Monthly Archives May 2021

Game of Life: For Jay Lamothe, golf begins after 50

first_img“You wouldn’t think that putting this little ball on this tee and standing still – how hard could it be? I couldn’t hit the firggin’ thing,” he says. And so figured Lamothe, “If I could teach myself how to play hockey, I could teach myself how to play golf.” Lamothe looked in his rearview mirror, and when he saw his company logo on the side of his second trailer, at a right angle with the first trailer, he knew he had lost control. “Chemo,” he says. “It’s brutal. They figure out enough chemicals to kill you and then they back it off just a little bit. You take it for three, four or five days a month and then you take the rest of the month to recover. The following week after you take it you feel absolutely horrific. Then the following week you feel a little bit better. And then the week after that you start to feel almost normal. And then you’re at it again.” Lamothe doesn’t sleep well. He wakes up around 5:30 every morning and goes about his golf routine. He likes to be the first person on site. He enjoys the peace. Driving a double trailer for Watkins Freight Line, Lamothe was going about 40 miles per hour with “three or four inches of snow on the road.” He was leading the way, acting as a plow for those behind him, when a car raced onto the interstate at around 65 mph. Linda financially supports the household, which also includes her mother, who does most of the cooking. Jay helps out where he can, like with yard work and grocery shopping, and he also volunteers at a local hospice. “He was so drunk, he didn’t realize there was a reason the traffic was going so slow,” says Lamothe, who was wearing his seat belt. “I was in the middle lane and he tried to sweep all the way to the far left lane. He hit my right, front steer tire which kind of knocked the truck off its axis.” No one was killed that day. The kid who caused the accident was arrested for a variety of offenses, including DUI. The tail was wagging the dog – a 70-foot beast of an animal, weighing over 80,000 pounds. “It’s funny,” Lamothe says, without a laugh. “I never thought I’d have to thank a drunk driver for saving my life.” While that particular date often escapes him, the details never do. After an overnight stay in a Virginia hospital, Lamothe and his co-driver were cleared by doctors and took Amtrak back home to Massachusetts. “He was 51, had a seizure and he has a GBM (Glioblastoma multiforme). If you get a GBM you are done. The doctor tells you to get your affairs in order,” Lamothe says, struggling to restrain his emotion. Lamothe never played golf as a kid in Milford, Mass. He played hockey instead. As he said, “If you wanted to play (golf), you had to have money. If you didn’t, you did what I did, which was go down to the pond.” For nearly 50 years Jay Lamothe only wondered what it was like to play golf. Now he can’t imagine his life without it. If he’s not playing a round, he’s practicing. If he’s not hitting a bucket of balls, he’s on the putting green. And if it’s raining … well, then he replays shots in his mind. A friend of Lamothe’s loaned him a set of golf clubs. He started to go out to the driving range near his house. There he fell in love – and experienced the frustration that always seems to come along with such attachment. He remembers getting hit in head and gouged under the eye by cans of tuna fish he had just purchased at Wal-Mart, and the State Trooper kicking in his front winshield to pull he and his co-driver out of the vehicle. After a few cycles, Lamothe was in a self-described “funk,” constantly dreading his next round. “I’d get so emotional just thinking about it,” he says. “I knew I had to pick up something to occupy my mind.” “She is a wonderful person, my wife,” Jay says. “She really has two jobs – one is her regular job and the other is taking care of me. I have thanked her on numerous occasions but she just says, ‘You would have done the same for me.’ I always say, ‘Yeah, but I don’t think could have done as good a job.’” “I saw a Perigon Falcon the other day on the course. And I just stared at it. It was beautiful. Things like that I really enjoy. Once I got sick I developed a new appreciation for a whole lot of things,” he says. “Why not me? Why do I have what I have and other people don’t?” To which the man said, “I was going to play 18, but I’m playing so badly I can’t do it.” “Who knows how things would have played out had it not been for the accident?” Lamothe says. He shares his experience and, more importantly, lends his ear. He spent one day talking with – and listening to – a man his age who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He went to the driving range every day, smacking balls like a slap shot until they finally started going somewhat straight. Golf started as mental therapy for Lamothe and has developed into an addiction. He reads everything about the game he can get his hands on, makes his own clubs and spends a little too much time shopping around for equipment. Lamothe was alive. He was living in Florida. And he was miserable. Lamothe remembers clearly the snow-packed highway, the car entering from the on-ramp, the moment of collision, his truck turning over, his raw arm scraping the highway through the broken glass of his driver’s side window. “When someone tells you that you’re going to die, you’re whole perspective changes.” “Oh, you’re only playing nine?” replied Lamothe. He’s fortunate to be alive. One of the reasons he loves golf so much is that it constantly reminds him of that. Lamothe can’t remember the day of his accident either. Linda knows, though. She’s Jay wife, and reminds him that it happened Feb. 6, 2003 in Fredricksburg, Va., on Interstate 95 South. Eventually, he started actually playing the course. He does that about once a week nowadays, hits the range another three days, and practices his putting most every other day. Jay Lamothe can’t remember if he made a five or a six on the previous hole. He doesn’t keep a scorecard, even with short-term memory loss. As it was, Dr. Rees Cosgrove of Massachusetts General was able to successfully remove the tumor. Lamothe began chemotherapy a month later. Four months thereafter, he and Linda moved to Florida. “Every hole is kind of my game,” he says. “I just try and worry about making a par and having a good time.” “I go, ‘What does that have to do with anything? It’s a beautiful day, you’re playing golf, you’re from Michigan – it’s freezing up there and 75 (degrees) here.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m really just not enjoying myself,’” tells Lamothe. “I didn’t say it to him, because I didn’t want to make him feel worse, but I thought: How in the world can you not be enjoying yourself?” “I took a couple of lessons and this guy was, ‘Move your shoulder this way, move that this way, move your arm like this.’ After three lessons I thought golf was 10 times harder. Lessons weren’t the way to go for me.’ In the wake of the crash, Lamothe developed headaches, neck-aches and persistent dizziness. He went in for a routine CT scan and x-rays showed a mass in his brain. After a biopsy, doctors told him it was cancerous. “My wife said to me, ‘We need to have a little talk about you and eBay. If you order another club – you see those clubs you’ve been making in the garage? You’re going to be sleeping with them.’” Lamothe has heeded her warning. It has always been their dream to head south. The accident delayed their transfer but had it not been for the crash Lamothe could have been living in blissful ignorance until the tumor took his life. A while back, Lamothe played with a guy from Michigan. The two finished the front nine and the visitor stuck out his hand and said, “Hey, I really enjoyed it.” Lamothe is a person of good fortune. He’s fortunate to have survived his highway accident, fortunate to have discovered his brain tumor in time and fortunate to have survived cancer. “You know,’ he says, ‘a lot of times I walk down the fairways – because I play a lot by myself – and I say, ‘Lord, thank you for letting me be out here. Just … thank you.’”last_img read more

Canizares leads in Morocco by one

first_imgAGADIR, Morocco – Alejandro Canizares of Spain retained a one-stroke lead over Seve Benson of England by shooting a 4-under 68 in the second round of the Trophee Hassan II on Friday. Overnight leader Canizares made seven birdies and three bogeys for a total of 14-under 130. ”I felt really confident so I was not thinking too much, I needed to let the golf happen,” Canizares said. ”In some cases my putter was a little cold today but I kept it going on the back nine.” Canizares won the Russian Open in 2006 and shared fifth place at the Qatar Masters in January. Benson birdied the fifth hole to climb atop the leaderboard but surrendered the lead by dropping a shot on the eighth. He also carded a 68. Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain (67) climbed to third place, five strokes off the pace. David Horsey of England got back in contention by firing a bogey-free 64, the lowest score of the day. The 2011 winner was tied for fourth with Magnus Carlsson of Sweden (71) and Connor Arendell of the United States (71) at 136. Arendell went through qualifying school in November to earn his card for this season. The American made the cut for the first time in five attempts. Paul McGinley, Chris Wood, Johan Carlsson, Romain Wattel, Pablo Larrazabal and Morten Orum Madsen missed the cut set at 145.last_img read more

Two tied for lead in Austria; Jimenez three back

first_imgATZENBRUGG, Austria – England’s Adam Gee and Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg shot 5-under 67 to share a one-stroke lead on a windy and cloudy opening day of the Lyoness Open on Thursday. Starting on the back nine, Gee eagled the par-4 14th hole but bogeyed the 18th before carding three birdies on the front nine. Lundberg made six birdies and lost a stroke on the par-3 second. The Swede, who came through the European Tour Qualifying School for a third straight year, is looking for his first title since winning the Russian Open for a second time in 2008. Lundberg said he’s improved since working with new coach Neil Jordan: ”I am more solid from the tee onto the green. You have to be careful out there, and don’t take unnecessary chances.” The pair led a group of four which finished at 4 under, including Wales’ Rhys Davies, England’s Richard Finch and Mattew Baldwin, and American Berry Henson. Defending champion Joost Luiten from the Netherlands made three birdies in his opening four holes. Later, however, he struggled to hit the fairways and dropped to 1 over before finishing his round level par with his fourth birdie on the 17th. Miguel Angel Jimenez overcame three bogeys in the first eight holes to card a 2-under 70. The 50-year-old Spaniard, who resides in Vienna since marrying an Austrian in May, is seeking his third win of the season. Starting on the back nine, he bogeyed the par-4 11th and 17th and the par-3 14th but recovered with four birdies. ”It’s OK, it’s under par,” Jimenez said. ”It’s not easy because of the wind.” Former champions Jeev Milkha Singh of India, Kenneth Ferrie of England, and Bernd Wiesberger of Austria each shot a 71.last_img read more

New Challenge

first_imgWhen Dustin Johnson returns to the PGA Tour in two weeks at the Farmers Insurance Open it will have been six months since last he plied his trade at the highest level, but for the 30-year-old it may as well have been a lifetime ago. When the eight-time Tour winner finished up his season at the Canadian Open he was, by his own admission, not happy. He was tired of underachieving – again, by his own admission – and needed to reset. Since then he’s surrounded himself with an assortment of professionals and even a “life coach,” to learn how to deal with stress and the realities of a vastly changing world, none bigger than the birth of Johnson and fiancé Paulina Gretzky’s first child, son Tatum, on Monday. “He’s awesome. Couldn’t be better. It’s been really, really cool,” Johnson told GolfChannel.com Friday in a one-one-one phone interview. But then fatherhood doesn’t seem to fully describe the transformation Johnson said he has made in the last six months. When he bolted the Tour last July “to seek professional help for personal challenges,” few could have predicted how hectic the next few months would be. Two days after announcing his leave of absence, Golf.com, citing an unnamed source, reported that Johnson had actually been suspended by the Tour for failing his third drug test. Both the Tour and Johnson denied that report. “No. I’ve already answered all these questions,” Johnson said on Friday when asked about a prior Golf.com report. He did concede, however, that there were plenty of challenges he needed to face before becoming a father or returning to professional golf. Although he said he didn’t go to a rehabilitation clinic, he did surround himself with people who could teach him how to deal with life’s unpredictability. “I had to take a look at my goals,” he said. “Finding out Paulina was pregnant I knew it was time to do some soul searching and really work on me. I want to be a great father and a great husband.” One of those people who stepped in to help was Paulina’s father, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Johnson sold his South Florida home, although he has purchased a new home just down the street that he plans to move into once it’s renovated, and spent much of the last six months living in a rented house near Gretzky at Sherwood Country Club outside Los Angeles. “He’s been great,” Johnson said. “Honestly, you can’t ask for a better role model as far as sports are concerned. The things he’s done in his career no one will ever do. Just having someone like that to talk to. We played golf every day. We see them every day, we have breakfast up there and dinner with them.” Gretzky taught Johnson how to engage fans and deal with the pressures that come with a high-profile marriage. But mostly Gretzky just listened to a man who has never seemed entirely comfortable in the spotlight and often resorted to self-destructive outlets to deal with his pressures. “One big thing that I learned was stress. The way I describe it is the way I am on the golf course I act like I don’t get too excited or too down on myself. I kind of transferred that over to life,” Johnson said. “I always kept things inside. I never dealt with them. When I was drinking, I’d drink too much. Dealing with all that helped a bunch.” Johnson recently worked with his swing coach, Butch Harmon, who said he’s impressed with the new and improved player, both physically and mentally. “He seems to have his head on straight and is in great shape,” Harmon said. A large part of Johnson’s transformation was prompted by the impending birth of his son, but there was also an underlying desire to turn what he says has been a good career into a great one. Reaching his full potential crystalized in September while he watched the U.S. team – a team he qualified for but didn’t play on following his announced hiatus – at the Ryder Cup. “The only thing I regret is not playing in the Ryder Cup,” he said. “Everything I have done has been to help me and help my family. Right now I couldn’t be in a better place, and I’m focused on playing as well as I can.” It will be a 146-mile drive from Los Angeles to Torrey Pines for Johnson’s first start of the year, but that doesn’t come close to the metaphorical distance he seems to have traveled in his return to the Tour.last_img read more

Saunders one back at Barbasol Championship

first_imgOPELIKA, Ala. – Australia’s Mark Hensby birdied three of the final four holes Friday for a 7-under 64 and a share of the second-round lead in the inaugural Barbasol Championship. Hensby matched South Korea’s Whee Kim at 9-under 133 on Grand National’s Lake Course in the PGA Tour event for players who failed to qualify for the British Open. ”I played well. I gave myself a lot of chances,” Hensby said. ”I hit a couple of wayward ones, but I haven’t played in a tournament in quite some time. You get a little nervy in the middle, but then kind of settled down and hit some good shots.” The 43-year-old Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic for his lone PGA Tour title. He has fought rotator cuff problems in his right shoulder and has limited tour status. ”I had some injuries and the last two years I’ve been healthy, but I missed second stage of Q-school last year, so that gives you nothing,” Hensby said. ”There’s just nowhere to play. I’ve played a couple mini-tours here and there, but this is my first tournament in quite some time. It’s good to be back.” Kim shot a 66. He’s playing his 19th event in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. ”I just tried to keep it in the fairway,” Kim said. ”If I miss the fairway for tee shots, going to be really tough to get to the green. So, I just tried to focus on the fairway.” Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 98, shot a 66 to join first-round leader Sam Saunders and Charlie Beljan at 8 under. Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, followed his opening 64 with a 70. ”I really didn’t play a whole lot different today than I did yesterday,” Saunders said. ”The angles were a little off today. Hit it over a couple greens that I thought were good shots, and then I hit a couple of good shots that ended up in some funky places. That’s golf.” Beljan had a 64. ”I was 3 over yesterday after my first nine and kind of just kept on doing the same thing and a couple putts went in and we built some momentum and here we are at 8 under,” Beljan said. ”It’s not an easy course. You’ve got to drive it well because you have to be able to control your shots into the greens with the quadrants the way they are.” David Toms topped the group at 7 under after a 66.last_img read more

Lawrie, Grace both searching for history in Qatar

first_imgDOHA, Qatar – Paul Lawrie earned a two-shot lead at a windy Doha Golf Club on Friday to close in on an unprecedented third Qatar Masters title. The overnight leader started the third round with 13 straight pars before making his first birdie on the 14th hole, then picked up another shot on the par-5 18th to finish at 2-under-par 70. He was on top of the leaderboard at 13 under, two ahead of Branden Grace, who had his chance to make history: The first player to successfully defend the title. ”Conditions were tough, but to go around there and not have a bogey …,” Lawrie said. ”It is a little bit frustrating for me. I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in.” The 47-year-old Lawrie hasn’t won on the European Tour since 2012, the same year he won in Doha for the second time. At 11 under overall with South Africa’s Branden Grace (68) was Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen (69). Grace finished his bogey-free round with three successive birdies. ”Patience was the name of the game. It was a brutal day out there,” Grace said. ”The wind was blowing and the greens were tricky. I pretty much got the most out of my round today. So 4 under was a great score.” Olesen, winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last year, showed good touch in a 69 that featured one bogey on the fifth hole. ”To be honest, I played great down the last nine holes. Gave myself so many chances,” Olesen said. Sergio Garcia made a 50-foot putt for an eagle on the 18th hole to console himself after a poor round of 2-over 74. He was seven shots off the pace.last_img read more

Video takes Tiger’s tale to new depths

first_imgNearly three days after he was awakened on the side of the road by a Jupiter (Fla.) police officer, the second shoe dropped for Tiger Woods. Once the mugshot of a bleary-eyed Woods made the rounds on social media Monday morning, this was the next logical step: that there would be dashcam video of his arrest to corroborate and support the details released in the initial police report.  Video that would take statements and testimony and bring them to life, lending color and sound and visceral detail to the kind of snapshot in time that no one would ever look to volunteer to the world. It was difficult to watch, and it dropped an already sad tale to entirely new depths. Here was Woods, once a proud champion who put professional golf on his back for nearly two decades, barely able to stand without wobbling. Or follow various instructions, or display an understanding of where he physically was, or even utter a coherent sentence. This was a man who, while registering 0.000 on a Breathalyzer test, was clearly impaired. He should not have been behind the wheel of his 2015 Mercedes, and his statement hours later admitted as much. This was a mistake. But the fame and notoriety that took Woods to such unprecedented heights on the course also brings with it intensified scrutiny when the chips are down. And after this latest incident, Woods is down to the felt as he was during his sex scandal in 2009. But when Woods collided with that infamous fire hydrant at Isleworth, there was no video. There was no tape released of police officers asking him to recite the alphabet, or putting him in handcuffs while barefoot and barely able to keep his eyes open. That first incident played out in a vacuum, as Woods memorably offered no statement or explanation for weeks as the court of public opinion was tasked with filling the many gaps. The video released Wednesday by the Jupiter Police Department – footage that was eligible for a public records request, as are other similar incidents involving celebrities and non-celebrities alike – was jarring. But it will inevitably be relished by Woods’ detractors, those who have delighted in his downfall and who didn’t receive their pound of flesh in motion picture form eight years ago. Let’s be clear: this is not a moment worth relishing. This is a troubling glimpse, a terrifying snapshot of a man who had no business being behind the wheel of a car. But it’s also a man who should not be pilloried for making a mistake, even one that could have caused great harm to himself or others. Too often with athletes it is difficult to separate the player from the person. Woods was not a golfer while he failed to execute a number of field sobriety tests. This was not a 14-time major champ, or a player plotting a comeback to the PGA Tour. It wasn’t even the guy who just days before penned an optimistic injury update. This was Tiger Woods the man, an individual just as flawed as each person reading this, going through another regrettable and forgettable incident for all the world to see. It’s a man that Woods himself took great strides to shield from public view over the years, even before that infamous day in November 2009. The list of people who can speak confidently to Woods’ inner workings is decidedly short. But in light of this latest incident and capped by the release of his arrest video, those painstaking efforts have been largely nullified. Now when people search Woods’ name in the years to come, his major accolades and title-clinching putts will be interwoven with a clip of him unsuccessfully tying his shoe. The entire situation can be boiled down to a single word: sad. It’s sad that Woods was in that car, regardless of reason or destination. It’s sad that he decided to sit behind the wheel when he was decidedly impaired. It’s also sad that some will now hover over this latest video like vultures, picking away at it ad nauseam because, as Woods can personally attest, the internet never forgets. We did not have to see the extended cut of Woods’ arrest, to sit shotgun for every voyeuristic detail, to know this was a low point. It was an egregious error, one for which he took responsibility and asked forgiveness. But now that the video is out there, it’s a moment that we won’t soon forget – even if Woods eventually takes steps down a road of redemption. And that’s just sad.last_img read more

Norlander grabs lead in Web.com finals opener

first_imgCOLUMBUS, Ohio – Sweden’s Henrik Norlander birdied the final hole for a 7-under 64 and a one-stroke lead Thursday in the Web.com Tour Finals-opening Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Robert Streb had a 65 on Ohio State University’s Scarlett Course, and five-time PGA Tour winner Ben Crane was another stroke back with Kramer Hickok and Denny McCarthy. The four-event series features the top 75 players – Norlander was 32nd – from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 – Crane was 148th, McCarthy 149th, and Streb 178th – in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup had they been eligible. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list – Hickok was 23rd – have earned PGA Tour cards. They are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for 25 cards based on series earnings. ”I didn’t get in the top 25, which was the goal obviously for the season,” Norlander said. ”So, I tried to regroup and had three goals the next four events – try to take it a little slower, have fun and just trust everything I’m doing. I only have an upside to play these four events. I have full status on the Web.com Tour next year, which obviously is not my ultimate goal, but there’s only upside playing these four events. I’m just trying to have fun.” Full-field scores from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton opened with a 68. He was 59th on the Web.com money list, jumping from 107th last week with a third-place finish in Portland. Six-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan shot 69. He was 159th in the FedEx Cup standings. Sungjae Im, the Portland winner and Web.com regular-season money champion, had a 72. Four-time PGA Tour winner Chad Campbell shot 74. He was 129th in the FedEx Cup. Norlander played the back nine in 5-under 30, rebounding from a bogey on the par-3 17th with the birdie on the par-4 18th. ”I hit a lot of fairways, obviously,” Norlander said, ”and then I hit a lot of iron shots. I had 200 yards into No. 11, hit it to a foot. Two-putted No. 12, and then hit it to seven feet maybe on No. 14, which is a hard hole. I was able to make that. I just tried to stay in the present. I felt like I did a really good job of that today.”last_img read more

Stricker, Jobe share lead in Sioux Falls

first_imgSIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Steve Stricker and Brandt Jobe topped the Sanford International leaderboard again Saturday after another cool and breezy day in the inaugural PGA Tour Champions event. After matching Jerry Smith and David McKenzie with first-round 7-under 63s, Striker and Jobe each shot 67 to get to 10-under 130 at Minnehaha Country Club. ”It was a challenge out there today,” Stricker said. ”It was gusty, the wind came out of the south, where we played yesterday it was out of the north, so it was a totally different golf course.” Jobe made an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th, and Stricker missed a 6-footer to leave them tied. Full-field scores from the Sanford International ”It’s pretty straightforward off the tee and the greens are what make it difficult at times and you’ve just got to be in the right spot to have good birdie putts at it,” Stricker said. ”If not, then you’ve got to play pretty defensive at times. … It’s a simple game plan, but try to stay out of trouble and keep trying to put pressure on everybody.” Stricker won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. Next week in France, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s assistants. Jobe birdied four of the last five holes. He won last year in Iowa for his lone senior title ”I think we kind of got used to what the wind was,” Jobe said. ”Of course, there’s some scoring holes on the back. The front played very difficult. It was just kind of try not to screw up for a while there.” Smith was a stroke back after a 68. Scott McCarron also had a 68 to get to 8 under. Woody Austin was 7 under after a 64. McKenzie had a 77 to drop into a tie for 43rd at even par.last_img read more

Uneasy twosome: Golf and politics at Saudi Arabia tournament

first_imgGolf usually isn’t all that complicated for Dustin Johnson. He decides where he’s going to play and tries to post the lowest score. The newest addition to his schedule involved a little more than that. Johnson is among several of golf’s biggest stars who are scheduled to play the Saudi International at the end of the month. Johnson and Masters champion Patrick Reed were among the first to sign up last April for the European Tour event, long before Saudi Arabia came under even greater scrutiny over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Johnson said he talked to his corporate sponsors to make sure they didn’t have a problem with him playing. He will be joining a field that features Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – that makes four of the top five players in the world ranking – at Royal Green Golf and Country Club on Jan. 31. ”Obviously, that was a concern with our team,” Johnson said. ”I’m going over there to play a sport I’m paid to play. It’s my job to play golf. Unfortunately, it’s in a part of the world where most people don’t agree with what happened, and I definitely don’t support anything like that. I’m going to play golf, not support them. ”I’m not a politician. I play golf.” He also said it might have been a tougher decision if not for so many others going. Along with four of the top five in the world, the Saudi International includes the last two Masters champions – Reed and Sergio Garcia – and former Open champion Henrik Stenson. ”I think any time we’re trying to grow the game and expose the game in a positive way, that’s what we’re trying to do,” said DeChambeau, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour last year. ”I don’t think it’s a bad decision as long as they want us there. That’s what I’ve heard – they want us there. And they want to have a little bit more exposure in the game of golf. And that’s what I’m trying to do.” It’s not all goodwill, of course. The purse is $3.5 million, though the primary income for these players is appearance money, likely to be in the $1 million range for the biggest names. That’s common for some European Tour events, especially early in the year in the Middle East, which hosted its first golf tournament in Dubai in 1989 and now has six on the Arabian Peninsula. Johnson and Koepka start their journey this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, an event that in years past has featured top players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has come under intense scrutiny since the killing in October of Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns for The Washington Post. He had been living in self-imposed exile before he was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to Turkish media and officials. European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley deflected concerns when he introduced the Saudi International to the schedule in November. ”As like many global companies, we monitor the situation in the areas countries, areas we play and the viability of the golf tournament, and I can simply say that the Saudi International is on our schedule in 2019,” Pelley said. ”And I really don’t have anything more to add than that.” Among those not going is Paul Casey, who last April was listed as ”confirmed” for the tournament with Johnson and Reed. He says that was never the case, only that he had entertained the idea of going. ”But there were a lot of questions,” Casey said. ”Do I want to go to Saudi? That was the main question.” There also was the matter of Casey being an ambassador for UNICEF, with the logo on his golf bag. ”There are a lot of places in the world that I have played and continue to go, which you could question … some human rights violations that governments have committed,” he said. ”I thought I’d sit this out one.” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has granted releases for his members to play the tournament, held the same week as the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He said the U.S. tour’s only involvement was making sure the trip was safe for its players. ”Those are all terrible things that have happened, and that’s what gives us concern about our players’ safety,” Monahan said about recent develops in Saudi Arabia. ”Our players are independent contractors. Ultimately, they’re going to make their own choice. Our job is to make them as informed as they can be.” Koepka, who won two majors last year and was the PGA Tour Player of the Year, also said he received no pushback from his sponsors. Like Johnson, it was another offer to play golf in a new spot. The PGA Tour runs a developmental tour and sponsors a World Golf Championship event in China. The European Tour has had Turkey on the schedule since 2013. ”People are always going to have different views on politics wherever you go,” Koepka said. ”All these places, there’s a bit of conflict if you want to get into it. I’m not going to get into it. It’s going to be an unbelievable field of golf there. Hopefully, you can spread some goodwill through golf when you’re there.”last_img read more

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