Golf legend Jack Nicklaus gives Tampa students some lessons on golf and life

TAMPA, Fla. — One by one, the Tampa students stood in front of Jack Nicklaus at Rogers Park Golf Course and tried to do what the 18-time champion once did better than anyone on the planet.They tried to hit a golf ball: far, straight, with poise and strength.Freedom High School senior Helena Noel, who hopes to go pro one day, was soaking it all in.“I hit my driver 250, 260 yards,” Noel said. “I wanna ask him how much farther he could have hit it with modern technology.”Nicklaus eventually told her with a chuckle. The six-time Master champ would have hit it farther than anyone else. But the 78-year-old was not just here to give golf tutorials or brag about his illustrious past.As part of his First Tee program, Nicklaus wanted the students to also excel at life.“When they get out here, they blossom,” Nicklaus said. “They find something they like to do instead of getting on the streets and doing something they shouldn’t be doing.”Kids are his focus now. He told them to be bold, brave and believe in themselves.“You can make a lot of putts. But none of those putts are worth what these kids are worth,” said Nicklaus.As he watched the kids laugh, clap, take good swings and bad, the man known as the Golden Bear smiled.“These kids are going to do all right,” said Nicklaus.Source: ABC Action News

Augusta National creates women’s amateur event

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Masters chairman Fred Ridley announced Wednesday the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship.

The event, set to kick off Masters week in April 2019, will feature the top 72 women’s amateurs from around the world.

The first two rounds of the tournament will be held at nearby Champions Retreat Golf Club. Following a cut to the low 30 players, the final round will be held at Augusta National on Saturday, April 6, 2019.

“This championship will become an exciting addition to the Masters week, and it furthers our effort to promote the sport and inspire young women to take up the game,” Ridley said.

The champion will receive an exemption into next year’s U.S. Women’s Open and the Women’s British Open, as well as any USGA, R&A and PGA of America amateur events for a year.

The field will be comprised of all of the winners from the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Ladies’ British Amateur, Women’s Asia-Pacific Amateur, U.S. Girls’ Junior, Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship, Girls Junior PGA Championship. In addition, the top 30 players in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking not already qualified will receive invitations to the event, as well as the top 30 players from the United States. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship Committee will fill the remaining positions.

The new Augusta amateur event could pose an issue for the LPGA. The tour’s first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, is held the week before the Masters, and the tournament already invites six of the top amateurs in the world, and a seventh qualifies as the winner of the ANA Junior Inspiration.

Ridley said Wednesday that he has already spoken to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan about the conflict and that Whan “understands our motivations for doing this, our motivation to help grow the game. He also agrees wholeheartedly that, from a big picture, this is a win for women’s golf.”

More details about the event – including a global television partner and the winner’s trophy – will be announced at a later date. The club intends to offer a lottery for a “significant” number of tickets.

“This is a dream come true,” said Annika Sorenstam, who attended Wednesday’s announcement. “It’s a carrot for these young girls.”

The Women’s Amateur Championship is the latest grow-the-game initiative by Augusta National Golf Club, which also created the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the Latin America Amateur Championship and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.

 

Source: GolfChannel

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson Warm Up Together, and to Each Other

Woods has gotten the better of Mickelson on the course many more times than not, but according to their peers, it is a toss up as to who is ahead in the war of wit.
“It’s pretty even,” said Jordan Spieth, who has heard them up close at Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups.
He added, “Tiger has more accolades than just about anybody in the sport — you know, nobody wants to go out there and just say, ‘I’ve won this or this or this or this,’ and Phil’s kind of better at getting under people’s skin.”
Woods, 42, is an introverted only child. Mickelson, five years his senior, is an extroverted firstborn with two siblings. The one important thing they have in common — a burning desire to win — is probably the primary factor behind their lack of closeness all these years. Remember: Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer became fast friends only after they stopped banging heads on the golf course.
“Oh, man, he’s very, very, competitive,” Woods said of Mickelson. “He’s feisty. He’s determined. He always wants to win.”
Photo

Mickelson’s shirt brought out Woods’s wit. “The only thing that was missing was a tie,” he said.

Credit Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Woods, of course, could have been describing the man in the mirror. Justin Thomas, whom Woods mentored while on the mend from multiple back surgeries, played a practice round with him on Monday. Thomas noted a change in Woods’s demeanor as they prepared to compete with each other. Woods, he said, was “a little harder to get stuff out of than when he was hurt and I was asking him questions.”

Mickelson has tour victories in four decades, but younger players like Thomas, the reigning P.G.A. champion, almost universally looked up to Woods when they were growing up.
“He was winning about every other tournament he played in,” Thomas explained.
In some ways, though, Mickelson had the more auspicious start to his career, winning his first PGA Tour title when he was still an amateur. He has won 43 Tour titles, including five majors, while Woods has 79 tour wins, including 14 majors.

He’s covered Jordan. He’s covered Kobe. And LeBron vs. the Warriors. Go behind the N.B.A.’s curtain with the league’s foremost expert.
If Mickelson hadn’t played in the same era as Woods, he might have “10 to 12 majors,” Couples said.
Mickelson isn’t so sure. “It’s very possible that that’s the case,” he said, “and it’s also possible that he brought out the best in me and forced me to work harder and focus to ultimately achieve the success that I’ve had.”
Six golfers in their 40s have won a Masters title. Led by Mickelson and Woods, at least a half-dozen here this week have a chance to become the seventh. The others include the 2007 champion, Zach Johnson, 42; Charley Hoffman, 41, who led after the first two rounds last year; Paul Casey, 40, who has top-six finishes in each of the past three years; and Ian Poulter, 42, who secured the final berth with a playoff victory Sunday in Houston.

The 40-something superstars making the trip over the Hogan Bridge across Rae’s Creek at Augusta National. Credit Tannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock
After Mickelson won the World Golf Championships event in Mexico City last month in a playoff against Thomas, Woods described Mickelson’s first victory since 2013 as “very, very cool to watch.”
Woods tied for second a week later at the Valspar Championship outside Tampa, and Mickelson said he sent Woods a text message after he played his way into contention. Mickelson said he had told Woods that it felt “like it was a different time continuum, because I found myself pulling so hard for him.”
This week they are less rivals than two men united against Father Time, a much more formidable opponent than Couples and Pieters combined.
“I find that I want him to play well,” Mickelson said, “and I’m excited to see him play so well.”

At the start of the practice round, Woods teed off first. Someone asked how the group had decided who got that honor. An impish smile creased Mickelson’s face.

“We just went right in order,” he said. “He has four jackets, I have three jackets, Fred, then Thomas.”
Mickelson winked. “It’s a respect thing.”

Source: NY Times

 

He Stuck to Golf: Tiger Woods, Roaring Back, Ties for 2nd

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — The most remarkable aspect of Tiger Woods’s comeback isn’t how quickly his ball-striking rounded into shape after two years of relative inactivity or how well he handled the crucible of contending after being sidelined for so long. To Wayne Gretzky, who watched the weekend telecast of the Valspar Championship with great interest, the most impressive part of Woods’s second-place finish was that he was back competing at all.

Woods, 42, could have limped off the main stage with his legacy secure. After $110 million in career earnings on the course and several times that much off it; after more than 100 worldwide victories, including 14 majors; after two decades of being saddled with a superhero cape that is one loose thread from unraveling into infamy, Woods could have become a full-time chauffeur and cheerleader for his two children, a part-time fisherman and scuba diver and an occasional adrenaline junkie who satisfied his cravings through bungee jumping, sky diving or heli-skiing.

Before carding a final-round one-under 70 to finish tied for second, one stroke behind the Englishman Paul Casey, for his first top-three finish since 2013, Woods could have drifted from the sport. He could have concentrated on his golf-design projects, his restaurant business and his foundation-funded learning labs. That Woods chose instead to rejoin a tour that in his absence had become the domain of players nearly half his age impressed Gretzky, the Hall of Fame hockey player.

“I think it shows how much he loves the sport,” Gretzky said in a telephone interview. “That sends a great message that the best athlete in the world in his sport is the hardest working and the guy that loves the game the most and still wants to win the most.”

Gretzky, who still owns or holds a share of dozens of N.H.L. records, added, “The Good Lord blessed us with talent, but to be the greatest you have to outwork everyone, too.”

On the eve of Sunday’s final round at Innisbrook’s Copperhead resort, Notah Begay III, Golf Channel’s on-course reporter and a member of Woods’s small inner circle, gave an illuminating explanation for Woods’s resplendent short game, the aspect of his play that failed him spectacularly in his limited starts the past two years.

Begay, a teammate of Woods’s at Stanford, said that Woods had installed four practice greens in his Jupiter, Fla., backyard, including one that replicates the putting surfaces at the Bay Hill course where he has won eight times. Begay added that Woods employed someone to tend the greens who worked at Augusta National, home of the Masters, which Woods has won four times.

“It is one of the advantages he has by having that practice facility when he walks right outside of his house,” Begay said during the Golf Channel telecast, adding, “It is one of the things he was able to do the most — putting and chipping — throughout all of these injuries.”

The last time Tiger Woods won the Masters was 2005 when Phil Mickelson slipped the green jacket on him. When this year’s tournament begins on April 5 at Augusta National, more than a few people will be betting on Woods to win again. Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Woods and the rest of the field started Sunday chasing Corey Conners, a 26-year-old PGA Tour rookie from Canada who had held the lead since the first round. Conners’s best finish in his first 10 starts of the wraparound season was a tie for 29th.

When Woods was Conners’s age, he had 30 PGA Tour titles. Woods’s 20s were the days when his mastery of courses and his domination of his competition combined to make him seem more machine than man. He commanded awe while appearing only remotely accessible, like a Rembrandt painting hanging in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Woods’s native Southern California.

The public assumed he would be around to admire for years and years. But then came the injuries to Woods’s knees, neck, shoulder, and back. There were also the indignities, including the public unraveling of Woods’s marriage after his indiscretions were made public and a D.U.I. arrest last May for the misuse of prescription medications.

At the Presidents Cup last September, Woods, an assistant captain for the United States team, acknowledged that he could envision a scenario in which he did not return to competitive golf. He was five months removed from back fusion surgery and had not been cleared by his doctors to make full swings. While he took his first tentative shots with his long irons and woods, Justin Rose, who finished tied for fifth Sunday, was winning back-to-back tournaments in China and Turkey.

When Woods said he didn’t know what the future held for him, fans of his golfing artistry were left to face the prospect of never seeing another of his signature masterpieces. Perhaps that explains the wildly enthusiastic receptions that Woods received here and at the first three stops of his comeback tour. In an interview Friday, Begay said it seemed to him as if fans were hungry to show Woods their appreciation for how he changed the game while he was still around to soak it in.

“Everyone loves a comeback story, and the underdog and Tiger became the underdog,” Begay said. “Just two months ago he was ranked outside the top 1,000 and was overcoming multiple back surgeries and sort of was the punch line on late-night comedy because of everything that had gone on. But through all the trials and tribulations, he nonetheless has found a way to persevere and get back to a level of performance that is literally unbelievable.”

Brandt Snedeker, 37, has enjoyed one of the best vantage points for Woods’s comeback. Snedeker has been in the same group for five of the 14 official rounds that Woods has logged. From what Snedeker has seen, the renewed appreciation being shown Woods by the fans is being reciprocated in kind. Woods is making more eye contact, signing more autographs, smiling more.

“I think he’s more at peace with his role in golf,” Snedeker said. “I think there was a time he was so focused on winning, he lost out on the relationships.”

During the Wednesday pro-am here, Woods stopped when he came upon a group of military personnel stationed at one hole. He thanked them for their service and added, “Appreciate it.”

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Woods’s comeback is that his performance has everybody looking ahead, not back. “The excitement going into the Masters is going to be massive,” said Adam Scott, the 2013 champion at Augusta National, “because I don’t know if any of us were really thinking Tiger was a true favorite in there, and he might be.”

Source: New York Times

Jim “Bones” Mackay reveals Phil Mickelson’s interesting strategy for playing No. 12 at Augusta National

The swirling winds at Augusta National’s 12th hole have been giving golfers fits for more than eight decades. So much so that a pair of John Hopkins professors created a computer model in 2016 that tried to predict the effects of the ever-present gusts from the gods. True story.

RELATED: The biggest disasters on Augusta National’s 12th hole

Throughout the years, Phil Mickelson has handled the hole about as well as anyone. Sure, there was that unfortunate double bogey in the final round of 2009 after he shot a record-low 30 on the front nine, but a birdie on Sunday there in 2004 sparked a five under finish over the final seven holes to give him a one-shot win over Ernie Els and a first major title. Mickelson also birdied the hole in the final round in 2010 to stretch his lead to two over Lee Westwood before going on to win his third and final green jacket.

Many would argue Mickelson has an advantage on the short par-3 thanks to being left-handed, but he also may have found the best strategy for the shot. A strategy shared by his former caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, during an NBC/Golf Channel conference call with reporters on Thursday.

“We had this thing, when I was caddying there called ‘wait on your wind,’ which basically everybody knows if you stand there long enough you’re going to feel the wind blow pretty much every single direction as possible. And it can certainly get in your head a little bit,” Mackay said. “So what we would do is just pick a club for a certain wind and wait for that wind to show up. You had a pretty good idea what that wind would be. We never looked at 11 green. We were more looking over into 13 fairway as to what — the trees and what not were doing over there, if there were any leaves blowing around, things along those lines.”

(By the way, the computer model backed up that looking at the flag on No. 11 was pointless.)

“But my theory always was pick a club for a wind there and you may have to wait five seconds for that wind and you may have to wait a minute for it. But that always seemed to work fairly well in that regard.”

Not exactly great for pace of play, but if there’s any shot in golf that deserves extra time (See: Spieth, Jordan in 2016 along with many others), it’s this one.

 

Source: GolfDigest.com

Rory McIlroy: Crazy golf galleries cost Tiger Woods two shots every tournament

It’s no big secret that golf fans can be ridiculous. For every 100 knowledgable, well-meaning patrons, you get one doofus yelping, “Baba Booey!” or “mashed potatoes!” on a random tee shot. We saw this a few weeks ago at the Farmers Insurance Open when somebody piped up as Tiger Woods was putting.

Woods probably gets more of that than anyone, or so said playing partner over the first two days at the Genesis Open, Rory McIlroy. This is the first time Woods and McIlroy have been paired together since the final round of the 2015 Masters.

“It might have been like this like the whole Tiger-mania … but I swear, playing in front of all that, he gives up half a shot a day on the field,” said McIlroy. “Like, it’s two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that that goes on around. So whether that calms down the more he plays and it doesn’t become such a novelty that he’s back out playing again because it’s tiring. I need a couple Advil … I’ve got a headache after all that.”

So what exactly are they yelling?

“Just the whole thing. Guys, you’ve got a six-foot putt, ‘It doesn’t break as much as you think,’ just stuff like this that they don’t have to say,” McIlroy said. “Just stuff. You know, whoever that’s teeing off at 8:30 in the morning doesn’t get that and can just go about his business and just do his thing. That’s tough. He has to deal with that every single time he goes out to play.”

McIlroy was clearly perturbed by the entire scene as thick galleries lined the course at Riviera Country Club to watch Woods play his 5th and 6th rounds of 2018. He went on to miss the cut after shooting 72-76 over the first two days.

“It’s cost me a lot of shots over the years,” confirmed Woods. “It’s cost me a few tournaments here and there. It’s been a lot because all it takes is one shot on a Thursday that you lose a tournament by a shot on Sunday. What people don’t realize, it’s not just something that happens on Sunday afternoon, this is cumulative and it’s par for the course. I’ve dealt with it for a very long time.”

This probably isn’t going to change any time soon. McIlroy is right. Woods being back out on the PGA Tour is still a novelty, and people are excited. He’s played just three events since the end of 2015, and he’ll play No. 4 next week at the Honda Classic. Hopefully the mashed potato bros will keep the schtick at home.

Source: CBS Sports

Why Justin Thomas’ dad is caddying for him in Hawaii — and why another familiar face will carry his bag next week

It took just two PGA Tour rounds in 2018 for another star golfer to make a caddie change. This time, though, it’s only temporary.

RELATED: 15 things you need to know about Justin Thomas

The AP’s Doug Ferguson reported on Saturday that Justin Thomas’ regular caddie, Jimmy Johnson, is injured. And the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year will have a very familiar face filling in this weekend in Hawaii: His father, Mike, a longtime PGA professional.

Johnson carried Thomas’ bag the first two rounds at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where Thomas was 27th (out of 34 players) through 36 holes. Johnson has been Thomas’ caddie since 2015 and the two have won all seven of JT’s PGA Tour titles together, including his first major at last year’s PGA Championship. Thomas is the defending champ in Maui.

So good luck to Mike Thomas as he takes on this replacement gig. He’s got a lot to live up to — and he’s got some pretty hilly terrain to navigate at Kapalua’s Plantation Course.

UPDATE No. 1:

Justin Thomas shot a two-over 75 for the second consecutive day.

“Legs are tired,” Mike Thomas said after the round. “Always nice to be able to do that with your son though.”

It was the first time Thomas has caddied for his son since the 2016 QBE Shootout. He added that someone else will be on the bag next week as his son tries to defend another title in Hawaii at the Sony Open.

UPDATE No. 2:

Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s longtime bagman turned NBC/Golf Channel analyst, will fill in as Justin Thomas’ caddie next week. Yep, this is really happening.

We’re going to go ahead and say that’s the most exciting caddie-related news of all time.

Couples League