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Top 5 “falls” into golf’s sinkhole

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By now, you have probably heard of Mark Mihal, the golfer who recently fell 18 feet into a sinkhole while playing his favorite muni course in Waterloo, Ill. Mihal was walking the course with friends and playing No. 14 when the ground literally gave way under his feet.

“I felt the ground start to collapse and it happened so fast that I couldn’t do anything,” Mihal wrote on his website. “I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too. It seemed like I was falling for a long time. The real scary part was I didn’t know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on.”

Mihal was incredibly lucky; he was one of the few people to fall into the Sinkhole of Golf and come out of it intact. But over the years there have been other “SOG” victims who haven’t been so lucky.

Enjoy my list of the top 5 golfers who have fallen into the Sinkhole of Golf.

No. 5 — Chip Beck

Chip Beck

A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, the straight-hitting Beck was hailed for his stellar play and the “War by the Shore I” Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, S.C., in 1991. But he was best known for being one of just a handful of players to shoot a 59 in competition, with Beck’s coming in the third round of the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational. Perhaps a sign of the horror to come was the fact that that Beck finished third in that tournament. It was in 1997 that Beck fell into the Sinkhole of Golf, missing 46 straight cuts. Rumor has it that Beck escaped and is now leading a happy life on the Champions Tour, where you don’t have nearly so far to fall.

No. 4 — Ian Baker-Finch

Ian Baker-Finch

The likeable Aussie was a solid player on four continents, with his first PGA Tour win coming at the Southwest Bell Colonial in 1989. By 1991, he appeared ready to establish himself as one of the best in the game, garnering the British Open that year along with three other runner-up finishes. But by 1993, Baker-Finch’s tinkering with his swing led him to the edge of the Sinkhole. In 1995, he fell in headfirst.

In first round of the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, he hooked his first tee-shot of the championship out-of-bounds on the left side of the fairway shared with No. 18. To make it even worse, Baker-Finch was paired with none other than Arnold Palmer, who was competing in his final Open. Baker-Finch didn’t know it at the time but it was petty close to being his swan song as well. In 1995 and 1996 he missed the cut, withdrew after one round, or was disqualified in all 29 Tour events that he entered. The more cruel in the press began to refer to him as, “Ian Baker-Flinch.

Baker-Finch hit the bottom of the Sinkhole in the first round of the 1997 British Open at Royal Troon. He shot a 92 in the first round, after which he curled up in the corner with his wife and caddy and had a good cry. He withdrew and retired from tournament golf. The happy ending came when the good folks at ABC tossed Finchy a long cable with a microphone attached to it, which he used to pull himself out and pursue a career of describing golfers people who have avoided the Sinkhole.

No. 3 — Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garica

In his teens and early twenties, Garcia was slated as a potential rival to Tiger Woods’ dominance. He burst on the scene in the 1999, turning pro after shooting the low amateur score in that year’s Masters. He won the Irish Open and then set the world on fire in the 1999 PGA Championship, taking eventual champion Woods to the limit as he scissor-kicked his way into the hearts and minds of golf fans all over the world.

Garcia seemed a lock to win multiple championships even in the Woods era, but it was not to be. One of the most memorable moments of Garcia’s career is the footage of him re-gripping as many as 60 times over a shot at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. The brutally honest New York crowd ribbed Garcia mercilessly for his time-consuming psycho-crutch.

But it was Garcia’s reputation as the worst young putter under pressure in a generation that consigned him to his place in the Sinkhole. While he has shown signs of life and has won in Europe and in the States, it is his lack of major championship success that keeps him underground.  To his credit, while in the Sinkhole, Garcia managed to dig a tunnel that exits into Europe, where he has appeared every two years for the Ryder Cup as leading player and spirited assistant captain.

No. 2 — John Daly

John Daly

Just hearing the name evokes visions of long drives and bad pants. Long John is perhaps the most regrettable victim of the Sinkhole. A strapping Arkansas country boy, Daly has been called a player with more natural ability than Woods himself. Daly was a complete unknown at the beginning of the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick when he entered the event as he ninth alternate; by the end of it he had won his first tournament, his first major and he was he most popular golfer in the world. Daly combined impossibly long drives with the soft hands of a surgeon; he also had a world-class mullet.

His second Tour victory was also his second major, a playoff win in the 1995 British Open. But unfortunately, the tales of woe for Daly far outnumber the tales of victory. Daly didn’t fall into the Sinkhole; he jumped into a Ford F-150 and drove into at 100 mph. Despite a valiant rescue attempt by Ely Callaway, Daly has remained mired in the Sinkhole. He literally has more ex-wives than wins since then. He has gambled away more than most pros will ever earn. But he is remembered as one the few people who seemed to have installed a set of stairs in the Sinkhole for his private use. He emerged like a groundhog in February to grab a win or two, then retreated back to the Sinkhole, where is apparently happy as long as there is plenty of cold beer, cigarettes and Diet Coke.

No. 1 – David Duval

David Duval

Duval is the most accomplished player ever to disappear into the Sinkhole. The son of a professional golfer, Duval had success at every level he played from juniors to college to the Nike Tour on his way to his arrival on the Big Show in 1995. After racking up a slew of runner-up finishes, Duval began to win in bunches. He won 13 times between 1997 and 2001, including the Tour Championship and British Open. In April 1999, he climbed to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, and in his victory at that year’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic he became the only golfer ever to shoot 59 in a final round.

Duval seemed to be bouncing the golf world on the face of his wedge when it happened. He sustained injuries to his shoulder, back and wrist, as well as vertigo. When he came back, he often had no idea where the ball was going from shot to shot.

Duval’s win at the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix Tournament was to be his last. By 2003 he had fallen to 211th on the Money List. Over the course of the next 10 years, he has been trying to climb out of the Sinkhole using sponsor’s exemptions as handholds, but to no avail. He seemed to have achieved an improbable escape from SOG when he finished tied for second in the 2009 U.S. Open and the 2010 AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Since then, however, all that has been seen of Duval is a pair of gargoyle sunglasses perched at the edge of the Sinkhole.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. tyler

    Nov 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Yeah, I would probably take Garcia off this list now. He plays pretty decent most of the time now. His putting was the only thing that really let him down. He has always been a great ball striker. I’d probably put bobby clampett on this list

  2. STeve

    Apr 5, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Harrington is likeable, Garcia is not.

  3. Sam

    Mar 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Why would Garcia be on this list, didn’t he win a tournament last year? Shouldn’t that count for something and that he isn’t in the “SOG” anymore? What about Padraig Harrington? He hasn’t done anything since he won his last major. He had a good couple of years (a lot of luck IMO), but since then has done nothing to redeem himself since. He should be on this list instead of Garcia.

  4. Cmasters

    Mar 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Maybe proofread next time,

  5. Mateo

    Mar 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Wow. This list is pretty pointless and useless. Thanks.

  6. Duneman

    Mar 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Duval posted a nifty 61(-10)at TPC Avenel during mid-meltdown, so his second place finish at Bethpage was not quite so surprising for me.
    Your story reminded me of another flame out….Marty Fleckman, the last amateur to “almost” win the US Open. Jerry Pate also comes to mind, seemingly on top of the world with a major and the Players Championship, then poof! Gone. Then there is the guy who had it all and just walked away….Jodie Mudd. Another favorite character, the quintessential grinder who never gave up until getting his tour card still fascinates…I’m talking about Phil “Mac” O’Grady. Anyone spot him lately? You can still find some interesting utube of him playing
    somewhat recently. What a character….suggested to the USGA he be allowed to qualify as an “amateur” playing left-handed! We all know plenty of “characters” of the links in our hometowns, so fun to see some of the same “unusual individuals” got the actual game to reach top levels, even if for just a glimpse of fame and fortune.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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There is a sense that this is the week where the 2018 PGA Tour season truly gets underway. An iconic golf course playing host to a world class field, which includes none other than Tiger Woods. Last year, Jon Rahm won the event in sparkling fashion, draining a monster eagle putt on the 18th green to take the title by three strokes at 13-under par.

With a top field usually on show here, it’s no surprise that the role of honor list is so impressive. Besides Tiger Woods having won the event a remarkable seven times, the likes of Snedeker (twice), Jason Day and Bubba Watson have all won here in recent years — the only surprise victor in the past seven editions being Scott Stallings in 2014. With this being his first event of 2018, Tiger will grab the headlines no matter what happens, and I think every golf fan will be fascinated to see how the 14-time major winner will perform on a course he dearly loves.

The event is played over two courses on the opening two days, Torrey Pines (South) and Torrey Pines (North) before switching to the South Course for the final two days. The South Course is a real test, measuring more than 7,500 yards and usually with thick rough. The shorter North Course offers up the best opportunity for scoring, which adds pressure to each player’s solo trip here during the week. There is even a difference on the greens, as the South Course uses Poa Annua while the North Course has Bentgrass.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jon Rahm 8/1
  • Rickie Fowler 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 14/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Jason Day 18/1
  • Tiger Woods 22/1
  • Marc Leishman 22/1

On such a long golf course such as the South Course here at Torrey Pines, there is no doubt that length off the tee is important. But the ability to find the fairway is equally so. It was a surprise that up until last year Justin Rose (16/1, DK Price $10,600 ) had never displayed his best golf at Torrey Pines, but a T4 in 2017 shows that at long last he may have finally figured out the course.

The usually reliable Rose ranks sixth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and third in Strokes Gained Total. With limited birdie opportunities available, certainly on the South Course, I expect Par-5 scoring to be crucial this week… and Justin is a player with the ability to eat up Par 5’s. He sits fourth in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this field over his last 24 rounds. Performance on Par 4’s in the range of 450-500 yards should also prove vital with both courses containing five holes each in this range. Rose is 15th in Efficiency on holes of this length and sixth in Strokes Gained on all par 4’s in his last 24 rounds.

Rose made an important birdie on his final hole last Friday to make the cut in Abu-Dhabi, and in doing so seemed to shake off some of the rust in his game over the weekend. The current Olympic Champion shot bogey-free rounds of 67 and 69 over the weekend, giving him good momentum for this week. Rose finished ninth in Driving Distance last week and 10th in Driving Accuracy. If he can replicate that sort of form with the driver, then he should be able to give himself an excellent chance come Sunday afternoon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is an event which Tony Finau (35/1, DK Price $8,700 ) seemingly loves. In three appearances, he’s improved each time with finishes of  T24, T18 and most recently T4. His reliable Tee to Green game is a key factor behind his joy at Torrey Pines. Finau ranks 11th in this field in Strokes Gained Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds and ninth in Strokes Gained Approach. On the important 450-500 yard Par-4 range, he sits 13th in Efficiency over the same period. The long hitter also excels on the Par 5’s. In his last 24 rounds, he ranks third in this field for Strokes Gained on Par 5’s. As usual with Finau, the question mark surrounds his putting. But he seems to be a little more comfortable on the greens at Torrey Pines, where he has gained strokes over the field on the greens in all three previous visits here.

If you’re looking for reliability in your DraftKings lineups this week, then it’s hard to look past Charles Howell III (45/1, DK Price $8,300 ). In his last five trips to Torrey Pines, the Augusta native has finishes of T9-T37-T5-T16-T2 with a career Strokes Gained Total of +39 here. DraftKings players using Charles this week will also be glad to know that he has never missed the cut at this event in 15 visits. He scores very well on the key statistics for the week, suggesting another high finish may be in the offing.

Howell III is fourth in this field over his last 24 rounds on Par 4’s between 450-500 yards, while he’s 19th in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s in this same period. He is also trending upward in 2018, finishing T32 at the Sony Open and T20 at CareerBuilder last week. It would hardly be a shock to see Charles post his best finish of 2018 at a site he loves, and if he is ever to win again it would probably be less surprising to see him do it at Torrey Pines than anywhere else.

In terms of value down the board, J.J. Spaun (90/1, DK Price $7,500) jumped out right away at being a little undervalued this week. It seems like Torrey Pines is a good fit for the California native. Last year he finished an impressive T9 on his debut. It also seems like Spaun is hitting the ball better than ever at the moment. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks ninth in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, seventh in Ball Striking, fourth in Approaching the Green and seventh in Strokes Gained Total — excellent statistics that he will be eager to see manifest into positive results soon. Spaun is sixth in Par 4’s ranging between 450-500 yards over his last 24 rounds and is also very competent on Par 5’s, where he sits 21st over the same period. At a price of $7,500there seems to be good value in adding Spaun to your DraftKings line up this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Rose 16/1, DK Price $10,600
  • Tony Finau 35/1, DK Price $8,700
  • Charles Howell III 45/1, DK Price $8,300
  • J.J. Spaun 90/1, DK Price $7,500
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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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Podcasts

GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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