Even Short Holes Offer Scary Possibilities

By Associated PressJune 13, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The par-4 sixth hole is downhill, only 321 yards, practically begging one of these big-hitting pros to take out a driver and whack it onto the green.
One catch: This is the U.S. Open. Anyone who misses is going to be in deep trouble ... and even deeper rough.
'I've found over time that I have a lot better chance of making birdie from 100 yards out than from chipping out of that rough around the green,' defending champion Michael Campbell said Monday after his practice round. 'You get in there and you don't have any idea what's going to happen.'
Campbell said he spent enough time in the rough -- calculated by some players as ranging from 5 to 10 inches in height -- to get a good feel for how ugly it could get. His worst lie? 'I think I advanced the ball about 30 yards,' he said.
He could laugh about it after the practice round. Come Thursday, it won't be so funny.
That's why the USGA calls its signature tournament -- quite proudly -- 'the most rigorous examination of golfers.' This year, the USGA powers have trotted out the phrase 'graduated rough,' for the grass that grows higher the farther away it is from the fairway. The idea: Don't make the penalty for missing the fairway by 2 yards the same as for missing it by 20.
While Campbell made his way in and out of Winged Foot pretty much unnoticed, Monday also was the day Tiger Woods returned to the course. Woods made his first appearance at a golf tournament since the final round of the Masters. The layoff came because of the illness and death of his father, Earl Woods.
Tiger showed up about a half-hour late for his 1:14 p.m. tee time, but as soon as he came through the gates, fans turned around and ran to the ropes, hoping for autographs. He hurried past them, to the first tee, where he played nine holes and didn't show any signs of rust.
'He was playing as you would expect,' said Jeff Sluman, who joined him for the practice round. 'There's no rust in his game. If he drives it straight, he'll win the golf tournament. And if doesn't, he'll have a hell of a chance to win. But that's nothing that hasn't already been said.'
The return of Woods means the resumption of the Woods-Phil Mickelson battles. They are winners of four of the last five majors. Mickelson has won the last two and, for the first time in recent memory, he has supplanted -- or come very close to supplanting -- Woods as the favorite at a major. One betting site listed Woods as an 11-to-2 favorite, followed very closely by Mickelson at 6-to-1.
Of course, the brutal conditions that often accompany the U.S. Open can bring forth surprises, too. Last year, Campbell fit precisely in that category, rising from four shots off the lead after three rounds to beat Woods by two for the championship.
Struggling on the European Tour so far this season, Campbell said he feels good nonetheless.
'It's the same,' Campbell said when asked what he felt his chances were compared to 2005. 'Last year, I thought I was hitting the ball pretty well and giving myself chances. I feel the same this year.'
It figures that those who can keep the ball in the middle of the tight fairways will have the best chance. There will be no rewards for huge hitters who can't hit it straight. The sixth hole is a great example.
Early in the practice rounds, a couple players -- Olin Browne and Angel Cabrera -- took driver and swung away. But with the pin tucked behind a bunker on the upper right, and with the left side of the green contoured for the ball to roll off, only a precisely hit driver -- one that would fly 300 yards, then stop on a dime -- would yield a chance at eagle.
'There's no real reward in going for it,' Campbell said.
Instead, it would be much safer to hit iron into a fairway that measures a meager 20 paces across and avoid rough that will be grown longer than on most holes to put a higher price on risk-taking.
'Certainly, the course is very challenging,' said Andy Svoboda, a 26-year-old qualifier who has won four club championships at Winged Foot and knows the A.W. Tillinghast layout better than anyone playing this week.
This Tillinghast design features severely sloping greens that run from back to front with little margin for error.
At the 1974 Open, dubbed 'The Massacre at Winged Foot,' Jack Nicklaus lined up his first putt at the back of the green and rolled it completely off the front, a harbinger for a tournament that Hale Irwin won at 7-over par. Fast-forward to Monday's practice, and there was Swede Henrik Stenson delicately landing flop shot after flop shot on the tight back shelf on No. 18, only to watch all the balls roll 30 feet downhill.
Scary? You bet.
'You just really have to be patient out there and hit quality golf shots,' said Svoboda, who has a keener sense than anyone for what's in store. 'You play one shot at a time and just add them up at the end. That's all you can do.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

    Getty Images

    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

    Getty Images

    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.