Posted on: March 13, 2008 6:14 pm

Couples: Daly has two choices

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Even John Daly's friends and allies are concerned and raising questions.

Arnold Palmer Invitational co-leader Fred Couples made it clear that he wasn't preaching to Daly about his reported drinking and carousing of late, but suggested Thursday that the hard-living lug might want to reconsider his personal and professional trajectory.

Daly's name has been in the news for two straight weeks, and none of it has been positive. He was disqualified from this week's tournament for missing his pro-am time and raised eyebrows last week in Tampa for his behavior in a beer garden situated on the 17th hole. Daly really has two options, Couples suggested.
"You can read it all and say, 'To heck with it,'" Couples said after his round. "Or, read it all and say, 'Maybe they're right.'"

Couples said some of the antics have grown thin. Last week, following a rain delay, Daly emerged from the beer tent with NFL coach Jon Gruden as his caddie.

"I like people too, but I'm not going to let a guy who has never carried my clubs caddie for me on the PGA Tour," Couples said.

Couples said Daly "has more talent than 85 percent of the guys on the PGA Tour." But he's burning bridges at a dizzying clip.

"I'm not bashing John, but he can look at what people are saying and say, 'Maybe they're right,' or continue to run the deal the way he's running it," Couples said.

Playing mostly on sponsor exemptions the past two years, Daly has walked off courses for dubious reasons and created some bad publicity for the events who welcomed him. To anybody's knowledge, the PGA Tour has yet to take any action against Daly for his recent string of embarrassments, which in some fashion, only serves to sanction his behavior.

"Maybe this is the steppingstone," Couples said. "He's getting kind of reamed. If he shot 65 today instead of me, it would be a lot better deal."

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 13, 2008 5:39 pm

Reunited, 16 years later

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hey dude, you look sorta familiar.

If Tiger Woods had greeted fellow tour pro Mark Wilson on the first tee at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge on Thursday in such a fashion, it would hardly have been a surprise.

Their pairing the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational marked the first time they'd played together since Woods was 16 years old.

That's when Woods beat Wilson 1 up at the 1992 U.S. Junior Amateur in Milton, Mass., with one of those trademark rallies for which he has become so famously known. It was the second of his record three U.S. Junior crowns in succession, the first coming at Bay Hill.

Woods was 2 down with five holes to play and somehow pulled even before winning on the last hole. Though Wilson had won the Honda Classic last year and has been playing out of the so-called winner's category as it relates to how PGA Tour pairings are formulated, the two had not yet teed it up together as professionals.

"I was excited to see it," said Wilson, who matched Woods with an even-par 70. "It probably happened at the right time. A year or two ago, I might have been overwhelmed. Now I just play golf and don’t worry much about what the other guy was doing."
Which isn’t to suggest that Wilson didn’t watch Woods. On the difficult 18th, Woods played well left of the flag and away from the water, planting his ball in the middle of the green. Wilson, who was 2 under at the time and among the early leaders, took a more aggressive line and deposited two balls in the water, making a quadruple-bogey 8.

"My third (approach) shot was finally where he hit his second shot," Wilson laughed. "Maybe I was too greedy with this only being Thursday."

Live and learn.

"It's been a while and it's good to see him out here," Woods said, reflecting. "A lot of the guys I grew up playing junior and college golf with are out here now. So, a lot of good memories."

Well, for Woods, anyway.

"We obviously didn’t take the same path," said Wilson, who bounced around in the game's minor leagues here and there. "But we both made it to the PGA Tour, which is what really matters."


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 13, 2008 12:17 pm

King of two domains?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ready for Arnold Palmer, in stereo?

Organizers of the Bob Hope Classic have dropped comedian George Lopez as the host after two years and are attempting to bring aboard Palmer, who won the first Hope event 49 years ago, as the figurehead.

No agreement is in place, longtime Palmer aide Doc Giffin said Thursday, but Palmer is considering the plan. Unlike his berth as host, owner and namesake of this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Hope position would be mostly ceremonial and a one-off deal.

"The hook would be that he won the first one and this would be the 50th anniversary," Giffin said. "He wouldn't be involved in operations if it happens."

Palmer's DNA is all over the January event in the Palm Springs area event. He won the Hope title five times, including the inaugural tournament in 1960, and it's where he recorded his last of 62 career victories on the PGA Tour, in 1973. Three of the four courses used in the current Hope rotation were built by his design company.

There wouldn’t be much of a conflict with the March stop at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, which is celebrating its 30th year this week. At least, not after next year.

"If it happens, it's a one-shot deal," Giffin said of the Hope.

Who the Hope will install as a permanent replacement thereafter is anybody's guess. Lopez's name was removed from the tournament website and the comedian told the Los Angeles Times: "My intentions have always been about what's best for the tournament. Arnold Palmer, he's an icon of golf; who doesn't respect him? I wish the tournament all the luck in the world.

"As for whether I'll play, it's going to depend on my schedule."



Category: Golf
Posted on: March 10, 2008 3:57 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2008 4:02 pm

Atwal formally cleared in traffic fatality case

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Florida State Attorney's office confirmed Monday that it had declined to pursue criminal charges against former PGA Tour player Arjun Atwal, essentially clearing him of any direct involvement in the traffic death of John Park last March 10 in Windermere, Fla., near where both men resided.

Internal notes on the year-old case made by the Orlando office of the state attorney's office were released Monday and included some interesting details that had not previously come to light regarding the fatality, the first death of any kind linked to a tour player in years.

According to the notes, Park was late for a family dinner in nearby Lake Buena Vista when his car veered off the outside lane of County Road 535 at approximately 100 mph, hit a tree and disintegrated, leaving him dead at the scene. Before his car skidded off the pavement on the opposite side of the four-lane road, Atwal's speed in the posted 45 mph zone was estimated in the notes as "running above 94 mph."

The Florida Highway Patrol, after speaking with witnesses and forwarding its traffic investigation, accused the two of illegal street racing and recommended that charges of vehicular homicide be pursued by the state attorney, which could not establish a key component in proving that allegation -- that Atwal caused Park's car to careen off the road.

Atwal, who was driving home after playing a practice round at Isleworth Country Club with a group of players that included Tiger Woods, never denied that he was speeding, but has insisted that he was not racing Park. The two cars never touched, which made it impossible for prosecutors to establish that he led to Park's crash. Neither man had been drinking.

Atwal was not injured, nor has he ever been arrested or charged. The two men were not acquainted.

Said the case-intake notes from the state attorney's office: "The two racing vehicles did not come into contact with one another. There is no evidence that either vehicle was driven in a manner causing the other to brake or evade the other. The only conduct chargeable to Atwal is that he participated in the race."

Arguably, merely proving that the cars were street racing would have been difficult, since two cars traveling at a high rate of speed doesn’t necessarily mean anybody was racing. Atwal, who won a European Tour event on Sunday in Malaysia, is expected to remain overseas until this weekend. His agent, Bobby Kreusler, said he would likely speak to media Tuesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a PGA Tour stop this week in Orlando.

"I just want to chat with outside counsel first and make sure they're OK with me making any statements," Kreusler said Monday.

Atwal played on the PGA Tour but lost his card two years ago for falling outside the top 125 in earnings and has spent most of the past two seasons on the developmental Nationwide Tour. With his victory Sunday, his third on the European Tour, Atwal moved up to No. 203 in the world rankings.

It's unlikely charges relating to the case would be refiled at a later date, given the overall "lack of evidence" linking Atwal to Park's demise, said Danielle Tavernier, the spokesperson in the state attorney's 9th Judicial Curcuit office in Orlando.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 6, 2008 5:12 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2008 6:59 pm

Chuckie meets Chunky?

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Wait till you hear the explanation of how this odd-couple pairing came about on the fly.

Not that you'll be all that surprised, most likely.

Unannounced and with no fanfare, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jon Gruden, was spotted carrying the bag of John Daly in the first round of the PODS Championship.

Chuckie meets Chunky? Long John meets Short Jon? I know the NFL free-agent signing period just started, but is Gruden that desperate for size?

Gruden began toting Daly's bag after a 2 1/2-hour rain delay halted play. Daly had only completed three holes Thursday when the thunderstorm hit, forcing everybody to seek cover. Daly found solace in a place that certainly had a familiar feel. 

The duo was introduced in the Hooters Owl's Nest, a raucous fan party area where alcohol is served, near Innisbrook Resort's 11th hole, and the caddying switch was made as a lark. Daly was not spotted in the locker room area during the lengthy delay. 

Daly played completed seven holes in 1 over with the coach on the bag. As play was suspended because of darkness, he was 3 over through 10 holes and tied for 125th place.

As for the coach, Gruden obviously has a high tolerance for unpredictable goofballs and whack jobs, having formerly worked for Al Davis when Gruden coached the Oakland Raiders a few years back. As Daly completed his ninth hole, it was clear that Gruden was taking the job seriously. Despite the dozen or so fans who yelled his name, he stared straight ahead, with his trademark Chuckie scowl on his face as he scurried to the next tee box in Daly's wake.

Daly was asked if Gruden helped him at all and answered in the affirmative.

"He fires you up," Daly said. 

Daly's regular caddie, Peter Van Der Reit, will be back on the bag when play resumes Friday at 7:30 a.m.

Just another routine day for Daly, right? A few years back, Daly walked off the premises in mid-round at the Tampa event, climbed into his parked motor home and drove off, without explaining why he was bailing. So, tournaments keep giving this guy sponsor exemptions because, why? Sure, he creates news, alright. But is it the right kind?

Speaking of head-scratching mysteries, the forever-disheveled, lumpy and frumpy Daly is now endorsing a line of sports clothing, John Daly Apparel. What would their marketing slogan be, "Clothes you can sleep in?"


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 5, 2008 11:50 am
Edited on: March 5, 2008 11:52 am

Atwal case still pending

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Despite multiple reports from abroad indicating the investigation into the fatal traffic accident involving former PGA Tour regular Arjun Atwal has been closed, the Florida State Attorney's office said Wednesday that the case remains active and unresolved.

In fact, it's barely been processed.

A spokesperson for the State Attorney's office in Orlando said the case is still in the "intake process," meaning it has not yet been assigned  to a prosecutor for evaluation. Atwal was involved in a crash a year ago this week outside Orlando and Florida Highway Patrol believes he was engaging in a high-speed street race with a man who was killed at the scene when his car veered off the road and flipped several times.

The case represents the first death tied to a PGA Tour player in decades. While playing in a European Tour event last week in his native India, Atwal said his lawyer told him the case had been dismissed.

"You know, it was just like a little ... it was not little; it was a lot distracting for me to play golf with," he said last week at the Johnnie Walker Classic. "It is a pain when you have to deal with other things besides golf, and luckily, you know, everything is sorted out now. So I can go back to concentrating on golf."

 Danielle Tavernier, a spokesperson for the State Attorney's office, said the overseas reports were inaccurate. "It's an open, active case," she said.<!-- google_ad_section_end(name=storypage_article) -->

The FHP said Atwal was traveling at least 90 mph and recommended that the State Attorney pursue charges of vehicular homicide. It's up to the discretion of state prosecutors, however, to determine what charges Atwal will face, if any.


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 5, 2008 10:47 am
Edited on: March 5, 2008 10:58 am

Els exhales in relief

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Ernie Els sauntered into the restaurant on the Innisbrook Resort grounds on Tuesday night wearing shorts and with his shirt fashionably untucked.

He spotted a crew of golf scribes seated nearby and stopped by to say hello. After going nearly four years between victories on U.S. soil, he was in a darned fine mood given that he won Sunday at the Honda Classic.

His biggest emotion? Sheer relief. He had blown a handful of events down the stretch over the past six months and this time, he posted a number early, matching the best round of the day with a 3-under 67, and watched the other guys unravel.

Here's a textbook example of why Els remains a popular worldwide figure, no matter how he plays. For months, he has been peppered at every tour appearance about his presumably fragile mental state. The guy is honest to a fault.

"But you had to keep asking," he admitted with a shrug.

Not many guys would have put up with the weekly inquisition, much less understood the motivation for why the questions were continually asked in the first place.






Category: Golf
Posted on: March 4, 2008 5:53 pm

Wie are fam-i-lee

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Don't ask where this juicy bit of tid emanated, because I'm not saying. Suffice to say that it's from a source who is very much in a position to know. Unimpeachable, really.

It's not exactly news that the parents of Michelle Wie are meddlesome and have perturbed many over the years with their ever-heightening demands for special consideration, if not for firing capable caddies or burning out agents at a breakneck pace, but this establishes a new threshhold for parental interference.

As nearly everybody knows, Wie is in the midst of her first year at Stanford, where under school edict, she is is required to live in the freshman dormitory. This is where the story begins.

First, her parents asked school administrators if the rule could be waived so that Wie could live off-campus with her parental unit.

Stanford: No.

Second, the parents asked if she could be granted a room of her own. No annoying roommate, in other words.

Stanford: No.

Finally, the Wies asked if they could live in the dormitory with her.

Stanford: Hell, no.

The textbook definition of overbearing parent just reached a new level. If "low" is a level, anyway.








Category: Golf
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