Welcome to another installment of the #AskLav mailbag, where each week we follow Tom Watson’s Ryder Cup motto: Age is just a number. Guess we’ll find out if that’s really true come September. When the matches get underway at Gleneagles, Watson and his two assistants, Andy North and Raymond Floyd, will be a combined 201 years old. Two. Hundred. One. Potentially, Floyd, at age 72, would be more than 50 years older than Jordan Spieth, who turns 21 in July. That’s not a generational gap. It’s a generational canyon. Watson, of course, hopes that his players will be inspired to tee it up for two legends who have been there and done that, who have earned their respect and trust, who have competed valiantly not only for themselves but also their teammates and their country. But there’s another, less desirable scenario: The players will tune out the captains – not unlike a teen listening to his grandfather drone on about war stories – and the experience sours early. One thing is certain, though: If the U.S. wins on foreign soil for the first time in more than two decades, it proves the PGA’s old-timey experiment was a success and opens the door for other outside-the-box captains. But, hey, the clock is ticking on this mailbag, too. Let’s dive into your questions: @RyanLavnerGC With 3 wins under his belt for 2014 what are Jimmy Walker’s chances on winning a major this year mostly the U.S.Open? #AskLav— Aaron Paulk (@Nemo0694) February 10, 2014 #AskLav: Does Jimmy Walker have what it takes to add his name to the list of major champions? – Bobby Terwilliger, via Instagram That’s the big question now, right? It’s nice that J-Walk can win events like the Frys and Sony and Pebble, but how will he fare in those Big Events, the ones on which legacies are built? Consider this: Walker, age 35, has competed in just SIX career majors. No Masters appearances. Just two U.S. Opens berths, and not since 2002. Only one British Open (MC). And three PGAs (two MCs with a T-21). Heck, he’s only been in The Players field four times and has just one WGC under his belt (T-46 last November). It’s unfair to hold that against Walker, of course – with three wins in his last eight starts, it’s clear that he has elevated his game to new heights. For this late bloomer, the WGC at Doral will be a good benchmark of how high he can soar. #AskLav: Where did Jimmy Walker come from? And how is he winning all these tournaments out of nowhere? – Brett Brewster, via Instagram So, um, I’m assuming you didn’t follow Walker back in 2004, when he was the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year? OK, fair enough. He didn’t record his first top-10 in a PGA Tour event until 2009, didn’t crack the top 50 in earnings until 2012, and last year recorded his first runner-up finish, at The Greenbrier. The turning point came last April, when he began working with swing coach Butch Harmon. Walker proved a quick learner, posting career bests in driving distance and greens hit in 2013 and finishing 36th in the FedEx Cup. Already his $3.6 million in earnings through eight starts is nearly as much as he banked in 2012 and ’13 combined. This guy is for real. Which Woods wins a major first (or 15th)? Cheyenne or El Tigre? @RyanLavnerGC #AskLav— Sean Steinemann (@SeanSteinemann) February 11, 2014 Woah! Hyperbole alert. Cheyenne seems like a sweet girl with a beautiful swing and even better bloodlines, but let’s not forget: The 23-year-old earned less than $6,000 in three LPGA starts last year, finished 78th on the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and then couldn’t secure her tour card here through Q-School. No doubt, she could be a game-changer for women’s golf … someday. Tiger had two dismal season-opening events, and all of a sudden he’s toast in the majors? Come on. #AskLav: Is Cheyenne Woods single? – Roc O’Connor, via Instagram I’m not sure what kind of shady operation you think we’re running here … #AskLav: Cheyenne, will you be my valentine? – Brad Haberkorn, via Instagram Stop it. You’re scaring her. #AskLav: Who’s your fantasy pick this week at Riviera? – Beautiful Golf Courses, via Instagram A real question! At this point, it seems unwise to pick against Jimmy Walker, what with that 3-for-8 start and all. Other solid picks this week: Dustin Johnson, who has finished no worse than sixth in three starts this season; Keegan Bradley, who prior to a MC at the Phoenix Open had 11 top-25s in his last 13 starts and lost in a playoff here in 2012; and Bill Haas, who has three consecutive top-15s at Riviera, including the victory in ’12. But what do I know? I’m only, ahem, fourth on Golf Channel’s expert leaderboard. @golfchannel #asklav what do you think about golf being in the Olympics in 2 yrs?— Jennifer Thompson (@jenteesitup) February 11, 2014 Honestly, it’s difficult to generate much excitement when the host course won’t be completed until summer 2015 and the format looks like the World Golf Championships-South America edition. Ideally, tournament officials would have implemented some element of match play into the competition – a 36- or 54-hole stroke-play qualifier, followed by a match-play knockout bracket. As currently constituted, it seems like just another 72-hole big-time tournament, with medals awaiting the top 3 on the leaderboard. @RyanLavnerGC Reed & Walker wins- only cuz of weak field? think they’ll fare as good on majors wgcs FedEx playoffs when heavyweights r out?— Neah Ellis (@neahcali103) February 11, 2014 As I mentioned earlier, you can’t fault the guys who haven’t been given the opportunity – or, frankly, played well enough – to put themselves in a position to compete in the WGCs and majors. Walker, as he’s shown in the past few months, is absolutely ready to take the next step and win one of the events with a huge purse and loaded field. Reed doesn’t even have 50 Tour starts under his belt, let alone any big-tourney experience. But he’s a legit sleeper pick to go deep in next week’s Match Play – the ultra-aggressive player went 6-0 at the NCAAs in college. His major prospects, long-term, depend on how well he can control his tee ball. In 2013, he ranked 157th on Tour in driving accuracy. That won’t get it done at a difficult venue. #AskLav: How do I become a writer for Golf Channel? – Dien, via Instagram Write every day. Read even more. Study the sport. But please, don’t take my job. @GolfChannel @ryanlavnergc who is better positioned to get control of their game and win at Augusta, Tiger or Phil? #AskLav— Christopher Tremblay (@cstremb10) February 11, 2014 Tiger. His worst career start as a pro was the product of rust more than anything else. This upcoming Florida swing will tell us all we need to about the state of his game heading into the year’s first major. And don’t forget: He has finished sixth or better in eight of his last nine starts at Augusta. Phil, as usual, is a more unpredictable case. At his season opener in Abu Dhabi, he extolled the virtues of his new driver that he was hitting longer and straighter than ever before. Yet so far in 2014, he ranks 133rd and 114th in driving distance and accuracy, respectively, though those numbers figure to improve (maybe) when his back is 100 percent. More troubling is his putting. It’s a small sample size, of course, but he’s currently 122nd on Tour, and he’s coming off what he said was his worst putting performance in a year and a half. #AskLav: What are the odds of multiple Oklahoma State guys winning titles? Hunter Mahan, CH3, Rickie Fowler, Peter Uihlein, Morgan Hoffmann … Seems like there is some major talent out of Stillwater – Ryan Loudon, via Instagram In order of most likely: Mahan, Howell, Uihlein, Fowler, Hoffmann. Mahan, winless since April 2012, has finished T-4 and sixth in his last two starts, respectively, while Howell has a Tour-best five top 10s this season and is way too talented to have only two titles (and none since 2007). Uihlein absolutely could win on the U.S. tour this year, provided he gets enough opportunities. #AskLav: Why hasn’t Rickie Fowler been performing as well as his competitors who are the same age as him? It has been a very popular few years to see 20-year-olds on top, but Rickie Fowler hasn’t been up there lately. – Brian O’Malley, via Instagram Right now, he’s simply not playing as well as Jordan Spieth and Harris English and Patrick Reed and the rest of the early-20s brigade. He has just one top 25 in five starts this season – indeed, that 2012 victory at Quail Hollow seems like a loooong time ago – but he’s been working recently with Butch Harmon. Swing changes take time. Rickie said he doesn’t want to be known simply as a one-hit wonder with Crayola clothes. The guess here is that he’ll get it sorted out with Butch and factor again soon. Which of this years 4 majors will be most exciting? #AskLav— Gareth Judge (@GazJudge) February 11, 2014 The Masters is the right answer. Always. Every year it delivers. A close second will be the U.S. Open, where there will be so much hype with Phil looking to complete the career grand slam and win that elusive major at the place where all the heartache began, and Tiger looking to improve on his other top-3 finishes at Pinehurst, and the back-to-back Opens with the women. Fun times ahead for golf fans. #AskLav: What’s wrong with Bubba under pressure? – Nate Anderson, via Instagram Yes, the dude plays golf like he has red ants in his socks, but how quickly you have forgotten that hook out of the trees at Augusta. Didn’t have any problem closing there, right?
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Gene Fieger won the Senior PGA Professional National Championship on Friday, closing with a 3-under 69 for a six-stroke victory. The 53-year-old Fieger, the PGA director of golf at Hideout Golf Club in Naples, Fla., finished at 13-under 275 at PGA Golf Club and earned $20,000 in the event postponed in October in Virginia because of rain and flooding. The top 35 earned spots in the Senior PGA Championship on May 22-25 at Harbor Shores in Michigan. ”I don’t play too many four-round tournaments, but this was a thrill,” Fieger said. ”I broke 70 all four rounds. In this wind, that’s really an accomplishment. I felt at home all four days, and I’ve played here a lot. You get the lead and you just try to get the ball in the fairway and on the green. That’s what I tried to do most of the day. Except for a little stumble in the middle, I hit some great chip shots. It was thrilling.” He closed with a bogey on the Wanamaker Course. ”I’ve always said it would be nice to come up the 18th hole with a six- or seven-shot lead,” Fieger said. ”Then when you have one, you still feel tentative. I hit it over the green at 18, not wanting to go into the water. I had a bad lie near a drain behind the green and ended up hitting a poor chip and made a bogey.” Don Berry had a 70 to finish second. The 53-year-old Berry, the PGA head professional at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park, Minn., birdied five of his last eight holes. ”It looks like I won the ‘B’ tournament,” Berry said. ”I played well this week and actually made some putts on the back nine today. I didn’t really putt well all week until then. I can’t wait to go back to the Senior PGA Championship. I made the cut last year and had four good rounds. I’m looking forward to going back and giving it another shot.” Jeff Coston of Blaine, Wash.; Steve Parker of Houston; and Frank Esposito Jr. of Monroe Township, N.J., tied for third at 5 under. Coston had a 69, and Parker and Esposito shot 73.
ATLANTA – When Billy Horschel was 10 years old, he had a dream. Then an all-star baseball player, he dreamed that would he get hit in the face during baseball practice. When he awoke, he didn’t simply shake it off. He knew it would happen soon. He considered it a premonition. He was right. Not long afterward, Horschel was at practice and an oblivious teammate started taking swings. The bat struck him right in the eye. “I remember the adults saying I wasn’t crying,” he recalls. “I was saying, ‘I saw this coming.’” His father, Bill, rushed him to the hospital; his mother, Kathy, soon joined them. “For him to dream about it and for it to happen was surreal,” she says. He didn’t suffer any serious damage. He did, however, learn that his dreams could be fateful. Walking off the teebox of the par-3 18th hole at East Lake Golf Club on Sunday afternoon, Horschel recounted this story to his caddie, Micah Fugitt. He told him about that dream. He told him about how it came true. Then he told him about another dream. Other than his wife, Brittany, he hadn’t told a single person about this one before. His memory is a little hazy. It happened back in December or January. He can’t remember if he was at home or somewhere else. But he knows what he saw. “It was very faint, but I remember holding up the FedEx Cup trophy,” Horschel recounts. “As the season went along, I never thought about it, but I just said, ‘Well, maybe it was just a dream that wasn’t real.’” Instead, it turned into another dream come true. Your browser does not support iframes. Tour Championship: Articles, videos and photos After a regular season during which Horschel earned just a pair of top-10 results, a whirlwind three-week span rendered him not only champion of the largest monetary prize in golf, but clairvoyant once again. “I thought about it last week after I won,” he said. “I’ve thought about it this week a little bit, that maybe this is actually something that is supposed to happen. And maybe that’s why, when I woke up this morning, I was calm knowing that this is my chance.” That’s a story in itself. An excitable guy who often looks like he’s been served two cups of coffee too many, even he has a difficult time convincing himself he can remain calm. Forget the old cliché. Horschel doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. He displays it right across his face at all times. It was evident two weeks ago, when he had a chance to win the Deutsche Bank Championship, but chunked a 6-iron 40 yards short of the green into a hazard. He showed it again last week, when he got sweet redemption by winning the BMW Championship in less dramatic fashion. On this day, though, that eerie calm stayed with him throughout the final round of the season. He fist-pumped his way through a few early birdies. He gritted his teeth after making his lone bogey. He joked around with announcers. He gator-chomped with the playful Georgia galleries. And when it was almost over, when he led by three and his golf ball was already on the final green and both the FedEx Cup and Tour Championship titles were in the midst of being engraved, he decided to tell his caddie a story about a dream. “He never told me that before,” Fugitt said with a smile. “He said he didn’t know if it was real. He didn’t know if it was going to be this year or sometime down the road.” It’s akin to dreaming of the winning lottery numbers. Horschel claimed $10 million for the FedEx Cup and another $1.44 million in loose change for the Tour Championship. In the past three weeks, he’s earned $13.48 million. For 21 days, that means $641,904 per day – or $26,746 per hour, $445 per minute, $7.43 per second. That’s a lot of money for anyone, but especially someone who grew up in a blue-collar family. He was never a country club kid with a silver spoon. Once he was old enough, Horschel played golf at a 2,811-yard, par-58 course called Summit View GC in Grant, Fla., that doesn’t even exist anymore. Prior to more than doubling his previous career earnings, he explained that the money would mean a lot – not to him personally, but because it would afford him luxury of taking care of all the people who helped take care of him for so many years. Not that any of them are asking for anything. Kathy is a commodity manager while also studying to earn her college degree. Bill still works in construction with his brother. As for whether their son’s wealth would ever change things, he answers, “I just love working. I love working with my hands. I’d like to slow down a little bit, but people keep calling me and I keep saying yes.” Like any doting parents, they’re more concerned with their son’s welfare – and that of his family. Billy and Brittany will soon welcome a baby girl, to be named Skylar Lillian. She will grow up the daughter of not only a FedEx Cup champion, but one who saw it coming. “It may sound crazy,” Horschel says of his premonition. “People may think I’m insane, but I honestly don’t care now.” That’s because for him, winning this title was a dream come true. Literally.
LAKE OCONEE, Ga. – Normally through two rounds of an event, the best players advance to the weekend and try to extend their lead, while players who didn’t perform as well are left giving chase. But this isn’t a normal event. No, the Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation does things a little differently. And why shouldn’t it? The 40 competitors gathered this week aren’t your normal golfers. Sure, there are PGA Tour and LPGA pros in the field, but “Big Break” is more than the sum of its parts. Enter loopy loopers – hello, Kip Henley and Don Donatello, who both currently caddie on the PGA Tour – and a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Jerry Rice. Neither the event, nor its cast of characters, are lwhat you’re used to seeing on the professional stages. The first two rounds of the Big Break Invitational were played as a Modified Stableford, where the more points players racked up, the better. But after the first two rounds, the 12 men and 12 women remaining will start anew when they tee it up at the Great Waters Course on Thursday. OK, it’s not quite that cut and dry. There is the issue of seeding for match play in the third round. But as any golfer knows, there are no guarantees when it comes to match play. “Tomorrow the slate is clean, for all 12 players, men and women,” Justin Peters said. “Doesn’t matter if you had 60 points or 40 points; if you’re No. 1 or No. 12. In match play, anything can happen. It’s just one day, one on one.” Peters birdied three of his last four holes Wednesday to sneak into the last spot as the No. 12 seed. “I don’t think anybody’s scared of me at this point,” Peters said. “You see [volatility] in match play. No. 1 goes down sometimes.” That No. 1 will be Tony Finau, and while no one is scared of Peters, perhaps Peters should be scared of Finau, after rounds of 67-70 and a two-day Stableford score of plus-55. “I definitely wanted to be that No. 1 seed,” Finau said. “I knew whether I was [the] 1 seed or 12 seed, you live another day.” Anything can happen, but the way Finau’s been playing of late, he’s showing no signs of slowing. Two weeks ago, he finished T-14 at the Web.com Tour Championship after completing a rookie season with five top 10s, including a win at the Stonebrae Classic in August. He’ll be a PGA Tour rookie next season. On the ladies side, Kim Welch, who’s the No. 9 seed, couldn’t be more excited about starting from scratch. “It’s great,” Welch said, “because I feel like I played OK yesterday, I played bad today, but tomorrow’s a new day and anything can happen in match play.” The No. 1 seed for the women is Ryan O’Toole, who finished 11 points clear of her next closest competitor through two rounds. The landscape isn’t quite as picturesque for O’Toole, who desperately needs some positive mojo after making only five made cuts in 18 LPGA events this season. “Two more days left,” O’Toole said. “Obviously today just positions me for match play but it doesn’t really give me that much of a boost. So, tomorrow is a new round, and a new tournament.” A new round and a new tournament, yes, but hopefully some things stay the same for O’Toole over the next two days – she blitzed the Great Waters Course on Wednesday with an 8-under 64, the lowest round of the week from a man or woman. Mark Silvers shot 6-under 66 Wednesday for the low round on the men’s side. That low round will help her if she advances to Friday, when women and men play head-to-head in stroke play. It’s a challenge she welcomes. “I look forward come Friday and being able to compete head-to-head with one of the guys to see the difference and to see what they do,” O’Toole said. “We play our tees, and so I will enjoy being ahead of them off the tee.” That is, of course, an entire day – and perhaps an entire “tournament” – away. Even though O’Toole and Finau have been playing superb thus far, as golfers all know, anything can happen in match play. The 12 men who advanced and their seeds for third-round match play are: No. 1: Tony Finau No. 2: Mark Murphy No. 3: Mark Silvers No. 4: Tommy Gainey No. 5: Derek Gillespie No. 6: Hugo Leon No. 7: David Byrne No. 8: Brian Cooper No. 9: Kent Eger No. 10: Brent Long No. 11: Jay Woodson No. 12: Justin Peters The 12 women who advanced and their seeds for third-round match play are: No. 1: Ryann O’Toole No. 2: Emily Talley No. 3: Gerina Piller No. 4: Sedena Parks No. 5: Jackie Stoelting No. 6: Kristy McPherson No. 7: Sara Brown No. 8: Elena Robles No. 9: Kim Welch No. 10: Stefanie Kenoyer No. 11: Carling Nolan No. 12: Mallory Blackwelder
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – For the longest time, Brooks Koepka was known primarily for the stamps in his passport. His peers knew better. As he began his first year as a PGA Tour member in the Frys.com Open last October, players would stop when they saw Koepka and watch him walk to the putting green or driving range. The consensus? This guy is going to be good. More than the words of other players, Koepka now has the trophies to back it up. He won the Turkish Airlines Open last November during the final stretch of the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. Against an even stronger field in the Phoenix Open, the 24-year-old Floridian went 64-66 on the weekend and played his last 47 holes without a bogey. Koepka (pronounced KEP’-kuh) was among five players tied for the lead in the final hour, but only after rolling in a 50-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the 15th. He seized control when his 3-wood on the 322-yard 17th hole rolled over the green and stopped a foot from the water. Waste Management Phoenix Open: Articles, videos and photos One hole away from his first PGA Tour victory, on a closing hole at the TPC Scottsdale framed by bunkers, he blasted his drive 331 yards down the middle. It was a strong performance, and it looks even better considering Koepka now has won twice in his last four starts, rose to No. 19 in the world and put his name into the conversation for a U.S. team at the Presidents Cup that is getting younger by the week. Golf is going through an undeniable generation shift, led by Rory McIlroy, who won in Dubai on Sunday to expand his growing gap in the world ranking. Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan, is No. 9 in the world. Patrick Reed, 24, won his fourth PGA Tour event at the start of the year. Koepka was never mentioned in that group when he turned pro because he didn’t have their credentials. He was the guy who pursued his career in golf’s remote outposts – Kazakhstan and Kenya, Norway and the Czech Republic. He had a decorated career at Florida State, though he never won a tournament until his senior year (and won three times) and played in the NCAA Championship only twice, never finishing higher than a tie for 18th. Spieth was a Sunday feature at the Byron Nelson Championship when he was 16, joined Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners of the U.S. Junior Amateur, played on an NCAA title team at Texas and in the Walker Cup. Reed helped Augusta State to a pair of NCAA titles and reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur. Koepka won a Challenge Tour event – the equivalent of the Web.com Tour in Europe – in Spain, and then tried his hand at Q-School for a PGA Tour card. He failed to get out of the second stage, missing by two shots in Texas. He wasn’t alone. He tied that week with Spieth. And that’s when their paths went in different directions. Spieth chose sponsor exemptions, and Monday qualifying if needed, on the Web.com Tour. He got a break by tying for second in the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour after getting a sponsor exemption. Then came a rocket rise – Tour status in May, a victory in July and a spot on the Presidents Cup team in October. Koepka headed for the airport. He had status on the Challenge Tour from his win at the Catalunya Challenge, and he won in Italy in May. He followed with victories in Spain and Scotland to earn an instant promotion to the European Tour, each step bringing higher status. And he already had more wins than he did in college. ”Whether it be success or failure, I have learned a lot,” Koepka said. ”I think I won maybe two, three times in college. But it’s funny. Looking back, I have won on the Challenge Tour, one in Europe and one here now. It’s been special. But my drive, I think, is what it is. I want to be the best player in the world. I’m not there yet, and I know it’s going to take time. But I want to get to that point.” And he runs in good circles. His roommate in Florida and frequent travel companion on the global road of the European Tour was former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, who tied for 13th in Dubai. He also plays practice rounds with McIlroy, whom he knows from Europe and living in South Florida, though they rarely see each other at home. Koepka says he might be a late bloomer, though hard work cannot be dismissed. And he has no qualms with where he went to get to where he is now. He wanted experience. He wanted four rounds on Challenge Tour events instead of being hopeful for exemptions or lucky with Monday qualifiers. He can’t complain about the results.
The first call Zac Blair made was to his dad. Blair had just finished a second-round 68 at the 2015 Memorial Tournament, and he was sweating the cut line. A few minutes after completing his round, Blair quickly realized two things: he would be sticking around for the weekend, and he had a third-round tee time alongside Tiger Woods. “I remember we were at lunch or something like that and we were looking through our phones,” Blair said. “We called my dad and I was like, ‘I’m playing with Tiger.’ And he was like, ‘Nah, no you’re not.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ And it ended up working out.” It’s hard to think of two more disparate playing partners than the men that showed up for the 8:28 a.m. tee time on June 6, 2015 at Muirfield Village. Woods was in the midst of a difficult season, but still only three years removed from the most recent of his five Memorial victories. Blair, on the other hand, was a baby-faced rookie who was more likely to get carded for an R-rated movie than asked for an autograph. At age 24, Blair had turned pro only one year prior and had made just 22 PGA Tour starts before he and Woods were drawn together. One Time with Tiger Keith Fergus Don Pooley Lee Rinker Omar Uresti Larry Rinker Grant Waite Bradley Hughes Nick Dougherty Arron Oberholser Brendan Steele Brendon de Jonge Robert Garrigus Scott Brown Little did he know, Blair was about to have a front-row seat for a record-setting round that Woods would just as soon forget. Like Blair, Woods made the cut on the number but he struggled with a two-way miss all morning Saturday. Consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 meant Woods made the turn in 6-over 42 – a jarring performance, especially on a course where he was once so dominant. Things didn’t get any better on the inward half, and after chunking a pair of pitch shots Woods closed with a quadruple bogey on the final hole. It added up to a 13-over 85, the highest round of his professional career and a low point in an already underwhelming stretch. Blair’s 2-under 70 barely registered as the golf world attempted to come to grips with Woods’ performance, but for Blair the experience of playing with the 14-time major champ still exceeded his expectations. “After the round, I liked him even more,” Blair said. “He talked to me the whole day, he was a gentleman the whole time. He was having a pretty rough round and he could have thrown in the towel, but he stayed a true professional the whole day.” Blair shared his perspective on social media after the round, tweeting a note of appreciation to Woods that he closed with #GOAT, for “Greatest of All Time.” “I just wanted to let people know how awesome he was,” Blair said. “I wasn’t expecting a lot going in. I wasn’t expecting a ton of interaction, as a rookie out there and then the best player to ever play. But he was great. He was just another guy out there, playing golf. It was cool.” And while Woods likely hasn’t dwelled much on the series of wayward shots he produced that day, Blair has vivid memories of a few that found their target. “He still hit some shots where you were like, ‘Wow, that’s why he’s the best player to ever play,’” Biair said. “I still remember he hit this shot on No. 15, high 3-iron that I mean, only a few people can hit that shot. Like the sound and everything. He knocked it up there to like 20 feet or something and I’m just thinking, ‘OK, he’s still got it. He’s still the man.’” Blair first met Woods at the 2000 PGA Championship when he was 9 years old and his father, James, a well-known Utah club pro, was in the field. Blair recalled asking Woods for an autograph, and he went on to win the tournament a few days later. Fifteen years later, James was the first person Blair wanted to call with the news the two were paired together, and it remains an experience he will cherish despite Woods’ aberrant performance. “It’s definitely the coolest round I’ve ever played,” Blair said. “It was awesome. He was my idol growing up, and my favorite golfer ever, and to get to play with him – I hope I get another chance, for sure.”
NAPA, Calif. – Bryson DeChambeau is glad to have the attention back on his play at the Safeway Open. For much of the summer, discussion regarding DeChambeau focused more on a stopwatch than a scorecard. DeChambeau became the focal point of a slow-play discussion at the Memorial, where he first explained that his quick pace in between shots should be factored into overall pace, and doubled down on those comments as the season progressed. Matters escalated at The Northern Trust last month, when video documented DeChambeau taking more than 2 minutes to hit a 10-foot putt. That particular incident created a social-media firestorm, and in part led the Tour to escalate larger discussions about pace of play. Through it all, there wasn’t much mention of DeChambeau’s birdies and bogeys. While he ultimately tied for seventh at the Tour Championship, a runner-up finish at the 3M Open in July was a rare bright spot during a summer in which he missed the cut in two majors and failed to factor in the others. But that has changed this week in Napa, where DeChambeau vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with a second-round 64. He leads Nick Watney by two shots, sits three clear of a group that includes Justin Thomas and has yet to make a bogey through 36 holes. Safeway Open: Full-field tee times | Full coverage Ever the tinkerer, DeChambeau spent about 90 minutes on the range following an opening-round 68 while working on swing path, right-arm position and other “biomechanics stuff.” He missed the cut two weeks ago in his season debut at The Greenbrier and entered this week somewhat under the radar as he approaches the one-year anniversary of his last PGA Tour victory. But DeChambeau credited an equipment change for his sudden surge at Silverado, noting that the wedges in his one-length set now have a stiffer shaft that he affectionately calls “Texas Rebar.” The tweak has led to greater control, and DeChambeau has responded by leading the field in strokes gained: approach through two rounds. “This past week we just tried some shafts in my wedges on the range on Monday and Tuesday and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a completely different me,’” DeChambeau said. “That’s honestly what gave me the confidence to go out there and shoot a low number and be confident that I could lay it up and hit it close.” Granted, the topic of slow play and its ancillary effects are never far away when it comes to DeChambeau. When asked to reflect on his maturation process as he enters his fourth season on Tour, he pointed to early struggles and missed cuts after first turning pro. But he also mentioned the impact external forces have had on his psyche and results. “I’ve had some struggles, some times with difficulty and people saying this, people saying that,” he said. “I’ve done some things I shouldn’t have, but it’s about growing up and learning how to be a true professional. That’s what I think I’m doing and will keep striving to do.” Golf Central Rollins: Wedge-shaft fix makes Bryson a ‘dominant force’ John Rollins looks at Bryson DeChambeau’s recent shaft change and what it could mean for his wedge play. DeChambeau admitted the brief offseason helped quiet some of the noise, as fan comments this week haven’t been replete with slow-play barbs like they were at the BMW Championship. It also gave him a chance to further analyze the numbers, taking a peek at ShotLink data and other proprietary information supplied by the Tour regarding pace. Two-minute videos aside, DeChambeau reiterated his stance that he’s not part of the problem when it comes to slow play. “There’s data out there now that shows that I am not the slowest player at all, by any means,” he said. “I’m definitely not in the top 10 percent. I’m not close to that. That’s from Shotlink data, we have that. So I can say that, I know I can say that without a shadow of a doubt.” But at the halfway point in Napa, DeChambeau has put any lingering controversy to the side and is playing more like the guy who won three times in a five-start stretch last fall. And should the wedges continue to cooperate, the putts continue to fall and the bogeys continue to stay off the scorecard, it could be a long weekend for those trying to keep pace with the Tour’s top scientist. “It’s always fun to come out and play to the potential you know you can,” he said. “As the week progresses, I feel like I just keep getting better usually, when I’m playing well. So that’s always fun.”
Patrick Cantlay overcomes both Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm, Tiger Woods falls flat, Bryson DeChambeau nearly breaks the internet and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: Cantlay: ‘Felt like it was coming and this week it did’ 1. Patrick Cantlay made nine birdies in the final round to leapfrog Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and capture the Zozo Championship. TAKEAWAY: It’s remarkable this is only Cantlay’s third PGA Tour title, for he’s such a consistent and complete player. Though he’s 28, he doesn’t have much mileage on his body after sitting out a few years because of back problems. This was his 101st career Tour start; by comparison, Justin Thomas, who is a year younger, has made 158. Cantlay’s best is still to come, as he rose to No. 9 in the world rankings. Throughout the bag Cantlay was stellar at Sherwood, per usual, ranking third in strokes gained: tee to green, first in scrambling and 10th in putting – using a flat stick that is slightly longer and heavier than his previous model. That’s one of the reasons why Cantlay failed to win during the pandemic-affected 2019-20 season and fell short of qualifying for the Tour Championship. It didn’t help either that he missed some scheduled starts because of surgery to correct a deviated septum. We’ll keep picking Cantlay to have a breakout year, as we do seemingly every year. It’s bound to happen. He’s that talented. Thomas: ‘If I birdie 16, I win the golf tournament’ 2. Despite shooting final-round scores in the 60s, Thomas and Rahm were passed by Cantlay on Sunday and shared second at Sherwood. TAKEAWAY: Both players, ranked inside the top 3 in the world, were left to rue missing a good opportunity to win. Thomas, who held the overnight lead, made only one birdie over his last 12 holes and fell one shot shy. Considered one of the game’s best closers, JT has now failed to win four of his last five solo 54-hole leads: 2019 Genesis Invitational: Led by 4; finished 2nd 2019 BMW Championship: Led by 6; won 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship: Led by 1; finished T-6 2020 Workday Charity Open: Led by 2; lost in playoff 2020 Zozo Championship: Led by 1; finished T-2Interestingly, Thomas told reporters afterward that he was struggling in the final round to find that “killer instinct” and “stay in the zone” without fans. “It’s tough, but we’re all dealing with it,” he said, “and I just have to find a little bit better way with how to cope with that here in the next couple weeks.” Thomas bemoaned that he didn’t have his best stuff over the weekend, and though that was true, he was still typically excellent – second in proximity to the hole and fifth in strokes gained: putting. A nice combo that portends well for Augusta, a place that Thomas, with no top-10s in four career appearances, has not fared particularly well. With top-12 finishes in all three starts this young season, he’ll still be a top-5 favorite for the Masters. As for Rahm, he made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 (the latter a par 5!) to fall into chaser’s mode coming down the stretch. His biggest takeaway: His iron play was spot-on. Ranking sixth in the field in strokes gained: approach, that was his best finish in that category since his win at the Memorial, and his second-best in 13 months. Getty Images 3. At a place where he’s won five times and finished runner-up on five other occasions, Tiger Woods beat only three players during his tie for 72nd at the Zozo Championship. TAKEAWAY: At the beginning of the week Woods said he was “definitely better” than he was at the U.S. Open, but in his Zozo title defense his game looked as bad as it has all year. Of the 77 players at Sherwood, Woods ranked 70th in strokes gained: tee to green and 65th on the greens. Even more eyebrow-raising: He maxed out at 115 mph clubhead speed. That added up to a dismal scoring line, in which the only players he beat were Japan Tour player Naoki Sekito, Champions Tour-eligible Phil Mickelson and Michael Thompson, who has one top-45 since June. News & Opinion Zozo’s dreary finish might be the last we see of Phil-Tiger together on Sunday BY Rex Hoggard — October 25, 2020 at 9:29 PM Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods went head-to-head Sunday at the Zozo, and it might well be the last time we witness that in a final round. Woods said he’ll decide in the “next few days” if he will commit to next week’s Houston Open. But a final tune-up start before the Masters doesn’t make much sense, not least because he’d have to learn a new course at Memorial Park. A lack of competitive reps isn’t what is hurting Woods at the moment; he’s just not swinging well enough. He needs to put in the time on the range, if his battered body will allow. His two-plus decades of course knowledge at Augusta won’t matter if he can’t execute the shots. Since the Tour restarted in June, Woods has played six events. His finish in relation to the winner: 15 shots back 12 back 24 back 15 back 14 back (thru 36; MC) 22 back at Sherwood Getty Images 4. In a post on Instagram, Bryson DeChambeau claimed he hit a drive with a 400-yard carry – even without the 48-inch driver he’s been testing. TAKEAWAY: Bryson’s big blast was the talk of the Tour last week, and for good reason. He’s been hinting that he’s been touching ridiculous numbers in practice. Now here’s proof. The post was cryptic enough that it leaves plenty of questions: Did the ball go straight? Is it repeatable? Is it tournament-ready? What type of numbers can he post with the 48-inch model? We’ll get answers soon enough. From our seat it still seems like an unnecessary risk for DeChambeau to implement a new driver at the year’s final major. Clearly, he already enjoys a significant advantage over the rest of the field. It seems like the perfect experiment for Kapalua and Phoenix, with an eye on the 2021 Masters in April. Getty Images 5. Phil Mickelson is undecided on his upcoming schedule, as he weighs whether to play the week before the Masters at the PGA Tour’s Houston Open or against the PGA Tour Champions players in Phoenix. TAKEAWAY: Early last week Mickelson said his decision would come down to which event hosts fans – Houston is welcoming a maximum of 2,000 spectators a day, the first tournament in the U.S. to have fans since March 12 – but later backtracked, saying it’s all about prep. Lefty wants to be able to launch it high and far in preparation for Augusta, and Memorial Park, a course he’s never seen but which has a stiffer penalty for a missed fairway, might not be the most conducive environment for that style of play. The senior event would have overseeded grass, like he’ll see in Georgia, and he’s unlikely to wear himself out playing 54 holes in a cart. That seems the most likely option. Of course, if he continues to play like he did at the Zozo – nearly DFL, last in the field in strokes gained: tee to green – it really doesn’t matter because he wouldn’t contend at Augusta anyway. THIS WEEK’S AWARD WINNERS … Emotional McDonald on first title: ‘It’s really hard to win out here’ First Time For Everything: Ally McDonald. The 28-year-old Mississippi native, on her birthday, held off a spirited charge from Danielle Kang to capture her first LPGA title at the Drive On Championship – Reynolds Lake Oconee. McDonald, a former U.S. Solheim Cupper, made three birdies in a row to start the back nine to surge in front. She finished one ahead of Kang, who nearly holed her wedge shot on 18. Here She Comes: Bianca Pagdanganan. The LPGA rookie is taking the tour by storm, contending at the KPMG Women’s PGA before posting a 299-yard driving distance average last week at Reynolds en route to a career-best third-place finish. Remember the name – she has game-changing potential. Looking Up At Him: Dustin Johnson. Jon Rahm made a run to end his reign at the top, but DJ stayed at world No. 1 for at least another week, cementing him as the fourth player to reach 100 weeks in the first position, behind Tiger Woods (683 weeks, lol), Greg Norman (331) and Rory McIlroy (106). Getty Images Perseverance: Ross McGowan. Ranked 560th in the world, he hadn’t won in 11 years and hadn’t finished inside the top 40 in his last 13 starts. That was until he shot 20 under par at the Italian Open and won by two. Good stuff. Back from the Abyss: Martin Kaymer. At the Italian Open he tied for fifth, his fourth top-10 in his past six starts. It wasn’t enough to clip eventual winner Ross McGowan, but he’s getting closer to earning his first worldwide title since – incredibly enough – the 2014 U.S. Open. Not the Best Quote: Scott Jamieson. After making a hole-in-one in Italy, Jamieson first gave a nothing reaction, then gave an even worse quote afterward: “That’s what we’re trying to do – just put the ball in the hole.” OK, bud. Don’t Look Now, But …: Bubba Watson. Once again Watson had the ball-striking goods, ranking fifth in the field in strokes gained: tee to green. Per stats guru Justin Ray, only DJ has fared better in that stat per round since the PGA Championship. Anyone know a two-time Masters champ who is rounding into form? Don’t Stick to your Day Job?: Mike Whan. The LPGA commish was on the call for the first-round coverage of the Drive On Championship, a smart and creative choice given Whan has owned a vacation home at Reynolds Lake Oconee for years. As expected, Whan was terrific: sharp and insightful, with his usual dose of self-deprecating humor. Though he wasn’t about to criticize his own players, of course, it was a fun few hours listening to his unique perspective. Same … But With a Twist: Masters Champions Dinner. Woods confirmed that the annual dinner with the most exclusive club in golf is still on, but different this year: downstairs instead of upstairs in the iconic clubhouse, with the tables socially distant, and less-than-usual attendance with some of the more at-risk former champions likely staying home because of the coronavirus. Woods’ menu will stay the same: fajitas, sushi and sashimi, with milkshakes for dessert. Unusual Masters Prep: Sergio Garcia. The Sanderson Farms winner and 2017 Masters champ will get ready for the year’s final major by … making his professional tennis debut? He’s teaming up for a doubles tennis tournament in Austin with Amer Delic. Hopefully he doesn’t roll an ankle. Good Omen for Augusta: Rory McIlroy. Though he finished well down the leaderboard, Rory’s good proved to be very good – his 29 birdies were a career high on Tour. Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Matthew Wolff. Second week in a row for this category for Mr. Wolff, who was playing a de facto home game at Sherwood, 10 minutes from his childhood home and at a course he reckons he’s played hundreds of times. Wolff got matched up with Tiger Woods over the first two rounds, shooting a pair of 69s, but backtracked with a Saturday 75 on his way to finishing in a tie for 50th. On top of his face plant last week at Shadow Creek, this isn’t what we wanted to see in his last two starts before Augusta. Sigh.
Intelligent Design “In China We Can Criticize Darwin,” ContinuedDavid [email protected]_klinghofferJune 5, 2017, 1:06 PM Congratulations to Science Magazine for an Honest Portrayal of Darwin’s Descent of Man Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share With our attention to the launch of a new research center on intelligent design, Discovery Institute-Mackenzie, at Brazil’s Mackenzie Presbyterian University, we don’t mean to slight other big countries or important parts of the world where ID is rising in prominence.Recently I had a conversation with a new Chinese acquaintance, who disclosed a thoughtful interest in questions about biological and cosmic origins. I quoted the remark from Chinese paleontologist Jun-Yuan Chen, “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”I thought this would get a knowing laugh – Yes, you silly Americans with your strange reverence for a long-dead Victorian Englishman. Instead, it drew a small and what I took to be a…careful, circumspect smile. That surprised me.I wondered if, for the sake of his comparison between the situation in his country and ours, Dr. Chen indulged in a bit of simplification or exaggeration. Or maybe things have changed since he said that, on a 1999 visit to the University of Washington. Perhaps, like Americans in sensitive career fields, the Chinese now need to think twice about who might be overhearing a frank discussion of evolution.In any event, I followed up by suggesting a partial list of resources for the Chinese speaker interested in learning more about intelligent design, and the case against the orthodox Darwinism. Assuming that some readers will find it useful themselves or will pass it along, I’ll share it here too.Some major ID books in Chinese translation.Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen MeyerAlso by Dr. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent DesignWe noted the new simplified Chinese translation of Darwin’s Doubt hereDarwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, by Michael BeheGreat video documentaries on intelligent design from our friends at Illustra Media, including:Unlocking the Mystery of LifePrivileged PlanetJonathan Wells wrote here about his experience at the 1999 Chinese Academy of Sciences conference. He attended at the invitation of Dr. Chen and our Discovery Institute colleague Paul Chien, a biologist at the University of San Francisco.“’In China We Can Criticize Darwin’: Prelude”“‘In China We Can Criticize Darwin’: The 1999 China Conference”Of course this is not a complete list, just what I was able to pull together on the fly for my new acquaintance.And let’s not forget about the rest of Asia.“For the Scientific Critique of Darwinism, Asia Is the Up-and-Coming New Frontier”“In Case You Were Wondering What Steve Meyer’s Signature in the CellLooks Like in Korean”“Exploring Evolution, in Korean”Naturally, many readers in China, Korea, and elsewhere in Asia read or watch our material in English, as, for instance, distinguished South Korean biomimetic scientist Seung-Yop Lee did. Dr. Lee teaches in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at Seoul’s Sogang University. He offered some wonderful comments in praise of Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution, the latest from Dr. Wells. Jonathan Witt noted his remarks here.Photo credit: Silentpilot via Pixabay. Free Speech Share Origin of Life: Brian Miller Distills a Debate Between Dave Farina and James Tour Jane Goodall Meets the God Hypothesis Recommended Evolution A Physician Describes How Behe Changed His MindLife’s Origin — A “Mystery” Made AccessibleCodes Are Not Products of PhysicsIxnay on the Ambriancay PlosionexhayDesign Triangulation: My Thanksgiving Gift to All “A Summary of the Evidence for Intelligent Design”: The Study Guide Requesting a (Partial) Retraction from Darrel Falk and BioLogos TagsChinaDarwin’s Doubtintelligent designJonathan WellsJonathan WittJun-Yuan ChenSignature in the CellStephen MeyerZombie Science,Trending Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share