The headline to this Kevin Garside column in the Independent is ominous: “Rory McIlroy’s court case could put Masters bid in rough.” McIlroy and his former agency, Horizon, are embroiled in a dispute that will go to court in February, “two months before the tournament he has made it his priority to win,” Garside writes of McIlroy’s bid to complete the career grand slam. “He has showed that he is vulnerable when matters spiral beyond his control, as this case might with devastating consequences for his reputation, should the judge decide in the opposition’s favour.”
(Getty Images photo)
Jason Dufner withdrew from the PGA Championship in August with a neck injury and hasn’t been seen since. Until now. Dufner returns to competition at the Perth International in Australia. “I took three weeks off in the middle of the year because I had a gut full of feeling like I wasn’t getting out of it what I was putting into it,” he said in this story by Chris Robinson in Perth Now. “You just you can’t underestimate how valuable taking a week or two off is. Doing this is such a grind that you’ve got to really, really, really want to be there. If you take a few weeks off you get pretty itchy to go play golf. That can be the difference.”
“No-one needs to persuade me about the merits of Wales’s finest-ever golfer,” Derek Lawrenson writes in the Daily Mail regarding Ian Woosnam’s omission from the World Golf Hall of Fame. Lawrenson was one of 16 members of the selection commission. “I’ve written about Woosnam my whole working life. At a time when Hall of Famers like Seve, Greg Norman, Sandy Lyle, Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo were at their peak he was, for a time, quite clearly the best golfer in the world. It’s a horrendous omission.” Woosnam’s response: “After seeing the results of the golf world hall of fame, I think it’s time to say goodbye to golf and retire.”
The odds weren’t good for Carlos Ortiz’ bid to join the PGA Tour. Or for any other Mexican player, either. “Only five Mexican-born players had ever made it to the PGA Tour,” Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press writes in this look at the PGA Tour rookie. “Two of them won tournaments a generation before he was born, the most recent title by Victor Delgado in 1978 at the Ed McMahon-Jaycees Quad City Open.”
“Fatherless black kid. 8th grade drop out. Broken home. Running with the wrong crowd,” Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat writes in this profile of an aspiring professional golfer, Kamaiu Johnson. “I was going down a dark road when I found golf,” Johnson said. “There is no doubt, golf saved my life.” He is turning professional this weekend.
Accompanying the tweet was a photo of Poulter's new staff bag which appeared to house a 915 series driver and 3-wood along with a pair of hybrids. The irons appeared to be a split set with two Titleist CB irons and the rest being the company's MB model. A trio of Vokey wedges also were in the bag. Not visible was the putter, and it will be interesting to see if Poulter -- who tends to be finicky about his flat stick -- switches to a Scotty Cameron model.
As for why Titleist took on Poulter, who at 38 may already have seen the best days of his playing career, one only needs to look at the company's full-line players from Europe. Other than Victor Dubuisson, there aren't many high-profile players under contract. Signing Poulter then may be an effort to bolster the roster abroad as well as secure a recognizable name should Dubuisson bolt for big bucks elsewhere in the future.
Ben Martin: Just when it looked like he was going to let his first PGA Tour title slip away, Martin (Clemson product) made a 45-footer for eagle on No. 16 and then birdied No. 18 for a two-shot win over Kevin Streelman (Duke) in a clash of ACC foes. Congrats, Ben. Pretty good for someone who shot 78-79 in the season opener the week before. Golf!
Mikko Ilonen: Even Europeans who weren't on the Ryder Cup team are unbeatable in match play. The Finnish golfer knocked off Henrik Stenson in the final to pick up the biggest win of his career. After falling to 334th in the world two years ago, Ilonen is up to 37th. Maybe we'll see him in Hazeltine two years from now.
Jay Haas: We don't always highlight Champions Tour winners, but when a guy beats a field of young whippersnappers -- some who are a full 10 years younger -- he deserves recognition. Haas won for the first time in 27 months and became just the 18th player 60 and older to win on the senior circuit. Oh, and his son, Bill, was inducted into the Wake Forest Athletic Hall of Fame. Pretty decent weekend to be a Haas.
The Caddy Girls: This group didn't get the deal it wanted on ABC's "Shark Tank," but its presentation impressed the Sharks and investment offers are now rolling in, according to founder Meghan Tarmey. Good for them and it's a great idea because guys are, well, guys.
The Caddy Girls' primetime appearance also can't be hurting calendar sales. . .
Golf club violence: There seems to be a lot of these stories lately, unfortunately, ranging from the weird -- a guy defending a church with a golf club -- to the horrifying -- a guy stabbing a man to death with a putter at a mini-golf course. Can't we all just get along?
Task-force denials: Again, we agree with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Paul Azinger that having a Ryder Cup Task Force is a bit much. But what's the harm in saying you'd be a part of it and help out? If you don't care about the success of the U.S. team, that's one thing, but if you do, why not say you'd help try to find a solution to the recent problems?
Shriners swimming pools: This past week's PGA Tour stop had several pools for golf fans, but do these look like "golf fans" to you?
We didn't think so.
The PGA Tour heads to Sea Island for the McGladrey Classic, aka that tournament hosted by Davis Love III.
Random tournament fact: Chris Kirk won this event last year, propelling him to a two-win season that landed him a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Wait. Never mind.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- There will be a swimming pool for fans at Augusta National: 1 million-to-1 odds
-- Rory McIlroy will win the calendar Grand Slam in 2015: 50-to-1 odds (actual odds)
-- Rory McIlroy will be the overwhelming favorite in Masters betting pools: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Five members of the European Tour shushing Patrick Reed? This might just be the photo of the year.
These guys on the European Tour sure know how to have fun, eh?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Sixty is some sort of benchmark, not that many guys have done that. It's just a number, I guess. I still like feel I'm capable, especially after this weekend, and it certainly gives me some confidence for the last couple of events and into next year. Hopefully, I won't completely fall off the map when I turn 61 in December." -- Jay Haas. Of course, you won't, Jay! You're going to be the U.S. Presidents Cup captain next year!
VIRAL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Rory McIlroy's left-handed shot wasn't all that impressive. However, we appreciated the effort and him asking his lefty playing partner, Bubba Watson, to watch. Oh, and his chip in for par on the same hole wasn't bad, either.
And then there was the much more impressive recovery shot from PGA Tour rookie Justin Thomas. At the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson said he was a big fan of the former University of Alabama star. Judging by this insane up-and-down from a grandstand, Thomas has been paying attention to Phil as well.
THIS WEEK IN
PAULINA GRETZKY-DUSTIN JOHNSON PAULA CREAMER-MACHINE GUN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
First time shooting the SAW M249
"I love it!" Creamer exclaimed.
Paula, we admire you taking the time out of your schedule to pay the troops in Korea a visit, but you're scaring us.
THIS AND THAT
Rory McIlroy will take time off from golf to prepare for his court case against his former management company, Horizon Sports. Wait, did Rory go to law school during the off-season? . . . Tiger Woods is back to hitting full shots and "feeling pretty good." We've heard this one before, so we're not getting too excited yet. . . . Kyu Jung Baek topped Brittany Lincicome and Gee Chun in a playoff to claim the KEB-Hana Bank Championship in her first career start on the LPGA Tour. How's that for a debut? And it came just four days after Baek celebrated her 19th birthday. . . . An 81-year-old man had a hole-in-one on three consecutive days. If he's a real golfer, he's probably still complaining about the first 80 years of his playing career. . . . Apparently, McDonald's popular McRib is only coming to select locations this year. That makes my buddy, Chris, sad. But hopefully, this shirt our friends got him cheers him up.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Which PGA Tour player would make the best lawyer?
Is Ben Martin this year's Jimmy Walker?
What exactly is in a McRib?
USA Today reports the 14-time major winner has started to hit full shots after getting the OK from his doctors. Woods, whose back injury had previously limited him to chipping and putting, is scheduled to play in his tournament at Isleworth in December.
"The doctors said he could hit golf balls again, and he's listening to his doctors and to his body," Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, told USA Today. "He will keep listening to his doctors and body.
" . . . He's feeling pretty good."
Woods had surgery for a pinched nerve before the Masters. He came back at the AT&T National and missed the cut before making the cut on the number at the British Open. At the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods withdrew in the final round after injuring his back again. He played the following week in the PGA Championship, but missed the cut before announcing he would take time off to heal. His best finish in seven PGA Tour starts in 2014 was a T-25 at Doral, and he has currently fallen to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Of late, news about Woods has revolved around things not involving his play. Construction of a course he designed in Houston, Tex., is progressing nicely and he has plans to open a new restaurant in Jupiter sometime in 2015. He was also recently passed by NBA star LeBron James for the world's most valuable sports brand.
There will be inevitably be concerns that the experience and the fall-out could affect McIlroy’s preparations for The Masters, which starts on April 9 at Augusta, where he will try to become just the sixth player in history to win the career Grand Slam.McIlroy is due to play in Abu Dhabi from Jan 15-18 and then at the Desert Classic from Jan 29-Feb 1. His next start after the Dubai event is scheduled to be the Honda Classic, which takes place in his adopted home town of West Palm Beach, beginning on Feb 26. An exact date for trial has yet to be set, but reports in Ireland suggest that McIlroy could spend up to two weeks on the stand.
(Photo by Debi Cornwall)
The course is called Yatera Seca, but is better known to those stationed there as the Lateral Hazard Golf Course.
It was there that documentary photographer Debi Cornwall ventured one day, with an escort, according to military regulations. But it wasn’t the course that caught her eye. It was the adjacent driving range.
“My parents are both avid golfers,” Cornwall said from her Brooklyn home, “and I’ve walked a course or two with them. I have a sense of what golf looks like: lush green, well-tended landscapes. So the makeshift peat stacked around the hole, dropped on top of dirt, with balls everywhere on the Lateral Hazard driving range, really struck me.”
The above photo, showing eight squares of artificial turf with a flagstick planted in their midst appeared in her photo series, “Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play,” that appeared in part in the New York Times’ Lens blog recently.
The series, culled from two trips she made to Guantanamo Bay on the southeastern side of Cuba, earned honorable mention in the 2014 International Photography Awards, Deeper Perspective Category. The series can be seen in its entirety at her website.
“I spent 12 years as a wrongful conviction lawyer bringing civil rights lawsuits across the U.S.,” she said. “When I stepped away from litigation last year and returned to documentary photography, I wanted to look at some of the same issues that concerned me as a lawyer, but from a new perspective. Guantanamo, this mysterious offshore place where more than half of the remaining 149 detainees had been cleared for release but were still held, some up to 12 years after arriving, seemed like the perfect place to go.”
She was required to abide by a “no-faces rule,” preventing her from taking photos of people, whether detainees, guards or civilians. “I was told that Gitmo is ‘the best posting a soldier can have,’ so I looked to residential and leisure spaces for both detainees and guards as a window into the human experience of life there.
“My goal was to get people looking at Guantanamo who might not otherwise have thought twice about it, and perhaps to get those who already had strong opinions to think about it a little differently. That seems to be happening. I’ve been contacted by people from all walks of life — from veterans who served there to high school students doing term papers. That is really gratifying.”
Nobody, though, would have expected this. On Day 3 of their trip, Mr. DeBonis and his group played at Blackmoor Golf Club Oct. 8. Sure enough, four holes into the round, he did it again -- holing an 8-iron from 118 yards for his third hole in one in three days.
Unlike the first two, Mr. DeBonis and the other members of the foursome didn’t see this one go in the hole."There was a tree in front and a shadow over the green, but I said, ‘Oh, my God, I think it went in,’" Mr. Debonis said. “We couldn’t see it. One of the guys said, ‘I think it’s in.’ So we walked up to the hole and there it was. I just couldn’t believe it. It was the most memorable week."
In the first two starts of his first PGA Tour campaign, Finau, 25, has already been turning heads with his prodigious length off the tee. He's hit drives of 374 and 373 yards and he has registered five of the 20 longest drives of the young season.
Overall, his driving average of 321.9 puts him second right now behind Daniel Berger (Bubba Watson led the tour with a 314.3 average last season). Unlike Berger, though, a fellow rookie who has missed the first two cuts of the season, Finau's all-around game has been equally as impressive as his performance off the tee.
After a T-12 in the season opener in Napa, Finau finished T-7 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open over the weekend. Not bad for someone who had only three previous tour starts, the last of which was in 2011.
Finau is 24 under through two tournaments and not surprisingly, a lot of those red numbers have come on par 5s. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound bomber is a staggering 20 under on the 28 par 5s he's played thus far.
A former high school basketball star in Utah, Finau and his younger brother, Gipper, turned pro instead of playing in college. After bouncing around on mini-tours (Gipper is currently trying to earn his Web.com Tour card), Finau finally ended up on the Web.com Tour in 2014 and finished 12th on the tour's final priority ranking to earn his PGA Tour card for 2014-15.
After earning nearly as much ($310,833) in two PGA Tour starts as he did in 27 starts on the Web.com Tour last year, Finau is off to a great start in making sure he stays where he wants.
Ian Poulter’s autobiography, “No Limits,” will be released this week and based on this story by Derek Lawrenson it promises to be an interesting one. “Ian Poulter has slammed Sir Nick Faldo for calling Sergio Garcia ‘useless’ during the Ryder Cup and claimed he has lost the respect of Europe’s top golfers,” Lawrenson wrote in the Daily Mail. “Poulter revealed the home locker room was fuming about the remark and said Faldo had gone from being his hero to zero. He accused him of sour grapes and being embittered because he is the only losing European Ryder Cup captain this century.”
Ian Poulter and Nick Faldo at 2008 Rydcer Cup (Getty Images photo)
The World Golf Hall of Fame largely got it right (finally), the PGA of America got it wrong (as usual), and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews got it right or wrong (not sure). John Huggan in the Scotsman has myriad opinions on a hectic few days in the golf world. Example: “They round up almost everyone involved in this almost-unbroken run of defeats and ask them what they think. You’ve got to laugh,” he wrote about the PGA of America’s new Ryder Cup task force.
Mike Keiser already has a place in golf lore with Bandon Dunes. But the Chicago-based developer wants more and has turned his attention to Town of Rome, Wisconsin. Keiser's vision is what Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Gary D’Amato called possibly “the most ambitious golf project ever undertaken in Wisconsin. If all goes according to Keiser’s plan, someday there will be five courses and lodging on 1,500 acres a few miles south of Wisconsin Rapids — a resort that would provide hundreds of jobs in depressed Adams County and further enhance Wisconsin's reputation as a world-class golf destination.”
It was a special weekend for Jay Haas and his family. Haas’ son Bill joined him in the Wake Forest Hall of Fame on Friday, and on Sunday Jay, 60, won the Greater Hickory Kia Classic to become the 22nd player in the history of the Champions Tour to win in his 60s. “It’s just great for him that he can still do it,” Bill Haas told John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal. “I think what is really underrated about his game through the years is his ball-striking. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Mikko Ilonen, the winner of the Volvo World Match Play Championship over the weekend, has had to overcome a malady that has driven some from the game: The yips. ”I’ve had my problems with the putter and I never wish anyone to experience the problems I had,” he said in this story by Reuters’ Tony Jimenez. “I changed my grip a couple of years ago, it's a reverse interlock with the left hand going into the middle of the right hand I’m trying to eliminate my left hand completely. My left hand is no good. I would cut it off if I could.”