HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Mexico’s Jose de Jesus Rodriguez had a hole-in-one and another eagle Thursday in the Web.com Tour’s Nova Scotia Open en route to an 8-under 63 and a two-stroke lead. Rodriguez holed a 9-iron from 166 yards on No. 5, and made a 30-yard chip for eagle on the par-5 17th. ”I hit it very good and I had a lot of opportunities,” Rodriguez said. ”In the last tournament I hit it very good, but I didn’t make the putts. Today, I made the putts.” David Skinns, James Sacheck and Aaron Goldberg shot 65, and Canadian Adam Hadwin, the Chile Classic winner in March, was another stroke back along with Henrik Norlander. Hadwin had a bogey-free round. ”I didn’t struggle all day,” he said. ”I burned a few edges and had tap-ins for pars.”
In the three months between the time Tiger Woods split with then-swing coach Hank Haney and began working with Sean Foley in 2010, the former world No. 1 played just five events. But it was clear, at least to Tiger, that he needed the proverbial second set of eyes. In the wake of Monday’s news that Woods split with Foley the new elephant in the room has become “what is next” for the man with the most scrutinized golf swing in the history of the game? “Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one,” Woods said in a statement posted Monday on his website. Whether Woods reaches the same epiphany now that he did in 2010 remains to be seen. What is certain is that his list of potential new swing coaches is starting to dwindle. The social media consensus is that Woods – who was injured for much of 2014 and failed to post a single top-20 finish in seven events – should reunite with Butch Harmon, who he worked with from August 1993 through August 2002. That, however, isn’t going to happen. “No I would not (reunite with Woods), and he’s not going to call and ask,” Harmon told GolfChannel.com on Monday. Although Harmon maintains a monsoon of respect for everything Woods has accomplished, he’s also well aware of the demands of being Tiger’s swing coach and neither party is interested in a reunion tour. The same could be said for Haney, whose 2013 book “The Big Miss” did not sit well with Woods, and Foley. “Nothing lasts forever,” Harmon figured. Although there is no shortage of possible candidates after Harmon, finding the right fit for Woods, who has shown a growing affinity for TrackMan technology and a more scientific approach to the golf swing, is an exercise in competing interest. Among the short list of possible replacements after Harmon it seems that Chuck Cook – who was ranked among the top 50 teachers last year by Golf Digest and whose Tour stable includes Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley and Luke Donald – has emerged as an early favorite. Although attempts to reach Cook were not successful, many of those polled on Monday said he would seem to be a logical choice to help guide an extremely logical and high-profile player. “Chuck Cook is a TrackMan guy, his name will be batted around,” said Claude Harmon III, Butch’s son who teaches Ernie Els and Brooks Koepka, before adding with a laugh, “I know I’m not getting a phone call (from Woods).” Most of the other possible candidates to replace Foley had the same outlook when polled by GolfChannel.com, including Todd Anderson, the 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year who helped coach Brandt Snedeker to the 2012 FedEx Cup title; Pete Cowen, a European Tour staple who guided Henrik Stenson to the same title last year; and Scott Hamilton, whose list of Tour players is a who’s who of Tour ballstrikers including Boo Weekley, Steven Bowditch and Brendon Todd. Nor does there seem to be a consensus as to whether Woods needs a second set of eyes going forward. “I don’t think he needs a swing coach,” Butch Harmon said. “If I were advising Tiger I’d tell him, ‘you’re the greatest player that ever lived, just go to the range and hit shots.’ Only he knows what his body can and can’t do. In this day and age you can get all the technical coaching you need with TrackMan. He’s good enough to do it himself.” In a text message exchange Haney agreed that Woods doesn’t need a swing coach at this juncture, while others contend that the idea of going it alone is neither in Woods’ best interest or his DNA. “He’s always had a coach. People say he should be a natural golfer, but he has always had a coach,” Cowen said. And Hamilton pointed out that while there is plenty of information available via TrackMan and the PGA Tour’s ShotLink program, knowing how to use that technology has its own set of pitfalls. “There are guys that manage without (a swing coach), but there is so much technology out there, both good and bad. You need someone to help you understand the technology,” Hamilton said. The one thing nearly every swing coach pointed out is that Woods must come to terms with his physical limitations before he makes any more staffing decisions. At 38, Woods has played a full season on the PGA Tour just three times in the last seven years due to various injuries ranging from knee and Achilles issues to his most recent back troubles. “I think he needs to understand what he wants to do, and his fitness is paramount,” Cowen said. “A swing coach won’t do any good if your player is not healthy. You can’t compensate for an injury. Technique has no part in that.” Since teaming with Foley in August 2010 Woods played just 56 Tour events, winning eight times in the only two seasons (2012 and ’13) he managed to record a full schedule, which is likely why he didn’t sound as if he were in a rush to bring anyone new onboard on Monday. “He knows what his body can do. He’s a very good student of the golf swing. Once his body gets healthy he can go back to playing the way he knows he is capable of playing,” Butch Harmon said. Most observers agree Woods will return healthy in 2015. Whether he will have that second set of eyes to guide him through this next phase of his career is anyone’s guess.
DOHA, Qatar – Bernd Wieseberger birdied his last hole to join South Africans Branden Grace and George Coetzee on top of the Qatar Masters leaderboard after the second round on Thursday. Wieseberger’s 6-under-par 66 included four consecutive birdies from his fourth hole, the par-3 No. 13. The Austrian totaled 9-under 135 to share a one-shot lead with Grace (68) and Coetzee (67). Wieseberger and Coetzee teed off in the morning, while Grace enjoyed near windless conditions in the afternoon, and was surprised at the end of the day that nobody achieved double figures under par. ”I really thought somebody was going to push (10 under),” said Grace, who won his fifth European Tour title last month in South Africa. ”You saw the guys from this morning, there were 6 unders and 5 unders and 7 unders, and nobody really pushed toward the end of the day.” Grace thought one of the reasons could be that the greens were not that much quicker than he thought. ”They (greens) are still very good. They didn’t spike up at all, so it’s a big surprise nobody really pushed on,” he said. Scotland’s Marc Warren (65), South Korea’s Byeong-hun An (69), and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo(69) were one stroke behind at 8 under. Warren shared the day’s best score with England ‘s Tommy Fleetwood and Sweden’s Johan Carlsson. Defending champion Sergio Garcia was three shots behind the leaders at 6 under after consecutive 69s. Charl Schwartzel shot a 6-over 78 to finish at 3 over, missing the cut by four strokes. Earlier, Wieseberger, who tied for sixth at last week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, dropped only one shot at the par-4 seventh, but quickly carded a birdie to finish an impressive day. ”I feel comfortable. I haven’t really expected it, especially because I played quite poorly last year,” said Wiesberger, who won his only two tour titles in 2012. ”It gives me great confidence; if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I’ve worked on the right things the last couple of weeks, and it shows.” Coetzee matched him with six birdies. ”I’m playing well. My swing is coming along slightly, and I’m putting pretty nicely,” Coetzee said. ”I’ve just got to wait for my birdies and not force it and kind of play the golf course like I know it.”
Last December we presented a list of 10 players to watch during 2015. Ever wonder how they did? Wonder no more – here’s the rundown: 10. Cheyenne Woods Why she bore watching: Well, there’s the whole niece-of-Tiger thing, but Cheyenne Woods had credentials beyond a famous relative. In 2014 she won her first Ladies European Tour event and secured her LPGA card for 2015. How she did: It was a rough year. Woods played in 17 events and made just seven cuts, leaving her 125th on the LPGA money list with $32,713. Her best finish was a T-24 in the JTBC Founders Cup, and her best round was a 63, which shared the opening-round lead in the Manulife LPGA Classic. Her scoring average was 73.22. 9. Peter Uihlein Why he bore watching: Another player with a famous relative (his father, Wally, is CEO of the Acushnet Company, the parent of Titleist and Footjoy). Peter played a full European Tour schedule in 2014, with two top-10s. He also had a T-4 in the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship. How he did: Uihlein played the European Tour again in 2015, with improved results. He made 19 of 26 cuts (up from 14 of 23), had four top-10 finishes (up from two) and had a stroke average of 70.38 (down from 71.37). He also got stuck on a Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios. 8. Carlos Ortiz Why he bore watching: In his rookie season on the Web.com Tour in 2014, Ortiz led the tour with three victories, finished second on the money list and earned his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season. How he did: Ortiz played in a whopping 30 events in the 2014-15 PGA Tour season. He made 20 cuts, earned $964,137 and finished 93rd in the FedEx Cup standings. 7. Luke DonaldWhy he bore watching: The former world No. 1 had fallen to No. 33 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but was optimistic about a career revival after returning to former swing coach Pat Goss. How he did: Donald’s world ranking has dropped further, to No. 72. On Tour in 2014-15, he had only two top-10s in 20 starts, compared to three in 17 during the previous season. His earnings dropped from $1.4 million to $1 million. Statistically, his driving accuracy dropped, from 63 percent to 59 percent; his greens-in-regulation percentage improved from 63 percent to 66 percent; and his strokes gained-putting dropped from .520 to .290. He is not currently qualified for any of next year’s majors or WGC events. 6. Justin Thomas Why he bore watching: At 21, Thomas became the youngest rookie in the ’14-15 PGA Tour class. In just one season on the Web.com Tour, he led in the all-around category and secured a victory during the Web.com Tour finals. How he did: In his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Thomas played 30 events, making 23 cuts, with seven top-10 finishes. Earning more than $2.2 million, he wound up finishing 32nd in the FedEx Cup standings, narrowly missing out on a trip to East Lake. After all the close calls, Thomas finally cashed in for his first Tour victory this fall at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. 5. Tony Finau Why he bore watching: Finau played his first full year on the Web.com Tour in 2014, won the Stonebrae Classic and earned his PGA Tour card for the ’14-15 season. How he did: Finau posted five top-10s and 16 top-25s last season. He finished tied T-14th at the U.S. Open and T-10 at the PGA. The 26-year-old earned just over $2 million, advanced to the BMW Championship and finished seventh on Tour in driving distance at 309 yards. All of it was enough to make him, like Thomas, a nominee for last year’s rookie of the year award. 4. Hideki Matsuyama Why he bore watching: Matsuyama already had a PGA Tour win (2014 Memorial) and was ranked 16th in the world last December, when he was only 22. We wondered if this would be his year for a major breakthrough. How he did: There was no follow-up victory in 2015, but there were six top-5 finishes, including a runner-up in Phoenix. He was third at the Tournament of Champions, fourth at the Northern Trust, fifth at the Memorial, fifth at the CIMB and — as for the majors — fifth at the Masters. Matsuyama racked up roughly $4 million and is now 14th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He represented the International Squad at this year’s Presidents Cup, going 2-1-1 and defeating J.B. Holmes in singles. 3. Victor Dubuisson Why he bore watching: Images of him saving par from desert scrub brush — not once, but twice — at the 2014 WGC-Match Play were among the most memorable in golf. He also finished ninth at the British Open and seventh at the PGA Championship. How he did: The enigmatic Frenchman stayed well under the radar for the majority of the year, struggling with his game. But he re-emerged earlier this month, winning his second Turkish Airlines Open. Dubuisson broke down in the tears after his victory, citing personal issues and a loss of confidence as reasons for his downturn. 2. Rickie Fowler Why he bore watching: Fowler was the only player to finish in the top five in all four majors in 2014. Noting that he was working with Butch Harmon, we asked, “2015 has to lead to a win or two … right?” How he did: Fowler played his last six holes of regulation in 6 under Sunday at the Players to find his way into a four-hole playoff, which he went on to win for his most important victory to date. Fowler then followed it up with two more high-profile wins at the Scottish Open and Deutsche Bank Championship. He is now sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking. His breakthrough just happened to be overshadowed by two guys named Spieth and Day. 1. Brooks Koepka Why he bore watching: He won the Turkish Airlines Open in November and before that, had strong showings at the PGA Championship (T-15) and the U.S. Open (T-4). How he did: Koepka made us look smart with a quick victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Though injury slowed his momentum in the months after, the 25-year-old steadied himself during the summer, when his worst finish in a seven-event stretch was a T-18 at the U.S. Open. He tied for 10th at the Open Championship and fifth at the PGA. Although he was rather controversially left of the U.S. Presidents Cup team, he is currently eighth on the Ryder Cup points list for 2016.
In this week’s edition of Cut Line, John Daly turns 50, Spring Break turns social for some of the game’s top players, and an overly crowded schedule turns some potential Olympians away from this year’s Games. Made Cut Daly’s second act. Perhaps no one in golf needs an occupational mulligan as much as John Daly, who turned 50 on Thursday and is poised to make his PGA Tour Champions debut next week at the Insperity Invitational. Earlier this month, I spent a hectic morning with Daly in his rolling merchandise outlet on Washington Road, about a par 5 from the front entrance to Augusta National, and there was no denying his continued zeal for the game and how much he’s embraced this next chapter. As he looks ahead, Daly didn’t seem to have much interest in looking back at an eventful life both on and off the golf course. Instead, he’s choosing to focus his energy on the one constant in his career – his fans. For Daly, his legacy is a matter of perspective, and he understands that he means many different things to different people. “It’s going to be like a politician,” Daly figured. “You take the good with the bad. You know some people are going to say what a disgrace I was, and others are going to say, ‘He did great with charity work and has a heart of gold.’” You may not agree with some of his choices, but you can’t deny his honesty. Tweet of the week: #SB2K16. Perhaps the most surprising part of the Bro-hamas vacation that was so well publicized via social media is the pushback the foursome of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Smylie Kaufman and Justin Thomas received. Some in the media questioned the group’s decision to make their antics so public via a series of Snapchat posts. Others, most notably Gary Player and Rory McIlroy, celebrated the week for what it was – a group of twenty-somethings doing what twenty-somethings do during spring break. “After seeing all these Snapchats over the last few days, maybe I should have taken [Fowler] up on the invite!” McIlroy tweeted. If there was one moment that gave us pause, it was Kaufman’s breakdown of Spieth’s chunked wedge shot at the 12th hole during the final round of the Masters. Although the Snapchat was unquestionably funny, it may have been too soon. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Progress or potential problems? The World Anti-Doping Agency released its annual doping violations report this week, a list of infractions that included six golfers. The golfers were from Italy (three), France, Korea and South Africa, compared to just one golfer who was sanctioned on last year’s report. The timing of the report was particularly interesting considering that any potential Olympians will be placed in a anti-doping testing pool on May 6 that is much more stringent than the methods used by the PGA Tour. Ty Votaw, the vice president of the International Golf Foundation and the Tour’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told Golf.com that the report’s findings were a “validation of our testing procedures.” Perhaps, but a significant portion of potential Olympians play the majority of their golf on the PGA Tour, which is not a signatory of the WADA code, and the circuit reported just a single performance-enhancing drug violation in 2015. Maybe there is no need for concern as golf inches closer to its return to the Olympics, but as the WADA report suggests the anti-doping world is filled with possible missteps – both intended and otherwise. Slippery slope. Things didn’t go exactly as planned for the United States Golf Association at last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, but give the organization credit for embracing a more sustainable golf course in a market that has largely been devoid of championship golf. On Monday, however, the USGA seemed to take a step back during media day for this year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, when executive director Mike Davis was asked about the layout’s renowned difficulty. “I think in the past,the course rating has been somewhere in the low 80s, so the average golfer, even if it’s not setup for a U.S. Open, has no idea how exacting this golf course is,” Davis said. “I believe it’s up [to an] 80, 81, 82 course rating when it’s set up for the U.S. Open.” To put that number in context, the rating for this week’s stop at TPC Louisiana is 76.3, and last week at TPC San Antonio, which was statistically the second-toughest course on Tour last year, the tournament rating was 76.5. Harder doesn’t always mean better. Missed Cut Don’t blame it on Rio. On Monday, Charl Schwartzel joined Louis Oosthuizen on the sidelines for this year’s Olympics, announcing that he would be skipping the Games because of a “tight schedule.” There has been no shortage of criticism of the South African’s decision to skip the Olympics, but the real blame should go to those tour executives who were unable, or unwilling, to accommodate golf’s return to the Games with a more user-friendly schedule. After the U.S. Open, there will be virtually no rest for many players bound for Rio, with essentially mandatory starts at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational/French Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, Olympics and then onto the FedEx Cup playoffs and Ryder Cup. If the various tours wanted to truly embrace the Olympic vision, the schedule needed to be reduced, not reworked. Maybe, as officials have said, the 2020 schedules will be more accommodating to prepare for the Games in Japan, but that didn’t make Schwartzel and Oosthuizen’s decision any easier this year.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bobby Wyatt spent Tuesday morning at a local Apple store trying to coax his iPhone back to life. He can’t say for certain his phone’s demise was the byproduct of overload, but admits “when I glanced at it right before it stopped working I had over 50 text messages.” In the hurried moments after Wyatt’s fourth-place finish on Monday at the weather-delayed and drenched Zurich Classic, that’s about the only thing that didn’t go his way. Playing on a sponsor exemption, the 23-year-old briefly took the lead on Monday at 14 under par before a pair of unlikely bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15 derailed the best-case scenario, but all things considered, Wyatt’s first PGA Tour start of 2016 will not be soon forgotten. His final-round 64 left him one shot out of a playoff won by Brian Stuard, but gave Wyatt much more in return, including job security, increased opportunities and, perhaps most important, a renewed sense of confidence. Like many young stars fresh out of college, Wyatt’s transition to the professional world was eye-opening – harsh even. For every Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler there are many more Bobby Wyatts, players who are dubbed “can’t miss” leaving college but quickly discover that things move much quicker in the play-for-pay ranks. With the unflinching honesty that only comes with experience, Wyatt refers to those first few years since leaving the University of Alabama as his “failures.” Playing on sponsor invite, Wyatt finishes fourth In five Tour starts after leaving Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2014 he didn’t finish better than 60th, he failed to advance out of Web.com Tour Q-School last fall and began 2016 with nowhere to play. “I had my chances and I didn’t do it, but I learned a lot from those experiences,” Wyatt said on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Championship. With no status in the United States the alternative was extreme. He traveled halfway around the world to ply his trade on the Southern Africa Tour, where he made three starts earlier this year. The results were encouraging; he made two of three cuts and tied for ninth place at the Dimension Data Pro-Am in February, but the biggest benefit wasn’t so much the change of scenery as much as it was a changing narrative. “Bobby’s biggest issue is dealing with the expectations of his past, of everything he’d accomplished and his talent,” said Jeremy Elliott, Wyatt’s manager with Lagardere. “And we wanted to find any way possible for him to have status on Tour and if that meant him playing in South Africa, that’s what we were going to do. One of the advantages of that was he was able to get away from a lot of the noise.” When Wyatt was 17 he shot 57 in the Alabama Boys State Junior and in 2013 he helped lead the Crimson Tide to the school’s first NCAA title. He went undefeated at the ’13 Walker Cup and was named a first-team All-American his senior year. As so often happens, however, that success didn’t translate to the professional ranks. As he watched contemporaries and former teammates enjoy success at the next level, the pressure built. After his Q-School miss last year, he turned to swing coach Scott Hamilton to straighten out a driver that was prone to a two-way miss. “We flattened out his swing a little bit and got him more on plane,” Hamilton said. “We worked together [in February] and ever since then he’s been off to the races.” With few playing options Wyatt turned to Monday qualifying and two weeks ago he missed earning a spot in the Texas Open by a stroke after making seven birdies. The results were there but the starts were not, which prompted Elliott to make one final plea to officials at the Zurich Classic for a sponsor exemption, and Wyatt didn’t disappoint. Perhaps the most impressive part of Wyatt’s week in New Orleans was his play despite the pressures of his vastly limited status. “It was a big opportunity for me, I knew that. My ultimate goal is to make it out here and to do that I have to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities,” Wyatt said. Wyatt’s finish at TPC Louisiana secured him a spot in this week’s field at the Wells Fargo Championship and enough FedEx Cup points to assure him status on the Web.com Tour next year. With 136 FedEx Cup points, Wyatt also has a chance to play his way onto the PGA Tour by matching the amount (458) needed to finish inside the top 125 on last year’s list. But mostly Wyatt said it’s the confidence gained from last week’s finish that will help propel him to that coveted next stage of his career. “I learned I can win out here,” he said. “Even after those bogeys [at Nos. 14 and 15], I knew how well I was playing and didn’t feel intimidated or scared.” That his breakthrough may or may not have blown up his iPhone was an acceptable byproduct of his success. “I got a new [phone],” he smiled.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Sitting on the far side of the dais and surrounded by an International team that just endured a four-day drubbing at the Presidents Cup, Ernie Els struggled for answers. Brought in as an assistant captain and seen by many, including current captain Nick Price, as the probable skipper for the 2019 event in Australia, he will likely be tasked with turning around a trend that only grew more lopsided this week in the shadow of Lady Liberty. “The future of the cup is important. We want to have it as competitive as we can,” Els said. “So we have to go back to the drawing board.” It’s a common goal, one shared by the other 16 men sitting at the podium who at times seemed helpless in the face of an American juggernaut that won 19-11 and nearly clinched the biennial matches a full day in advance. The International team’s overall record now drops to 1-10-1, and 21 years will have passed since their lone victory the next time the cup is up for grabs at Royal Melbourne. In all likelihood, it’s also a goal shared by many PGA Tour executives. This event, after all, is the Tour’s property, created as a complement to the PGA of America-run Ryder Cup. Blowouts like the one seen this week do little to alter the perception that this event pales in comparison to the high-octane spectacle played in the even-numbered years. But while the goal is shared by several parties, creating productive change for the International squad is easier said than done. Consider the uphill battle Price faced simply to get the total points trimmed from 34 to 30. It took nearly two years of lobbying to Tour officials before the change was administered for the 2015 matches, leading to a narrow American victory. It appeared to be a step in the right direction for an event desperate to create any hint of a truly back-and-forth rivalry. Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos Presidents Cup: Match-by-match scoring But this week at Liberty National, the cup could have been contested across three points or 30, and the outcome likely wouldn’t have wavered. The Americans were the better team, playing the better golf, from the first man on the roster to the 12th. “I think we went up against one of the best teams that’s been put forward,” said Adam Scott, who has now been on eight squads without tasting team victory. “I think we have to do even more before we play again in two years.” What’s more daunting for the likes of Els, Price, Scott and others is the fact that this U.S. team likely won’t slow down anytime soon. The youthful nucleus of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler have decades ahead of them and should only gain more experience and poise in the intervening years. The International core, by comparison, is only getting older. Scott will be 39 for the matches at Royal Melbourne while veterans like Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman will all be on the wrong side of 35. Reflecting on his third straight loss as captain, Price went back to familiar refrains: shortening the available points, putting lineups in secretly rather than allowing captains to plot one matchup at a time. “We play these team events every second year, and the U.S. team plays every year. So they are a little bit more, I don’t want to say prepared, but they kind of – there’s not as big surprises on their team,” Price said. “I think to put pairings together with a very diverse group as we have, is our challenge.” Unfortunately for Price, or whoever takes the earpiece from him, that challenge likely won’t get any easier in the coming years. The language barriers in play, especially with Hideki Matsuyama who struggled this week despite being the top-ranked player on his team, won’t disappear overnight. The depth issues aren’t going away, either. While all 12 on this year’s team are PGA Tour regulars, captain’s pick contenders like Hideto Tanihara and Yuta Ikeda play most of their golf elsewhere, making it difficult to rely on any qualification system beyond the Official World Golf Rankings. While the Americans have promising prospects on the horizon like Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Ollie Schniederjans, the International cupboard seems much more sparse in comparison. It’s unlikely that any of the players ranked in the top 100 left off this year’s squad – a diverse group that includes guys like Haotong Li, Byeong-Hun An and Dylan Frittelli – would have done much to slow down the American onslaught. “That’s the hardest task for us, new guys in and out every two years with less and less experience in this kind of format is hard,” Scott said. “We struggled in the team aspect of the matches this week. But we also played maybe the most on-form United States team that I can remember.” Team golf tends to be a cyclical venture, and after the competition closed many compared the current International struggles to those faced by U.S. Ryder Cup teams earlier this century. But there is no infrastructure in place to create an International task force, nor could they easily identify one singular factor that might unite a diverse contingent in the face of an opponent that seems only to be growing stronger. As a result, a table full of players and assistants sat next to Price and talked about the need for change and reform, the ethereal desire to make this thing competitive after yet another lopsided loss. But they also struggled to pinpoint the concrete factors that might spark formative change. At one point, Els was again asked what could be done to turn around the fate of the Internationals. But before he could answer, Scott cut him off. “Win,” Scott said. Perhaps it is that simple. But the Internationals won’t get another crack at the cup for two more years, and right now they certainly seem further from victory than they appeared to be when they first boarded a ferry for Liberty National.
The season couldn’t get off to a more perfect start in Hawaii, where players and their families are enjoying the sunny beaches and pretending the rest of the country isn’t buried in snow, Dustin Johnson hit what some(one in particular) are calling the “greatest shot ever hit” and your favorite golfers react to the College Football Playoff National Championship. All that and more in this week’s edition of The Social. Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said some stuff on the Internet recently, and this is going to shock you, people disagreed with it. Chamblee argued that Dustin Johnson’s drive on the 433-yard, par-4 12th hole on Sunday that he nearly holed out en route to winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions was “the greatest shot ever hit in the game.” Was it really? Well it’s Tuesday and he’s still tweeting his reasoning for making the argument, so let’s just say he feels strongly about it. But here’s the thing – it’s his personal record book, as “Stugotz” likes to say. The greatest shot ever can be anything he wants it to be. There are some people out there who legitimately think the earth is flat (Kyrie Irving). There are some people who legitimately think UCF is the national champion of college football this season (me). Saying DJ’s drive is the greatest shot ever hit is rather tame compared to some of the takes out there. So lets all take a deep breath together. It’s only January 9. We’re never going to make it through 2018 at this rate. You want to know how you know when you’ve really made it? When you get paid to go to Hawaii and you get to bring your wife/girlfriend/significant other/whole family to enjoy the time with you. And this first event of 2018 did not disappoint. It’s just something about Hawaii that brings out the family more than say, Ohio. Can’t quite put my finger on it. (No offense to Ohio, you know you’re not Hawaii.)Anyway, the week at Kapalua is a great time to hang at the beach, go whale watching, do some amateur modeling, take a walk through the jungle, jump off a waterfall or just hang at the resort pool and bar. Oh yeah, and there’s some golf too, if you’re into that. His team lost. More on this momentarily. In case you missed it, this kid is 5 years old. Even though the University of Central Florida already claimed the college football national title, Georgia and Alabama still squared off on Monday in the College Football Playoff National Championship – and what a game it was. The Crimson Tide came from behind and beat the Bulldogs with a touchdown in overtime, and now you’ll be seeing Georgia alum Kevin Kisner rocking an Alabama jersey in the near future thanks to this hilarious, never-before-seen bet where the loser has to wear the other teams colors. Those crazy Tour pros. What will they think of next? They were hardly the only ones in the golf world paying attention to the game, however. Here’s some of the best stuff from social media: I was never nervous— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) January 9, 2018 It’s been a big week for dad’s getting some epic gifts. This video went viral of a son surprising his father, who is a lifelong Georgia fan, with tickets to the College Football Playoff National Championship. The video had everything – tears, hugs and a super cute cameo from the family bulldog. Doesn’t seem as great now that they had to witness Georgia’s collapse in person, but still a nice gesture. But, for all the golf nerds out there, it doesn’t hold a candle to this next video. This dad is going to Sunday of the Masters in April thanks to his son. And probably had to make some adjustments to the will shortly after this video was shot. Edited for your protection, of course. Being semi-famous on the Internet looks like a fun time.
CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland – Hideto Tanihara shot a bogey-free 4-under 66 to lead by two shots after the European Masters second round on Friday. The Japanese player had four birdies at the high-altitude Crans-sur-Sierre club to get to 9-under 131. Tanihara is two strokes clear of defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, American Doug Ghim, and Lucas Bjerregaard. Fitzpatrick was 1 over for the tournament early in his round, then fired off seven birdies in a 10-hole span and another at the par-4 18th. That gave the member of Europe’s losing 2016 Ryder Cup team the day’s lowest score of 64 on the 6,848-yard course in the Swiss Alps. Full-field scores from the Omega European Championship Ghim, a former top-ranked amateur who turned professional in June, shot a 65 late in the day to join Englishman Fitzpatrick and Denmark’s Bjerregaard. Four early starters including 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett (66) were in a group at 6 under, trailing Tanihara by three. Tanihara has never won on the European Tour, which he joined last season after 14 titles in Japan. Overnight leader Maximilian Kieffer of Germany had a 1-over 71 to be in a seven-man group on 5 under. Chase Koepka shot a 65 that included 10 birdies and only four pars. The younger brother of U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka also had a double bogey on the par-3 16th. He starts the weekend five shots off the lead. Two-time major champion John Daly shot a 75 to follow his 77 on Thursday and missed the cut by 13 shots.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Noor Ahmed outwardly lives her Muslim faith, and even growing up in a state as diverse as California she says she encountered hostility on the street, in school and on the golf course. One of the top junior golfers in Northern California coming out of high school, Ahmed was a starter in her first year at Nebraska and the No. 2 player most of this spring. She is believed to be the only golfer at the college level or higher who competes in a hijab, the headscarf worn in adherence to the Muslim faith. Arriving in Lincoln two years ago, Ahmed sensed hesitancy from teammates mostly from small Midwestern towns and unaccustomed to seeing a woman in a hijab. She didn’t feel embraced until an unfortunate yet unifying event roiled the campus midway through her freshman year. A video surfaced of a student claiming to be the “most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area,” disparaging minorities and advocating violence. The student, it turned out, was in the same biology lecture class as Ahmed. Teammates offered to walk with her across campus, and one who would become her best friend, Kate Smith, invited Ahmed to stay with her. She didn’t accept but was heartened by the gesture. “That,” Smith said, “was when she realized how much each and every one of us care for her on the team, that it wasn’t just like, ‘Hey you’re our teammate.’ No, it’s ‘We want you to be safe, we want you to feel at home here.’” Having grown up in the post-9/11 era, Ahmed, like many Muslims in the United States, has been a target for bullying and verbal abuse. She began wearing the hijab in middle school. On the course, in an airport or even walking across campus she can feel the long stares and notices the glances. She said she has never been physically threatened — “that I know of” — and that most of the face-to-face insults came before she arrived at Nebraska. Much of the venom spewed at her now comes on social media. She has been the subject of several media profiles, and each sparks another round of hateful messages. She acknowledges she reads but doesn’t respond to messages and that an athletic department sports psychologist has helped her learn how to deal with them. “I’ve been called every racial slur in the book,” she said. “I’ve been told explicitly that people who look like me don’t play golf, we don’t have a right to exist in America, you should go home. It would definitely faze me a little bit, but it never deterred me. I’m really stubborn, so I’m going to prove you wrong, just wait. When people think they’re dragging me down, it kind of fuels the fire in me that I’m going to be a better golfer, I’m going to be a better student, I’m going to keep climbing up the ladder.” The daughter of Egyptian immigrants is from a close-knit family in Folsom, California, and she steeled herself for the cultural adjustment she would have to make at Nebraska. She dealt with loneliness and anxiety, especially her freshman year. She had difficulty finding a support network. There is a small Muslim community on campus, but she didn’t immerse herself in it. The demands on athletes are great, and they are largely segregated, eating and studying in facilities separate from those used by regular students. Nebraska coach Robin Krapfl said she was initially concerned about how teammates would react to Ahmed. Krapfl remembered meeting with her golfers and telling them about her. “I could tell by a couple of the looks and maybe even a comment or two that they weren’t 100 percent comfortable with that,” Krapfl said. “A lot of our girls come from small-town communities that are very limited in their ethnicity. It’s just the fear of the unknown. They had just never been exposed to being around someone from the Muslim faith.” Krapfl said she saw a golfer or two roll their eyes, another shook her head. “I overheard, ‘Why would Coach bring someone like that on the team?’ ” “Luckily when she got here people could see her for who she was and the quality of person she was,” Krapfl said. “It took a while. It really did. You’ve got to get to know somebody, who they really are and not just what they look like.” Smith said she sometimes cringes when she and Ahmed are in a group and the conversation turns to politics, immigration or even fashion, like when someone innocently or ignorantly tells Ahmed that she would look good in a short dress or a certain hairstyle. “She can never wear a short dress, so why would you want to depict her as that?” Smith said. “You have to respect her beliefs and why she’s doing it. Also, I think a lot of things are connected to women’s beauty standards and how people don’t think she can look beautiful when she’s covered. I think she’s a really beautiful girl no matter how much skin she’s showing.” For all the challenges Ahmed faced, there have been positives. Some people have complimented her for living her faith as she sees fit, a Muslim teen who golfs in a hijab and lives in the United Kingdom wrote to says she draws inspiration from her, and a player for another college team approached her at an event to tell her she recently converted to Islam and just wanted to say hi. “I remember going and crying and, wow, I’m not alone out here,” she said. Ahmed said she’s naturally shy and a bit uncomfortable with the attention, but she hopes Muslim girls coming up behind her are watching. “I grew up never seeing anyone like me,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize how much grief I was carrying, having never seen an image of myself or someone who looked like me in popular American culture. It’s a big deal. “Why are basketball and football so heavily African American? If I were black and I saw people who looked like me competing in that sport, that’s probably the sport I would choose. I think it’s really important when we’re talking about trying to make golf and other sports and other areas in American culture diverse, how important it is to see someone who looks like you and how it will fuel other people’s interest.” Ahmed started playing golf at 8, and her parents encouraged her to take the sport to the highest level possible. Wearing the hijab has never interfered with her game and she has never considered not wearing it on the course. “I think Muslim women who choose to observe it or choose not to observe it have the right to exist in any space they want to be in,” she said, “and I would feel like I would be sending a message that the hijab doesn’t exist in this place or it shouldn’t, and I don’t feel comfortable with that.”