At its core the 2014 Ryder Cup was a case study in contrasting styles. For Europe, Paul McGinley’s detail-oriented leadership was familiar, a legacy passed from captain to captain, while U.S. front-man Tom Watson represented a break from tradition. The 65-year-old, two-time captain was supposed to be the game-changer, the variable that would allow the Americans to end a slide of five losses in the last six matches, but the juxtaposition between the two team rooms was vivid from the outset. For the Europeans, the decision to choose McGinley was political and public and very much player driven. But for the American side, the decision to name Watson captain was made behind closed doors by a frighteningly small group of PGA of America executives. “I know I speak for a lot of people when I say, we are just really tired of losing the Ryder Cup, and the decision to name this gentleman as our next captain, a lot of that was just about our weariness of what’s happened in the past few Ryder Cups and we certainly hope that trend can change,” said then PGA president Ted Bishop in December 2012. In the run up to this year’s matches, McGinley played 28 times around the globe to endear and introduce himself to potential players. Watson, on the other hand, played just 10 times over the last two years in non-Champions Tour events and struggled to keep current with the changing face of American golf. Although he would specifically reference Brooks Koepka, the young American who forged his way onto the PGA Tour via the European circuit, as a player he considered for one of his three captain’s picks, just a month earlier during a brief exchange at the PGA Championship Watson would ask Koepka what golf course he worked at, confusing him for one of the PGA club professionals at the event. Watson appeared to waffle with his captain’s picks, going with Webb Simpson over Bill Haas in an 11th hour decision, while McGinley, who likely had a more difficult decision considering the depth of his potential picks, went with experience and consistency in Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. 2014 Newsmakers: 3. Tiger | 4. Social Media | 5. Bishop | 6. Wie | 7. Reed | 8. R&A | 9. Bubba | 10. DJ | Honorable mentions But it was when the teams arrived at Gleneagles that the contrasting styles became so glaring. McGinley kept his team loose and on point. “Complacency . . . concentration,” smiled Rory McIlroy when asked on Sunday night to relay McGinley’s message for the week. “Wave after wave,” followed Graeme McDowell. “When the storm comes, we’ll be the rock,” added Justin Rose. “Have fun,” McGinley smiled. Watson, meanwhile, seemed to send mixed messages with many players unsure of who they would be paired with until the night before the matches, and his no-nonsense style failed to resonate with modern players. That disconnect seemed to come to a boil during a team-bonding meeting Saturday night in Scotland. According to various reports, Watson scoffed at a gift given to him by his players, criticized many of the team members and took no responsibility for the American’s four-point deficit heading into Sunday singles following a particularly dismal performance in foursomes play. “The obvious answer is that our team has to play better,” said Watson after the U.S. team’s 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 point loss. “That’s the obvious answer. I think they recognize that fact, that somehow, collectively, 12 players have to play better.” From there things continued to unravel. Where McGinley’s players focused on their captain’s message and the passion he brought to his team, Watson’s 12 appeared disinterested and, at least in the case of Phil Mickelson, disenfranchised. “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said, adding, “No. No, nobody here was in any decision.” There were rare bright spots for the U.S. side, including the solid play of rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, an inspired pairing that went undefeated in team play. From the failed Watson experiment also came a newfound willingness by the PGA to be inclusive in its search for answers. The Ryder Cup task force, an 11-member panel that consists mostly of former captains and current players, met for the first time this month and there seems to be no rush to name the next captain. The consensus among some observers, including Watson, suggests there’s nothing wrong with the U.S. Ryder Cup system that better play, particularly better putting, can’t fix. But that analysis ignores the fact the Europeans were five points better at Gleneagles. This wasn’t a near miss like the one-point losses at Medinah in 2012 and Celtic Manor in ’10; this was a boat race that began at the top for each team. Never before in the modern history of the matches have each team’s contrasting styles been so stark, and never before has it been so clear that a captain can make a difference, for better or worse.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When Tiger Woods recently tweeted his announcement that he’d be returning to the Waste Management Phoenix Open following a 14-year absence, he included a YouTube video. Those with a keen sense of history didn’t even need to click the link. The enduring clip shows a scrawny 21-year-old with an oversized shirt and overwhelming swing. He launches the ball high into the desert sky, and then watches as it takes two hops and bounces into the cup. And then … anarchy. Woods high-fives his caddie and raises the roof. The surrounding fans raise their beverages and launch them nearly as high as the tee shot. All around the tee box, it rains barley and hops. “Just smelling and hearing the beer hit behind me,” Woods recalled this week. “Turn around and see all this beer flying was crazy. … You see all these beer cups everywhere on the tee box.” It’s a memorable piece of video because of the outlandish, unconventional, spontaneous reaction. But it’s also so indelible because it represents one of the very few times that two of the game’s most popular phenomena have been intertwined. Video: Tiger’s hole-in-one at the 1997 Phoenix Open Try this little experiment: Ask your favorite non-golfer – your great-grandmother, your toddler, your friendly neighborhood space alien – to name someone who plays the game for a living. Chances are, the answer will be: ‘Tiger Woods.’ Now ask that same non-golfer to name one type of golf shot. Chances are, the answer will be: ‘hole-in-one.’ Those who can’t tell an albatross from a triple bogey still understand the concept of an ace. It transcends golf. And yet, when it comes to Woods making holes-in-one, the list is strikingly barren. Though he confirms that he’s made 19 total aces in his life – the last coming four years ago at Isleworth – Woods only has three in his PGA Tour career. There was one at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open in his professional debut. And the one here at TPC Scottsdale the next year that elicited the beer shower. And one more the year after that, a slam dunk at the Sprint International that never found its way onto television. (“TV crews here have to take a mandatory union break, and it was on No. 7 at Castle Pines,” Woods remembered. “I hooped it. They showed me on the sixth green, take the union break. I hoop it on 7. They catch me up on the eighth fairway, par-5 up the hill. So that was probably one of the more funny ones, because it went in the hole on the fly and tore up the cup.”) Since then? Nothing. Nada. A big, fat hole-in-none. If you think Woods’ major championship slump is lengthy, consider his hole-in-one drought. It’s been 17 years since his last one in competition. That’s 3,733 par-3 holes in PGA Tour events without a 1 on his scorecard. Not that he’s keeping track. Video: Tiger’s ace in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open (scroll to :55 mark) When Woods was questioned about his lack of aces in tournament rounds, he paused for a second before realizing, “I haven’t had a hole-in-one, you’re right, in competition in a long time.” Overall, he’s posted his three aces in 4,583 par-3 holes on Tour, a percentage of.065 which sounds uncommonly low until we examine a few of his contemporaries. Phil Mickelson owns five aces in 7,281 par-3s (.069 percent); Jim Furyk has five in 7,518 opportunities (.067); and Ernie Els, like Woods, has just three in 5,430 chances (.055). Want more? Rory McIlroy recently carded his first hole-in-one on the European Tour, but is still 0-for-1,192 in PGA Tour-sanctioned events. And then there’s this: According to the National Hole-In-One Registry, the odds of a professional golfer making an ace are 2,500-to-1. Which means that Woods can play nearly 3,000 more par-3 holes in competition before falling off this pace. That shouldn’t come as welcomed information for anyone anticipating a repeat of history this week, as Woods will revisit the famed 16th hole for the first time since 2001. Neither should this: The tournament moved to this course more than a quarter-century ago, but there have been just eight holes-in-one at No. 16. Of course, the most famous remains that indelible moment produced by a 21-year-old Woods that has endured in a video clip ever since. Even he knows, though, that an unlikely ace from the very same spot would produce a much different reaction this time around. “Back in ’97, they didn’t have the bleachers like they did around the tee box,” he explained. “It was a hill and people were partying. I don’t know if they still serve the alcohol like they used to. The guys who were playing behind me, they had some pretty wet lies. It was a different ballgame back then.”
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius – George Coetzee beat Thorbjorn Olesen on the second playoff hole to win the Mauritius Open on Sunday. Overnight leader Coetzee had a trio of birdies at the par-5 18th hole – one at the end of the final round and two in the playoff – to clinch his third European Tour title. ”Being on the playoff was the most comfortable I felt today,” the South African said. ”I just had to get the job done, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.” Olesen also birdied the first playoff hole before being limited to par at his second attempt in the inaugural event on the Indian Ocean island. Earlier, both players finished on 13-under 271 at Heritage Golf Club after Coetzee shot 2-under 69, one behind his Danish opponent. Coetzee started with three birdies on his first five holes before stumbling with a bogey-six at No. 7. He needed a birdie at the last to force the playoff but could have won outright after he almost eagled the hole from 30 feet. Coetzee was the highest-ranked player at the tri-sanctioned European, Asian and South African tour event. Mardan Mamat of Singapore shot 67 to finish third on 12-under 272.
HARRISON, N.Y. – South Korean Jenny Shin kept moving up the leaderboard, chasing Hall-of-Famer Karrie Webb. Shin eventually caught her, shooting a bogey-free, 7-under 66 Thursday for a one-stroke lead after the opening round at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the second major of the season. ”I was chasing the leaderboard all day, and I was surprised that Webby was at 6 under at one point,” said the 22-year-old Shin. ”I got there and was like ‘Maybe I can get one more on the 18th hole,’ and I did.” Canadian teenager Brooke Henderson had a three-putt bogey on her final hole at the ninth to drop a shot back after Shin birdied No. 18 at the Westchester Country Club. ”I hit it well all day, I’m disappointed with the finish on the last hole,” said the 17-year-old Henderson, who was playing on a sponsor exemption. Webb birdied three of the first four holes and finished at 68. The 40-year-old Webb started her round in hazy conditions at No. 10 and shot a 4-under 33 on the opening nine. She had a bogey-free round until she dropped a shot on the seventh when she missed the fairway left and hit the front bunker. ”I hit a wedge to a foot and a half on 10 and that settled me in,” Webb said. ”Hit the green in two on 12 and had about a 15-footer for eagle. I really put some very solid swings on it early on.” Shin had five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 15th. She spoke to her sports psychologist on Wednesday night to help calm her nerves. KPMG Women’s PGA: Articles, videos and photos ”I was freaking out for this round, so I tried to play as comfortable as I can, just like any other tournament,” Shin said. ”I tried not to think of it as a major and it turned out great. I had a couple of bogey-free rounds last week, so I think I’m on a good run.” Americans Brittany Lincicome, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis were in a large group that finished four strokes back at 70 in steamy temperatures that reached the mid-80s. Lincicome, the winner of the first major at the ANA Inspiration in April, eagled the par-5 15th and followed with a birdie on 16. Two-time defending champion Inbee Park shot a 71. Top-ranked teenager Lydia Ko was another stroke back, and Suzann Pettersen, coming off a win in Canada, finished at 74. Michelle Wie, bothered by a hip injury, shot 75. Shin, who is seeking her first major, had three birdies on the front nine to gain on Webb, a seven-time major winner. Henderson, who turned pro in December, is below the LPGA Tour’s age requirement of 18. But she made the most of her sponsor exemption. Henderson birdied No. 10, her opening hole, and added birdies at Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 15. For her eagle on the par-5, 274 yard 12th hole, she hit a 7-wood 204 yards and the ball landed three feet from the cup. Then came the three-putt on her final hole, where she ”tried to hit it a little too hard and had an 8-footer to save par.” The 29-year-old Lincicome, who is seeking her third major, is one of the longest hitters on the tour. She used a 4-iron from 203 yards out and got within 30 feet for her eagle on the par-5, 497-yard 15th. ”The putt, if I hadn’t hit the hole, it probably would have gone off the green,” she said. ”(My caddie) asked if I had dented the cup.” Park finished with a birdie on 18, one of five on the day along with a bogey. The South Korean has won five majors, including three straight in 2013. Kerr had a bogey on the par-5, 551-yard fifth hole and four birdies on the West Course that she often plays when in New York. She’s familiar with the sloping greens at the longtime home of the PGA Tour event now called The Barclays. ”The front nine, I had a bunch of chances and a couple putts lipped out,” Kerr said. ”I just tried to stay patient and got off to a great start on the back nine.” BIRDIES: Annika Sorenstam, a winner of 10 majors and three Women PGA Championships, said she walked the course. ”It’s a tough course, the greens and some blind holes where you really have to commit yourself. The scores are not that low, not many birdies. It will be a typical grinder week.” … Lincicome ran into Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza at the Mets game on Tuesday night and got a picture with him. … Playing with Kerr and Jessica Korda, Lincicome bet $5 for every birdie after a slow start. ”Korda birdied the last, so we were tied, unfortunately,” Lincicome said. ”We just kind of needed something to motivate us to get back in it. We didn’t let Kerr in because she was already making too many.”
THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Look past the lights. See through the smoke. The Volvik World Long Drive Championship offered up another high-octane spectacle Wednesday under the primetime spotlight at Winstar World Casino and Resort, where Justin James and Sandra Carlborg each left with a championship belt. Even as the word “spectacle” hits the page, the footsteps can be heard of golf purists heading for the exit. But slow the stampede. Sure, there are no putters in the golf bags on this particular driving range. The only hazard these players face is missing a grid that seemingly runs for miles and looks more like a runway than a fairway. There isn’t any rough, and there aren’t any scrambling opportunities. No one is turning in a scorecard. It isn’t golf as we know it – but it isn’t threatening golf, either. Over the past few months, and even years, there have been plenty of voices wondering aloud about the health of the sport, be it through participation numbers or television ratings. The ardent pursuit of a younger demographic remains a key focus from golf course operators to tournament directors. Volvik World Long Drive Championship: Articles, photos and videos Volvik World Long Drive Championship scoring and brackets So what’s the harm with mixing in a little smash factor with your strokes gained-putting? The World Long Drive Tour continues to carve out a niche and establish itself as a viable offshoot of a more traditional sport. It’s a path first trod by the likes of beach volleyball, and perhaps more recently the 3-on-3 professional basketball league that turned some heads over the summer. But what a few years ago may have been a discipline that revolved around a single event on the calendar continues to grow in scope. It’s very much a “tour” out here, with the familiar faces of long drive traversing the country from coast to coast while flashing their eye-popping Trackman numbers for new audiences both in-person and on TV. Like with any burgeoning outlet, increased attention has garnered increased competition. Despite a format change designed to create a larger sample size for the best players, this year’s world championship was rife with upsets as the men’s quarterfinals kicked off without the defending champ or the top two players in the world. Just as the gap between No. 1 and No. 100 in the OWGR has thinned over the years, so too has the advantage the elite long drivers once had over their closest competition. “I think 2017 is the hardest field in world championships history,” said No. 1 Maurice Allen, who won three events this season but was knocked out in the Round of 32. “Like I’ve said many, many times, this sport is growing. The guys are getting better and the competition is getting stiffer, so that’s why when you get a win you truly try to cherish it. You don’t know when a win will be your last.” It’s a sentiment that shows that long drive continues to take itself seriously as more than just an adrenaline-fueled exhibition – and rightfully so. “It’s just getting out to more people now, and the proof is even in the competitors as well,” said 2016 world champ Joe Miller, whose title defense ended in the Round of 16. “It’s not just the fans and who it’s reaching, but the guys. You’re getting people that come in every year now, new fresh faces that can swing out of their shoes. That’s just a direct result of how many people it’s getting out to. It’s building every year.” Granted, long drive is not for everyone. Many will see it as a two-dimensional stunt, one that caters more toward bodybuilders than golfers. But any questions about athletic prowess can be answered by watching James connect with incredible speed, or Kyle Berkshire nearly levitate while taking a mighty lash. Berkshire would never be mistaken for a weightlifter, and like many in this week’s field he is in fact an elite golfer who reached a +4 handicap while at the University of North Texas last year before pursuing long drive on a full-time basis. Berkshire’s background in golf is more common than you might expect. Stroll the range at dusk as players warm up before walking onto the tee and you’ll see the same crisp wedge shots or high-flying long irons that might be on display before the opening round at a Web.com Tour event. Around these parts, possessing a scratch handicap is largely the rule – not the exception. “That’s why I do well even as a newcomer, because I have the speed but I’m also a really good golfer,” said Berkshire, 20, who lost to Mitch Grassing in the semifinals. “I can flight it, I can hit the ball where I want to and I have more control over it than a lot of people might realize.” So yes, long drive is a little different, and it packs a whole lot of flair. And of course, few groups fear change and cling to tradition quite like the game of golf. But this is an elastic landscape, one that should be willing to cater to new disciplines and outside-the-box thinking with an eye toward the future. No one is playing less golf, or turning away from PGA Tour coverage, because of their newfound interest in the emergence of long drive. If anything, it’s a way to engage more casual fans who pay attention to 400-yard shots much more than four-hour final rounds. This is an additive proposition, not a zero-sum choice. The lights may have been turned off in Thackerville for another year, but the sport of long drive won’t be dimming anytime soon. And that’s probably a good thing, even if more traditional golf fans remain shrouded by the smoke.
Ariya Jutanugarn looks eager to answer Sung Hyun Park’s challenge. Four days after Park won the Indy Women in Tech Championship to take the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, Jutanugarn quickly moved into position to try to take it back at the CP Women’s Open. Lydia Ko also made a quick start as she aims to win the Canadian Open for a fourth time. And Brooke Henderson excited Saskatchewan as she set up her bid to become the first Canadian to win the event since Jocelyne Bourassa claimed the inaugural title 45 years ago. The first round didn’t lack for storylines Thursday with some big names going low at Wascana Country Club. “There are a bunch of really low numbers out there,” Ko said. “When I looked at the leaderboard on my front nine, it seemed like everyone was pretty much getting off to a good start.” Jutanugarn opened with an 8-under-par 64, equaling Nasa Hataoka and Mariajo Uribe for the first round lead. They’re one shot ahead of Angel Yin and Nanna Koerstz Madsen. Ko joined Henderson, Jessica Korda and a pack of other players shooting 66. Full-field scores from the CP Women’s Open Ko was 15 when she won her first Canadian Women’s Open, becoming the youngest player to win an LPGA title. She won it again at 16 and 18. “The Canadians have taken me in as a Canadian almost,” Ko said. “I always love coming back to Canada. Obviously, every win is special, but the first, there is something a little bit more special to it.” Henderson is Canada’s favorite golf daughter, drawing huge galleries for her late afternoon start. “The crowds just seemed to hang with me all day, even though it’s late in the day right now.” Henderson said. “Even walking up 18, there were tons of people. “Really amazing crowds, so I’m looking forward to the weekend.” Jutanugarn saw her second run at world No. 1 end after three weeks, with Park wrestling it away in Indianapolis last weekend. Jutanugarn can get it right back again this week and set up a potential duel with Park for the LPGA’s biggest prizes down the season’s home stretch. Park won the CP Women’s Open last year, with Jutanugarn winning it two years ago.
NASSAU, Bahamas – If 2018 was a “moving target” for Tiger Woods, the upcoming season appears to be something of a work in progress. Woods’ comeback season included 18 starts, the most he’s played on the PGA Tour since 2012, and it was defined, for better and not-so-better, by a grueling stretch to finish the year that included playing seven events over the last nine weeks – culminating in a walk-off victory at the Tour Championship that was followed by an admittedly lackluster performance at the Ryder Cup. Although Woods is notoriously reluctant to give away his schedule, his comments on Tuesday at the Hero World Challenge suggest change is coming in 2019 for Tiger’s dance card. “The only thing set in stone is I’m playing Genesis [Open] and the four majors,” said Woods, whose foundation runs the Los Angeles Tour stop. “Other than that, we are still taking a look at it as far as what is too much. Seven of the last nine to end my season was too much. What can I handle going forward? I need to make sure that I am rested and ready to play.” Unlike last season, when he began the year ranked 656th in the world, Woods is safely back inside the top 50 in the world ranking [currently 13th] and is assured starts in all of the marquee events. But it remains unclear if he will play his normal schedule. Your browser does not support iframes. Other than the majors, and most likely The Players Championship, the primary concern for Woods, and every other top player, will be a particularly condensed period during the run up to the Masters and again in July to finish the season. The only thing that appears certain is that Woods will look to avoid those extended stretches in an attempt to be at his best when it matters the most at major championships. “I played all my good tournaments when I had time off and I felt rested. If I didn’t feel rested, I didn’t play well,” Woods said. “Maybe that’s just being a little bit older, but I think it’s important, and playing seven of the last nine last year was too much.” In practical terms that means Woods would start his season in January at the Farmers Insurance Open – although there is a growing drumbeat of rumors that suggest he may play the Sentry Tournament of Champions to start the year Maui, which he hasn’t played since 2005. After the Genesis Open (Feb. 11-17) he would play the WGC-Mexico Championship the next week followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play before heading to Augusta National for the year’s first major. That would look like this: Genesis (Feb. 14-17) WGC-Mexico (Feb. 21-24) OFF (Honda) API (March 7-10) Players (March 14-17) OFF (Valspar) WGC-Dell Match Play (March 27-April 1) OFF (Valero Texas) Masters (April 11-14) Gone from his schedule will likely be the Honda Classic, which is now a home game for Woods and an event he’s played every year he’s been healthy since 2012, and the Valspar Championship, which he added to his schedule last year and where he finished second. There is the possibility that Woods could swap out the Match Play, which has become an increasingly tough sell for top players in recent years, for another start, possibly the Valspar or Honda. Woods’ mid-summer run will look familiar, with starts at the Wells Fargo Championship in early May followed by the PGA Championship, which moves to May beginning next year, and the Memorial before heading to the U.S. Open. That would be an off-off-on-off-on-off-on-off-on slate after Augusta and to Pebble Beach. In theory, Woods will have four weeks off after the U.S. Open unless he adds a new stop, the first-year event in Minneapolis could be an option, before The Open Championship is played in Northern Ireland (July 15-21). The top players will head directly from Royal Portrush to Memphis for what promises to be the year’s most dramatic change of scenery at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and unless something goes terribly wrong he would skip the Wyndham Championship to prepare for three consecutive playoff events [reminder: there are no longer four]. That would leave Woods with 17 events if the Maui rumors turn out to be more than hearsay and he plays all three post-season stops, which is a manageable number. The more important element here is he would be able to mitigate the grind of consecutive weeks of tournament golf. Heading into the Masters he would play six events in nine weeks, and to finish the season – assuming he qualifies for all three playoff events – he would play five of six weeks. And having the Presidents Cup – where he could possibly serve as a playing captain – in December creates a much-needed break following the Tour Championship. It’s not perfect, but considering next year’s condensed schedule, it would be Woods’ best chance to remain fresh for an entire season, something he now admits was a struggle in 2018. “Being physically in better shape going into next season is very important in being able to handle the condensed schedule and all the big events we play every month,” he said. “There’s literally a big event every single month, so physically I’ve got to be in better shape than I was last year to be able to handle that.” At 43 years old, creating the right schedule will be the key for Woods if he’s going to sustain the momentum he created in 2018. If that means a slightly different schedule, then so be it.
MUSCAT, Oman — Sand proved to be a major hazard at the Oman Open on Friday. Play was suspended early in the second round of the European Tour event because of sandstorms which blew in off the coast lining Al Mouj Golf. In one incident, first-round leader Kurt Kitayama played a shot onto a green and saw his ball get blown into a bunker. Your browser does not support iframes. Full-field scores from the Oman Open Around five hours after the decision was taken to stop play, organizers said play had been suspended for the day and would resume at 7:40 a.m. local time on Saturday. Kitayama was even par after 13 holes of his second round, keeping the American on 6 under overall. He was joined in a tie for the lead by Joachim B. Hansen, who was 4 under for his second round after 16 holes. Three players were a stroke back, with only one of them – Maximilian Kiefer (70) – having completed his second round.
Jason Kokrak finally gets it done, Phil Mickelson stays perfect, Tiger Woods returns to action, Brooks Koepka offers insight on his injuries and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: Kokrak on first Tour win: ‘Inevitable that I was actually going to get it done’ 1. In a stirring duel with Xander Schauffele at the CJ Cup, Jason Kokrak prevailed to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. TAKEAWAY: It took 233 career starts, but Kokrak, 35, is at last a Tour winner. All he needed was to play one of the best rounds of his life, firing a bogey-free, 8-under 64 – the round of the day – missing only one green and two fairways, and rolling in 110 feet worth of putts. He pulled ahead with a par on the 16th and then bludgeoned the par-5 finishing hole after hitting a 342-yard drive, center stripe. For years Kokrak has been one of the more underrated ball-strikers on the PGA Tour, ranking inside the top 50 strokes gained: tee to green all but once over the past five seasons. That’s one of the chief reasons why he hasn’t finished worse than 100th in the FedExCup since 2012, his rookie season. But Kokrak has also been below average (or … worse) on and around the greens, giving him six career top-3 finishes and $13 million in earnings but never a win. Something changed a few months ago, when he put a 36-inch putter in the bag, allowing the 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pounder to stand more upright at address and getting the club more in his palms. It helped, too, to have a putting savant like David Robinson on the bag, as he reads nearly every putt Kokrak faces. At Shadow Creek – a course he figures he’s played 20 to 25 times – Kokrak led the field in putting for the first time. “Anytime that you’ve been out here for that length of time, you definitely have doubts in your mind,” Kokrak said. “Between the team I’ve got in place, it was inevitable that it was going to happen.” Entering the week, Kokrak was third on the all-time money list among players who had never won. Here’s the current top 5, now that Kokrak has graduated: Brian Davis: $13,374,228 Briny Baird: $13,251,178 Jeff Overton: $12,790,635 Cameron Tringale: $11,945,616 Brendon de Jonge: $11,568,484 2. Xander Schauffele stamped himself as one of the most feared chaser in golf, nearly stealing the title at Shadow Creek with a final-round 66. TAKEAWAY: Indeed, Schauffele got his bad round out of the way Saturday with a third-round 74 in windy conditions and amid painfully slow pace of play. That left him three shots off the lead heading into the final round. Noting his history – all four of his wins have come from behind – he joked with the media: “It’s all part of my master plan.” It looked like it, too, because he was 7 under for his first 13 holes and locked in a battle with Kokrak. Schauffele’s bid ended with an errant drive on the par-5 16th, where he was only able to advance his second shot about 85 yards because of a wood chip near his ball. He continued to make a mess from there and dropped a shot, his lone bogey, of the day. Asked what he took away from the week, Schauffele said: “This is the first time after two rounds of golf I had a three-shot lead – and obviously it showed, with a rookie move there shooting 74 on Saturday. But for me personally, just to know that my really good golf is that good, it’s nice to know that I do have it in me.” Up to No. 7 in the world, another win – you know, an official win, unlike the Tour Championship – is coming very soon. Phil now 2-0 on Champions, begins to build Masters momentum 3. Phil Mickelson stayed perfect on the PGA Tour Champions, winning for the second time in as many starts by outdueling Mike Weir at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic. TAKEAWAY: That Mickelson was even in Virginia instead of Las Vegas was a surprise, and though he laughed off the schedule decision – it’d be a “letdown,” he said, to play Shadow Creek, after beating Tiger Woods there in their $9 million match – it was clear that he had some work to do as he looks forward to the Masters. Before the senior event he put a new driver in play, looking for more pop and carry, wanting to play aggressively because that’s how he wants to attack Augusta in a few weeks. The style of play worked, of course, as he closed with 65, shot 17 under for 54 holes and became just the third player in history to win his first two events on the PGA Tour Champions. Golf Central Phil’s got ‘momentum,’ but what does it mean for Augusta? BY Rex Hoggard — October 18, 2020 at 7:26 PM Phil Mickelson won again on the PGA Tour Champions and says he has ‘momentum’ as he gets ready for his final prep for the Masters. Down the stretch, Mickelson was excellent and showed how much of an advantage he enjoys on the over-50 circuit, putting for eagle three times in his last four holes, including on the 15th after a perfect 3-wood, over the trees, on the drivable par 4. It’ll be his final Champions start before the Masters; he’s playing this week at the Zozo Championship and again in Houston. After beating up, again, on the old-timers, Mickelson said of returning to play against the young bucks: “It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to give it a try and I’m going in with a little bit of confidence now.” Getty Images 4. Tiger Woods will make his final tune-up before the Masters at this week’s Zozo Championship. TAKEAWAY: Because of the pandemic, the Zozo moved from Japan to Southern California, at one of Woods’ personal playgrounds, Sherwood Country Club. In eight career appearances there – all in his limited-field World Challenge exhibitions – he’s a combined 97 under par. Here are his list of finishes, the most recent coming in 2014: 2 T4 1 2 1 1 T-14 2Yet course history is the only reason to believe in Woods’ chances at this point. Other than a tie for 10th at Torrey Pines in his opening event of the year, he’s battled through injury and, now, post-pandemic break, 18 rounds of listless play. Overall, he’s failed to finish inside the top 35 and broken par in just three of his past 13 Tour rounds. Woods hasn’t played in a month, since his 10-over-par missed cut at Winged Foot, but he’ll obviously find more friendly confines this week at Sherwood. It’s his one and only tune-up before defending his title at the Masters, so this observer will be looking for a few things with an eye toward Augusta: 1) improved putting, since last season he would have ranked 183rd on Tour (out of 193!) had he played enough rounds to qualify; 2) a high draw shot shape, as that was one of the keys to his readiness for the 2019 Masters; and 3) tidiness around the greens, because that’s one of the areas Woods always emphasizes in his preparation for the Masters and he lost strokes to the field last season for the first time since his yip-filled events in 2015. WHAT ELSE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT Getty Images Dustin Johnson became the most prominent PGA Tour player to test positive for COVID-19 when he was forced to withdraw last week from the CJ Cup. It’s the third high-profile case in the last few weeks, as Rookie of the Year Scottie Scheffler was knocked out before the U.S. Open, Tony Finau tested positive before the Shriners and then DJ, the world No. 1 and reigning FedExCup Player of the Year, reported symptoms and then received confirmation that he indeed had come down with the virus. (And kudos to DJ: After first testing negative but starting to experiencing symptoms, he asked the Tour for another test.) Though obviously his health is the most important thing, the timing is certainly interesting. Johnson was scheduled to play three times in four weeks in the run-up to Augusta. The CJ Cup is out. Johnson has to self-isolate and clear a 10-day threshold in order to return to competition, which jeopardizes this week’s event at Sherwood (where Johnson is a member). If he’s unable to go, that’d leave only the Houston Open before the Masters. Johnson was on a tear before this latest setback, racking up top-6s in each of his past five starts. Koepka: I didn’t realize how bad I felt Brooks Koepka got through all four rounds at Shadow Creek unscathed after playing his first tournament in two months because of hip and knee injuries. Before the tournament Koepka declared his health a “million times” better than when he began the year but acknowledged that he’s facing an uncertain future if his hip doesn’t improve. He had a cortisone shot recently to alleviate the discomfort from a slight tear in the labrum, but if he doesn’t experience improvement – or, worse, has another setback – he’s looking at surgery and a nine-month recovery. But for now, he reported no issues. The bigger challenge will be getting his game in order with the Masters fast approaching. He managed a couple of 68s during the middle two rounds and tied for 28th in Las Vegas, but he nearly ranked last in driving accuracy (23 of 56) and was predictably rusty on the greens. Koepka is slated for two more weeks of rest, recovery, rehab and rebuilding before a final Masters tune-up at the Houston Open. Getty Images Keep an eye this week on Bermuda, as the National Weather Service just issued a new advisory for Tropical Depression 27. It’s expected to become a tropical storm later this week before turning in a Category 1 hurricane that could impact the area by early Saturday morning. That’s an issue, of course, because the PGA Tour is headed there next week for the Bermuda Championship, the second-to-last event before the Masters. Also interesting: Tournament organizers there are supposed to be welcoming a limited number of on-site spectators, the first time the Tour has allowed fans on property since March 12. THIS WEEK’S AWARD WINNERS Getty Images When You’re Hot, You’re Hot: Adrian Otaegui. With rounds of 62-70-70-63, the 27-year-old Spaniard erased a four-shot deficit to Matt Wallace and captured his third European Tour title at the Scottish Championship (but first in a stroke-play event). He ended up winning by four, which was surely pleasing to his mentor, Jose Maria Olazabal. Still Looking: Mike Weir. Taking the lead into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions event, the newly 50-year-old Weir was looking for his first win – anywhere – in 13 years. But he putted poorly in the final round and was lapped by Mickelson. Beauty in the Madness: Tyrrell Hatton. The Englishman remains one of golf’s must-watch talents, not necessarily because of his shot-making but because of his combustibility, which was on full display last week after flying across eight time zones and not getting enough sleep in Vegas. Auspicious Start: Takumi Kanaya. The former top-ranked amateur in the world finished seventh at the Japan Open to kick off his pro career, but a bigger test awaits: He received a sponsor exemption into this week’s Zozo Championship. Everybody Pitching In: Lost balls at Shadow Creek. The spread-out nature of the course, in addition to having no spectators on the course and fewer marshals, presented a challenge for players if they hit the ball off-line at Shadow Creek. Just peep this search party that broke out after Koepka couldn’t immediately locate his ball – Rory McIlroy even went commando! Tough Break: Jason Day. Beginning the final round just five shots back of Russell Henley, in the same group as eventual winner Jason Kokrak, Day was looking to make a big move to earn his first title since the 2018 Wells Fargo but instead injured his neck/upper shoulder during his range session and couldn’t move properly. He walked off the course after making triple bogey on the first hole and struggling through the second hole. Hopefully he’s able to go this week at Sherwood. Best Wishes: Michael Greller. Jordan Spieth’s loyal caddie left the CJ Cup early after learning of the death of his mother, Jane. A Feel-Good Story, It is Not: Omar Uresti. The 52-year-old has 375 career starts on the PGA Tour, but the “PGA Life Member” just cleaned the clocks of those working the shop and giving lessons, setting the 72-hole scoring record at the Senior PGA Championship with a 18-under winning total. No Words, Just Watch: Gary Player. Reminder: He turns 85 next month. Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Matthew Wolff. Fresh off a runner-up at the U.S. Open and then a playoff loss the previous week at the Shriners, Wolff would have been expected to keep rolling at Shadow Creek. Well, uh, except he shot 80 in the first round and closed with 77 and finished 73rd out of 77 players who completed the week. Sigh.
Intelligent Design Tagsaerobesaerobic lifebiologyChildren of LightCNS NewsDiscovery Institute Pressearthelectro-magnetic spectrumgravitygreenhouse effectinfrared radianceintelligent designlightNASAParker Solar Probeplanetary fine-tuningPrivileged SpeciesStonehengesunVenus,Trending Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Michael Denton, Discovery Institute biologist and author of the newly released Children of Light, reflects on the journey of the Parker Solar Probe. Launched on August 12, the NASA space vehicle today looped past Venus, gathering momentum for entry into the atmosphere of the Sun. NASA reports, “These gravity assists will help the spacecraft tighten its orbit closer and closer to the Sun over the course of the mission.”Our relationship to this most familiar star is something that, as light-dependent aerobes, we often blithely take for granted. The ancients were more perspicacious, as Sun-aligned monuments like Stonehenge confirm. Writing at CNS News, Denton summarizes the “miracles of fortuity” — the amazing good fortune, or could it be intelligent design? — reflected in our enjoying the set of near-countless precisely tuned parameters that allow for “light eating” intelligent beings like ourselves on a planet such as Earth.The Secrets of the SunDenton asks:What if our atmosphere absorbed a slightly different region of the electro-magnetic spectrum? For example, imagine it shifted ever so slightly from its current position so that the atmosphere absorbed all the visual light and all the infrared and let through instead the adjacent ultraviolet. Then not only would photosynthesis be impossible, but the world would have suffered a runaway greenhouse effect. It would be a hot hell-house like Venus because our air would absorb all the sun’s infrared radiance.In such a scenario, no carbon-based life could survive on the Earth’s surface, and certainly no air-breathing aerobes like ourselves.Or, if we imagine it shifted slightly the other way, then all the visual light would still be absorbed by the atmosphere, again making life for air-breathing aerobes like ourselves impossible.That the slice of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun and the slice allowed through the atmosphere should both be largely restricted to the same tiny useful regions is an extraordinary example of a special fitness in nature for our type of aerobic life on a planetary surface. The fit is truly stunning.Notice too that our atmosphere not only allows for life. It also allows us to see and study the stars, a privilege crucial to the birth of science.Read the rest here. Denton’s new book, Children of Light: The Astonishing Properties of Sunlight that Make Us Possible, is well timed, as the Parker craft gets ready to explore the secrets of the Sun close up. Denton’s work continues the Privileged Species series from Discovery Institute Press. It’s an opportunity to renew your wonder, guided by an expert scientist with the heart of a most humane philosopher.Editor’s note: This post was updated on October 8, 2018.Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben, via NASA. “A Summary of the Evidence for Intelligent Design”: The Study Guide 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 Jane Goodall Meets the God Hypothesis Physics, Earth & Space Parker Solar Probe Sweeps Past Venus, as Denton Renews Our Wonder About the SunDavid [email protected]_klinghofferOctober 3, 2018, 2:50 PM Congratulations to Science Magazine for an Honest Portrayal of Darwin’s Descent of Man Requesting a (Partial) Retraction from Darrel Falk and BioLogos Recommended Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Origin of Life: Brian Miller Distills a Debate Between Dave Farina and James Tour Share