Posted on: January 19, 2012 4:01 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 6:20 pm

Woods: Haney wrote book for the payday

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Just days before he heads to the Middle East to collect an appearance fee, rather than play in the PGA Tour's event at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods lashed out at his former swing coach and characterized him as a mercenary.

In an interview Thursday with ESPN, Woods said a new book set for release this spring, authored by former swing coach Hank Haney, was done for financial gain.

"I think it's unprofessional and very disappointing," Woods told, "especially because it's someone I worked with and trusted as a friend.

"There have been other one-sided books about me, and I think people understand that this book is about money. I'm not going to waste my time reading it."

That's hard to envision, since Woods reads practically everything written about him these days.

Haney coached Woods for six years as the former world No. 1 put together the most sustained and successful stretch of his career in terms of consistency. Haney titled the book The Big Miss a multi-faceted reference to wild tee shots and missed opportunities. Haney quit as Woods' coach in mid-2010 as Woods labored to overcome the scandal, swing and injury issues.

Though Haney said the book isn’t a tell-all, its release, set for shortly before the Masters, is sure to cause Woods even more discomfort just as the sports world largely seems to be letting go of the scandal-related issues.

Woods next week will play on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi, where he will receive an appearance fee, rather than play in the PGA Tour's event at Torrey Pines, where Woods has experienced incredible success, winning seven times, including the 2008 U.S. Open, his last major title.

Woods hasn’t won an official event since Haney quit. Despite the disappointment, Woods told ESPN that he was thankful for his time with Haney. With the release set before the season's first major, Woods is sure to be back under the microscope in at least some uncomfortable fashion yet again.

"I just think this book is very self-serving," Woods said.

Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:57 am

Finchem to stick around for longer haul

After expressing some initial hesitation last fall about whether he wanted to stick around as the captain of the PGA Tour ship, Tim Finchem was offered and accepted a four-year extension as commissioner by the tour's Policy Board, it was announced Wednesday.

Finchem has piloted the tour through a record growth era, fueled in large part by Tiger Woods' popularity, and last fall helped secure a 10-year TV rights contract with CBS and NBC, the tour's primary non-cable broadcasters.

“We have accomplished a lot, but there remains a great opportunity to continue to grow over the next four years,” Finchem said in a tour release. “It's an honor to work in such a wonderful sport with the world’s best athletes and a terrific management team. I look forward to continuing to work closely with them in the future.”

Finchem, 64, is signed through June, 2016. He took over as commissioner in 1994 when Deane Beman retired.

Among the items left on Finchem's plate is to re-sight the title sponsor of the FedEx Cup, whcih is an annual deal with an estimated price tag of $35 million.

Finchem's old deal was set to expire after the 2012 season.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:24 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 8:28 pm

Stricker bobs, weaves and wins -- as usual

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As nearly everybody knows, a certain greeting has two meanings in Hawaii, both of which seem to fit veteran Steve Stricker's highly entertaining, slightly unnerving golf style to the letter.

Aloha means both hello and goodby in the native lingo, which also happen to be the words in English that often happen in quick succession when Stricker takes the lead into the back nine of PGA Tour events these days.

Stricker, the top-rated player in the field at the tour's season-opener, again found a way to nearly make a big lead into a bigger story in the final round at Kapalua on Monday night, where he again hung on to win by three strokes, despite some ups and downs that made the hillside course seem monotonous.

"I felt it kind of slipping away, but I was patient," he said. "Frustrated, but patient."

It felt kind of familiar.

He entered the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a five-stroke lead, a figure that should ring familiar for fans of the genial Wisconsin native. In fact, Stricker had a comparably cushy margins in the final hours of both of his PGA Tour wins last year, only to make a meandering, stomach-churning mess out of both before holding on, if not staging comebacks, to ultimately win.

Stricker, who turns 45 next month, led the John Deere Classic by five shots with nine holes left in the final round before he started piling up bogeys and found himself two shots behind rookie Kyle Stanley late in the round. Stricker eventually salvaged a victory with what many called the best clutch shot of the year, delivering a rollicking birdie from an awkward stance in a fairway bunker on the 18th.

A few weeks earlier, when he seemed poised to win the Memorial Tournament with relative ease thanks to a four-shot lead at the turn, his momentum was slowed by a 2 1/2-hour weather delay in the final round. He scraped his way through the trees and sand on his way home, saving par from bunkers on the 16th and 17th, before making a cautious bogey on the 18th to win by a stroke.

"It wasn't pretty," he cracked to tournament host Jack Nicklaus afterward.

This time, Stricker's overnight lead had been quickly pared to a single shot by the time he finished the sixth hole, where he fatted a pitch shot and made a bogey, missing his second putt of the day from four feet. As he did at the Memorial and Deere, though, the resilient veteran found a way to stop the swoon. He rolled in a 23-footer on the eighth, nearly holed a chip shot on the ninth and made a 15-footer on the 12th, all resulting in birdies, to extend the lead to three, giving himself some breathing room.

"I never let up today, but it was tough," he said. "It gets even more tough when you have lead like I had. Overall, I am very proud of what I did today and this week."

He usually makes in interesting. Stricker missed some time last year with a herniated disc in his neck, which wasn't an issue this week. Maybe it was the whiplash of watching his name jumping around on the scoreboard.

With his 12th career win, Stricker moved up one spot to No. 5 in the world. The victory marked the fourth straight season in which he has amassed at least one win, leaving him tied with Dustin Johnson (2008-11) and four behind Phil Mickelson (2004-11) for the longest string of consecutive winning seasons on tour.

Amazingly, the two-time Comeback Player of the Year has amassed seven of his victories in the last three seasons, plus one 2012 start. Moreover, he has eight wins in his past 50 starts, the most of any player.

In all, for a tournament that needed both some CPR and positive PR as a sputtering season opener, Stricker, who at No. 6 in the world is the top-ranked American in the world, was perhaps the ideal winner and the biggest name in the 27-man field.

Stricker had won five of the last six times in which he held at least a share of the lead entering the fourth round, but his lone fumble came at Kapalua two years ago. He'd flirted with winning the season opener twice previously, finishing fourth last year and second in 2008.

Category: Golf
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:51 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 4:05 pm

TaylorMade ad creates 'bleeping' issue

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Even if he did hit the bleep out of the shot, it's hardly the mode or message traditionally communicated to the conservatively staid golf audience by the world's most image-conscious sport.

Firstly, manufacturer TaylorMade golf began airing a television commercial this week for its new line of equipment, the name of which is sure to cause a few rolled eyes. The new clubs are called RocketBallz, which has prompted some schoolboy giggles.

Yet in an ad airing last week during the Golf Channel telecasts of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from Kapalua, Hawaii, one of the clubmaker's staff professionals on the PGA Tour, veteran Sean O'Hair, makes an obviously profane remark after hitting a practice ball on the range with one of the new clubs.

O'Hair smiles broadly after smashing a shot and drops an F-bomb, which is bleeped out in the commercial, but the timber and tone are convincingly made clear. A Golf Channel spokesman said Monday that he was unaware of any complaints logged from viewers about the spot, which might speak as much for the low ratings and late-night TV viewing slot as any offense it might have caused.

Here's the link:

PGA Tour communications chief Ty Votaw said Tuesday that tour "discussed" the ad content with TaylorMade.

Coincidentally or not, the ad apparently didn't air on Monday night during the final-round broadcast from Kapalua.  

"We have communicated with each other today and yesterday," Votaw said Tuesday afternoon. "Like hypotheticals, I cannot comment on coincidences, either."

Interestingly, though the tour has never made its disciplinary policy public, it is believed that players who swear on the golf course -- especially when picked up by microphones in the network broadcast -- have been subject to fines from tour headquarters when the language is overheard and complaints are lodged by fans or marshals.

While the language from O'Hair is mostly implied, it's not exactly the content the tour tries to convey about its product, although it is unclear what sort of leverage the tour could apply if it ultimately wants the advertisement yanked for any reason.

Posted on: January 9, 2012 12:32 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 12:37 pm

Fans to bail for BCS if players dawdle in Hawaii?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The grand design of this PGA Tour experiment was for the final round of the 2012 season-opener at Kapalua to finish roughly a half-hour before the college football national championship begins on Monday night.

You know, that little tilt between conference rivals LSU and Alabama in New Orleans.

Tee times would be adjusted on Monday to allow fans watching the finish of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to comfortably switch over to view the BCS finale, which is supposed to begin shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET, or roughly 30 minutes after the last putt in regulation falls.

Barring the addition of turbo-powered golf carts, good luck with that.

Despite a mere 27-man field, the Golf Channel confirmed that broadcasts have run long in both the second and third rounds, including 35 minutes past the projected time on Sunday night as the third round was completed. The second round on Saturday night finished 20 minutes late.

For the first time in event history, the tour experimented with a Monday finish this week to boost interest and ratings, intentionally moving up tee times in the final round on Monday to finish at 3 p.m. local time, before the BCS game commences. But the pace of play this week has at times been sleepy, at best.

Moreover, the Kapalua event has finished in a playoff in three of the past six years and five of the last 12.

World No. 6 Steve Stricker -- seeking a victory in his fourth consecutive season on tour -- leads by a commanding five strokes entering the final round, so the remote controls might be punching out early and often if the event crawls to the finish line with Stricker in control.

Category: Golf
Posted on: January 9, 2012 10:06 am
Edited on: January 9, 2012 11:11 am

Woods to make Pebble site of his U.S. debut

Tiger Woods took a pass on opening his 2012 season at a famed California venue where he has been a dominant force, not to mention where he claimed one of the game's most memorable U.S. Open victories.

Instead, he substituted another.

Marking one of his earliest commitments to a PGA Tour event in years, Woods on Monday said he will open his U.S. season at Pebble Beach on Feb. 9.

In a move that has caused a good amount of conversation, Woods eschewed starting his season at Torrey Pines, instead electing to make his Jan. 26 season debut the same week on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi, where he will receive an appearance fee.

Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, his last Grand Slam win, and has six regular-tour wins at the seaside course. He won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots, roundly considered the best performance by any player in major championship history.

The title sponsor at Pebble Beach is the same entity that backs Woods’ event in the Washington, D.C., area, the AT&T National, and the financial ties are a big reason for his presence in the field. He hasn’t played in the regular-season event at Pebble Beach since 2002, when painfully slow rounds were the norm.

Since then, the field has been pared from 180 pros and their amateur partner to 156, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club replaced Poppy Hills as one of the three courses used over 72 holes.

"I haven't been to this tournament lately, but I have a lot of good memories at Pebble,” he said on his website. “It will be fun going back."

In his most memorable regular-tour win at Pebble, Woods came from seven shots behind with seven holes to play to defeat Matt Gogel, now a Golf Channel broadcaster.

"It's always been one of my favorite spots," Woods said. "It might be the prettiest place on earth."

In his last start at Pebble, in the 2010 U.S. Open two years ago, Woods briefly contended but eventually finished T4, which matches his best finish in an official U.S. event since the sex scandal of late 2009. He closed with a 75.

The commitment a month out represents one of his earliest on record for a regular PGA Tour event that wasn't run by his charity -- and there's some overlap there. AT&T dropped the logo-bag deal it had with Woods during the height of the scandal, but remained as title sponsor of his foundation event. The communications giant also donated money to the construction of Woods foundation headquarters in Southern California.

As ever with Woods, there are financial strings attached.

In other words, he quite likely needs AT&T at least as much as the company needs him at this point -- a message seemingly underscored by the early commitment. The title sponsor of Woods unofficial offseason event in Southern California, Chevron, declined to re-sign as namesake last month, leaving a big void for the Woods camp to fill on the benefit-tournament front already.

In the past, Woods has usually waited until the day before the commitment deadline to throw his name in the hat as an entrant at regular PGA Tour events.

Category: Golf
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:32 pm

Cursed Casey heads to doctor yet again

ORLANDO, Fla. – Paul Casey is utterly uncertain how long he’ll be on the shelf, but if it’s a couple of months, he might want to spend the time dreaming up a more entertaining story on how he injured himself this time around.

Casey on Friday announced that because of a dislocated right shoulder sustained in a snowboarding fall on Dec. 24 in Vail, Colo., he will be out for roughly two months, though that’s admittedly just a guess.

For those envisioning a spectacular crash with a blaze of glory, flash and panache, Casey actually hurt himself while wearing all of his precautionary gear, including a helmet and wrist protection … while taking a lesson.

With snowfall levels down in Colorado this winter, the Englishman fell when he hit an icy patch of snow.

“I wish I could say I did it while perfecting my double backflip on the halfpipe,” Casey cracked Friday via phone, after finishing a rehab session near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Perhaps the laughter keeps him from weeping. Casey has had a miserable run of luck over the last three years, sustaining an intercostal rib injury when he was ranked a career-best No. 3 in the world, followed by nagging foot and thumb injuries in 2011. The foot issue forced him to play with a rigid insert in his spikes, cost him to miss several planned starts and he skidded to No. 136 on the PGA Tour in earnings.

In actually, as far as his four major appendages, the only body part he hasn’t banged up recently is his left foot.

“I have MRIs of most all of my body parts,” he said.

The timing of the fall was awful, since he was seemingly primed for a nice comeback season after enduring both physical and personal setbacks in 2011, which included a divorce from his wife of 2 1/2 years last fall. Casey was set to defend his title in the European Tour’s relocated Volvo Golf Champions on Jan. 19 in South Africa, but now will stay home and work on regaining strength in his shoulder.

When Casey fell, it didn’t take long to realize that something was very amiss.

“Within five minutes, I couldn’t move it,” he said. “The lesson was obviously over.”

He’s got some heavy hitters on his medical team, including three guys with ties to Phoenix’s NFL, MLB and NHL teams.

“They did say that if you are going to dislocate your shoulder, I did it with the least amount of damage you could possibly do, which is good, I guess,” Casey said.

Casey said he won’t be able to hit balls for at least two weeks and has no idea when he will be cleared for actual play.

“I honestly can’t give you a time frame,” said Casey, who is ranked No. 20 in the world this week.

Missing starts in a Ryder Cup year – he didn’t play in the event in 2010 – will certainly have him pushing to return as soon as possible. At 34, he is the same age as countryman Luke Donald, who had a career year in 2011 and was named player of the year on two major tours.

“It can still be a great season,” Casey said optimistically, “but now it’s going to start a few weeks later than I intended. At least I won’t miss any of the majors.”

He might want to avoid coaches, too. The rib injury of two years ago came while he was working on a drill with his swing coach.

Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:38 pm

Luke's 2011 honors piling up like holiday gifts

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The hosannas and hardware keep piling up for Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in golf by means of world-ranking arithmetic, money lists and increasingly, a slew of voter tallies.

Two weeks after he was named the player of the year on both the PGA and European tours, he was named the top performer of 2011 by the Golf Writers Association of America, a press contingent that will honor Donald at its annual banquet at the Masters in April.

Donald, 34, became the first member to top the money lists on both major tours in the same season, a feat that obviously impressed both peers and aficionados alike. Voting totals again were not released by the PGA Tour, but in the GWAA tally, Donald won by an impressively wide margin.

Donald received 88 percent of the votes (180 votes in all), compared to nine percent (19) for two-time tour winner Keegan Bradley. Webb Simpson received three votes and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy received two.

Donald, a Northwestern graduate, won four times worldwide in 2011, the most of any player, and supplanted No. 1 Lee Westwood atop the rankings by beating him in a playoff at the European Tour's flagship event at midseason. In another memorable duel that greatly impressed his American tour brethren, Donald reeled in and passed earnings leader Simpson at Disney World, the final event of the U.S. season, with a sterling 30 on his back nine.

While Donald's latest honor hardly rated as a surprise, the same goes double for the GWAA's top female player, Yani Tseng, who won 12 times worldwide in 2011, one of the most dominant seasons in women's history. As parity grips the men's game -- seven different players won twice on the PGA Tour in 2011, including Donald -- Tseng blew away her competitors and won two majors along the way.

The season was so dominant that it fast drew comparisons to past performances by Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and other retired stars.

Tseng received 95 percent of the vote for the GWAA's top female player to two percent for runner-up Stacy Lewis.

In the award for the top senior player, Tom Lehman claimed 86 percent of the tally (177 votes) to eight percent (16) for runner-up John Cook. Mark Calcavecchia (10 votes) was third.

Category: Golf
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