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PGA Tour: Forget Tiger Woods, these young guns have all the talent

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—Thursday afternoon in Hawaii there is a young man by the name of Justin Thomas 23-years old, Kentucky-bred, who is absolutely obliterating the course at Waialae Country Club on the island of Oahu.

Most have never heard of Thomas. For the most part he’s what you would expect from a guy who grew up in Louisville, KY and then played collegiately at Alabama where the golf team won back-to-back national championships. That is to say a little goofy off the course.

When I had a chance to see him play this summer at the BMW Championship, I wondered who was this kid with the mustache. And of course a few weeks later I realized the mustache was all part of the new Fratpack that has dominated the PGA Tour the last couple of years but no one quite knows what to make of it.



Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth have gotten enough attention, some might argue Spieth’s was the natural result begging for a young American to fill the spotlight left behind by an injured Tiger Woods. Johnson on the other hand, is dominant and helps that he is married to the daughter of perhaps one of the most famous athletes in human history Wayne Gretzky. But here’s Thomas a kid from Kentucky and I’m not so sure people are giving him his due.

Thursday he shot 59. That means drives, approaches, chips, putts they all totaled 59 across 18 holes while his nearest contemporary shot 64 this Thursday at the Sony Open.

Well here it is Friday night and Thomas just set the PGA Tour record for lowest score in an opening 36 with a 123 combined over rounds one and two at this week’s Sony Open. Thomas is now at 17-under after shooting 64 for his second round. He holds a five-shot lead over Gary Woodard.

The fact of the matter is Thomas is on fire. Last week he won the SBS Tournament of Champions in Maui.

Thomas is second in the FedEx Cup standings, the PGA Tour’s season-long points ranking, only rivaling another peer Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama who is 24-years of age.

One can look across both the PGA Tour rankings and the World Golf Rankings and see a plethora of young names.

Players who make a 27-year old Rory McIlroy look like an elder statesmen.

Jordan Spieth is 23 years of age.

Johnson is a bit over and has paid his dues so to speak at 32 years and dominant, having won his first major at the U.S. Open last year.

Patrick Reed who is ranked eighth in the world is 23.

Golf has not changed, its players have gotten more skilled. There is never going to be someone just exactly like Tiger Woods but there are enough dominant players in the game, that is not an issue.

Are they TV ready like Tiger, that is another subject. But there is no talent shortage in golf. Much like the period when Michael Jordan left the NBA, everyone is waiting for the next big thing. Well, a lot of next big things came along. Their names are Spieth, Johnson, Fowler, Rose, Thomas McIlroy and Day-to name a few.



Tiger Woods made the right decision, for Tiger Woods

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—Anyone who has played golf knows how important the back is, and how easily the muscles that are a part of that area of the body are for the game of golf.

So when Tiger Woods said that his game is not where it is supposed to be, or where he needs it to be, and announced at the last minute he would not be returning to pro golf this week at the Safeway Open, we wonder if his back will truly ever be the same. Health is a relative term.

Someone once commented, a professor of kinesiology or the like, that we, the common person, could never play golf like Tiger Woods because he’s been developing the muscles in his back particularly for the game of golf since he was a kid. Now it appears those back muscles have betrayed him.  While his surgery is behind him, you have to wonder if his back will ever be powerful and robust enough to play the game the way he played it for the first 35 years of his life. Tiger’s game was never purely finesse, a lot of times it was pure power and tenacity.

But there’s a deeper psychological issue indicated by Tiger’s reluctance to play unless he feels he can be a top-tier player. One, he’s a perfectionist. Two, he’s uncomfortable in the spotlight unless he’s being praised. Third, he doesn’t love the game of golf in the same sense as your weekend player. For Tiger this has been a business, this has been life, this has been so much more that just going out and playing.

When he was “coaching” the Ryder Cap a week ago it appears that’s the happiest Tiger has been. He declined to hit balls at the range at the Ryder Cup, he was just there having fun. He won’t play at this week’s Safeway Open but he will be participating in his charity golf clinics and the like. through his foundation He really enjoys his work with his foundation, and all the other parts of golf.

The tenacious, unstoppable Tiger Woods we wanted and craved and enjoyed, made Tiger Woods miserable. Tiger Woods the golf ambassador is who Tiger is at this point in his career.  And that’s just fine.

Tiger Woods may surprise us this week at the Safeway Open

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Update: Tiger Woods has announced he will not play in this week’s Safeway Open or next Month in Turkey. Woods states his game is not where it needs to be to compete with the best players in the world.  Woods’ likely return will be at The Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December. 

Tiger Woods has endured personal problems and horrendous back problems, are they behind him finally?

At first thought, one might wonder, ‘Why in the world would Tiger Woods choose the “Safeway Open” as his comeback tournament?’

One might picture a tiny tournament that just made its way onto the PGA Tour or in some sense regulated to a grocery store sponsorship. And perhaps played on a course behind the grocery store.

That’s not the case. For one, it’s the first stop on the 2016-17 PGA Tour season. A chance for Tiger to start at the beginning and keep momentum going once fully healthy. For another, it’s in Napa Valley California one of Tiger’s favorite places, where he also hosts the Tiger Woods Invitational.

This week’s tournament is at a place called the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California.

Tiger is already in town. Saturday night he was at the Standford football game on the sidelines about a two-hour drive from this week’s tournament. Sunday he was at the Standford golf course playing a round.

The biggest mystery surrounding Tiger’s game is how much is mental, how much is diminishing skills due to age, and how much or if all of it is due to a very bad back.

Golf is impossible to play with a bad back. When his back was bad, it showed. Just 5 months ago he dropped three in the water on a 100-yard par 3. It wasn’t that the best golfer in the planet, at one time, couldn’t hit a ball 100 yards, his back wouldn’t let him.

But word on the street is that Tiger is playing well. Although some are doubtful how much work he has been able to put in on the golf course in his time back from Surgery in October 2015, the growing majority are beginning to trend towards the idea that Tiger will be able to play decent this week in Napa Valley. Of course, that doesn’t mean he will score low. There’ a difference in hitting the ball well, even playing well and the ability to score low in the course of a four round tournament.

One thing Tiger has done well is to avoid answering too many questions about his golf game.

According to Golf Digest, Jesper Parvevick says Tiger is hitting it well at the Medalist, Tiger’s home course in Florida where many Tour players play.

“I see Tiger at the Medalist. We talk and have played nine holes together,” Parnevik tells Golf Digest senior writer Guy Yocom. “By the way, he’s been hitting a lot of balls, and he’s hitting it great. He’s pounding it a mile and flushing everything. On the range, at least, his trajectory and ball flight are like the Tiger we knew 15 years ago. Comebacks are never a sure thing, but something tells me his might be spectacular.”

Brian Wacker of Golf Digest has a different story.

Woods, by many accounts, seems to have become as private as ever. In the 20-mile strip of the Sunshine State between Jupiter and West Palm Beach to the south, where you can’t go to the local Chipotle without bumping into a tour player, Big Cat sightings have become increasingly scarce since he has been on the shelf. These days, he leads an existence closer to Bruce Wayne than Batman.

A former Wall Streeter who played college golf and still carries a low-single-digit handicap says he saw Woods earlier this summer and adds, “It was so bad it almost looked like he can’t play golf anymore.”

All subject to opinion. That’s why many will tune into the opening round Thursday on the Golf Channel. Word on the street is that Phil Mickelson asked to be paired with Tiger for the opening two rounds and that is what will happen.

Woods has played the Safeway Open one time prior, in 2011, when he finished 30th at 7-under for the tournament.

In a statement released last month on his website, Woods also states he plans to play the Turkish Airlines Open in November and the Hero World Challenge in December in the Bahamas.

Dustin Johnson’s greatness is not yet understood

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Dustin Johnson absolutely obliterated the field this past weekend at the BMW Championship. But will he be golf’s biggest name?



—If the people who feel that Golf needs a big star had to pick just one guy, to fill the role of Tiger Woods. It’s a tired argument and theory yes, but if they did they would probably pick Jordan Spieth to rise to ultra celebrity and dominate the world golf scene.

The only thing is, this is golf, it’s not that easy.

They are looking for the guy that makes golf must watch tv, for your average fan.  The one who draws the crowds. The one who makes people just in utter awe of his sheer presence on their tube. The one who is must see TV. The that makes it so that NBC, CBS, FOX and others don’t have to work so darn hard to get the TV ratings.

That guy would probably be Jordan Spieth in terms of American golfers.

But Spieth is probably not that guy. He could be just not right now.

The best American golfer right now is clearly Dustin Johnson.

Spieth nor Johnson have the Tiger personality, the undying drive towards victory, a hunger for approval that can never be fed.

Johnson’s personality type is probably closer to Woods in terms of fighting to the internal battles but Spieth, as is often noted, is just a kid. He’s just a kid and still has the boyish look on his face that doesn’t quite make him the poster child for the most dominant man in sports. He still looks likes he’s having too much fun out there. Dustin Johnson is out there doing work.

Johnson absolutely obliterated the field this past weekend in Carmel, Indiana at the BMW Championship shooting 23-under for the tournament and setting a course record in round two.

Johnson is nine years old than Spieth. Johnson is 32 years old and has been a pro since 2004. Spieth is 23-years old and turned pro in 2012.

Johnson is tall and lanky and from South Carolina. Johnson’s parents divorced when he was in high school and its said to have affected him. Spieth, though like Johnson, were teenage golf prodigies as it were, appears to have just about an alround plain upper middle class upbrigning attending prep school while launching his golf career in force.

It was Johnson who took a leave of absence which the tabloids reported as for cocaine use, but Johnson later stated was an issue with binge drinking.  Even at that time, he had won eight times on the PGA Tour and amassed $25 million but this was a man either in pain or without self control.

Yet it’s Johnson who continues to dominate on the PGA TOUR when everyone is expecting that American golfer to be Jordan Spieth.

It’s Johnson who is able to laser focus for four rounds.

It was Johnson who ESPN’s Rick Reilly said, perhaps just out of sheer arrogance, that Johnson was basically dumb or unintelligent.

Johnson has now won three times in his last eight starts on the PGA TOUR.

But there’s more pressure on Johnson. There’s a feeling that if he wasn’t dominating he couldn’t get by on name recognition alone, as the word Spieth is in the American sports lexicon.

Johnson is super popular in the galleries and youngsters know who he is. The average American golf fan doesn’t know or think about his issues off the course; the way off the field issues dominate a sport like football. It was at the U.S. Open where he was able to repaint the story with everyone watching. After winning his first major championship he was there on the 18th with his wife Paulina Gretzky and son Tatum Gretzky Johnson in arms for the entire world to see.

For Johnson to be “the guy” he’s going to have to wow us at the Ryder Cup, and he probably will and then it’s about the 2017 Majors what can he do. Can he win at least one more next season, two and he becomes legendary.



PGA Tour Players in five words or more

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Dispatches from the Sporting World

Live on site for the 2016 BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel Indiana.
Carmel, Indiana—Deep, well outside the ropes, at the 2016 BMW Championship, quick steaming hot takes on the game’s biggest names.

Without further adieu:

William McGirt: Lots of hair, jovial, family man.


Bubba Watson: Southern Cool, Pink Driver


Matt Kuchar:  Calm, cool, mature, shakes hands with everyone, no arrogance.


Kevin Kisner: quiet, old school golf shoes, strategic, shades behind his cap, from South Carolina. Quick and efficient off the tee, doesn’t over think the driver.


Si Woo Kim:  calm, efficient


Hideki Matsyuma: from Japan…positions everything perfectly inline..Interlocking grip, long driver.


Phil Mickelson: more nervous than you might imagine, hard to be patient while waiting to golf, especially with the youngsters or slow play. Bones handles most of the thinking and logistics.


Dustin Johnson: tall, brother on his bag, not as comfortable in the spotlight as you would think.


Kevin Chappell nervous but one of the quickest swings in golf…



Justin Thomas: regular, nervous kid who is not sure he belongs at times… from Louisville KY, good kid.. amazing what he’s accomplished thus far on the PGA Tour.


Paul Casey:  like really good at golf, and loves the color blue


Brandt Snedeker: great hair, he should stop cutting it.. Nashville’s finest. People love to say his last name.


Ryan Moore: Vegas’ finest… gray in the beard


Rory McIlroy: King of the collarless shirts, overall a very nice guy, hard to really understand the media spotlight on him both inside and outside of golf, he handles it well.

Adam Scott: Way too good looking, fans who know him worship him… too many in the gallery just hoping he makes eye contact with them.

The Big Boys are out in force at the BMW Championship

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Rory McIlroy stands on the tee box Wednesday September 7th 2016 at Crooked Stick Golf Club site of this week's BMW Championship-Photo Credit Travis Duncan Digital Sports Daily
Rory McIlroy stands on the tee box Wednesday September 7th 2016 at Crooked Stick Golf Club site of this week’s BMW Championship-Photo Credit Travis Duncan Digital Sports Daily

Dispatches from the Sporting World

(Carmel, IN)—Dustin Johnson is on the 16th green putting, two balls going at once, along with his caddie, who serves as the rebounder.

Johnson is putting towards a marker placed into the green, but to the casual onlooker, it looks like he’s just putting up a slope totally opposite of the hole location for Wednesday’s Pro-Am at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana, site of the BMW Championship,

Johnson wants to test the break, slope, read and all that good stuff for the probable hole locations this week. This is pro golf and it’s kinda a big deal and those who engage in this profession are kinda serious about winning.

Johnson is driven, really driven. On an earlier hole he’s letting his caddie, his brother Austin Johnson, know something he didn’t like in no uncertain terms. It’s a pro-am but these guys are intense, focused competitors.

Dustin Johnson is an intense competitor focused on winning this week’s BMW Championship like never before.

Rory McIlroy is a couple fairways away, absolutely smashing his driver off the tee, with perhaps a sterling example of force created by sheer torque, is just as focused, just as driven and motivated, and oozing with golf talent.

Patrick Reed, intense and super ready to win the BMW Championship.

Jason Day keeps it light, but no one is more driven to succeed and dominate the world of professional golf.

Adam Scott is an intense golf competitor paying attention to every detail.

Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia might be a little more loose but none the less, no bigger lion exists within the minds and hearts of those two legendary golfers as they prepare for yet another week on the PGA Tour.

This place is teeming with golf talent. And they’re all capable of winning it here.

Of course so are the other 60 or so professional golfers here this week.

The popular pick is Rory McIlroy, coming off Sunday’s win at the Deutsche Bank Championship. McIlroy appears to be at ease but super focused, the kind of combination to bodes well for championship golf. People seemed convinced a change in putters has given McIlroy new life atop the golf world.

Mcllroy also won this same tournament here in 2012.

“Every time I stepped on to a tee box this morning, every single hole came back to me,” the 27-year old, who is ranked third in the world, said Wednesday.

Patrick Reed is No. 1 in the FedEx Cup Standings,  the PGA Tour’s season long points system. He’s also a popular pick.

He’s not the sort to concede the value of a win this week.

“Because I’m just playing each event like I normally do, just trying to take care of business and get the win,” Reed said Wednesday.

“Because if you do that, that just takes care of everything else.”


Jason Day and Jordan Spieth among the big guns ready for for the WGC-Bridgestone in Akron

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Most of the big names are here. Three of the top five golfers in the world, No. 1 Jason Day, No. 2. Jordan Spieth No. 3 Dustin Johnson, along with No. 6 and 7 Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler lead a loaded American field at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron at the Firestone Country Club (South) this week.

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The field consists of 62 players from the ranks of the Top 50 players in the World Golf Rankings along with qualifiers from other events. Seven of the top 10 and 41 of the top 50 in the WGC rankings will be here.

Missing of course is Tiger Woods, who by all appearances plans on resuming his pro golf career but probably not in 2016.

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, World No . 3  and No. 4 will be in Paris at the Open de France.

Other notables at Akron this week are Phil Mickelson, who had the chance of meeting a golf-attired J.R. Smith of the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavs on Wednesday. Along with Mickleson, vets Jim Furyk and Davis Love III will compete this week, as will Billy Hurley III coming off his victory at Congressional last week.

Dustin Johnson returns to competition after his  remarkable win at the U.S. Open and will be paired with two former U.S. Open champs, Spieth and Justin Rose for what is probably the most skilled grouping for Thursday and Friday.

Johnson is the last American to win a WGC-event, taking first place at the 2015 WGC-Cadilac Championship. However, the last five WGC events have been won by international players.

Last years Bridgestone winner, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who contended for a bit at the U.S. Open, is in the final pairing of the first and second rounds along with Watson and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.

With an array of contenders naturally all eyes will be on two men with the names Spieth and Day.

Although not having won here in the past, Jordan Spieth has played well at the WGC-Bridgestone finishing tied for tenth in 2015.

“Any time you’re in a World Golf Championship, it’s a big event,” Spieth said this week prior to this week’s event.

“Smaller field this year, and some of the guys are over in France, but still, it’s such a challenging golf course, one that looks like it’s going to firm up, which I liked last year. I thought it was pretty cool when the balls would bounce in the fairway, the fairways got even smaller.”

Bounce seems to be the keyword this week in terms of course conditions at Firestone South.

“If it dries out, it’s going to be difficult because the ball is going to be bouncing,” Jason Day said at a media session Tuesday.


“They’re not going to be stopping pretty much dead-on where it’s landing because of the dryness of the ground. And if they start going to the rough, then you’re going to catch a little bit more fliers because it’s starting to dry out the grass and the rough and the greens are going to be firmer, it’s going to be harder. The greens are pretty narrow. They’re pretty small. That said, it’s going to be hard to get greens, then you’ve got to try to get up-and-down. And then once they get to tournament speed, which is 13, maybe a little bit over 13, with the pitch on these greens it’s going to be tough to get up-and-down.”

Day will be looking for his fourth victory of 2016 and Spieth his third.

Both players are acumen with the putter. Jason Day owns the best putting average on the Tour (1.145) and Spieth leads the Tour in Birdie average (4.63).

For both, a win this week could be a stepping stone to a bigger 2016 than planned. The expectations for Spieth are what you would rightfully expect for the top ranked American player in the world. But two wins at minor tournaments doesn’t feed the golf mania machine, a World Golf Championship would do that.

“It feels like a good year,” Spieth said. “It doesn’t feel like a great year yet.”

Watch: Jordan Spieth sinks 34-foot birdie putt on 18 to win in Texas

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Jordan Spieth scored five-under Sunday at Colonial to win the Dean & Deluca Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s Spieth’s first win in his native state of Texas and eight overall on the PGA Tour. Spieth scored an impressive 17-under for the total four rounds.



Jordan Spieth will recover quicker than you think

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—After giving up the lead on the back nine on a sunny afternoon at Augusta, some people might have confused Jordan Spieth with legends of times past, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and others who have won, then lost in dramatic fashion.

So anxious are we to call something a choke job that isn’t.

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The list of players who have led headed into the back nine of a major golf tournament goes on further than the longest par 5 at Augusta. And no doubt there is pressure that can and will affect even the coolest pro golfer’s play. It’s easier to play from behind.

Spieth got a bad bounce on the 12th hole when his tee shot landed in the drink. A bad bounce is not a choke. A choke is a series of repeatable easy, routine shots or swings that go wrong.

Fortunately for us, Spieth is not one of those guys who will dwell on this forever.

And I don’t think he has the pressure of those gentlemen listed in the same breath. Not yet. He’s still new enough. We’re waiting to see what he’ll accomplish.

If for instance we compare Spieth to Woods, the first similarity is they are both highly competitive. Thus, both golfers are prone to the downer-let downs of losing. However, Woods is a sheer competitor and his adrenaline fuels his skill, whereas Spieth is a craftsman and artist (especially around the greens) and thus his skills and craft fuel his competitive spirit. That’s not to say Tiger is not as skilled or more skilled than anyone to play the game. He’s won a lot more than Spieth. But Spieth’s approach would lend its self to a quicker and more stable equilibrium. And I still think Tiger’s the greatest of his generation and right up there with Nicklaus.

And as Spieth placed the Green Jacket on Danny he did so with the kind of sportsmanship and losing in grace that guys like Jack Nicklaus would admire.

Here’s what Jack Nicklaus wrote Sunday night, and posted on his official Twitter account:

“I think the whole golfing world feels for Jordan Spieth. He had a chance to do something truly special and something very few have done before—and be the youngest to accomplish that—and he just didn’t pull through. My heart goes out to him for what happened, but I know that Jordan is a young man who will certainly learn from this experience and there will be some good that comes out of this for him. He’s a wonderful talent and a wonderful young man.”

You could of course see the heartbreak, but don’t worry the kid is young oh so young and the good news for golf fans and Spieth himself there’s still a lot of golf yet to be played. 


Greg Norman out at Fox Sports

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–Lead Golf analyst Greg Norman was surprisingly let go by Fox Sports on Friday after just one year at the network.

The news broke on Sunday evening and did not directly come from Fox Sports, but through various sources, including Links Magazine on Twitter.

On Monday Fox Sports made the announcement official via press release.

Norman was the first and only lead analyst the network has had since it began doing golf last year, including the U.S. Open. He was teamed with Joe Buck.

Why was he let go?

To your regular weekend golfer and fan he seemed to do a pretty good job and viewers tended recognize him. That demographic, the 30s or higher does not pay the bills.

On social media some golf hardcores and the younger generation didn’t think he was fit for the role both in his knowledge of current players and his ability to give commentary for what was happening on the course.

In a press release Fox Sports said:

Both parties have agreed to an amicable separation and will continue to work together to broadcast the Franklin Templeton Shootout, which remains an important part of FOX Sports’ golf platform.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to make this change to our USGA Championships coverage,” said John Entz. “We want to thank Greg for his contributions last year, and wish him success in all his current and future endeavors.”




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