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: February 21, 2012 6:33 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 1:23 pm
 

Matches we'd love to see at the Accenture

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy shake hands earlier this season in Abu Dhabi. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

We know, we know, predicting things in golf is absolutely impossible, but the interesting nature of match play has us thinking ahead. What are the best possible matches that COULD happen this week at the Accenture? These are our favorite possible matchups. 

Nick Watney vs. Tiger Woods (second round) -- Any match Tiger is in will be featured, but I’d love see a player like Watney go up against him Tiger in a fairly even match.

Graeme McDowell vs. Hunter Mahan (second round) -- I’m fairly certain Mahan would love a piece of McDowell in match player after what happened at the 2010 Ryder Cup, and it would be the featured round of Thursday.  

Sergio Garcia vs. Keegan Bradley (second round) -- I’d like this just for the pre-match ceremony where Garcia hands over the “Incredibly Long Pre-Shot Gold Medal.” He’s held it for so many years!  

Adam Scott vs. Dustin Johnson (third round) -- I just like the idea of zero University of Arizona girls going to class on Friday so they can head out and see Mr. Scott vs. Mr. Johnson. 

Lee Westwood vs. Tiger Woods (third round) -- A clash of titans before the quarter-finals? Yes please.  

Rory McIlroy vs. Sergio Garcia (third round) -- Probably the best chance for McIlroy to get upset out of his bracket, Garcia is headed in playing some seriously good golf, and two of the bigger names in the game would bring tons of attention to the Gary Player bracket. 

Martin Kaymer vs. Bubba Watson (third round) -- I think just about everyone would be excited to see this rematch of the 2011 semi-finals, just as long as Kaymer leaves the scarf at home. 

Rory McIlroy vs. Jason Day (quarter-finals) -- I have a feeling this will happen, and I’m absolutely jazzed about it. 

Ben Crane vs. Kevin Na (quarter-finals) -- Can an entire match be put on the clock? Can even the guy putting people on the clock be put on the clock? No chance this isn't the final match of the day. It has to be!   

Rory McIlroy vs. Tiger Woods (semi-finals) -- Do I really need to explain why this would be awesome? 

Luke Donald vs. Tiger Woods (finals) -- Because I’d really like to see Tiger get his first win in something like this, over a bunch of big names, the last being the world number one. I think that would really show just where he is with his golf game, and give the guy about a 400 percent boost, confidence-wise. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter.  

Posted on: February 21, 2012 4:33 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 6:07 pm
 

Not just clubs in the bag, but cash, too

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Hey, sometimes, failure can be its own reward.

Bill Haas, the winner in thrilling fashion last weekend at Riviera in Los Angeles, uses big brother Jay Jr., as his caddie. Jay, named after their PGA Tour-playing father, took a shot at Qualifying School last fall but washed out in the first stage.

Now he's back on his little brother's bag, as he was when Bill won the FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta last year. By the way, winning caddies typically earn 10 percent of their boss' purse, which means Jay Jr. has pocketed about $250,000 for his brother's two victories over the last few months.

"I actually asked him last week, 'Are you glad you're here, or would you rather be in a mini-tour event somewhere," Bill said Tuesday.

Kyle Stanley's caddie, Brett Waldman, is another strong player who made it to the Q-school finals in 2010 and spent last year on the Nationwide Tour, where he got his teeth kicked in. Asked Tuesday how much money he made, he smiled and cracked, "I don't know. Not enough. That's why I'm here."

Waldman made a shade over $6,000 in a full season on the Nationwide, which surely didn;t cover his expenses, and pocketed over $100,000 when Stanley won in Phoenix three weeks ago.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 21, 2012 3:20 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:45 pm
 

Tiger Woods responds to 'beatable' comments

Tiger Woods talks to the media. (Getty Images)

By Steve Elling


MARANA, Ariz. -- It hasn't taken long for golf's admittedly rather polite version of trash talking to commence at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, site of the 2012 Accenture Match Play event. 

Either way, because it relates to former world No.1 Tiger Woods, people have taken notice.

First it was the Wednesday opponent of Woods, speaking about the former champion, admitting, "I think [Tiger'] beatable." It didn't take long for Woods to respond to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano's comments about his golf game, giving the five-time European Tour winner a taste of his own medicine. 

Smirked Woods on Tuesday, relating to the remarks of the guy nicknamed Gonzo: "I feel exactly the same way he does. I think he's beatable."

Woods said there was a day when smack lit a fire under his posterior. That's not so much the case anymore. After all, given what has transpired the past two years, he's doubtlessdly got a thicker skin. He even self-edited a comment when he compared opinions to a certain anatomical area.

"As I've matured and gone beyond that, it's just an opinion, it's their own opinion," he said. "Everyone has a (pause) 'hole,' and it's just like that."

The self-censorship generated a pretty good laugh, since everybody got the point without the actual profanity.

"That's kind of how I look at it, it's their prerogative, it's their opinion," he said. "What matters is how I go out and play and how I'm progressing in my game.  At the end of the day when I'm retired, I think I will have mastered a pretty good record."

Woods is a three-time event champion, also a former runner-up, and has a 32-8 mark in the Accenture, far and away the most wins of anybody in tournament history. In 11 tries, only twice has Woods been upset in the first round.

Woods is seeded fifth in his bracket and the Spaniard is seeded 12th. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Steve Elling and Eye On Golf on Twitter. 
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Does golf need more match play events?



By Shane Bacon


Admit it, you love match play. Absolutely love it. It takes golf to another level. Instead of playing the usual format (you versus everyone else including the golf course) you are HEAD-to-HEAD against one guy, loser jumps on the phone with their travel agent.

It used to decide one of the majors, is the format to the best in both men’s and women’s golf (Ryder and Solheim Cups) and is what us regular folks play everyday when competing against friends on the links.

So, why in the world is it only once a year?

I know the reason why we only see it in one big event each season. Match play is feast or famine for networks, because if Tiger Woods plays Phil Mickelson in the finals, and all the matches before that, eyes will be glued to the television. If the finals are Ian Poulter and Paul Casey (like in 2010), it will be me, Elling and Nick Faldo watching on Sunday. 

But just once could we forget about the money and viewers and advertisers and all that and just make match play more relevant? It’s a beautiful format that changes the way professional golfers play the game. It brings in a whole new edge to the golf world, and as we’ve seen in the past, some are good at it, and some aren’t (Good? Geoff Ogilvy, Poulter, Tiger, and Casey. Bad? Vijay Singh, Vijay Singh and Vijay Singh). 

If your opponent hits his drive into a Jumping Cholla, you can hit iron off the tee and let him battle with the cacti. If your opponent drives the green, you are most definitely pulling out the big dog to try and answer his feat. Putts are just as much about strategy as they are about the line, and the whole goal is to win that shot, that hole, and honors. 

It gives golf an almost tennis feel. Rafeal Nadal talks in his book about just the point he’s in, and how neither the point before or the point after matters. That’s very similar in match play. Sure, when you play stroke play the shot you’re playing is the only thing you have control over, but it’s your whole round that matters. In this format, you can play the entire hole backwards in your mind, figure out exactly what you plan on doing, and execute it that way in hopes your opponent won’t have the same game plan.

Match play is beautiful, simple and exciting. It mixes golf with the shootout of hockey, the overtime of the NFL and buzzer beaters in basketball. It makes us think of March Madness (the best sports time of the entire year) and has a side comedy factor that one minute some millionaire golfer is out playing to win, and the next he’s figuring out how to get out of the rental agreement on his mansion in the foothills of Dove Mountain. 

I just wish we had it more than once a year. I wish the PGA Championship still went with this format because I think one major should be decided by match play, but I guess for now, enjoying the week and being excited about all the outcomes is the way to go. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter. 
Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:35 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:18 pm
 

Tiger Woods' opponent says 'he's beatable'

Tiger Woods sighs after missing a putt at Pebble Beach. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

There are a few rules in sports trash talking that everyone should know. Don’t predict a big victory unless your name is Joe. Don’t say anything you don’t have to say if you’re a superstar, just go do it.

And don’t push Tiger Woods’ buttons the week of a match-play event. 

Stephen Ames knows this. Back in 2006 at at this same event, a smile crept across his face when he mentioned, “Anything can happen when [Tiger’s] hitting the golf ball.” Woods went on to beat the man 9 & 8, the biggest defeat in the history of the tournament.

This week, Tiger is no No. 1 seed, but he is still playing a rather unknown in Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who broke our third rule of trash talking already.

When asked about his first-round match this week with Tiger, Fernandez-Castano said he thinks he could take him. 

"I think he’s beatable,” Fernandez-Castano said. "Of course, I need to play good. That’s all I can think about and that’s all I’m going to try on Wednesday, just try playing my best game and hope that he doesn’t play his best."

Now, it isn’t the smartest thing to get Tiger riled up at his best format. Sure, Woods isn’t the same golfer as he was when he treated Ames like a pro-am partner, but I think match play is something that could really work for Tiger. It allows him to have a loose hole or two, and he could still make a bunch of birdies and advance far in this tournament. 

That said, would anyone be totally surprised if this Spaniard, who has never finished in the top-30 of a major, beat him? Is that something that would floor the golf community? I say no. 

Tiger’s golf game is unpredictable, and if anything, those words Ames spoke six years ago ring true even more today. Anything could happen when Tiger is swinging the club, good or bad. 

At this event, it’s more about the actions of Woods than the words of his opponent.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on twitter. 

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 20, 2012 7:20 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 9:37 pm
 

Stiff or not, Crane sends 'em running

By Steve Elling 

Obviously, they haven't seen the funny workout video.

Otherwise, the would-be thieves might have known that in the grand scheme of mean, Ben Crane is about as daunting as Mickey Mouse.

The PGA Tour veteran and part-time Internet entertainer has an endorsement deal with ShowMeGolfers, a company with offices in Denmark. Late Friday night, thieves smashed a window at the buildings, where a mannequin dressed at Crane adorns a window.

Apparently spooked after believing the dummy was a real person -- it was holding a real golf club -- the thieves entered the building, but were scared off and bailed without swiping anything.

That's just the beginning. When police officers responded, they thought the Crane mannequin was the robber -- his acting in his wevbsite videos is rather wooden in spots -- so they drew their guns on it and asked the mannequin to drop the weapon.

Cracked Crane on his Twitter account: "It’s just nice that people are finally taking me seriously."

ShowMeGolfers is a new golf application which mixes GPS with a shot tracker and shows it all in real time on the web, so friends can follow you on the golf course.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 20, 2012 3:29 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:38 am
 

The winner of the week was really this guy

By Shane Bacon

Yes, Bill Haas won an incredible playoff this weekend, and yes, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley both deserve recognition for some remarkable putts they made to force the sudden death holes, but the real winner was this guy in this video.

No, not Phil, the guy in the white shirt that had a near panic attack when Mickelson's 30-foot birdie on the 72nd hole found the bottom of the cup. Seriously, just watch and be amazed. I have no idea who he is, but he is definitely in the running for golf's 2012 meme.  

 

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