Sergio's meltdown and DQ for "serious misconduct," Fowler's seesaw Sunday, player revolt causes USGA to revisit rule, and Tiger plays with Trump: What you missed
Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social media headlines and upcoming events, here's every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of Feb. 4.
Fowler's big bounce-back
The man's not known as a finisher. Sunday's adventures won't erase that stigma. But a door did close on Sunday, and it was Rickie Fowler who slammed it shut.
“I hope I never have to go through that again,” Fowler said on Sunday night. “The way I was playing this week, I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I thought it was going to be a lot easier than that out there today.”
It sure appeared that way. Fowler began his round with a four-shot cushion. Although he toured TPC Scottsdale's front in two over, that advantage moved to five with eight holes to play.
But then Fowler made a triple-bogey seven on the 11th hole—which included a penalty after his dropped ball rolled into the water—and a bogey on the 12th put Fowler a stroke behind Branden Grace.
Yet Fowler answered with a birdie at the 15th, and when Grace's tee shot found the water on the drivable 17th, Fowler was back on top. Fowler drove the green on the 17th, his two-putt birdie ultimately sealing the victory.
To claim the win will serve as a turning point seems wildly bombastic. Similar sentiments were made in previous Fowler conquests, and he did come this close to winning the Masters last spring. Conversely, this bounce-back, to right the ship when all was going wrong, felt different. It was a fortitude rarely seen from Fowler. A fortitude that's the calling card of a closer.
Johnny signs off
Johnny Miller was the first gunslinger in a world full of bootlickers and brown-nosers. Alas, all outlaws have to hang up their belt. For Miller, this weekend served as his ride into the sunset.
Miller ended a 29-year run at NBC Sports on Saturday, which included a host of tributes from players and fellow broadcasters, highlighted by a poignant salute from Roger Maltbie, who like Miller grew up in California’s Bay area.
“Johnny, a chance to speak from the heart,” Maltbie said. “You’ve been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was 12, 13, you were 16, 17, you were winning all the junior tournaments and I wanted to be like you. In ’66, at age 19, you played so great at the Olympic Club [in the U.S. Open] and all the junior golfers in Northern California wanted to be like you.
“We got a chance to share golf’s greatest mulligan. Got to do this for 27 years with you. It’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss you. I hope you catch the biggest fish you ever caught in your life. And I hope you’re the grandpa you want to be.”
Miller could be overcritical at times, a notion amplified in the last few years. (A caddie once said of Miller, "He takes a flamethrower to the field then asks why everything is on fire.") But he was a refreshing voice against golf's buddy-buddy backdrop.
“Sometimes a father to his son says some things that sound a little tough, but it’s for the right reasons,” Miller said. “I feel like I almost look over these young guys and want them to step it up and move up a notch. Sometimes it takes some commentary to get them to check things out.”
He avoided the avalanche of announcing cliches, and always did his best to educate the viewer. His void will clearly be felt. And while there are mountains of excellent farewell pieces to Miller, it's hard to top this gem from our Guy Yocom.
Players revolt against new rule
On Friday Denny McCarthy was hit with a two-stroke penalty in Phoenix under Rule 10.2b(4), which does not allow caddies to stand behind players as they line up. If that sounds familiar, it's the same bogus edict that cost Haotong Li $100,000 at the Dubai Desert Classic last week.
However, in this case, common sense emerged victorious. In no small part thanks to Justin Thomas, who took to Twitter to point out the ridiculous and unjust nature of McCarthy's penalty:
It was a cry heard by the PGA Tour, which reviewed the tape and rescinded the penalty.
"It is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among players and caddies on the practical application of the new rule during competition, as well as questions surrounding the language of the rule itself and how it should be interpreted," the tour said in a statement. "As a result, with the full support of the USGA and The R&A, the rule will be interpreted whereby the two aforementioned situations as well as future similar situations will not result in a penalty. McCarthy’s score has been updated accordingly."
The move is particularly interesting considering the R&A remained steadfast in enforcing Li's penalty in Dubai despite backing from Li's fellow players and the Euro Tour brass. Chalk this up to Thomas' cachet, damning video evidence or the tour acting like the adult in the room (even all the above). Later, the USGA released its own statement, acknowledging the rule is problematic in its current form.
"The USGA and The R&A recognize that further clarity on how to appropriately apply this Rule is needed. We are committed to assessing its impact and will provide the necessary clarifications in the coming days."
Sergio DQ'd for "serious misconduct"
Sergio Garcia has never been considered a cool customer, the Spaniard notorious for airing his emotions—both spirited and sour—for all to see. A disposition that cost him dearly this weekend at the Saudi International.
In an unprecedented move, Garcia was disqualified from the European Tour event for “serious misconduct” under new Rule 1.2a during the third round at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. On Saturday Garcia was accused by fellow golfers of purposely damaging greens by dragging the soles of his shoes into the putting surfaces, failing to fix a divot and hitting his putter into the ground.
Rule 1.2 is part of the new Rules of Golf, one that deals with "spirit of the game" and "breach of etiquette," putting the onus of interpretation into a tournament committee's hands. Though Garcia had other indiscretions during the week—side from his behavior on the greens, Garcia also let his frustrations out on an unraked bunker, and voiced his displeasure at a volunteer after a cell phone rang during Garcia's backswing—his third-round actions were significant enough to warrant disqualification.
It is behavior unbecoming from the most junior of golfers, let alone a 39-year-old. To his credit, Garcia did take full responsibility. “I respect the decision of my disqualification," he said in a statement. "I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologize for, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again.”
Nevertheless, it's an indelible mark on Garcia's reputation, one that was far from irreproachable to begin the week. But, while many were calling for a prolonged suspension for Garcia—after all, the European Tour once hit Simon Dyson with a two-month ban and £30,000 fine for tapping down a spike mark—the circuit appears to have no interest in benching one of its marquee attractions. "The incident is over,” Keith Pelley, European Tour CEO, told gathered media. “We have dealt with it. Sergio has apologized to the players and we move on.”
Reed makes history, albeit in curious fashion
Patrick Reed was given lifetime membership to the European Tour on Friday, becoming just the fourth American player behind Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson to receive the honor.
According to Pelley, Reed earned the tribute thanks to his win at the Masters. “Patrick’s masterful performance at Augusta National last April was full of character and determination, which is everything we’ve come to expect from him," Pelley said. “Patrick is a global player who has fully embraced the European Tour and he has been extremely popular with our fans wherever he has played because of that.”
However, the timing of the award is, well, strange, as Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson were honored in retirement, and some online wondered why players like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson—with 19 major victories between them, including four Open Championships—have not received this title. While the counter could be made that Reed, unlike Woods and Mickelson, has held Euro Tour membership, it then raises the question why Brooks Koepka was left out. Koepka, who's captured three majors in the past two seasons, began his career on the Euro circuit, winning the tour's Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 2014, and continues to make a handful of Euro Tour appearances. Even Euro Tour player Eddie Pepperell seemed confused by the move. "Despite Patrick being a fantastic player, this feels odd," Pepperell wrote on Twitter.
For his part, Reed finished second in the Race to Dubai last fall, becoming the highest-ranking American in the Euro Tour's postseason standings.
“For the European Tour to have faith in me and give me this opportunity means everything," Reed said. "I hope to show everyone and show the tour how proud I am and represent the tour really well in the game of golf."
Trump tees it up with Tiger, Jack
Being Commander-in-Chief bestows its share of executive privileges. That apparently includes a golf date with the two best players of all-time.
On Saturday the White House press pool reported President Donald Trump was teeing it up at Trump National Jupiter with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, with President Trump confirming the news on his personal Twitter account.
Nicklaus, who designed Trump National Jupiter, is a frequent partner of Trump's, and endorsed the real-estate magnate during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was the second known time that Woods has played with Trump since Trump was elected, the first coming in a post-Christmas round in 2017. Last summer Woods—whose foundation helps serve at-risk youth—was asked to comment on Trump's anti-immigration policies, ones that have separated children from their families at the border.
“He’s the President of the United States,” Woods said at the Northern Trust. “You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”
Woods is set to return to tour action at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles next week.
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