Defining a Tough Test in Golf

By Associated PressJune 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- A tough test of golf should not be measured by numbers, a winning score, nor the club in a player's hand.
There will be plenty of talk this week about how Corey Pavin hit a 4-wood into the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills to set up a simple par for a winning score of even-par 280 in the 1995 U.S. Open.
Retief Goosen played Shinnecock Hills for the first time Monday, and while he hit his tee shot into the rough on 450-yard 18th hole, he said it should be no more than a 7-iron into the green.
What gets lost in the hysteria over how technology has ruined golf is that Pavin is among the shortest hitters in golf, ranking 159th in driving distance on the PGA Tour that year. He probably hit a lot of 4-wood shots into par 4s.
USGA executive director David Fay tells an interesting story about another long shot on the final hole of a major - Ben Hogan at Merion and his famous 1-iron that allowed him to make par, get into a playoff and win the 1950 U.S. Open for his first major since nearly being killed in a car accident.
There is great history at Merion, the 92-year-old golf club outside Philadelphia that has hosted more USGA championships than any other golf course.
Along with Hogan's dramatic victory, Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam at Merion by winning the 1930 U.S. Amateur. Lee Trevino pulled a rubber snake from his bag to spook Jack Nicklaus, then beat him in a playoff at the '71 U.S. Open.
But these days, Merion is known in some quarters as a great course rendered obsolete by equipment. Some say if Hogan had that shot today into the 18th, he would only need a wedge.
'What people fail to remember is that in 1950, the last day of the U.S. Open was two rounds,' Fay said. 'It's true that Ben Hogan hit 1-iron into the 72nd hole. But earlier in the day, when he was finishing up his third round, he hit a 6-iron into that green.'
Hogan no doubt was fatigued on the 36th hole of the day, and couldn't get his drive down the hill.
What would players hit today if Merion held a U.S. Open?
Brad Faxon is not by any means a long hitter (neither was Hogan). He played Merion a few years ago from a new back tee that now measures 463 yards and had 5-iron into the green.
Could Merion still host a U.S. Open?
'Yes,' Faxon said before the question could be completed. 'Absolutely. If it's not in the top five courses, it's in the top 10. It's obsolete if you think you have to hit driver on every hole. There are hard holes and there are some holes that seem easy, but you have to think like crazy.'
When Merion was picked to host the 2005 U.S. Amateur, some figured it was a consolation prize for a classic course that would never again host a U.S. Open.
Instead, the USGA is using that as a litmus test to determine whether the U.S. Open can return to Merion in 2012, the 100th anniversary of the golf course.
'It has never been a course where driver was used on a lot of holes,' Fay said. 'There's a big stretch in the middle of the course with short, sexy par 4s. Then the finish is colossal. But the issue has never been that Merion is too short. Some look at the yardage and say the game has passed it by.
'In a twisted way, the technological advances in the game have altered the way one plays Merion less than other courses.'
Since the last U.S. Open was held there in 1981, the club added length - most significantly to Nos. 5 and 18 - to stretch it out to just under 7,000 yards.
Former USGA president Buzz Taylor asked Nick Price to play Merion early in the week of the '97 U.S. Open. Price told him it was one of the greatest golf courses in the United States.
'He said, 'What do you think would win?' I told him, 'Under par,'' Price said. 'To get even par to win on that golf course, you have to trick it up too much. I think 5 or 6 under would win. To me, that's not a big deal. You can't take a course out of the rotation because even par doesn't win, especially a great course like Merion.'
But that's what it might come down to.
If players make two days of qualifying for the '05 Amateur look like any year at the Bob Hope Classic, chances of Merion ever seeing another U.S. Open are slim.
'We've made no decision on Merion,' Fay said. 'Certainly, it's reasonable to expect that seeing how the Amateur plays out will be an important factor.'
But Price isn't sure scores should ever be a factor.
'They want it to be the toughest test,' he said. 'Shooting under par doesn't mean it's not a great test. It's like the TPC (The Players Championship). I always said if 8 under par wins, the course is a perfect test. If the score is lower, it was too easy. If the score is higher, it was too tricked up.'
The bigger issue for Merion is whether it has room for a spectacle like the U.S. Open. It is a much bigger show than it was in 1981 - more interest, more corporate and hospitality tents, more media.
Fay said Merion could probably only hold 20,000 people at best - less than half of the number at Bethpage Black - which means less revenue.
That's a fair argument.
But look at Merion for what it is - a classic course, a classic test, no matter what club a player has in his hand or what score he writes on his card.
Related links:
  • U.S. Open Photo Gallery

  • TV Airtimes

  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    Getty Images

    Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

    As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

    Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

    This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

    The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

    Getty Images

    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

    Getty Images

    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

    Getty Images

    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.