Posted on: February 21, 2012 6:45 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 10:47 am

Bradley's great expectorations have fans in froth

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Spitting in sports has been around as long as chewing tobacco, pressure situations, big money and nervous individuals.

But rarely in golf has a player run more quickly afoul of the etiquette police than did Keegan Bradley last weekend in Los Angeles.

Playing in the marquee pairing at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday, the promising second-year pro was nervously unleashing a steady stream of spittle and taking several awkward moments to hit shots as he eventually lost in a three-man playoff with Phil Mickelson and winner Bill Haas.

In contention down the stretch, the network cameras focused several times on Bradley's face with tight shots as he reeled off a string of fidgety, rapid-fire spit. This being his 14th month on the PGA Tour, his mind was otherwise occupied with trying to beat seasoned pros like Lefty and Haas.

Almost immediately, his Twitter account went into overload as fans, and even a network broadcaster from the U.K., took him to task for both his unattractive spitting and dawdling, slow play.

"I am kind of glad I don’t have this week off, because Twitter can be brutal," he said Tuesday.

After watching the final-round replay on Sunday night, the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year issued an apology and reiterated Tuesday that the spitting was an unwitting habit he picked up at some point in recent months. He received his trophy for the top-rookie honors Tuesday at the Accenture Match Play Championship, where both his spitting and lengthy pre-shot routine were questioned, just like they were by viewers who sent him some pointed social-media missives.

"I got pounded pretty good," said Bradley, 25. "But that's how Twitter works."

The treatment seems a bit harsh, really. Bradley, already ranked 19th in the world, has played in exactly one major championship and is just getting his feet wet on the big tour. But at this level, he understands that he's expected to set an example.

Or, if he didn't know before, he knows it now.

"I feel bad," he said. "It's something I am going to work on and I ask everybody to kind of bear with me as I go through with this, because it's something I have done without even knowing it."

While he was reeling off the lung cheese in fast succession, the rapidity of his shots was another matter entirely. He was less apologetic about the pace-of-play issue, which seemed to rankle at least as many viewers. Down the stretch at Riviera, he repeatedly stepped toward the ball, then backed off shots, a move similar to that of J.B. Holmes, a notorious tour slowpoke when under the gun.

"It's about visualization, my way of staying not stagnant," Bradley said. "It is a little different. I will take a look at that again. But it's something that I've been doing and it's been working.

"Coming down the stretch, it does come up a little bit. But it doesn’t seem to affect my ability, which is the most important."

Since the start of his rookie season in 2011, which includes wins at Byron Nelson and PGA Championship, Bradley said he has never been put on the clock for slow play.

"I am very much into not hitting it until -- if I'm walking in and I have a bad thought, I'll come back out. I see a lot of players hit shots when they’re thinking, 'don’t hit this in the water, or, 'don't hook this over there.'

"I'm not going to go until I'm ready, until I know I'm going to hit a good shot."

The Great Expectorations blowback has, at least temporarily, obscured the Great Expectations of Bradley's short tenure on tour. He's already shot the low 72-hole score three times and has fast developed a hunger for the spotlight.

Unlike many who blink, the klieg lights didn't bother him at all. Playing alongside Mickelson at the storied 18th at Riviera, one of the great finishing holes in the sport, was something he described as "surreal."

In fact, it's exactly the unquantifiable "something" that separates prime-time players from their average Joe counterparts. Bradley can't wait to get back under competitive duress, which could very well happen this week.

You know how to tell that this kid is different? Most guys could not have mustered an ounce of spittle in that situation, much less a steady stream.

"To be part of history and to be in a Sunday [duel] with Phil or Tiger and hang in there is somethng I have always wondered if I could do," he said. "And I did it, which makes me feel very good."

Posted on: May 4, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 6:59 pm

Sabbo in hot water with tour again

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This time, it looks like Rory Sabbatini has burned his last get-out-of-jail-free card.

The colorful South African star last week was involved in his second on-course incident this year when he engaged in a public argument with another player, just weeks after he was put on a short leash by PGA Tour administrators for a similar outburst in Los Angeles.

As a result, he is facing an almost certain suspension in the near future, a tour official familiar with both incidents who spoke on condition of anonymity said Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Sabbatini, a six-time tour winner who sometimes wrestles to keep his emotions in check, last week got into an argument on the course at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with playing partner Sean O'Hair, who was also his playing partner earlier in the year when Sabbatini went ballistic at Riviera Country Club in L.A.

Sabbatini, after completing his pro-am round Wednesday evening, shrugged off any suggestion that he's in dutch with officials and dismissed it as a crazy rumor.

"Well, I am playing this week so I wouldn't worry about it too much, OK, guys?" he said. "That's what it is, it's a rumor."

At Riviera, Sabbatini berated a Shotlink volunteer who tried to come to the player's aid on the fifth hole after the South African hit a shot into some deep rough. The volunteer left the Shotlink tower, found a ball in the calf-high rough, and marked its location with a beverage container.

When Sabbatini arrived, he lost his temper and screamed at the volunteer, claiming the ball had been pushed deeper into the rough as a result of the bottle being placed in close proximity. According to caddie Frank Williams, who works for Stewart Cink, the third member of the group, Sabbatini had a complete meltdown.

"It was as bad as I have ever seen," Williams told CBSSports.com a few weeks after the incident.

A witness said Sabbatini ultimately removed his belt and threw it to the ground in disgust. According to the tour source familiar with the incident, Sabbatini was initially suspended for the Riviera behavior, but volunteered to a complete a list of stipulations in order to escape the penalty. Included was writing a formal letter of apology to the Shotlink volunteer.

The tour eventually rescinded the suspension and he didn't miss any starts. Sabbatini acknowledged to CBSSports.com in March that he was out of line and working on his temper issues, had agreed to pen the apology and that even his wife was furious at him, but because no suspension was meted out, he continued to play and the incident went largely unnoticed.

As the Riviera incident was being considered by the tour, Sabbatini won the Honda Classic in early March. The particulars of the New Orleans outburst remain hazy, including what precipitated it and whether it was related to the Riviera incident.

Pointedly asked after the pro-am if he was facing a suspension or under scrutiny, Sabbatini was equal parts defiant and testy.

"No, that is just all rumor, bud," he said. "You are going based on a rumor. How many times do I have to tell you?"

Pat Perez, the third player in the group in New Orleans, on Wednesday repeatedly declined to describe the altercation, which took place in a tee box during the second round.

"I am not going to be the guy on the front page," Perez said Wednesday at the tournament site. "It's for us to sort out."

The process has already begun, apparently. Andy Pazder, the tour’s No. 2 man and the czar of discipline, was seen speaking with Sabbatini on Tuesday on the Quail Hollow Club grounds, according to one report.

O'Hair, the 2009 tournament winner at Quail Hollow, withdrew from the tournament on Monday, though the tour source said it was for personal reasons and unrelated to the Sabbatini incident. Given O'Hair's even, low-key disposition, a suspension seems unlikely.

"[He] wasn't suspended and doesn't care to comment," O'Hair's agent, Jon Wagner, said in an email.

As has always been the case, tour communications chief Ty Votaw declined to comment on any pending disciplinary issues or confirm that the matter was under review.

According to the PGA Tour's handbook, players have two weeks from the time they’re notified of the punishment to respond with “facts or evidence of mitigating circumstances.” However, Sabbatini's circumstances are a little more complicated given his probationary status of sorts.

Given that Sabbatini, 35, was playing on a zero-tolerance leash because of his previous behavior, a suspension with little possibility of appeal was all but certain, the tour source predicted.

If the tour sticks to its two-week appeals window, that means Sabbatini could be benched during the Byron Nelson and Colonial events, tournaments he has won over the past four seasons. He lives in Fort Worth, Tex.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 8, 2010 4:16 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2010 4:21 pm

Riviera and U.S. Open a true Hollywood tale

First things first.

It isn’t about the Riviera Country Club track itself, or the course’s worthy tournament tradition. There’s an indisputable aura about the place, no question.

“Riviera has had an invitation in for the U.S. Open for years,” said Mike Davis, the senior director of rules and competitions for the U.S. Golf Association, which runs the event. “We love the golf course itself, we want to move the tournament around, and we haven’t been there in 60 years.

“The challenge of Riviera is how to put on a U.S. Open logistically with the footprint they have there.”

Sorry to stomp on the club’s Southern California dream, but for Riviera to host a U.S. Open in 2018 or thereafter, it’s going to either require a squadron of helicopters to parachute fans and players onto the property, a massive earthquake to clear out the hillside neighbors, or something akin to turning Sunset Boulevard into another freeway.

Despite assertions Monday in the Los Angeles Times that the course is a workable venue, nothing has changed since it last hosted an Open in 1948, when Ben Hogan limped his way to victory. In fact, the course has become even more claustrophobic as the National Open has grown even larger.

Riviera is a U.S. Open course crammed into a U.S. Amateur locale. The newspaper said there were USGA members on the grounds last week, evaluating the site, as the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open was staged, although Davis said the group's core staffers were at the annual USGA meeting in Pinehurst.

“If there were people there, boy, I’m totally unaware of it,” Davis said.

They would have been somewhat obvious – the event, plagued by wet weather and the Super Bowl, drew around 40,000 for the week. The blue jackets would likely have been noticed.

The newspaper made the case that in a reversal of recent venue selections, the USGA chose cozy Merion as the Open site in 2013, claiming the Philly-area course is as cramped as Riviera and still earned a bid. Not necessarily so, says Davis. Haverford College adjoins the Merion property and will be used for tents and other crucial infrastructure. A second golf course one mile away will serve as the practice area.

Unless you enjoy whacking balls into not-so-distant nets, Riviera doesn’t even have a decent driving range. Pros would conceivably have to warm up in Will Rogers State Park, the nearest property without a million-dollar house sitting atop it. Riviera is positioned among some of the priciest real estate in California, down in a bowl, with one or two narrow access roads that meander through cramped, residential neighborhoods.

Picking Riviera would amount to staging a “boutique-type U.S. Open,” Davis said. That his polite way of saying, “we would barely make a dime,” because ticket sales would be limited because of access and traffic flow issues. The course barely has room for spectators, much less corporate tents, concessions, bathrooms and media.

USGA officials were at Riviera last year for a site visit – Davis said several national locales were eyeballed -- and came away with the same singular thought their predecessors had.

“I think we said, ‘We could make it work, but it would be a very, very small U.S. Open,’” he recalled.

Just like the Riviera odds -- small to nil. Good luck pitching that idea to the USGA executive board, especially as the Open circus continues to grow. Ditto the organization’s appetites.

“And as you probably know, the U.S. Open is what pays for everything we do at the USGA,” Davis said. “Going to Merion is neat, and we’re looking forward to it, but it’s not something we can do very often.”
Davis saw last week’s paltry weeklong crowd estimate for the tour event at Riviera, which didn’t draw mind-blowing galleries when it hosted the 1995 PGA Championship, another major.
“I saw that figure and thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Davis said. “Even if we limited tickets sales to 25,000, between the media, the marshals, the volunteers, concessions workers and all, we’d get that many [40,000] in a day.”

For longtime golf fans in Los Angeles hoping that Riviera might someday get another nod, these are the same hurdles that have been trotted out for decades.

A Riviera official told the Times that the club's younger members, perhaps somewhat unaware of the club's considerable geographic handicaps, are willing to do whatever it takes to land an Open bid.

Here's a suggestion: Pool a few hundred million and buy L.A. Country Club, which has two courses, more room and a course that's just as highly regarded, and stage it there.


Category: Golf
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com