President Barack Obama's affinity for golf has been well documented, so it was no surprise Friday that he accepted the PGA Tour's invitation to serve as honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, in October.
Obama served in a similar capacity at the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park in San Francisco, though he did not attend.
"We are truly honored that President Obama has once again accepted our invitation to be Honorary Chairman of The Presidents Cup in October," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a news release. "In 2009, he was gracious enough to continue the long-standing tradition of world leaders' support of the event, which dates back to the first Presidents Cup in 1994. His involvement again this year serves to only further enhance the stature of The Presidents Cup and the game of golf as a whole."
Presidents Gerald Ford (1994), George H.W. Bush ('96), Bill Clinton (2000) and George W. Bush ('05) also have served as honorary chairmen.
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Judged on the sizable amount of evidence the world has gathered over the course of his 14-year career in professional golf, Sergio Garcia is capable of being many things. Emotional. Moody. Immature. Spoiled. Self-absorbed. Pampered. Excitable. A show-off. Those are just some of the more obvious characteristics one can attribute to the gifted 33-year-old Spaniard.
Garcia met with European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images)
What there has been no indication of in Garcia is even a hint of racism, latent or otherwise. Which is why, even after cracking a clearly unthinking, ill-judged and rather silly "joke" stereotypically linking a black American, Tiger Woods, and the daily digestion of fried chicken, the former Players champion deserves to be rated on his previously unblemished (at least in terms of racism) overall record, not one moment of madness. His lame attempt at humor -- which recalled Fuzzy Zoeller's notoriously intemperate "collard greens or whatever the hell they serve" remarks in the wake of Woods' 1997 Masters victory -- was just that, nothing more or less.
Still, although his brain had clearly been temporarily out-of-order, it didn't take long for the potential and probable repercussions of his actions to dawn on Garcia.
"As soon as I left the dinner, I started getting a sick feeling in my body," he said to a packed press conference one day after what many will view as the ultimate faux pas. "I wasn't able to sleep at all last night. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body. Today it was difficult to hit a shot without thinking about it. Unfortunately, I said it. I wish I didn't do it but the only thing I can say is sorry."
Which is what he did, repeatedly, throughout his 10-minute mea culpa.
"I want to send an apology," had been his opening line. Followed by, "I didn't mean to offend anyone. I was caught off-guard by the question. But don't get me wrong, I understand that my answer was stupid and out of place. I can't say sorry enough about that.
"Most importantly, I want to apologize to Tiger. I feel sick about it. I'm truly, truly sorry. I hope that we can settle things down and hopefully move on."
All of which, of course, is exactly what Sergio should be saying in the wake of such an ill-advised utterance. But hang on a minute. Before the wave of self-righteousness raining down on this suddenly wretched individual builds up even more momentum, some perspective please. An off-the-cuff comment regarding fried chicken -- while brainless almost beyond belief -- wasn't as damaging or hurtful as Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman saying Woods' nearest pursuers should "lynch him in a back alley." And, last time I looked, Ms. Tilghman was still on the air.
While Garcia is clearly guilty of crass stupidity, to condemn and categorize him solely on the basis of a single phrase uttered during an adrenaline-charged interview alongside his 2012 Ryder Cup teammates would be wrong. Just as no sensible assessment of a golfer's worth can be made after only one shot or one round or one tournament, the same criteria must surely apply to any assessment of a man's character.
Already, of course, there have been predictably outraged calls for suspensions and heavy fines, none of which will apparently be used as punishment. In a brief meeting after his pro-am round at Wentworth, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady reportedly accepted Garcia's clearly heartfelt apology.
That result will assuredly not be nearly enough to satisfy that growing body of men and women "professionally offended" seemingly by anything and everything. But it is appropriate here. Because of the typically brutal and sometimes uncomfortable honesty with which Garcia responds to inquiries relating to his non-relationship with the world's best golfer, he should be allowed to move on from this latest episode. Indeed, just hours before his ill-fated quip made headlines around the world, Garcia faced the media gathered at Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship and gave a series of frank answers to questions regarding Woods.
Asked why he "doesn't like" the 14-time major champion, Garcia was refreshingly open. "There's people you connect with and people you don't," he said. "It's pretty much as simple as that. He doesn't need me in his life and I don't need him in mine. Let's move on and keep doing what we're doing. It doesn't mean I cannot play with him."
Such remarks are, perhaps perversely given what followed, worthy of praise. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Garcia did not take the easy way out. He did not hide behind the depressingly familiar mixture of obfuscation and blatant lies that these days pass for "comment." Instead, he told us exactly what he thinks. And it is his forthrightness that makes him deserving of a break. Were his dislike of Woods based on skin color rather than a simple personality clash, he would surely have revealed himself long before now.
"To even suggest Sergio is racist is ridiculous," agrees one prominent European Tour professional. "I've played with him many times and never has he even come close to saying anything that would suggest he holds views like that. Yes, he can be a bit of an attention-seeker, especially in front of a crowd. Which is why he sometimes speaks before he thinks. But that's hardly a crime is it?"
The greater sadness here is that Garcia running off at the mouth in such a high-profile manner will do nothing to dispel the widely held image of a cosseted world of golf largely populated by a distasteful collection of closet racists, complimented only by those who are openly misogynistic. Indeed, that is a notion sometimes hard to argue with.
It is, after all, still less than 40 years since the first black man played in the Masters. Only just over half a century ago the PGA of America removed the caucasian clause in their membership policies. And, until this year when Augusta National welcomed two female members, the PGA Tour blatantly ignored its own rules regarding the sanctioning of tournaments held at clubs discriminating on the grounds of color, creed or gender. None of the above, it goes without saying, did the game any credit.
So let's be clear. For inadvertently and thoughtlessly perpetuating those shameful but now hopefully outdated stereotypes, Garcia deserves criticism. But only for that. To those who would have him banished from the game for mere stupidity, Londoners have an appropriate phrase: Do me a favor mate.
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we've had this week circled on our calendars all year. No, it's not the U.S. Open, but it is Crowne Plaza Invitational week, and that means we'll be trying to extend our improbable streak of predicting the past two winners at Colonial.
In other words, we're going for the "Grind Slam" (Copyright pending). And while a fantasy golf achievement may not garner the notoriety of the Grand Slam or the Tiger Slam or Byron Nelson's 11-tournament winning streak, it should because prognosticating the sport is only getting more difficult. Have you watched a non-Tiger PGA Tour event lately?
"Guys, this isn't even close to my ugliest jacket."
Sang-Moon Bae. We're especially happy for the latest surprise winner on the PGA Tour. Why? Because no one has ever been a victim of more bad geography jokes in history.
Oklahoma State golfers. First, Peter Uihlein picks up his first professional win at the Madeira Islands Open. Then another former Cowboy, Morgan Hoffmann earns his best PGA Tour finish with a T-5 at the Byron Nelson. Rickie Fowler better watch out or he might not be the most famous orange-wearing tour pro soon.
American women golfers. Stacy Lewis became the first U.S. woman golfer to win the LPGA's Player of the Year in 18 years last season, but she has company. Cristie Kerr won earlier this season and last week Jennifer Johnson picked up her first LPGA win in Alabama. Add in popular and talented players like Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson and there's no excuse for U.S.-centric fans not to watch the LPGA anymore.
Martin Kaymer. Remember this guy? He's German? He won the 2010 PGA Championship? He was ranked No. 1 in the world? He sunk the winning putt at last year's Ryder Cup? Well, the 28-year-old finished T-5 in Dallas, perhaps indicating a return to the glory days way back when he was 26-27.
Anchored putting. USGA President Glen Nager couldn't have said it any better when he stated "It can never be too late to do the right thing." Golf's founders may not have had the foresight to see this becoming an issue, but we're pretty sure they never envisioned guys putting with broomsticks tucked into their chests, either.
Cruel timing. We're happy 14-time winner and longtime golf announcer Ken Venturi was elected to the Hall of Fame before he passed away, but we're sad he was passed over long enough to the point he was unable to attend his own induction ceremony. If golf can elect players who are still in their prime, why does it wait so long to give others their proper due?
Guan's latest sponsor's exemption. It was fun while it lasted. Tianlang Guan dazzled us all by making the cut at the Masters and the Zurich Classic before finally coming up short at the Byron Nelson. But now he's getting an invite to the Memorial, a limited-field event, as well? We're sorry, but enough is enough, especially when he's taking away precious spots from tour pros. Not to mention, Jason Dufner has probably seen the inside of a classroom more than this 14-year-old over the past couple months.
As mentioned, the PGA Tour stays in Texas for the Crown Plaza Invitational. Last year, Zach Johnson overcame a red-hot Jason Dufner (Dufsanity!) and a brain cramp on the final hole to win. ZJ received a two-shot penalty when he didn't move his mark back to its original spot before holing his final putt. Good thing he did or we would have had #Markgate on our hands!
Random tournament fact: Like the RBC Heritage, the winner at the Crowne Plaza Invitational dons a plaid jacket. Unlike the Heritage, this event can claim that Ben Hogan wore its ceremonial piece of clothing five times. Advantage: Crown Plaza Invitational.
WEEKLY YAHOO! FANTASY LINEUP
While we have an incredible two consecutive correct predictions here, we also have a heartbreaking streak of two straight weeks our pick has shared the lead late on Sunday before coming up short. Hopefully, Mr. Hogan's spirit will put us over the top. Again.
Starters -- (A-List): Tim Clark. A former runner-up here is our pick as we look for the unimaginable trifecta. He also happens to be one of the most vocal supporters of anchored putting. Fight for what you believe in, Tim!
(B-List): Zach Johnson. Coming off a disappointing week, it'll be nice for him to return to the site of his first PGA Tour title.
(B-List): Matt Kuchar. The "Matt Kuchar Rule" states this guy can't have two bad performances in a row. Maybe we need to change that to he can't have four mediocre performances in a row. . .
(C-List): Kevin Streelman. A winner in Tampa, he is quietly the hottest player on the PGA Tour not named Tiger Woods with three straight top-six finishes.
Bench -- Jason Dufner, Fredrik Jacobson, Bo Van Pelt and Rickie Fowler.
PICTURE OF THE WEEK
Mike Miller, an up-and-coming amateur who I had the pleasure of covering when he was in high school, had quite a day last week. Playing in a pro-am, he made two eagles and a hole-in-one that won him a two-year lease on a Lincoln. But then this happened when he tried to imitate Rich Beem's celebration for winning a car with an ace in 2007:
In the words of Ron Burgundy after jumping into the bear pit at the end of Anchorman: "I immediately regret this decision."
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Nicolas Colsaerts had to take relief from a toilet during the Volvo World Match Play. No, seriously. And yes, this will probably be the easiest video to choose for this spot all year.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Zach Johnson will get penalized again for putting from the wrong spot: Million-to-1 odds
-- Tim Clark will win now that we've boasted about our streak: TEN Million-to-1 odds
THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION
Two observations: 1. I think I have that shirt. 2. Is that a bracelet around her arm?
THIS WEEK IN TIGER WOODS-LINDSEY VONN DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION
Lindsey watches Tiger play poker during his Tiger Jam charity event in Las Vegas. Hey, it's not much, but perhaps when it comes to Tiger, Vegas and girls, the less we see and hear, the better.
THIS AND THAT
Tiger Woods doesn't plan on making nice with Sergio Garcia. Good, it gives us more to talk about. Now if only the USGA would pair them together next month at Merion. . . . This week marks the 10-year anniversary of Annika Sorenstam's historic round(s) at Colonial. Something tells me Vijay Singh isn't throwing a party at his house for people to come and watch the new Golf Channel documentary. . . . These chocolate chip/chunk cookies from Costco are the best chocolate chip cookies EVER. Um, make that second best. Sorry, mom!
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Would Ben Hogan have liked Twitter or fantasy golf? (Nope)
Does Vijay Singh have any regrets? (We hope)
Will Tim Clark make the "Grind Slam" a reality? (Not a chance)
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- There were, as expected, no surprises. Almost six months on from their original announcement on the now notorious Rule 14-1b, the R&A today joined (simultaneously) with the USGA in confirming that the so-called "anchoring" of putters to any part of the body during a stroke will be deemed illegal starting January 1, 2016.
"We know that not everyone will agree with our final decision," said chief executive Peter Dawson at a press conference held in the Ryder Cup room of the Wentworth clubhouse. "But we do hope that the care and love for the game that all have expressed through their participation in this process will facilitate acceptance of Rule 14-1b when it takes effect."
Peter Dawson talks at Tuesday's press conference. (Photo: Getty Images)
In that respect, Dawson was on much firmer ground than his USGA counterpart, Mike Davis. Opposition and/or dissension during this whole process have largely been confined to the western end of the Atlantic Ocean.
"We had no feedback from people saying they would give up golf if long or belly putters were banned," commented Sandy Jones, chief executive of the British PGA. "Plus, we are fully supportive of the R&A as the rule-making body. We like this rule. It will do no harm to the game at any level. I just don't see anyone using them.
"It does seem to be more of an American problem, one that has a lot to do with the speed of the greens over there. Eliminating variables in the stroke is much more helpful when the greens are slick.
"Plus, less than one percent of putter sales worldwide are long putters. So where is this big problem? (PGA of America president) Ted Bishop's comments were nonsense really. There is no evidence to support his view. I played with Ted last week at Sawgrass. I use a 32-inch putter and made some good ones with him watching. I told him he was going the wrong way with this thing. Maybe he should be banning the short putter."
Most European Tour players, it is safe to say, feel similarly.
"I agree with what the R&A are doing," said Italian Ryder Cup player, Francesco Molinari, nicely summing up the mood of the majority. "I think it's important that we swing all 14 clubs in the bag and not just 13 of them. I have never liked that guys could anchor their putters to any part of their bodies.
"What the R&A has done is a good compromise. If they had legislated on the clubs themselves, I'm not sure it would have worked. Even with a short putter it is possible to anchor it. So what they have done makes sense to me. Some may argue that they are a bit late in doing what they are doing, but I say it is never too late to do the right thing."
Which is not to say that absolutely everyone on the European Tour is 100 percent behind what Dawson called "the most controversial rule change for a long time."
"After 30 years, I'm not sure it is right to be having such a drastic effect on players who have used it their whole careers," contended leading coach Denis Pugh. "It's an arbitrary call. Having said, that, if we were starting tomorrow I'd rule that the putter has to be the shortest club in the bag and also have the lease loft. Then go play.
"So I can see that long and belly putters are 'wrong.' But they have been wrong for too long. Plus, I think they have overcomplicated things. I can see guys finding ways round this rule."
As for those charged with policing will invariably be, in practice, the tiniest of adjustments, European Tour chief referee John Paramor was broadly optimistic about both the immediate future and the brave new putting world post-2016.
"With the all the information that has been forthcoming from the R&A, it isn't going to be too difficult for us to pass it on to the players," he said. "I think the vast majority of players currently using anchored strokes will end up using a method that does not require any judgment calls on our part. We have more than two years to iron out any problems before we get to that stage. So it won't be a problem.
"I can see a small number asking us if their adjustments are OK, but not many. It won't be a problem though. There are many other rules where we rely on the integrity of the players to guide us. I am always asking guys what they were trying to do or intending to do in certain situations. This rule is no different in that respect. Besides, if anyone is close to anchoring after making any adjustments, we have more than two years to have a word with them about it."
Sang-Moon Bae already had a claim to at least a modicum of fame, courtesy of Golf Boys 2.Oh. Dial it up on You Tube and listen carefully, toward the end:
I took a vaycay at Sang-Moon Bae, I got a massage every single Jason Day
The Golf Boys are Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane, whose latest video has received nearly 3.8 million views on You Tube, no doubt leaving nearly 3.8 million viewers wondering where this Sang-Moon Bay is located and whether they too should plan a vaycay there.
Assuming they follow golf, they're likely to soon learn that Moon, as his colleagues call him, is not a destination resort, though if his golf swing was contagious, he'd be worth a visit.
"Fabulous golf swing," CBS' Nick Faldo said, after Bae outplayed Keegan Bradley down the stretch on Sunday to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship, his first PGA Tour victory.
His is a game that can travel, too, and it won't be in coach class. Only 26, Bae, a native of South Korea, also has 11 international victories, including three on the Asian Tour and another three on the Japan Golf Tour, where in 2011 he was its leading money winner.
If he or Bradley were stocks, they'd be strong buys at this point. This was already assumed about Bradley, who also is only 26 and already is a major champion and three-time winner on the PGA Tour. But Bae is relatively unknown, having joined the PGA Tour last year, when he earned $1,165,952, a figure, incidentally, that he exceeded with his victory at the TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas.
Maybe better than his swing was the way he handled the pressure after squandering a four-stroke lead over Bradley. The last five holes are the most difficult stretch on the course with winds howling and he played them in even-par to win by two.
"We all marvel at this golf swing," Faldo said, "but I marvel at his mental strength as well. He showed great strength today. It wasn't very right for awhile and to face the big five holes to get in and shoot [even], fantastic."
Faldo also predicted that Bae won't be "a flash in the pan." Bae is banking on that as well, aiming as he is to represent South Korea in the Olympics in 2016. Military service is mandatory in South Korea and he has yet to fulfill his obligation, but an Olympic medal or a major championship would exempt him from service.
Until then, and with apologies to the Golf Boys, Sunday will serve as the finest (Jason) Day of his career.
His was a life in two acts, neither of which he would have scripted for himself. It was not particularly easy, and often not fair, but Ken Venturi took his cues from its challenges.
"Fate," his friend and colleague Jack Whitaker once told him by way of encouragement, "has a way of bending the twig and fashioning a man to his better instincts."
Fate cast Venturi with "an incurable" stutter that had him seek the isolation of golf and he became a U.S. Open champion. Fate robbed him of the dexterity in his hands and he became the longest-running lead analyst in television sports history.
"The full body of work, spanning everything involved in golf, there's nobody in that Hall of Fame that's done what he's done," his friend and long-time pupil John Cook said. "Maybe some have better records, more tournament wins, but the whole thing? None. He transformed television. He's been the biggest philanthropist in golf history of the things he's involved in that people don't even know about. Lifetime achievement? That barely covers it."
Venturi, 82, died on Friday, little more than a week after his induction in absentia into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He had been hospitalized following surgery for infections in his back.
When he was elected to the Hall of Fame last fall, he summed it up this way: "The greatest reward in life is to be remembered."
Venturi will be remembered on a variety of fronts. When he was 13, "the doctor told my mother that I would never be able to speak as long as I lived, because I was an incurable stammerer. And I went out and found the loneliest sport I could find and took up golf."
At 24, he took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters in a bid to become the first amateur to win at Augusta National. "For three dazzling days Venturi was within reach of a prize no amateur in the history of the Masters has ever been able to seize," the legendary writer Herbert Warren Wind wrote in Sports Illustrated. "But the Masters is a drama in four acts, not three, and on the fourth day it was exit Ken Venturi and enter Jackie Burke." Venturi finished second, still the best performance by an amateur in the history of the Masters.
Venturi would turn pro and win 14 PGA Tour events, including the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in 1964, when against doctor's orders he played the second 18 of a 36-hole day with temperatures upwards of 100 degrees and humidity in the 90s.
"When I came in off the 18th hole in the morning, I laid down next to my locker and Doctor Everett said, 'I recommend you don't go out, because it could be fatal,'" Venturi said last year. He defied the doctor's advice, shot 70 and won his only major championship.
Carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands ended his career in 1967 and the following year, CBS Sports Producer Frank Chirkinian offered the "incurable stammerer" a job as an analyst on its golf telecasts. He would hold the job until his retirement in 2002.
Underscoring his accomplishments on the course and in the broadcast booth was the quiet philanthropy to which Cook alluded.
"Kenny was emphatic about not getting publicity for it, but his life was dedicated to philanthropy," CBS' Jim Nantz, Venturi's broadcast partner for 17 years, said recently. "He had so many different charities he was involved with, and it was under the radar. He was building a home for abused women and children in Florida. Every offseason he traveled to Ireland to throw something for the mentally-challenged kids there. He was a huge figure in bringing golf to blind people.
"He moved mountains, and people didn't know that about him. I remember there was a piece of machinery at Loma Linda (Calif.) Hospital that was one of the forerunners to really being able to treat some forms of cancer. They had that piece of equipment in large part because of money that Kenny had raised through various charitable events throughout Southern California and the Palm Springs area. That machine by the way ended up being the machine that would reach Paul Azinger when he had cancer in his shoulder."
He was only following instructions. "I was taught by Byron Nelson and I asked him one time, 'how could I ever repay you for all you've done for me?'" Venturi said. "He said, 'Ken, be good to the game and give back.'"
The ongoing (friendly) battle between Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner heated up this week, first with some Twitter banter and then with a head-to-head showdown during the first round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship where, as the third man in the group, Matt Kuchar was forced to mediate.
As far as we can tell, the rivalry dates back to the 2011 PGA Championship, when Bradley defeated Dufner in a three-hole aggregate playoff at Atlanta Athletic Club. It gained traction thanks to Dufner's consistent and creative teasing of Bradley's love of Boston sports, and Bradley's success in making the act of Dufnering a national phenomenon. Keegan poked fun at Dufner during Monday night's Bruins game with this tweet, followed by Dufner's dry reply.
Bradley's record on the PGA Tour certainly trumps that of Dufner, a fact that was reinforced by Bradley's first-round 10-under 60 to Dufner's even-par 70. With that 10-shot whooping, Bradley got Dufner back for this Thursday morning prank that Bradley shared via his Instagram account.
Emptying Keegan's bag? Really, Duf Daddy? You can do better than that.
What makes Bradley's 60 in Dufner's company all the more sweet (at least for Bradley fans) is that he outdrove Duf by an average of 14.9 yards. As most golfers know, the best way to settle a friendly dispute is with a long drive contest. Dufner hit it past Bradley only once (on the 1st hole, their 10th), and proceeded to hole out from 129 yards for eagle, so there's a little consolation for the expressionless one. But Bradley hit it past Dufner by 27 yards on the seventh hole (320 to 293) and 34 yards on the 12th (307 to 273). That hurts. So does the 10-shot beat down. Sorry Dufner fans, chalk another one up for Keegan.
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we've got island fever and the only prescription is... more islands! Island fairways? Fun! Island tee boxes? Pretty! Island drop areas? Cruel and fun! Imagine making a player who has already dunked a ball in the drink get into a boat and row his own way out to a solitary spot to his his next shot? Johnny Miller would have a field day! Alas, for now we'll have to settle for the excitement TPC Sawgrass' 17th hole provides us on a yearly basis. And that's not such a bad thing.
Tiger Woods. Now he's winning on courses where he's never been comfortable? The rest of the tour is really in trouble. Woods' latest win was his biggest since his return from his 2009 scandal. It also gave him four wins in a season at the earliest point of any season in his career. Of course, Woods himself has said he only characterizes a season as great if he wins a major, but he still has three more chances to make that happen in 2013. Would you bet against him?
One word, two syllables: Swagger.
TPC Sawgrass. It may not host a major, but it always seems to provide major drama. No. 17 gets most of the attention from fans, but there are plenty of other spots on the course that get the attention of the players. How exciting is the Pete Dye track? Sunday proved that even a Tiger Woods three-shot lead on its back nine isn't safe.
David Lingmerth. Where did this guy come from?! Even as he entered the final round tied for the lead, the Swedish rookie remained an afterthought to most prognosticators. Yet it was Lingmerth who remained the last man standing in the latest Tiger vs. the field competition. If he can hang in like that under those circumstances, it would probably be wise for golf analysts to start practicing pronouncing his name correctly (Hat tip to Swedish colleague, Stina Sternberg). Johnny, like in your name, the "H" is silent.
Sergio Garcia. This could have been a week where the Spaniard punctuated his return as one of the game's elite players. Instead, he further solidified his reputation for both whining and coming up short in the big spot. After his controversial comments towards Woods on Saturday, Garcia had a stunning meltdown over the final two holes. We feel a little bad for him, but we feel a lot worse for his caddie, whose big payday sunk with those three water balls at the end.
People complaining about TPC Sawgrass. There was a lot of talk about how there weren't a lot of drivers hit there, especially over the weekend. While that's true, guess what? It's 2013 and players can now hit 3-woods farther than they used to hit the Big Stick. Hey, no one is stopping these guys from pulling out the driver. Also, doesn't this somewhat contradict the complaints that these guys are hitting it too far off the tee?
Vijay Singh. Here are the bullet points: Singh admits to using a banned substance, the PGA Tour comes under fire for not acting quickly, Singh is eventually cleared of a doping violation on a technicality, then sues the tour for damaging his reputation. Say what? Sorry, Vijay, but A) This doesn't seem to make much sense (Or does it?) and B) What reputation?
The PGA Tour heads to Dallas for the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Last year Jason Dufner won. Of course, he became much more famous when he returned last month for media day and by accident started a craze that became known as "Dufnering."
Random tournament fact: The late, great Byron Nelson tried to start a fad called "Nelsoning"* in which he would show up to parties randomly posing like he'd just struck a perfect golf shot. Sadly, it never caught on since none of his fellow pros at the time could tweet about it.
*Not true. But maybe we could start that. . .
WEEKLY YAHOO! FANTASY LINEUP
It's great to see our jinxing power is in full effect. First, Tiger Woods made it four-for-four in 2013 when we don't pick him. Second, unbeknownst to Sergio Garcia, we picked him to win at TPC Sawgrass, just adding to the list of things working against him. In other words, he had NO chance when he stood on that 17th tee tied for the lead.
Starters -- (A-List): Jason Dufner. The defending champ also finished T-8 in 2011.
(B-List): Keegan Bradley. Coming off a disappointing week, it'll be nice for him to return to the site of his first PGA Tour title.
(B-List): Marc Leishman. The Australian has contended at the two biggest events of 2013. It's time to take notice, especially at a course where he has three top 12s in four appearances.
(C-List): Jason Day. Has finished in the top 10 all three times he's teed it up at the TPC Four Seasons, including earning his lone PGA Tour title in 2010.
Bench -- Padraig Harrington, Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar, and Jordan Spieth.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
We enjoyed this clip of journeyman PGA Tour pro Todd Fischer having fun with the fans at No. 17 during a practice round. Fisher purposely shanked multiple balls into the pond, while a stunned crowd probably wondered how the heck this guy ever got into the field. Our favorite part is when someone else on the tee says, "Give him a bad [ball]." Fischer also wins our award for "Well-Orchestrated Ruse of the Week."
THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION
A sore subject this week. I was hoping to see the two in person, but after missing them on Day 1, what did DJ do? He withdrew for a second straight week (this time for his back, last week it was his wrist) and took off before I had a chance to stalk..um, make that follow them.
THIS WEEK IN TIGER WOODS-LINDSEY VONN DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION
That didn't look awkward or anything. . . Hey, don't feel bad, Lindsey. Tiger's post-victory celebration with caddie Joe LaCava wasn't very smooth, either.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Sergio Garcia will ever willingly watch a replay of Sunday's finish: Million-to-1 odds
-- Official odds Tiger Woods will win the U.S. Open: 3.5-1
-- Unofficial odds everyone is giving Woods to win at Merion: LOCK
THIS AND THAT
For a second straight tournament, Tiger Woods is having a drop he took questioned. Weird. Controversy never seems to follow this guy. . . . Billy Horschel's PGA-Tour best cut streak of 23 came to an end when he didn't make it to the weekend at the Players. However, I ran one of the great (disturbing?) streaks in the world to 15. I ate at the same Chili's all FIVE nights for a THIRD year in a row during my stay in Ponte Vedra Beach. Top that, Cal Ripken! Pictured are the tasty "Wings over Buffalo," which only have 68 grams of fat.
By now you know that Vijay Singh has filed suit against the PGA Tour. Yes, he's suing the organization that let him off the hook after admittedly using a banned substance, the organization that has made him rich and the same organization that named him Player of the Year in 2004. How could he do such a thing?
Singh greets fans during the practice round at The Players Championship. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Forget about Singh's past: the cheating allegations, the unfriendly manner with which he's been known to treat playing partners, the often rude avoidance of the media. Is it possible that the tour acted carelessly because Singh's reputation wasn't worth saving? Singh and his lawyers apparently think so, and the case they've leveled has some compelling elements. Despite the public ridicule the lawsuit has created, Singh's lawyers actually make a few strong points.
• Aside from his cantankerous reputation, Vijay is commonly recognized as the hardest working player on tour. As the lawsuit points out, Singh currently holds the record for most wins after the age of 40. Yes, his negative reputation has only been reinforced by the lawsuit, but his reputation as the hardest working range rat on tour has weakened.
• Paragraphs 12 and 13 of the lawsuit explain the tour's willingness to rely on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for proper testing of banned substances, and to impose action based on the results of that testing, without the slightest effort to verify the accuracy of that information. The tour did not hesitate to suspend Singh and thus left him to deal with the wrath of what the lawyer's claim was baseless action by the tour.
• After the Sports Illustrated story (in which Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray) ran, Vijay provided the Tour with a urine sample (that tested negatively) and a supply of deer-antler spray that the Tour could test. After having the spray tested by UCLA, the tour found no evidence that the spray contained enough IGF-1 to warrant its banning. Furthermore, the tour withheld Singh's earnings during the proposed suspension and alerted Singh that the choice to appeal his suspension would require him to forfeit those earnings, even though he was allowed to continue competing during the appeal process.
• The tour received the results of UCLA's testing on February 14 and, on the same day, sent a letter to Singh notifying him of his violation. Five days later, the Tour notified Singh of his suspension. The timeline of the tour's decision-making process is unclear, but by either deciding on a suspension without proper information about the spray, or by leveling the suspension after finding out about the contents of the spray, the tour seems to have acted preemptively.
• The lawsuit includes a section titled "The Truth about IGF-1" which summarizes UCLA's findings and might be the most interesting aspect of the document. Singh's lawyers point out the biological inactivity of IGF-1 in deer-antler spray in an effort to downplay its effectiveness. They also compare the effect of IGF-1 in the spray to the effect of pouring a shot of bourbon into a pool, then taking a shot of the pool water.
The strengths of the lawsuit do not change the fact that, above all else, Singh admitted to taking a substance that was banned by the PGA Tour. The Tour's Anti-Doping program treats admission of use the same as a positive drug test, meaning Singh has a huge hurdle to clear before this case can gain traction. As in most lawsuits, there are significant barriers that the plaintiff must overcome (the tour's bylaws include language that protects against legal action from members on tour decisions), however, Singh and his lawyers have created a compelling case that's worthy of attention and could have a lasting impact on the Tour's drug-testing policy and procedures.
It wasn't always pretty, but what took place at TPC Sawgrass this
weekend was definitely entertaining, contends Paul Azinger.
In his Players recap this week in his Zinger's Corner podcast with our Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz, Azinger salutes Tiger Woods for regrouping after
things looked to be slipping away when his tee shot on the 14th hole
found the water. Regarding the errant shot, Azinger discusses why
Tiger's subsequent drop seemed good to him.
However, Azinger doesn't give Tiger a pass for his part in the spat with
Sergio Garcia. Woods should have taken more responsibility for stirring
the crowd, he says.