied on a swing based too much on timing and his comfort level at that particular venue. The next few months proved that. Playing in his first Masters just three weeks after his first win, Every got exposed. He shot rounds of 77-78 and, worse, didn’t feel like he belonged. “I got my butt kicked,” he said. “I said I’ve got to get better because I don’t want to be a guy who can’t compete there.” The missed cuts mounted, six in all, by the time he reached the FedEx Cup playoffs. He was tired, worn down, frustrated. The first step was his decision to transform his body, to shed some weight, to ensure that his 30s were the prime of his career like so many of his peers. Revamping his swing was next. Every has been friends with Sean Foley for years, and the renowned swing coach had an opening in his stable last fall when a certain former No. 1 decided that Foley’s services were no longer needed. Every jumped at the opportunity. They made a rather drastic adjustment in Every’s swing – moving his eye line over the ball – but more than the technical aspects, Every says that the uber-positive Foley has provided him clarity, or a better understanding of how and why the swing works. “It was like he had a Ferrari but the wheels weren’t aligned,” says Mason, the caddie. “Now, he’s got the alignment and the GPS units on it, so he’s not taking wrong turns.” Oh, but there were several in the last few months. Several until this past week, really. “It’s easy to get down on yourself out here,” Every said. “It’s the biggest waste of time, because nobody really cares.” He was striping it on the range, for two hours at a time under the watchful eye of Foley. He sensed a turnaround was imminent. And besides, why couldn’t he win again at Arnie’s Place, a tournament he’s been attending since he was a boy, when his dad would let a 12-year-old Matt follow Mark Calcavecchia, walk the entire course and meet up four hours later? Last year Every chased down a soon-to-be-No. 1 in Adam Scott. This time, he needed seven final-round birdies to hold off world No. 3 Stenson. The Swedish ball-striking savant had a one-shot lead midway through the back nine, but his group was put on the clock for a second time on 15. Worried about the stopwatch-wielding official, Stenson rushed through his routine on the green and three-putted from 45 feet, including a 5-foot miss. The next hole, he three-jacked from the same distance. “That’s really what cost me the tournament,” Stenson said, adding that he made a gesture toward the rules official after the second three-putt on 16. Let’s just say it wasn’t a thumbs up. Up ahead, Every delivered the finishing blow. As Every approached his final birdie putt at the back of the 18th green, a fan in the grandstand purposely coughed and blurted, “Straight putt! … Ahem. … Straight putt!” “I was like, this guy is a real d— if he’s lying to me, because it’s a pretty important moment,” Every said. But sure enough, Every surveyed the downhill putt and couldn’t find much break. The fan was right. Every’s putt snuck in the side door. That final birdie lifted Every to 19-under 269, one shot clear of Stenson, who missed a hard-swinging 20-footer on the last. Every, who erased a three-shot deficit, joined Loren Roberts (1994-95) and Tiger Woods (five times) as the only back-to-back winners at Bay Hill. At the trophy presentation, Every leaned into the microphone and cracked, “I told Tiger I’d hold it down for him until he gets back.” An embarrassment no longer.last_img read more

Park earns the trophy she wanted most

first_imgTURNBERRY, Scotland – Inbee Park closed with a vengeance Sunday to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open.  While revenge doesn’t seem like Park’s style, there was some of that fueling the fierce way she finished at Trump Turnberry. Park wasn’t out there trying to obliterate the opposition as much as she was trying to obliterate the memory of last year’s loss at Royal Birkdale. She took a one-shot lead into the final round of last year’s Women’s British Open and even built on the lead before ultimately collapsing in the heavy winds on the back nine. “The most disappointing tournament I’ve had,” Park said. “On the front nine, I was leading by two. I only needed to shoot like 2 or 3 over on the back nine to win, and I couldn’t even do that. I was disappointed, because it was something I really wanted.  Park was left with such a deep ache because the Women’s British Open was the major championship she coveted most, and yet the one she believed was the most difficult to win. She shot 77 in the final round at Royal Birkdale. She also endured disappointment at St. Andrews two years ago. That’s where she went looking to win the fourth leg of the calendar year Grand Slam only to see her bid to sweep all the majors in a single season end. Ricoh Women’s British Open: Articles, photos and videos “I’ve set one goal this year, one and only one, and that’s winning the British Open,” Park said with a hand on the Women’s British Open trophy in the media center at Turnberry. “And being the only goal I’ve set, it feels great.” Blitzing Turnberry on a ferocious run in the middle of the final round, playing 10 holes in 7 under, Park closed with a 7-under-par 65, coming from three shots behind Jin-Young Ko (71) to win by three. Park’s dominance in the majors is becoming epic. She has won six of the last 14 majors played. If she wins Evian next month, she will join Mickey Wright as the only women to win seven majors in a three-year span. Sunday’s victory was also historic because it makes Park just the seventh player to win four different majors in her career. She has now won three Women’s PGA Championships, two U.S. Women’s Opens, one ANA Inspiration and one Women’s British Open. The LPGA is calling her feat a career Grand Slam, but the tour’s elevation of the Evian Championship to major status in 2013 complicates the designation. Golf Channel, based on its research department’s examination of the origins of how the “Grand Slam” concept was first applied to golf, is recognizing only a “sweep” of existing majors as a “Grand Slam.” The Associated Press also isn’t calling Park’s feat a career Grand Slam. Park has won four of the five currently designated majors in women’s golf. Though she has won the Evian Championship, she won it in 2012. “I won that the year before it became a major but I’m still an Evian Championship champion, and my name is still on that trophy,” Park said. “I feel like I’ve won all the majors in women’s golf.” Park, 27, now owns seven women’s major championships, equaling Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb in seventh place on the all-time list. Only the real legends of the game own more majors. Only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13), Louise Suggs (11), Babe Zaharias (10), Annika Sorenstam (10) and Betsy Rawls (8) have won more. Park says winning the Women’s British Open felt like the most daunting task in her major quest. She says it was especially meaningful winning it in Scotland. “Scotland is obviously the birthplace of golf,” Park said. “It feels like this is where they started golf and this feels like real golf. So, I definitely wanted to put my name on a British Open trophy because it just means so much, the golf course, the place. Everything just has so much history. This is definitely the golfer’s most wanted trophy. “It’s just much more special. Every time I come to the British Open, everything seems so hard, the wind, the rain, the tee times. There’s so much that I had to overcome in the Women’s British Open. It always felt so hard.” Brad Beecher, Park’s long-time caddie, knows how satisfying Sunday’s triumph was. He was there in the loss at Royal Birkdale. He was there at St. Andrews two years ago. He was on Park’s bag in the four top-10 finishes she endured trying to win over the five-year span coming into this year. “I remember losing last year,” Beecher said. “And afterward Inbee questioning, questioning, questioning: `What did I do wrong? What could I have done better?’ It was devastating.” Park was at her best closing with a 65 at Turnberry. She hit just eight fairways in Sunday’s winds, but she hit 13 greens in regulation. Her famous putting, sometimes a frustration to her this year, was terrific. She took just 24 putts. When Park’s at her best, her putter is the most feared club in women’s golf. She wielded it like a bludgeon winning those first three majors in 2013. “It reminded me of a couple years ago when it was red hot,” Beecher said. “She just set up over the ball, and it felt like it was going to go in.” Park used her best weapon to slay the memory of her worst losses in golf.last_img

Medalist ousted in first round of U.S. Women’s Amateur

first_imgSPRINGFIELD, Pa. – China’s Muni He made a 35-foot birdie putt on the 22nd hole to beat qualifying medalist Mariel Galdiano on Wednesday in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. ”My goal was really just to roll it near the hole because it’s not an easy putt,” He said. ”It’s a pretty slopey putt and a very decent break, but I just kind of had a target in mind and putted it toward there and let it roll near the hole. It just happened to go in.” The 17-year-old He got the last of the 64 spots in match play Wednesday morning in a playoff, holing a 22-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. She three-putted for bogey on the first playoff hole Tuesday, and had to return Wednesday to fight four other players for the last position. ”Today, as I stood out there in the playoff, to get in really, I felt a lot better about my game, whether it was my putting, my stroke or my shots in general,” said He, set to attend the University of Southern California in 2017. ”I think that’s what kept the momentum going.” The 18-year-old Galdiano, from Pearl City, Hawaii, dropped out a day after setting the championship stroke-play qualifying record at 9-under 133. She became the third straight medalist to fall in the first round, following Bethany Wu in 2014 and Angel Yin last year. ”She played really well, obviously, and these things happen for a reason,” said Galdiano, preparing for her freshman season at UCLA. ”It’s just another learning experience for me.” Galdiano forced extra holes with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th. She made the only two bogeys of the match, the first on the par-4 14th to drop into a tie and the second on the par-5 17th to fall a hole down. He will face NCAA champion Virginia Elena Carta of Duke on Thursday. Elena Carta, from Italy, topped Rinko Mitsunaga of Roswell, Ga., 5 and 4. Dylan Kim of Plano, Texas, had the shortest match, routing Lauren Beaudreau of Lemont, Ill., 8 and 7. Playing her first competition since surgery to remove a benign tumor from her left hip in October 2015, Kim will be a sophomore at Baylor. ”I put it really close the first few holes, so I was hitting my irons really, really well,” Kim said. ”I’m putting well from that mid-range area, from 10 to 15 feet, so it was really nice to get some birdies in early.” Kristen Gillman of Austin, Texas, the 2014 champion, cruised to a 5-and-4 victory over Annika Clark of Highlands, Texas. Second-seeded Lucy Li pulled away to beat August Kim of St. Augustine, Fla., 4 and 3. Eun Jeong Seong, the 16-year-old South Korean player coming off her second straight U.S. Girls’ Junior title last month, topped Janet Mao of Johns Creek, Ga., 4 and 3. Hannah O’Sullivan, the Arizona teen who won last year in Portland, Ore., skipped her title defense. She played last week in the Women’s British Open.last_img read more

Fowler on outside looking in for Ryder Cup

first_imgSPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Rickie Fowler is short on majors, not on class. He returned to the 18th green at Baltusrol after an exhausting day because he wanted to congratulate the winner. He is friendly with Jimmy Walker and Jason Day, though there is a special connection with Walker. Both work with Butch Harmon. They were partners in all four matches in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and two matches in the Presidents Cup at South Korea. They were housemates at Royal Troon. ”He’s definitely one of my closest buddies on tour,” Fowler said. Sunday afternoon, however, was as close as Fowler came to a major championship trophy this year. He was trending in a big way two years ago when he finished in the top five at all four majors, a feat previously achieved only by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods until Jordan Spieth joined them last year. Even so, it appeared to be only a matter of time before Fowler broke through. That now seems like a long time ago. On a soft course at Baltusrol, in a major that produced five players who had all four rounds in the 60s, Fowler could only manage 70-71 in the last two rounds Sunday and tied for 33rd. That was his best finish of the year in the majors. The British Open two weeks earlier was the first cut in a major he made this year. He shot 76-73 on the weekend at Royal Troon. He never shot better than 75 at Oakmont. He opened with an 80 at Augusta National. Golf is hard, and so are the majors. One year, Fowler had top 5s in all the majors without winning a tournament. The next year, he won a career-best three times and didn’t feature in any of the majors. There is no cause for alarm. He still is No. 7 in the world, and that’s not a case of bad math. Fowler won in January at Abu Dhabi against the strongest field of the year on the European Tour. He lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff after leading by two shots with two to play. He had the 54-hole lead at Quail Hollow in early May and closed with a 74. Since then, his only top 10 was at Firestone, a World Golf Championship with a small field and no cut. ”It’s been a little slow the last couple of months,” Fowler said Monday at the TPC Boston to promote his title defense next month in the Deutsche Bank Championship. ”Just golf’s hard. If it was easy, then everyone would be out here playing and I wouldn’t have a job. So it’s just kind of fighting through it and continuing to put in the work, and it will turn back around here soon.” The victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship last year, coupled with the victory in Abu Dhabi this year, put Fowler on the cusp of conversations involving the top players. He made people suggest a ”Big Four” when there really were only three players battling for No. 1. And when Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open to move into the elite in today’s game, Fowler lingered as No. 5. That’s no longer the case. Golf is done with ”Big” any numbers, and Fowler wouldn’t be part of that conversation at the moment. Where the sluggish season has hurt him is in the Ryder Cup standings. Fowler has dropped all the way to No. 12, a precarious place to be for a couple of reasons. Only the top eight automatically qualify for the U.S. team, and Fowler is running out of time to make it. He chose to play in the Olympics, and he’s leaving this week to be there for opening ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. That means he won’t be at the Travelers Championship, where the other three Olympians are playing – Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. All of them are just outside the top eight, and just ahead of Fowler, in the Ryder Cup standings. It’s another reminder how little golf guarantees. Fowler never imagined this being an issue six months ago. ”I took a little bit more time off through the first part of the season to prepare for the busy summer that was ahead,” Fowler said. ”Unfortunately, I haven’t played as well as I would have liked to the past few months, which has kind of put me in a tough position.” He was in reasonable shape at the halfway point in the last two majors, only to fade on the weekend. And as thrilled as he was for Walker winning a major, Fowler surely took notice that the 37-year-old Texan had been struggling over the previous 15 months. It can be frustrating that it wasn’t him, or it can provide hope that his turn his coming.last_img read more

Storm tops McIlroy in playoff to win SA Open

first_imgJOHANNESBURG – Graeme Storm beat Rory McIlroy on the third playoff hole to win the SA Open on Sunday, earning the Englishman a second European Tour title 80 days after losing his card by 100 euros. After the 251st-ranked Storm tapped in for a par, McIlroy slid his par putt wide from 7 feet on their fourth visit to the 18th hole at the Glendower Golf Club. ”I’m in shock, this has been a surreal week,” Storm said. ”To find myself in the position I was in, playing on the final day with the best player in the world right now. It’s just a dream come true.” McIlroy, the world No. 2, started the final round three strokes behind Storm but chased down the overnight leader, moving atop the leaderboard when Storm missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 14. McIlroy relinquished the lead by bogeying No. 17 after taking two shots in a greenside bunker, sending the event to a playoff with both at 18-under 270. McIlroy shot 4-under 68 and Storm had a 71. Storm lost his card at the end of last year, only to get a reprieve when American Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to join the tour. His other title came at the French Open in 2007. Tour rookie Jordan Smith of England was a shot back in third, ahead of a trio of South African players. Dean Burmester was fourth on 273, one stroke ahead of Thomas Aiken and Trevor Fisher Jr. On the first playoff hole, Storm sank a close-range putt for par. They went back up the par-4 18th and both players drove into the rough but still managed to make par. The third time round, McIlroy hit his approach shot short of the green to give Storm the advantage. The Englishman’s 45-foot birdie putt just missed, as did McIlory’s putt for par minutes later. Storm played cautiously Sunday, coming up short with many putts on the back nine to allow McIlroy to eat into his lead.last_img read more

Tiger’s struggles not a product of age

first_imgDUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The same week one television analyst said Tiger Woods “looks like an old man,” and the same week the 41-year-old withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms under intense scrutiny, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson proved age is just a number. While the debate over Woods’ future in competitive golf droned on, the 37-year-old Garcia went wire-to-wire in Dubai, enduring a marathon 28-hole Saturday because of weather delays. That Stenson, 40, and Ian Poulter, 41, set out with the Spaniard in Sunday’s final group only served to make the point more relevant. This seasoned threesome stood in sharp contrast to the current trend on the PGA Tour, which has seen its last five champions comprise an average age of 24.4. Oh, and your 54-hole frontrunner at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is 25-year-old Byeong Hun An. And then there was Woods, who arrived in Dubai after a 17-hour trek from San Diego, looking jet-lagged and stiff. He was deliberate during Wednesday’s pro-am, tentative on Thursday on his way to an opening 77, and AWOL on Friday on his way to his seventh withdrawal since 2010. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee on Thursday called Woods “the oldest 41-year-old in the history of the game,” and that was before Woods cut out of town. Despite assurances from Tiger’s manager Mark Steinberg that Woods’ back spasms aren’t associated with the nerve pain that caused him to miss all of 2016, a general sense of concern looms over the 14-time major champion’s future. Omega Dubai Desert Classic: Articles, photos and videos While some will focus on Woods’ age – including, regularly, Tiger himself – Garcia, Stenson and even Phil Mickelson, who at 46 began Sunday at TPC Scottsdale tied for 12th, continue to play quality golf. When Stenson won The Open last year, he figured his best years were ahead of him. On Sunday in Dubai, he gushed over the prospect of a new season and sound body. “I’m just working away on my game, trying to move all the positions forward and the time when we want to be peaking is obviously early April,” Stenson said. “That’s what we’re working towards, and yeah, it’s a good, steady progress.” A year ago, Stenson was drained by transatlantic travel and recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss part of the European Tour’s desert swing. What a difference a year makes. Garcia stands as an even more obvious paradigm of hope for Woods, having navigated a career filled with peaks and valleys, many born from personal more than physical challenges. After three winless years on the PGA Tour, he outdueled Brooks Koepka in extra holes last year at the AT&T Byron Nelson and on Sunday picked up his 12th title on the European circuit. “I’ve been very open with you guys,” Garcia said. “When things are going well off the golf course it’s much easier to feel comfortable on a golf course, because there’s no worries. There’s no worries outside and you can concentrate on what you’re doing out there on the course.” There’s no doubt that Woods faces his share of physical challenges in this current comeback, and maybe even a few internal demons as well. But those has nothing to do with his age.last_img read more

After Further Review: The ‘6’ in Jeongeun Lee6

first_imgEach week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here’s what’s weighing on our writers’ minds. On the ‘6’ in Jeongeun Lee6 … If you suspect there is some factory churning out female golf stars in South Korea, you are probably more suspicious now. Jeongeun Lee6 won the inaugural Q-Series. The Korean LPGA attached the numeral to her name because there are so many players with the exact same name on its tour.  She stands out, though. She is proving she may be the No. 1 Lee. She is a seven-time KLPGA winner who captured two of those titles this year. She leads the KLPGA money list this season. For all the excitement the gifted collegians brought to Q-Series, nobody brought more promise than Lee6. – Randall Mell On Justin Rose reclaiming the No. 1 ranking … In another week, Justin Rose will hand back the world No. 1 ranking to Brooks Koepka without either player hitting a shot. Such are the whims of the OWGR calculators. But Rose’s albeit brief return to the top of the rankings served as a significant topper to his successful title defense in Turkey. It also continued to show how much attaining a No. 1 ranking means to top players. After Dustin Johnson held the top spot for more than a year, Rose is the third other player to take it from him this year, with Koepka and Justin Thomas also taking turns at No. 1. It sets up an intriguing four-man race heading into 2019, one where the upper echelon has distanced itself from the pack and one tournament win, as was the case with Rose this week and with Koepka two weeks prior, can be enough to separate. Rose will now have two reigns atop the rankings, adding up to a total of three weeks. But as he, Koepka, Johnson and Thomas head into the new year, it’s likely they’ll each take turns stealing the title from each other over the next few months. And a little competition at the top is never a bad thing. – Will Graylast_img read more

Emotional scars and fresh perspective: Haas returns to scene of horrific accident

first_imgLOS ANGELES – It was a normal Tuesday on the PGA Tour for Bill Haas. He checked in with tournament officials, joked with members of the Riviera Country Club staff he knew long before he won the circuit’s annual L.A. stop in 2012 and spent some time working on his game. It was the same routine for Haas at last year’s Genesis Open, before the predictable ebb and flow of life on Tour was shattered when his host for the week, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, offered to take him for a ride through the Pacific Palisades hills. In the 911 tape later released by police, Haas described in a shaken voice a “horrible head-on collision” and Gibello’s Ferrari that was “caved in” on the driver’s side. When asked to describe Gibello’s condition, Haas’ voice trails off. At 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2018, Gibello’s sports car clipped another car and caromed into a pole in the 500 block of North Chautauqua Boulevard, just a few miles from Riviera. Gibello was pronounced dead at the scene. Haas and the driver of the other car, a 50-year-old woman (who was rescued by actor Luke Wilson who was also involved in the accident), were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. One year later, Haas left leg – which was badly bruised in the accident – is fully recovered, but his mental scars from that horrific moment are still fresh. Haas, understandably, withdrew from last year’s Genesis Open and he didn’t tee it up on Tour again for nearly a month. As he made the rounds on Tuesday at Riviera to prepare for this year’s event, the memories came flooding back. “There are a lot of emotions that I keep inside that impact me in ways that I’m figuring out, whether that’s good or bad,” Haas said. “It’s given me a perspective.” Haas is staying in Santa Monica this week with his wife, but that doesn’t mean he’s trying to forget what happened last year. In fact, he had dinner with Gibello’s wife on Monday night. “It was nice to see her,” he said. “It’s something we are all still struggling with and thinking about. I’m learning how to deal with it and how to cope with any kind of tragedy.” The emotional toll of last year’s accident has dovetailed with a particularly difficult stretch for Haas on the course. He has just two top-10 finishes since last year’s Genesis Open and he failed to qualify for last year’s playoffs for the first time in his career. “I’m still figuring out what the cause of all that is, whether it’s physical, whether it’s mental. Once I’m inside the ropes at least I know that golf is something that I’ve done well before,” Haas said. Full-field tee times from the Genesis Open Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos Whether the accident that took Gibello’s life is responsible for Haas’ on-course performance he can’t say, but in a cathartic way he admits that dealing with the tragedy has given him some perspective when things aren’t going his way professionally. After getting off to a particularly poor start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago, for example, his aggravation was evident. But after missing the cut, his third missed weekend in his last four starts, he embraced a bigger picture. “Let’s say I was playing equally bad golf and this hadn’t happened,” he said. “I don’t know that I’d deal with it as well as I have. It’s not the end of the world like it is for some people out here. That perspective at least helps me shoot 76, 76 in Phoenix.” As he struggles for answers to questions that have filled his thoughts for the last 12 months he glances over his shoulder at a picture of his victory celebration in 2012 at Riviera. “It’s a place that’s always been special to me having a win here. It’s one of my favorites. This place with the Wall of Champions is pretty cool,” he smiled. That history, along with the type of retooled perspective that often accompanies a life-altering event, will help ease him back into a week that is anything but routine despite his outward attempts at normalcy. “When you have a life-changing event, even though it didn’t change my life it certainly changed other people’s life, being able to handle that and know that I still have a family to go home to,” Haas said. “You never know what will happen tomorrow. Missing cuts isn’t the end of the world.”last_img read more