By John Strege
Stories of interest you might have missed
“[Jason] Day said before every tournament, [caddie and coach Col] Swatton hands him a piece of paper that tells him what he has to do to win the event. It summarizes what the winner has done over the years — how many eagles, birdies, bogeys and double bogeys he had, along with averages on the par-3s, par-4s and par-5s,” writes Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal in this column on how golfers increasingly are using a “Moneyball” approach to improve.
Caddie and coach Col Swatton and Jason Day (Getty Images photo)
Bernhard Langer, 57 next month, no longer plays PGA Tour events save for the Masters, yet Tom Watson, Colin Montgomerie and Tony Jacklin all have said he warrants consideration for a place on the European Ryder Cup team, based on his extraordinary play on the Champions Tour of late. Tom Hayward of Reuters has the story.
“Nobody had ever said that word [choke] before,” NBC’s Johnny Miller said in this Q and A with Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’ve always felt how players handle the pressure was the most interesting part of golf The way Tiger would perform under pressure and how other guys would let tournaments go.”
“It is not unusual to see a photograph of a professional golfer hitting balls on the range in front of a group of interested spectators. But it is unusual when the golfer is a pudgy man in his mid-sixties, and the onlookers include Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price, and Nick Faldo.” This is the lead to Jeff Neuman’s Wall Street Journal story on the legendary Canadian Moe Norman.
Two weeks before he tees it up in the PGA Championship, club pro Johan Kok played his first round of golf in a week. So it generally goes for club pros, even those good enough to play in a major championship. Columnist Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal looks at the PGA Championship from the perspective of the 20 club pros who qualified.
The No. 125 ranked player in the FedEx Cup points standing right now is Charlie Beljan. That's worth noting because somewhere in the secret PGA Tour commissioner's handbook there is probably a clause that says you're not allowed to outwardly root for Tiger Woods more than you would for Charlie Beljan.
Or something like that. The point is that as the FedEx Cup Playoffs draw nearer, Tim Finchem faces the very real prospect of the tour's prized playoff series being contested without the tour's most marketable player. Currently 215th in the FedEx Cup standings with just 45 points, Woods likely needs a win either this week at Firestone or next week in the PGA Championship to qualify for the Barclays, the first leg of the playoffs, in three weeks at Ridgewood Country Club.
Barring a dramatic Woods resurgence, it would be the third time in the eight-year history of the FedEx Cup that the 14-time major champion would be absent from the entirety of the playoffs. In one of those years, 2008, Woods was unable to play after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery. But in 2011 and again this year, he returned to competition in mid-summer after missing an extended period due to injury, and thus had a limited window to earn points.
Would the tour ever consider a medical exemption into the playoffs for elite players like Woods?
Finchem mulled that question over for only a brief moment on Tuesday.
"Ah, no," Finchem said at a press conference to promote the Barclays. "And the reason I say that is the competition is set up, it's not just a playoff event. It's a yearlong competition. Then you would say, I would have to start fiddling with field sizes. So it kind of muddies up the comparative nature of the competition."
So those are the breaks for Woods. Or maybe not. There is, after all, the chance that he earns his way into the field playing two golf courses where he's won before (eight times at Firestone, once, in the 2000 PGA Championship, at Valhalla). Maybe the commissioner won't be outwardly rooting, but you can bet he'll be watching closely.
"He's got a couple tournaments coming up where he's won on both golf courses and one on which he's won a lot of times (eight)," Finchem said. "So I'm not one of those who are pessimistic about his immediate or long term future in the sport."
AKRON, Ohio -- With a third major title secured and the chance to return to No. 1 looming this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Rory McIlroy said he hasn't dwelled much on his British Open victory two weeks ago at Royal Liverpool, even if it was the most coveted major for the young man from Northern Ireland.
"I've obviously had a bit of time to reflect after the Open and everything, but just decided I wanted to move on and move forward," McIlroy said Tuesday at Firestone C.C.
Well, yes, he's moving forward -- after quaffing a few beverages from the claret jug, taking it out on the town in Belfast with his friends and capturing pictures of it in various locations, including, for some reason, atop the toilet.
Yeah, he's had his fun. But now McIlroy gets back to business, hoping to ride his newfound momentum to further conquests starting at this limited-field World Golf Championship. The following week is the year's final major, the PGA Championship at Valhalla GC, where he'll surely be the prohibitive favorite. And the FedEx Cup Playoffs and Race to Dubai remain in the not too distant future, with the Ryder Cup sandwiched between them.
"There's a lot of big tournaments left this year, a lot of golf left to play, and a lot of things I still want to achieve," said McIlroy, 25, who has risen to No. 2 in the world behind Adam Scott. "World No. 1 is a big goal of mine. I've never won a World Golf Championship. That's another thing. I've got three majors but never won one of these. That's another thing I'd like to knock off the list. So there's a lot of stuff still to play for."
Not that there hasn't been stuff to play for in the past, but McIlroy hasn't always played to his potential. Accompanying his occasional hot streaks, like his burst in the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2012 following his record eight-stroke PGA victory at Kiawah Island, have been notable periods of indifference.
At Hoylake, Tiger Woods noted, bluntly, that his fellow Nike teammate has lacked consistency, a hallmark of Woods' career. "When he gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad," Woods said. "If you look at his results, he's kind of that way. Very similar to what Phil [Mickelson] does. He has his hot weeks and he has his weeks where he's off. It's no right way or wrong way. But it's just the nature of how he plays."
McIlroy doesn't disagree. "I think for me it's all a mental thing," he said. "If I can get myself in the right frame of mind week in, week out, and give myself some little mental triggers throughout the week, like I did at the Open Championship, then, hopefully, I'll have a lot more of those 'on' weeks. . . . But definitely, if you said there's one thing I'd like to get better at, it would just be a little bit more consistency in there. Hopefully, I'm on the right path to try and do that."
He already is, frankly, having not finished outside the top 25 in 10 PGA Tour starts this year while adding a victory at the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship in May following his celebrated breakup with his fiance, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
With three legs of the career Grand Slam in his possession, McIlroy can set his sights higher, although that is nothing new. He has talked in the past about going to bed thinking of golf and waking up thinking of the game. It's a mentality he'll continue to embrace in the hopes of embellishing his record.
"It's what I've always done. It's what I've always known. That's been my life since I was sort of 10 years old was golf," he said. "I think it's just waking up every morning with that drive to want to get better and to want to be the best. I talked about going to bed thinking about it as well, it's more about reflecting on what you've done that day. 'Have you become a better golfer than you were when you woke up that morning, or have you maybe not gotten better but made a step in the right direction to become a better player?' Yeah, that's the place that I'm in right now, and that's my main objective and my main focus. I feel like I'm playing well. I just want to continue to keep doing that."
A year ago when the PGA of America offered fans the opportunity to choose the hole location at Oak Hill's 15th green for the final round of the PGA Championship, it ushered in a new era of fan interaction in tournament golf. It also gave a chance for the public to confound the best golfers in the world.
The PGA of America is doing it again this year at Valhalla, offering fans four choices on the brutish par-4 16th (above).
Voting runs through Aug. 9 at picktheholechallenge.pga.com. And if the early trend holds, fans seem to want to test the best under pressure. The current top choice is the diabolical back-left location.
Here's a PGA of America video highlighting the four choices, with commentary from Jack Nicklaus, who designed Valhalla, and Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's course set-up guru.
Photo: Gary Kellner/The PGA of America via Getty Images
You may remember last August, as part of a different marketing campaign for Bose, Rory gave a quick tour of his house and talked about why he likes living there.
By Alex Myers
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we'll have two of whatever Bernhard Langer is having. No disrespect to Tom Watson, but since turning 55 he's looked like a senior golfer even if he hasn't played like one. Langer looks like he could be a stunt double in a James Bond film. The German impressed everyone this past week with his latest age-defying performance, but there's plenty of other stuff to talk about. Let's channel our inner Langer and kick it into gear.
Bernhard Langer: What's the all-time mark for shooting your age? Because Bernhard is going to shatter that eventually. But first, let's stick to his latest record. Langer won the Senior British Open by 13 shots. Yep, he won a major championship by 13 shots! 13! Martin Kaymer's eight-shot win at the U.S. Open isn't even the biggest blowout in a major by a German this year anymore. Langer turns 57 in August, about a month before the Ryder Cup. Is it possible that European captain Paul McGinley, nearly 10 years his junior, will put Langer on the team? He should -- just in case he ever runs into Bernhard in a dark alley.
Tim Clark: The South African seemed destined for a bunch of PGA Tour wins after he broke through for his first at the 2010 Players, but a bad elbow has held him back since. Nothing held him back at the RBC Canadian Open, though, as he fired back-nine 30 on Sunday to finally claim win No. 2.
President Obama's golf balls: Regardless of what you think of his politics, we think we can all agree that these personalized golf balls (via Instagram user @larrydoh) are pretty badass:
Of course, losing one in the woods off the first tee isn't as badass. . .
Female golfers from Spain: We're still trying to figure out this confusing new event, but we know the team of Beatriz Recari, Azahara Munoz, Belen Mozo and Carlota Ciganda won the International Crown. We also know that Recari and Mozo were both semifinalists in our Hottest Golfers Contest last year. Viva Espana!
Female golfers from the U.S.: The Americans were the No. 1 seed at the International Crown, but they certainly didn't play like it. On Day 1, the U.S. was swept by eighth-seeded Taiwan, and the Americans wound up not being among the five teams that qualified for Sunday's singles. Afterward, Stacy Lewis said the format needed to be tweaked. Wait, she could actually understand the format? OK, now we're impressed.
Male golfers from Russia: Did you know that former No. 1 tennis player Yevgeney Kafelnikov is arguably his country's best golfer? Nine Russians played in the European Tour's M2M Russian Open and none made the cut. Zero is the same number of Russians who have earned any Official World Golf Ranking points in the past two years. Kafelnikov shot 83-89. It's not good when your scores resemble speeds of a good second serve.
Jim Furyk: It's hard to feel bad for a guy who has banked more than $4 million playing golf in 2014, but as good as the 44-year-old Furyk has played the last few years, he hasn't won since the 2010 Tour Championship. Of course, that victory also won him the FedEx Cup and earned him a $10 million bonus . . . why do we feel so bad for him again? It's tough to explain, but we do. With his runner-up in Canada, Furyk now has 28 career second-place finishes and just 16 wins.
Long putters: Sorry to be a downer, but both Langer and Clark's victories might not be possible in about 16 months when the anchoring ban goes into effect. Langer says he plans on using his long putter as long as possible. Good luck trying to pry it from his steely grip.
The PGA Tour heads to Akron for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, aka that event Tiger Woods wins every year. Woods won by seven shots a year ago for his fifth PGA Tour win of 2013. That seems like ancient history, doesn't it?
Random tournament fact: If the crowds at Firestone seem to be in a better mood this year, we're guessing it's because Akron's own LeBron James recently announced he's returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Phil Knight's ultimate dream of LeBron James caddieing for Tiger Woods will come true: 1 million-to-1 odds
-- Bernhard Langer will be a Ryder Cup captain's pick: 25-to-1 odds
-- Bernhard Langer would be useful for Europe if a locker-room brawl broke out against the Americans: LOCK
THIS WEEK IN
PAULINA GRETZKY-DUSTIN JOHNSON JASON DUFNER-AMANDA DUFNER-LITTLE KID PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
This adorable photo came from the Dufners recent visit to an Alabama Boys & Girls Club. The Jason Dufner Charitable Foundation is "on a mission to end childhood hunger in Lee County." Good stuff, guys!
THIS WEEK IN GOLF WAGS PLAYING GOLF
There's Dustin and Paulina! On the same day Paulina posted this photo, DJ, pictured in bare feet and holding a drink, withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone, citing "personal reasons." Paulina called him the "best caddy ever." Is he thinking about changing careers?
Not to be outdone, Lindsey Vonn posted this photo instead of a video (she's not ready to show off her swing just yet), but said "good thing I have an amazing teacher!" Aww.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
A group of guys who go on a yearly golf buddies trip has made one of the greatest parody music videos of all time. Adding to the impressive feat is that the song they chose was Queen's iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody." Enjoy.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"We had a good little time. We toured a little bit and even played a little putt-putt, which I won every single time." -- Tiger Woods on spending time with his son Charlie after the British Open. Who says he's lost his competitive drive?!
THIS AND THAT
Tiger Woods will play in Notah Begay's charity tournament. Woods has played in the event four times previously, but this is the latest indication that his back is feeling good. . . . Oregon star QB and Heisman Trophy hopeful Marcus Mariota will take only golf and yoga this fall while concentrating on football. Hey, at least he's likely to go to class. . . . Taylor Pendrith is golf's latest long-driving sensation. He can hit a golf ball a LOT farther than you can. . . . Apparently, Arizona makes a "Soda Shaq." Something tells us Arnold Palmer has nothing to worry about.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Does Tiger frequently fist pump when he plays mini-golf?
More confusing: International Crown or FedEx Cup?
Could Bernhard Langer take Chuck Norris in a fight?
By Alex Myers
Meet Taylor Pendrith. The 23-year-old Canadian is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and he can hit a golf ball farther than you can. A LOT farther.
Pendrith made his PGA Tour debut at last week's Canadian Open and finished T-43 to grab low amateur honors. The recent Kent State graduate garnered attention for an opening 65, but he turned more heads for how he attacked Royal Montreal GC.
On Thursday, Pendrith posted the four longest drives of anyone in the field. He wound up with seven of the longest 30 drives for the week, and finished second overall in driving distance to Patrick Rodgers. When counting all drives and not just the two holes per day that are officially measured at PGA Tour events, Pendrith was first with an average of 306.9 yards.
If those numbers seem relatively low, that's because hitting driver at the tight track wasn't always the best plan of action. But Pendrith managed to poke a 365-yard drive on the eighth hole in the first round and hit 16 drives of at least 330 yards over four days.
Before being a two-time Mid-American Conference Golfer of the Year while at Kent State, Pendrith won the Canadian Junior Long Drive Championship with a 349-yard clout and had his ball speed measured at 190 mph (The average for a PGA Tour pro in 2013 was 167). The Ontario native's biggest win to date was a five-shot rout at the 2013 Porter Cup.
Pendrith plans on turning pro in the fall after the circuit of big amateur tournaments conclude. When he does, his prodigious power should make him a crowd favorite -- even when he's not playing in his home country.
By Alex Myers
You'd think moving ahead of one of your most successful contemporaries (Vijay Singh) and within one of two others who happen to be all-time greats on any list (Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson) would be cause for celebration. But for Jim Furyk, it's just another reminder of what could've been.
Furyk finished runner-up at the Canadian Open by a shot to Tim Clark on Sunday for the 28th second-place finish of his great -- probably Hall of Fame -- career on the PGA Tour. However, his 16 wins pale in comparison to the 155 combined victories by those three giants of this era.
No one is saying Furyk is as good as those other three guys, although he seems to be when it comes to finishing second. But 28 runner-ups and just 16 wins? Something doesn't add up.
This season, although a success overall, has to be particularly painful for the 44-year-old Furyk. Three runner-ups since May (plus a solo fourth at the British Open) have Furyk up to No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking -- the highest he's been since the start of the 2011 season. The difference is that then Furyk was coming off a three-win season in 2010 that ended with him winning the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.
Furyk has continued to pile up high finishes, but he hasn't won since the 2010 Tour Championship. In nearly four years, he's added six runner-ups and three third-place finishes, and that doesn't even count the 2012 U.S. Open, in which he had the lead before bogeying two of the final three holes at Olympic Club to finish T-4. Even a 59 in the second round of last year's BMW Championship wasn't enough to put Furyk over the top.
At the Canadian Open, Furyk had a three-shot lead through 54 holes, but Clark's final-round 65 clipped him by four. According to Adam Sarson, Furyk now has a dismal 37-percent success rate with 54-hole leads (9 of 24). Comparing him again to Woods (89 percent), Mickelson (67) and Singh (64) in that category isn't pretty.
The funny thing about that stat is that if you take out Furyk's current streak of seven straight failures, you could argue he was once pretty good at closing out tournaments, with a 9-of-17 record between 1994-2010.
But it's easy to say Furyk should have more career wins. In fact, after Furyk's runner-up at the Players two months ago, we argued he should have anywhere between 20 and 24 tour titles based on how many times he's finished in the top three. His 27-percent win rate in those situations isn't awful (Luke Donald's 17 percent is, for instance), but it's below average and well below the marks of Woods (61), Mickelson (44) and Singh (44). The numbers say that even bad "finishers" will win if they put themselves in position to do so enough times.
Of course, finishing second these days on the PGA Tour has its perks. Furyk made $615,600 for his latest close call to push his 2014 on-course earnings to more than $4 million. But at this point in his career, he's much more concerned about trophies than his bank account.
"I'm definitely disappointed not to get over the hump," Furyk said Sunday. "It's been a long time since I've won, and it stings to finish second again."
Again. For the 28th time. Hang in there, Jim, it's bound to happen. No one should be this good at coming in second.