R&A Golf Club considers voting by mail for female members

first_imgPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Royal & Ancient Golf Club could make history even before its historic vote in September to have female members. R&A secretary Peter Dawson said the club is deciding whether to allow members to vote by proxy, something he said has never been done in club history. Club rules require members to be present to vote. ”The jury is still out on that,” Dawson said in a telephone interview last week during the R&A’s spring meeting. ”The rules of the club only allow a vote to be taken at the business meeting of those present. There is a view in the club, and quite a strong one, that postal voting should be allowed.” Dawson announced last month that the R&A would vote Sept. 18 to allow female members for the first time in its 260-year history. The R&A Golf Club has about 2,400 members around the world. Dawson is hopeful the vote will be favorable toward allowing women to join. There has been speculation that he had a strong sense how the members were leaning when he publicly announced that it was on the ballot, though he has said all along that’s not the case. ”It’s been written up that it will happen,” said Dawson, who is retiring in September 2015. ”We’re never sure of the outcome. I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think it’s the right thing, and I hope that R&A members do what’s right for golf.” Because attendance is required to vote, a proxy vote might include those who are in favor of change but are disinclined or unable to travel to St. Andrews in September. Several golf administrators are R&A members. The vote falls between the end of the FedEx Cup and the week of the Ryder Cup. The R&A said Monday in a statement that ”members from around the world have expressed the desire to be part of this September’s historic vote.” It said the general committee is investigating a change to club rules that would allow voting by mail on ”particularly important issues such as this one so that every member can have the opportunity to be involved.” It’s an important vote for the image of the R&A, particularly coming just two years after Augusta National allowed female members for the first time in its 80-year history. There are differences. Augusta National is a private golf club. The Royal & Ancient is based in St. Andrews, though the Old Course and other links run by the St. Andrews Links Trust are open to the public. The R&A Golf Club is separate from ”The R&A,” a business arm created 10 years ago to handle the Rules of Golf, organize the British Open and operate other business affairs. The R&A has female employees. Its committee and board, however, are populated by Royal & Ancient Golf Club members. Thus, there are no women in leadership roles for governing the game or running a major championship. Dawson is secretary of the R&A Golf Club and chief executive of the R&A. He said he expected a decision on the voting procedure ”fairly soon.” ”It would be very easy to say that would be the democratic thing to do,” Dawson said of a proxy vote. ”There are cons to it. One can say that affairs are to be settled locally, not at the bar of one’s club. It’s a balance of what’s right or wrong. All the legislation in the UK – and maybe it’s the case in the U.S. – laws are passed by those who turn up at Parliament. There has not been a proxy.”last_img read more

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Lewis wins ShopRite by 6; takes over No. 1

first_imgGALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Stacy Lewis is back on top. And this time, she’s ready to stay there for a while. Lewis won the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday to take the top spot in the world ranking from Inbee Park, finishing with a 4-under 67 for a six-stroke victory. No. 1 for four weeks early last year, Lewis ended Park’s 59-week run in the top spot. ”It feels great,” Lewis said. ”I feel like I’ve played a lot of good, consistent golf over the last year and I felt like I deserve to be here. I didn’t feel like I stumbled into it.” Lewis finished at 16-under 197 on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club and earned $225,000 for her second victory of the year and 10th overall. Also the 2012 winner at Seaview, she won the North Texas LPGA Shootout last month after finishing second six times in her previous 16 events since winning the Women’s British Open in August. She joins Sorenstam (1998, 2002, 2005), Juli Inkster (1986, 1988) and Betsy King (1987, 1995, 2001) as the only multiple winners in the tournament. ”That’s a pretty good list of people there,” Lewis said. ”That’s not too bad. Wow, that’s really cool.” Christina Kim was second after a 72, marking her best finish since 2010. Park closed with a 70 to tie for eighth at 7 under. She’s winless in 10 tour starts this season after sweeping the first three majors last year and finishing the season with six victories. ”It is a little bit relief not to have the big heavy crown on my head,” Park said. ”It’s not the end of the world.” Lewis finished a stroke off the tournament scoring record set by Annika Sorenstam in 1998 and 2005. The 29-year-old Texan opened with a 67 and had a 63 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Kim into the final round. On Sunday, she was hardly threatened, using birdies on the third and fourth holes to open up a two-stroke lead before picking up two more consecutive birdies to open the back nine – holing a 25-foot putt on No. 10 and a 15-footer on No. 11. Despite her first bogey in 42 holes at No. 12 and then missing two short putts on No. 17 for another bogey, Lewis had built up enough of a cushion to cruise home with the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s 26-year history. ”I don’t know what it is about this place,” Lewis said. ”It’s just really special to me. I’ve played some really good golf here, and it’s just mind-boggling to think I have 10 wins.” Jennifer Johnson (72), Haeji Kang (69), Anna Nordqvist (70) and Gerina Piller (70) tied for third at 9 under. Johnson opened with a course-record 62 and followed with 70 for a spot in Sunday’s final pairing with Lewis and Kim. But the 22-year-old Californian had a double bogey and two bogeys on the back nine to fall out of contention. Kim had a run of three straight birdies on No. 9-11, but shot 3 over on the final seven holes, including a double bogey on 18. ”I hadn’t been in contention in a while so I kind of forgot what it was like having nerves,” Kim said. ”And it kind of showed on the last hole.” Lewis smiled and pumped her fist to the crowd as she walked down the fairway at 18, relishing her new place atop the world ranking. Her brief stay as No. 1 last year was a rocky one, with Lewis admitting that she had trouble dealing with the extra obligations that came with the top spot. ”With a good team of people around me,” Lewis believes she’s more prepared to handle those duties and be the face of the LPGA. ”The last time it was taken away from me in an off-week when we weren’t even playing, so I’m definitely just not going to take it for granted and really enjoy it this time. Now I know all the extra things that come along with it. But I’m ready for it this time.” Karrie Webb, last year’s champion, tied for eighth after a 67. Third-ranked Lydia Ko bounced back from a second-round 75 to shoot 69 and finish at 1 under.last_img read more

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Paper Thin

first_imgGLENEAGLES, Scotland – Something ancient stirred the air Wednesday with Stephen Gallacher on the back nine of a practice round for the Ryder Cup. As the only Scot in the matches, Gallacher couldn’t be more at home at Gleneagles, where bagpipers in kilts near the clubhouse squeezed soul-tingling notes through the rolling country side. Here, on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, Gallacher can do no wrong in his preparation, even when his golf ball isn’t cooperating. At the 12th tee, he hooks his drive hard left, where it scatters the gallery near a berries-and-cream stand. He re-loads and hits another right back into the gallery. The fans there couldn’t be more pleased, because they know it means Gallacher will be wandering into their midst. When he gets there, they swarm him for autographs. “Wurrr all prrrowed of ye,” Gallacher hears in a thick Scottish burr as he signs. Europeans could say the same thing about the entire European team. They’re proud of the way their home-grown talent is dominating the Ryder Cup, which has become the Super Bowl of team golf. They love the chance to root their team on in Europe’s bid to win the Ryder Cup for the sixth time in its last seven tries and for the eighth time in the last 10. Ladbrokes makes Europe a 4/6 favorite to do just that. “We’re here without Tiger Woods,” Phil Mickelson said. “We’re without Dustin Johnson. We’re without Jason Dufner. And we’re playing a team that has players like [Rory] McIlroy and Henrik [Stenson], who have played just incredible golf over the years. They’re going to be extremely tough to beat, whoever gets paired against them. Certainly, we are the underdog.” Ryder Cup: Articles, videos and photos Don’t tell that to Scots and their fellow European supporters this week. No matter where this is played, no matter what British bookmakers post as odds and no matter who boasts more highly ranked players, Europeans will always see their team as underdogs. That’s because this is essentially the European Tour vs. the PGA Tour. That’s the dynamic that trumps everything else.  Yes, most of the European team plays the PGA Tour, even make their homes there now, but it doesn’t matter. Their roots are in Europe, in the European Tour. In that regard, Europeans will always be David in a battle with Goliath. They’ll always be the children of the little tour that could. They’ll always be from a circuit dwarfed by the PGA Tour and its giant purses, sponsorships and international TV presence. “The whole world, when it gets a chance to beat the United States, it’s a big deal,” NBC’s Johnny Miller said. “I just think it’s so much fun for Europe to beat the United States.” If you don’t think the Ryder Cup is becoming the Super Bowl of team golf, read the British tabloids in the morning. Mickelson was trying to be funny in his news conference here Wednesday, but the little crack he made is sure to make for some big headlines in Europe. Mickelson was asked if the Americans have struggled to win because they aren’t as close as the Europeans. “Not only are we able to play together, we also don’t litigate against each other, and that’s a real plus,” Mickelson cracked. Ouch. Mickelson was making light of litigation that has pitted McIlroy against Graeme McDowell in a legal wrangling over contracts McIlroy had with an agent he used to share with McDowell, but it’s headline fodder now.  It’s also silly bulletin-board fodder that feeds perfectly into Europe’s feeling that the giant can’t fall hard enough. Europe’s proud of its boys, and you can’t make fun of them in their own backyard, can you? “I couldn’t resist, sorry,” Mickelson said. The first tee on opening morning of a Ryder Cup is the most raucous and entertaining scene in golf. There will be singing, chanting and revelry. Surely, there is something special in the works now for Mickelson. He opened the door for that. “The first hole is always amazing,” Europe’s Sergio Garcia said. “It’s definitely the most impressive first hole we play throughout our careers. “It gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”  The first tee dynamic is enhanced this week. That’s because Americans and Europeans will pass through a tunnel beneath a roadway before making a long walk to the first tee. There are blue flowers for the Euros flanking the hillside on one exit to the tunnel, red flowers for the Americans on the other. It makes for a more dramatic entrance to these matches. “A bit like gladiators walking into the arena as you walk up that hill, coming out of the tunnel,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “It should be an electric atmosphere.”last_img read more

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Webb eyes major No. 8 with Olympics on horizon

first_imgHARRISON, N.Y. – Karrie Webb has hoisted seven major championship trophies in her career. Nobody teeing it up this week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has won more majors. In fact, only six women in the history of golf have won more. Only real legends have won more, only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13), Louise Suggs (11), Annika Sorenstam (10), Babe Zaharias (10) and Betsy Rawls (8). That’s what made Webb’s admission so telling after she closed out a 2-under-par 71 Friday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to move into weekend position to win her eighth major. She tees it up Saturday one shot behind Sei Young Kim. “I didn’t sleep well last night,” Webb said. “I don’t know if it’s been awhile since I’ve played with that much adrenaline. I just still had it in my body when I was trying to go to sleep.” Webb still has the drive to win on the game’s grandest stages. Twenty years after she won her first LPGA title, 16 years after she won her first major, she still craves more. “I was a little antsy,” Webb said of Friday’s start. KPMG Women’s PGA: Articles, videos and photos At 40, Webb is still driven by a dream. She wants to win an Olympic gold medal for her native Australia with golf returning to the Olympics next year. There’s still a lot of “want to” in Webb’s game and there’s something special to appreciate in that because she might not be around a whole lot longer, at least not with this same high level of ambition. She has told us this Olympic bid fuels her and after it’s over we might not see as much of her. Even if we do, we might not see the same burning desire. We saw Annika Sorenstam hit the wall after performing at such a high level for so many years. Sorenstam stepped away from the game at 37. We saw Lorena Ochoa do the same at 28. There’s longevity to Webb’s excellence to marvel over as she makes this last hard run of hers through the Olympics next year because this level of excellence can’t be fueled forever. This is a huge investment Webb is making to win gold. “I sort of feel like I am going to play as full a schedule as I have, and work as hard as I have, for the next two years and then see where that shakes out,” Webb said earlier this year. “I could be playing close to the best golf of my career, and it could be really hard to scale back. Or, I might just be ready for a break. Or, I might be somewhere in between.” Webb went to work changing her swing with Mike McGetrick last year, and we’re seeing the fruit of their work. Webb is full of confidence as she seeks to win her first major since taking the Kraft Nabisco in 2006. “I definitely think my game is as good as it’s ever been,” Webb said. “It’s just a matter of getting out of my own way and allowing that to happen.” The women’s game is so much younger than the men’s game. Webb is reminded of that all the time with 18-year-old Lydia Ko reigning as the Rolex No. 1, with 19-year-old Hyo Joo Kim beating her down the stretch at the Evian Championship last year, with 17-year-old Brooke Henderson contending this week. “It makes me think about my age,” said Webb, who won twice last season. “It’s fun to watch the young kids play because I know I used to be that fearless, and that’s probably the only thing I wish I had. Because, obviously, as you get older, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we all lose that little bit of fearlessness that we have when we were young. But I think for me, the experience of knowing myself very well, and what I need to do to play well, is just as important.” Juli Inkster can appreciate what it takes to keep the love of the game going strong enough to do the work it takes to keep pace with all the youth in the women’s game. Inkster, like Webb, has won seven majors. At 54, Inkster made the cut this week. Laura Davies can appreciate Webb’s longevity, too. She’s 51 and she also made the cut. With Webb going out with Kim as the leaders in the final pairing Saturday, Webb is right where she wants to be, trying to control all the adrenalin that comes with being in contention and trying to get a good night’s sleep. “I feel comfortable with where I put myself,” Webb said. “Who knows if that will be leading or tied for the lead or one behind tomorrow. I’m just really happy to have played the course really solidly for two days and see what happens on the weekend.”last_img read more

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Tiger at 40: Why Tiger Woods still matters

first_img(Editor’s note: This story originally ran on Dec. 16) THE BIGGEST DRAW IN GOLF is No. 416 in the world rankings, sandwiched between Martin Flores and Rob Oppenheim. He hasn’t won a tournament in 28 months, or a major in 90, and judging by the funereal tone of his news conference in the Bahamas, it’s safe to assume that drought won’t end anytime soon. But even as his game becomes more curiosity than cultural obsession, even as the next generation of stars dominates the way he used to, Tiger Woods has remained the focal point of the sport by almost any metric. When he moves into contention, television ratings skyrocket. When he adds a new tournament, fans turn out in record numbers. And when he lands in the news, talk shows produce breathless debate and websites post best-ever traffic reports. Sure, the Woods phenomenon is more subdued now, a byproduct of injury and ineffectiveness, and an uncertainty hovers over golf’s biggest star like never before. But the past year in particular – the worst of his legendary career – is proof that even a diminished Woods is still capable of elevating the sport in ways even the most compelling players cannot.    The Tiger Effect is alive and well as he approaches his 40th birthday – it just looks, sounds and feels different.  GOLF IS THE MOST COMPLICATED sport to cover on television. Think about it: There are as many as 70 balls in the air at one time. There are 18 separate fields spread out over hundreds of acres. There are no numbers or names on the backs of jerseys. And the play is continuous. In timed sports, such as football and basketball, a timeout allows a few moments to reassess. But golf never stops – in fact, the crew works even harder during commercials, taping shots and planning where they will send viewers after the break while also trying to catch up to live coverage and check in on the leaders. “It’s like putting a puzzle together,” said Lance Barrow, CBS’ coordinating producer for golf and the NFL. “If one of the pieces gets out of whack, it’s really hard to get back on track.” For the past two decades, the one consistent piece of that puzzle has been Woods, a larger-than-life figure whose play was so dominant that he hijacked the coverage to the point that no one else mattered. That tone was set early. The first tournament after Barrow assumed the reins of CBS’ golf coverage was the 1997 Masters, one of the most transformative events in the sport’s history. That Sunday, CBS came on the air early, as Woods and Costantino Rocca were hitting their approach shots into the fifth hole. In the production meeting that morning, Barrow had instructed his charges to show every one of Woods’ shots live and to walk with him as he crossed all of Augusta National’s historic landmarks: the short climb from the ninth green to the 10th tee, the uneasy walk from the 11th green to the 12th tee, the marches across the Hogan, Nelson and Sarazen bridges, and the reflective strolls down 16 and up 18. Tiger at 40 Dec. 16: Who is Tiger Woods? Dec. 16: Why Tiger still matters Dec. 17: Tiger’s future in his 40s Dec. 17: The Tiger effect on youth Dec. 30: ‘Golf Central’ birthday special “If that’s all the golf we show today,” Barrow told the crew, “then that’s all the golf we’re going to show.” The network’s commitment to Woods paid off, of course, as he won by 12 shots and launched a new era in golf. The telecast delivered huge ratings for CBS, and the same would be true for Woods’ other 13 major victories, especially his most recent (last?) triumph, the 2008 U.S. Open. Tommy Roy has produced NBC Sports’ golf coverage since 1993, and that Torrey Pines Open still gives him chills. Hobbling around on a broken leg, Woods made two eagles on the back nine Saturday, holed the impossibly bumpy, expect-anything-different? putt to force a playoff and then prevailed in overtime against the likable Rocco Mediate. NBC’s coverage of the event beat out thousands of entries in the Outstanding Live Sports Special category at the Emmys.   “I guarantee if it had been Ben Crane doing those exact same things to win the U.S. Open, we wouldn’t have won jack,” Roy said. “It’s because of Tiger.” “Through the years what he has brought to the telecast is a level of electricity that only comes with him being there,” he added. “The fans are more excited, the announcers are more excited, and you can feel that through the telecast. It’s harder to cover logistically, because his group is always surrounded by more fans, but it has almost always been well worth it.” When Woods was at the peak of his powers, no viewer grumbled about the three-hour coverage window being dominated by Woods because the golf was so thrilling, the storylines so clear. If he was leading: How much will he crush his competition by this time? If he was hovering near the top of the leaderboard: What miraculous shot will push him ahead? And if he was trailing by six heading into the back nine, well, even that was straightforward: Stay tuned, folks, because he has more than enough firepower to cut into this deficit!  “Tiger was the only player who took golf from the fourth or fifth page of the sports section not only to the front page, but also the front page of the newspaper, above the fold,” Barrow said. “I’ve always said that Tiger is a story if he’s winning or losing a tournament. People want to know what he’s doing.” Whether that still rings true is debatable. After years of showing nearly all of Woods’ shots because he was the biggest story, because he was what fans craved, networks and other media outlets have been criticized in recent years for being too Tiger-centric. It is the role of the producer to determine how much of Woods’ round is shown, if at all, and it has become a balancing act when he is out of the mix: placating the casual fan who only wants to know how Woods is playing while also appealing to the hardcore golf consumer who expects to watch exciting young stars like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy battle for titles. Swing changes, injury woes and crises in confidence may make Woods a more compelling figure, but bad golf doesn’t lead to a great viewer experience. “Producing telecasts where he had these incredible, memory-making moments far outweigh watching him chunk a chip shot,” Roy said. As a result, most networks have resorted to quickly cutting to Woods finishing out on 18 to wrap up the storyline rather than dragging down a telecast. Which leads to an interesting question for the next few years: If Woods’ mediocrity continues, if he remains a competitive afterthought, will there come a day when he enters a tournament, plays four rounds and isn’t featured in the coverage? “That’s the cruel thing about covering sports,” Barrow said. “The train leaves the station very quickly when there’s nothing there to talk about and cover. If you’re not at the top of the ladder, a lot of people don’t care. So Tiger not being a story, or at least a part of the broadcast, I don’t know if I will see that day, but it may happen. It’s hard for me to believe that, but yeah, I guess it could happen.” MARK BRAZIL KNEW THE CLOCK was ticking. He had 30 minutes after Friday’s play at the PGA Championship to secure Woods for his tournament the following week in North Carolina. What followed was a comedy of errors and miscommunication, and at one point Brazil lost cellphone service and sprinted through a driving rainstorm at Whistling Straits. Finally, he got in front of Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, and received the news that he had longed to hear since he took over as tournament director of the Wyndham Championship in 2001.  When Woods’ commitment became official, on Monday morning of tournament week, it created pandemonium in Greensboro. News of Woods’ spot start appeared on every morning talk show.  Wyndham’s social-media accounts exploded. Concession sales increased by 85 percent. Clothing sales doubled, and the specially ordered Tiger Woods hats and shirts sold out by Friday morning. Tournament officials printed 50,000 extra day passes, online ticket sales soared 300 percent, and the overall attendance of 143,000 set a modern tournament record. A local community college was forced to open its parking lots to accommodate the overflow of vehicles. Brazil even doubled the size of the media center to house the reporters who had altered their travel plans and requested credentials. Typically, the media is lodged inside Sedgefield Country Club’s exercise facility, a cozy space that seats about 40. But with Woods coming to town, Brazil’s team removed all of the free weights and machines and built a news conference room by the pool that housed about 70 media members. All for a guy, remember, who was nearly two years removed from his most recent top-10 finish on Tour. “After 22 years in the golf industry, I thought I had a pretty good handle on this Tiger Effect deal,” Brazil said, “but this shocked me.” For a mid-level tournament like the Wyndham, which usually lacks star power because of its date immediately preceding the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Woods’ arrival was a godsend. Even better was that he played his best golf during what was an otherwise dismal year. After sharing the halfway lead, he entered the final round just two shots behind. A triple bogey on the 11th hole ended his chances, but he still recorded a season-best T-10 finish in front of 35,000 fans. “He created a whole new era of golf fans who focus on him no matter what he does or how he plays,” said Davis Love III, who won this year’s event. “They want to see Tiger. That’s why we want him back playing out here. He’s still the draw. He doesn’t have to dominate. He just has to go out and play.” Added Brazil: “Every day he was out there was our biggest day I’ve ever seen.” That possibility likely wouldn’t even have existed a decade ago. A creature of habit, Woods played virtually the same schedule every year, a collection of brawny courses on which he had enjoyed success. But in recent years, as calls for him to play more events increased as he returned from injury or struggled to regain form, Woods has made a few additional stops: He has played his hometown Honda Classic every year since 2012 when healthy; he trekked to The Greenbrier Classic twice in the last four seasons; and this past year, in addition to the Wyndham, he also returned to golf’s most raucous event, the Phoenix Open, for the first time in 14 years. “The vibe changes when he announces whether he’s coming or not,” said Kym Hougham, executive director at the Wells Fargo Championship. “It’s totally one fills up the balloon and one sucks it out.” Woods has played the regular-season stop at Quail Hollow six times since 2004. Some times, he skipped because of injury. Other times, like this past year, he had prior commitments. Whatever the reason, there’s a noticeable difference around town, and Woods’ tendency to wait until the last minute to sign up makes for a stressful 5 p.m. deadline in the tournament office. “Some years I’ve been sweating bullets,” Hougham said, “but the excitement builds quickly. Tickets don’t sit in the drawer when Tiger is here.” But when he’s not, there is decidedly less buzz, even with a field that usually includes McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. There is less national media coverage and recognition. And without the Woods bump, there are fewer people on the course, which shows up in both the concession sales reports and the aerial shots from the blimp. “It’s a gift to the city and the tournament when he does show up,” Hougham said. Few understand that better now than Brazil. Every day for two months, he responded to text messages, fielded phone calls and met fans from California to Florida who had watched or attended one of the most fascinating, and unexpected, tournaments of the year. “He changed that tournament forever, just by him being there that one time,” Jason Gore said. Though Woods raved about his experience, he was non-committal when asked whether he would consider making a return trip to the area. “People keep asking me what we’re expecting for next year,” Brazil said, “and I say that everyone needs to lower their expectations.” A DECADE AGO, TV EXECUTIVES cracked that Woods didn’t just move the needle – he was the needle. In many respects, he still is, even as his body continues to betray him. This year, ESPN’s first round of the Masters – Woods’ first tournament in more than two months because his game wasn’t up to his standards – attracted the largest audience and highest rating for an opening day since 2010, when Woods returned to golf following his sex scandal. On Saturday, Woods shot 68 to vault onto the first page of the leaderboard, though he was still miles behind the 21-year-old phenom Spieth. CBS’ third-round coverage drew an average metered market rating of 6.5 – up 48 percent from last year’s event, which Woods sat out because of back surgery, and the highest mark since 2011. And how about the Wyndham, the normally sleepy event before the playoffs? Because of Woods, the final round produced a 3.9 rating – the highest for a non-major since 2013, and a 160 percent bump over last year’s event, won by Camilo Villegas. Even more telling: The Wyndham’s third round drew a higher rating and slightly more viewers than comparable rounds for the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. Five of the top eight most-read stories (and 13 of the top 30) on this website this year were Woods-related, and a video of his swing created the most engagement on Golf Channel’s digital channels. And though Woods has yet to fully embrace his own account, he still is king when it comes to Twitter followers, checking in at 5.1 million – nearly double the amount of the next-closest golfer, McIlroy. Even the @GCTigerTracker account, created in 2012 to document Woods’ every move, has more than 132,000 followers. “The more success he has, the greater the appeal,” said Greg McLaughlin, who ran the Tiger Woods Foundation for 14 years, “but he’s still a 14-time major winner, and as long as he’s in a tournament and competing he’s going to be a focal point and generate a lot of interest.” But with numerous advertising campaigns focusing on the next wave of talent, it’s clear that PGA Tour executives are already bracing for their post-Tiger reality. Earlier this year, commissioner Tim Finchem recalled how long it took for the golf world to come to grips with Jack Nicklaus saying goodbye. The sport needed years to recover, and the Tour is likely in line for another market correction once Woods hangs up his spikes. “It’s going to happen,” Finchem said, “so the more relevant question is: How bad is it when it happens? We need other stars to develop.” By season’s end, he looked prophetic: Spieth earned Player of the Year honors, a healthy Day broke through for his first major and McIlroy won four times worldwide, setting the foundation for a new Big Three in golf. “The fans really responded to these guys playing at that level,” Finchem said this month. “If that continues, we’re going to be in good shape.” But what remains to be seen is whether these compelling young stars can draw in the casual viewer that, as CBS’ Barrow said, elevates golf from the sports section to the front page. Winless since August 2013, Woods is still the only player who wields that immense power, but even his personal narrative has shifted. After his career was defined by the certainty of winning, there now is a curiosity and vagueness surrounding Woods that makes him an irresistible attraction for sports observers. “He has been such an exceptional player that his fall to [416th] in the world or whatever he is now is hard to imagine,” said Hank Haney, who coached Woods from 2004-2010. “As long as he shows up, people are going to be fascinated to see if the greatness in Tiger appears again.” Granted, it used to appear for weeks at a time, even months. Now, the surges are less frequent, more unpredictable – a few good holes, a few promising rounds. All of which is why Woods’ throwback performance at the Wyndham resonated so strongly. From his holed pitch shot on his opening hole to his putter raises after dropping 30-footers to his birdies in Sunday red, he suddenly erased months of bad memories and morphed into the player that looked so familiar.   “I was watching on my computer, and the guys were going nuts, screaming, ‘He’s back! He’s back!’” said former Tour winner Arron Oberholser, who was calling the action that day for the PGA Tour’s radio network. “Every time he does something he’s ‘back,’ but it is just another sign that there is still some magic in there.” Of course, only the most delusional of sports fans expect the old Tiger to return – the 45 percent win rates, the blowout major victories, the record stay at world No. 1. Instead, they continue to swarm Woods’ group for the same reason they packed stadiums and arenas to watch Derek Jeter flail at a curveball off the plate, or Peyton Manning hurl interceptions, or Kobe Bryant clank mid-range jumpers. “People want the old Tiger back because of the feelings he created,” Oberholser said. “Maybe if they show up at a tournament, they’re hoping to see just a glimpse of that greatness he once had. In reality, that particular greatness is gone and won’t return, but every once in a while you see it for a round, for a day. It’s a shadow. Now, it’s just hope for people.” An athlete’s exit rarely is graceful. Guaranteed contracts, diminished skills, stubborn champions and nostalgic fans are a toxic combination, but in golf there are no antsy general managers or owners to push fading superstars out the door. It’s up to the players to look deeply inward, to decide when they’ve endured enough competitive punishment. Anyone who heard Woods’ sobering remarks at the World Challenge senses that day is closer than ever before. Beaten down by two decades in the spotlight and a litany of injuries, including three back surgeries in the past 18 months, Woods sounded equal parts resigned and relieved. His legacy was secure years ago, but the Tiger Effect continues to evolve. This phenomenon has always encompassed more than just the wins and the losses, the record books and the rankings. At its core, it’s about the evolution of a global icon, the thrill of a generational talent performing at a higher level than everyone ever has, and the hope that, maybe, just maybe, it all could last just a few moments longer. “Tiger used to do things that were mystical, that were magical, and because of that you still believe that it can possibly happen again,” said NBC’s Roy. “Common sense says no, but that’s what people feel, and I don’t think they have given up on that feeling just yet.”last_img read more

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Donaldson leads by three in Thailand; Bubba shoots 71

first_imgCHONBURI, Thailand – Jamie Donaldson of Wales enjoyed a sizzling opening round of 9-under-par 63 to take a three-stroke lead over three players including 2013 winner Sergio Garcia in the Thailand Championship on Thursday. Donaldson, who hasn’t won in 16 months, birdied his first four holes and the last two at Amata Spring Country Club, and said, “I couldn’t really do things wrong. “I never really missed any fairways. The good par save on nine was the key to keep the momentum going after pushing the tee shot a little bit. I got up and down there from about 20 feet.” Garcia, who lifted his 23rd career title in Vietnam last weekend, and locals Chinnarat Phadungsilp and Chanat Sakulpolphaisan were at 6 under. Garcia was on par after his second bogey on the 10th hole, then reeled off six birdies over the last eight holes. “It was a wonderful back nine,” he said. Chinnarat spoiled his round with a double bogey on the 15th hole, while Chanat bogeyed the 16th. Martin Kaymer, who lost to Lee Westwood by one shot 12 months ago, shot a bogey-free 68 to lie five behind Donaldson, while Westwood began with a 1-under 71, as did Bubba Waston, who won the World Challenge in the Bahamas last weekend. Nathan Holman, who won his home Australian PGA title last week, carded a par 72.last_img read more

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One Time With Tiger: Don Pooley

first_imgDon Pooley played across a terrific generational bridge in his more than 20 full seasons on the PGA Tour. He played with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead. But when people learn he played the PGA Tour, Pooley gets mostly one question: “Did you ever play with Tiger Woods?” Yes, Pooley tells them, he sure did. “And it was a lot of fun,” Pooley said. Pooley and Woods were paired in the final round of the Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club in 1997, just two months after Woods broke through to win his historic first Masters. Way back in the pack, neither had a chance to win, and yet Pooley remembers the buzz of an enormous gallery packed around the first tee. One Time with Tiger Keith Fergus Lee Rinker Omar Uresti Larry Rinker Grant Waite Bradley Hughes Nick Dougherty Arron Oberholser Brendan Steele Brendon de Jonge Robert Garrigus Zac Blair Scott Brown “There were like 10,000 people around the first hole, which was a par 3,” Pooley said. “That was unusual. I didn’t normally play in front of that many people unless I was in contention.” Pooley remembers feeling something else unusual that day, too. Pooley was 45 at the time, winner of the B.C. Open in 1980 and the Memorial in ’87, and yet he felt unusually motivated to win this matchup, this one round against Tiger, even with no trophy or big prize at stake. “I really wanted to beat him,” Pooley said. “He was the phenom, the 21-year-old who just won the Masters.” Pooley fell behind early, with Woods smashing drives 60 yards past him. “I had never seen anyone on Tour hit it that far,” Pooley said. “I had seen long-drive contests, where people hit it that far, but I had never seen anyone hit it that far and still have that kind of control.” Pooley remembers Woods being five shots up on him through 10 holes. “Then I birdied some holes, and he bogeyed a couple, and we came to the 18th tee all tied,” Pooley said. “It was a par 5, and we both hit drivers. I get down to my ball, and I hit a driver off the fairway, just short of the green. Then we walk another 60 yards to his ball, and he hits a 6-iron to the back edge of the green. I chipped up and tapped in for birdie, and he three-putted for par.” Pooley shot 71, Woods shot 72. “Tiger won’t have any recollection of that day, but it was fun for me to play with him, and it was fun to beat him at the end,” Pooley said. “I think I finished ahead of him in the tournament, but I’m not sure (he did, T-38 to T-43). It was all about that one day. I didn’t care about anything else.” When Pooley is asked to speak to service clubs today, he typically opens with his one time playing with Tiger. He tries to tell the story with some good-natured humor. “People don’t know this, but Tiger is 0-1 against me in head-to-head competition,” Pooley cracks. “It’s nice to have a story like that to tell.”last_img read more

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Reid leads by two at LET season opener

first_imgBARWON HEADS, Australia – Melissa Reid of England shot a 6-under 67 Saturday to take a two-stroke lead over American Angel Jin and Australian Su Oh at the Vic Open, the season-opening event on the Ladies European Tour. Reid had a three-round total of 15-under 204 on the Beach Course at the Thirteenth Beach links. Yin shot 68 and Oh 70. Three shots behind Reid are Germany’s Sandra Gal, Spain’s Belen Mozo and South Korean amateur Choi Hye-jin. ”I’m still a little bit disappointed, I think I left a couple of shots out there,” Reid said. ”To win here would be very special. I’ve always wanted to win in Australia.” A five-time winner on the European tour, Reid had three consecutive top-three finishes at the Women’s Australian Open when it was played in Melbourne before her career temporarily stalled after the death of her mother in 2012. Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, who led after the second round, shot 79 Saturday and was nine strokes behind. The women’s event is being held in conjunction with the Australian PGA tour’s men’s Vic Open, teeing off in alternate groups. In the men’s event, second-round leader Jake McLeod and Matthew Giles held a two-shot lead over the field after 54 holes. Giles shot 64 and McLeod 68 Saturday for three-round totals of 17-under 199.last_img read more

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Monday Scramble: (Don’t) Slow your roll

first_imgThe PGA Tour tries team play, officials finally hand out a slow-play penalty, Lexi Thompson returns, Ian Poulter retains his card and more in this week’s edition of the Monday Scramble: The new team format at the Zurich Classic was a hit. The success of a Tour event largely depends on player support, and the New Orleans stop now has plenty of it, with several guys remarking how much fun the event was and how they wished the circuit had one or two more events like it. For years, the Zurich has been an afterthought, a C-level event on a mediocre course during a dead time on the golf calendar. The switch to a two-man team competition gave the event new life, and it also gave those in Ponte Vedra Beach reason to believe that there’s room on the schedule for team golf other than the Ryder and Presidents cups. Now, it’s up to commissioner Jay Monahan and Co. to keep the momentum rolling, to find new and interesting ways to liven up the Tour.  1. On Monday morning, Cameron Smith sealed a victory that seemed destined to be his the previous night. From an awkward lie on the 72nd hole, the Australian had wedged to kick-in range to set up an easy birdie and post 27 under par. That’s when Kevin Kisner, using only the light from a nearby video board, banked his 30-yard pitch shot off the flagstick and into the cup for an unlikely eagle-3 to force a playoff. After three uninspiring playoff holes, Smith hit a perfect drive on 18, ripped a 3-wood up the gut and then stuffed his 57-yard wedge shot to 3 feet. For the 23-year-old Smith, it’s his breakthrough Tour title and earns him a two-year exemption, as well as a spot in The Players, the PGA and the 2018-opening Tournament of Champions. It is his partner Jonas Blixt’s third Tour victory, but his first since 2013. “He’s gonna be a superstar one day,” Blixt said of his partner, “and you can see it now. Seeing how he played golf this week, the sky is the limit for him. I haven’t seen anything that good in an extremely long time.”  2. Kisner and partner Scott Brown said they didn’t run out of gas, but they definitely ran out of magic. After recording 16 birdies in a 19-hole span, the team from Aiken, S.C., made par on 10 of their last 11 holes. They were caught by Blixt-Smith in regulation, then that birdie drought kept the door ajar during the four-hole playoff.  3. Even a new format couldn’t put the Zurich on Mother Nature’s good side. The six-hour weather delay Sunday added to a growing list of delays at this event. In fact, 43 percent of the rounds (12) since 2010 have either been suspended or canceled. There is no easy solution to the event’s weather woes. Move the Zurich any earlier in the year, and it’ll be a tough sell for players who are focused on preparing for the Masters. Any later, and players will be subjected to suffocating heat and humidity, and the event would lose its team-play appeal with the Ryder or Presidents cups drawing closer.   Ideally, the event would be played two weeks after the Masters (or a week earlier than this year), while officials can hope for the best with the weather.  4. After 22 years, Glen Day is officially off the clock. The PGA Tour finally decided to call a slow-play penalty, and curiously it waited until the first round of foursomes play – a format unfamiliar to more than half the field – in the first team event on Tour since 1981.   My thoughts on the penalty can be found here. The CliffsNotes version: By going after a couple of little-known players – Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo – and by ignoring the extenuating circumstances, the Tour proved that it really has no idea how to stop slow play. 5. Not to be outdone, the European Tour handed out a slow-play penalty to Soomin Lee at last week’s Volvo China Open. Lee received three bad times before he was finally docked a stroke. Check out the video:  6. With extra eyeballs on the tour because of the weather issues in New Orleans, the LPGA once again failed to deliver. Just a few weeks after the rules debacle at the ANA, the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout was marred by a never-ending playoff and unfathomably slow play from veteran Cristie Kerr. It didn’t help that the players were forced to play the poorly designed finishing hole six times. Look, there’s a reason the playoff rotation usually calls for the 18th hole over and over again – that’s where the fans are. But the LPGA and every other tour needs to show flexibility when it becomes clear that hole won’t produce a final result in timely fashion. Both players have to compete on the same hole. What’s the big deal in moving it around?  7. Thompson and her “team” missed a massive opportunity last week in Texas, the LPGA star’s first event since she was slapped with a four-shot penalty that derailed her at the year’s first major. Instead of admitting that she had committed an infraction, instead of vowing to mark the ball more carefully in the future, Thompson sounded defiant and refused to acknowledge the obvious – that she had played from an incorrect spot. That her team appears committed to prolonging the controversy, saying that the LPGA needs to provide a “true and transparent” accounting, is even more of a head-scratcher. Making an already emotional 22-year-old continue to relive the worst day of her golf career is a mistake. Even if the LPGA does divulge information about the viewer who emailed the infraction – and there is no incentive for the tour to do so – it won’t change the fact that Thompson lost. She needs to move on. Speaking of Lexi …  8. The USGA and R&A took another step toward limiting video evidence by introducing a new decision to the Rules of Golf that allows a committee to overturn a penalty if it is determined that the infraction could not have been seen by the naked eye or that the player used reasonable judgment. The full news story can be found here. The new rule, effective immediately, will help a player in Anna Nordqvist’s situation but not necessarily in Thompson’s. Nordqvist’s penalty last year at the U.S. Women’s Open, when she grazed a few grains of sand on her backswing, could only be detected on slow-motion replay. She wouldn’t be penalized now. But the same is not necessarily true for Thompson, or at least it’s not as clear-cut. The committee will now be able to discuss the incident with everyone involved – the player, the caddies, the officials in the group, etc. – and also factor in the egregiousness of the error. On a 16-inch putt, it could be argued that Thompson’s re-marking was not reasonably judged.  9. Of course, a larger issue remains: The post-round scorecard penalty. When news broke of the new decision, players were asked their thoughts on the change. Most thought it was a step in the right direction, but more needed to be done. That there even needs to be a scorecard in 2017, with a mountain of ShotLink data providing scores and yardages and other information, is debatable. But penalizing a player for signing a card that is only determined to be incorrect later is outdated and just plain unfair. The USGA and R&A are taking a “deeper evaluation” of scorecard penalties and viewer call-ins, though the latter issue has no simple solution.    10. Nothing gets the blood pumping quite like a FedEx Cup points structure story, but here’s the takeaway from the Ian Poulter saga: He has Brian Gay to thank. It was Gay (who had locked up his card but hadn’t done enough, points-wise, to qualify for The Players) who brought the inequalities in this year’s points breakdown to the attention of the Tour higher-ups. They unanimously agreed that the players competing on major medicals – who were trying to retain exempt status based on a previous year’s standings – were at a disadvantage because of the change this season that devalued finishes between 15th and 68th. Poulter had no idea, but he’s the main beneficiary of Gay’s investigation. Now, the Englishman can turn his attention to trying to keep his card after this season. He’s 129th in FedEx Cup points, but he has the rest of the season, with no restrictions, to crack the top 125.   Crane is now known for not only his slow play, but his slow pay. He was reminded again last week that fast money makes fast friends because he was called out on Twitter by Tom Gillis, whose “friend” alleged that Crane owed him $6,000 for losing a putting contest earlier this year in Phoenix. Turns out – thanks to Charley Hoffman – that that “friend” was PGA Tour winner Daniel Berger. The issue was “handled,” according to all sides involved, but Crane is now a slowpoke in more ways than one.  This week’s award winners …  He’s Back: Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1 returns to action for the first time since withdrawing from the Masters because of a back injury. He’ll be looking for his fourth consecutive title – no player has won that many in a row since Tiger in 2007-08 (six).  Quite the Comeback: Alexander Levy. The Frenchman rallied from seven shots back to steal the China Open. It’s the largest final-round comeback this season on the European Tour.  Not Bad For a Retired Golfer: Charlie Wi. The 45-year-old journeyman teamed with K.J. Choi and was only two shots off the halfway lead. Wi had retired as a full-time player last summer, choosing to teach juniors in LA over the grind of a 25-event schedule. They tied for 24th.   First Time for Everything: Drinking Sprite, not some alcoholic beverage, out of the Ryder Cup trophy.  Learning Experience: Eun Jeong Seong. The 17-year-old, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Amateur in the same year, shot three consecutive rounds of 69 in Texas before getting blown off the course during a Sunday 86. She’s ready for the pro ranks, even if the final round in wind-whipped conditions suggested otherwise.  Best Laid Schemes: Pac-12 Men’s Championship. The 72-hole conference championship in Boulder, Colo., was reduced to a shotgun start and 54 holes because of – you guessed it – snow. An ideal way to prepare for NCAAs, it was not. We hear the weather in Southern California and Arizona is lovely this time of year. Best Wishes: John Senden. He has taken a leave from the PGA Tour after his son, Jacob, was diagnosed with the brain cancer. All the best to the Senden family.  Something About New Orleans: Brian Stuard. The defending champion at the Zurich, he teamed with Chris Stroud to tie for 11th. It was his first top-15 finish in the 31 events since his rain-shortened victory at TPC Louisiana a year ago.  Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Rose. Making his first start since a playoff loss at the Masters, the Englishman was returning to a place where he won in 2015 and had three other top-15 finishes since 2012. He was also playing alongside world No. 6 Henrik Stenson, with whom he has successfully partnered at the Ryder Cup. No matter. They both rinsed their second shots during Friday fourballs and missed the cut by one. Sigh.last_img read more

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Disasters at the Masters: Fleshing out the numbers

first_imgSergio Garcia’s 13 on the 15th hole in Thursday’s opening round of the Masters sent us typists scurrying for the record books. Sure enough, it has never been bettered (worsened?), not only on the par-5 15th, but on ANY hole at Augusta National. The record book lists the names and the numbers, but for the stories, you have to dig deeper. Following are tales of five Disasters at the Masters. Augusta National Worst All-Time Score, 15th hole (par 5) Jumbo Ozaki, 11 in the second round, 1987 Friday of the 1987 Masters was a particularly bad day for the 15th hole. First, Scott Verplank hit into the water twice from 68 yards out and made a 10, which equaled the record high score on the hole, which had been set by Walker Inman in 1956. Verplank was relieved of his ignominy just two hours later, when Japan’s Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki went him one better with an 11. The long-hitting Ozaki tried to go for the green in two, but came up short with a 2-iron from 215 yards, then hydrated two wedge shots before finally finding land. A chip and two putts later, he was in the Masters record book. From the United Press International report on the round, Ozaki put his dubious achievement in humorous perspective. Informed of Verplank’s 10 earlier in the day, Ozaki “took off his cap, waved it about, and said, ‘I’m 11. I win.'” Ben Crenshaw, 11 in the final round, 1997 The good thing about messing up at the 1997 Masters was that nobody is ever going to remember anything not related to Tiger Woods.. So Crenshaw’s 11 on Sunday, which helped bring him home in 80–302, matching his worst single-round and four-round totals at Augusta to date, is buried deep in the archives of his hometown newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. Crenshaw had made three eagles during the tournament (including one at the 15th hole), and the Masters gives out crystal for eagles. Crenshaw noted the irony, saying, “I don’t think they’re going to give me a crystal for that.” Ignacio Garrido, 11 in the first round, 1998 The 1998 Masters got off to a windy start. How windy? “It’s like playing the British Open,” said Garrido, a 26-year-old from Spain playing in his first Masters. “I only watched the Masters on TV, and I always saw sunshine and flowers,” Garrido said after knocking three balls into the water on his way to an 85. “Now I discovered wind.” Sergio Garcia, 13 in the first round, 2018 One 6-iron plus four sand wedges, all spun back into the water. “It’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot,” Garcia said. Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage Augusta National Worst All-Time Score, Any Hole Tommy Nakajima, 13 on the par-5 13th hole in the second round, 1978 Tsuneyuki “Tommy” Nakajima’s 13 has to be the strangest disaster score ever recorded. While most big numbers are the result of hitting multiple shots into a hazard, Nakajima’s epic adventure had a variety of misfortune. Still not on the green after three shots, he hit his fourth into Rae’s Creek. He elected to try to play the ball, which turned out to be a horrible decision. He popped up the next shot, and the ball landed on his foot. Two-stroke penalty. He and his caddie botched the handoff of the club, which fell into the creek. Two more penalty strokes. He then chipped over the green. Another chip and two putts and he had himself a 13 and a Masters record. Seventy-eight wasn’t exactly Nakajima’s year. In the British Open, he was in contention late in the third round at St. Andrews. But that all went to hell on the Road Hole when he putted into the Road Bunker, needed four shots to get out of it and made a 9. He did achieve a form of immortality, at least, when the British press characterized the incident as the “Sands of Nakajima.” Tom Weiskopf, 13 on the par-3 12th hole, first round, 1980 Weiskopf is an unlikely co-holder of the record for the highest score on a hole at Augusta because he did it on a par 3. Not just any par 3, but No. 12, the shortest (but trickiest) of Augusta’s one-shot holes. In the first round, Weiskopf chose an 8-iron for his tee shot to the 12th. The ball cleared the fronting creek, but spun back into the water. Weiskopf chose to drop about 60 yards from the hole – from where he hit five more balls into the water before finally finding the back of the green. The next day, Weiskopf again hit his tee shot into the creek. This time, however, he chose to re-tee. Sound strategy, but with no better result. Another water ball. Try, try again. He knocked his fifth shot (counting penalties) on and two-putted for 7. So there it is – the faces and facts behind the names and numbers. It’s a list that no one wants to make, but from which no one is safe. Not even the defending champion. Right, Sergio?last_img read more

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