Hot Drivers Azinger Canizares and more
With a growing number of players suspicious about hot drivers, the PGA Tour planned to experiment at the Western Open with a portable test measuring the trampoline effect and determining whether drivers conformed to the rules.
Now, the test has been postponed indefinitely.
'Even though it's a fairly simple test and a quick test, we've got to make sure we're comfortable with it,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'We have notified manufacturers we're considering it and probably will utilize it at some point.'
Tiger Woods is among those think it should be used sooner rather than later, and he met with Finchem last week during the Memorial Tournament.
'I think that's our biggest concern out here on Tour, to make sure the CORs are correct,' Woods told reporters after his final round Sunday.
The current test for coefficient of restitution (COR) -- how quickly the ball springs off the face of the club at impact -- requires the driver to be taken apart at the USGA Research and Test Center.
The USGA has proposed a portable test that requires only a low-speed strike to the club by a small weight on a pendulum.
'The Tour is doing what the Tour wants to do,' said Dick Rugge, senior technical director at the USGA. 'We believe the test is very reliable.'
Rugge said the USGA does not plan to test drivers at the 2004 U.S. Open to make sure they are not over the limit. If testing ever gets used on the PGA Tour, Finchem said any test would not be mandatory.
Is it necessary?
'Companies are trying to get a competitive edge,' Lee Janzen said. 'They're going to get as close to the line as they can.'
Finchem also believes the portable test ultimately will 'take the mystery out of things.
'We've got so many different equipment manufacturers in the process,' he said. 'I think the rules people need the ability that if the question arose, they're in a position to check.'
While Jose Maria Canizares was enjoying his best 2003 Champions Tour finish last week at the Music City Championship at Gaylord Opryland, his youngest son, Alejandro, was doing all right for himself, too.
Alejandro, a freshman at Arizona State and the Pac-10 Conference's Co-Freshman of the Year, shot a 1-under 287 to finish two shots ahead of Auburn's Lee Williams and win medalist honors at the NCAA Championship in Stillwater, Okla.
The younger Canizares became just the sixth freshman to win an NCAA men's golf title. The others were Tour players James McLean (Minnesota, 1998), Phil Mickelson (Arizona State, 1989), Billy Ray Brown (Houston, 1982), Curtis Strange (Wake Forest, 1974) and Ben Crenshaw (Texas, 1971). Canizares joins Mickelson and Jim Carter as NCAA medalists the Sun Devils have produced.
The patriarch of the Canizares clan was the runner-up at the Music City Championship at Gaylord Opryland on Sunday, four strokes behind Jim Ahern. He earned $123,200.
Except for 1994 when he was recovering from cancer, Paul Azinger has played in every U.S. Open since 1985. That streak will end this year. Azinger isn't exempt, and he had no interest in even trying.
Attribute some of that to the controversial setup last year at Bethpage Black.
'I'm not playing, not after last year,' Azinger said. 'I don't have any idea what Olympia Fields is like, and I don't care. I'm not exempt, and I'm not going to qualify.'
Most of the criticism about Bethpage Black centered on Nos. 10 and 12, which required 260-yard carries. In a windy, rainy second round, several players could not reach the 10th fairway with their best drives.
Azinger said he was asked how he would feel if the U.S. Open returned to Bethpage Black every five years.
'I would probably take every fifth year off,' he said.
The other reason for not going through U.S. Open qualifying was his game. Azinger, who has faded the ball his entire career, started hooking the ball last summer and only recently corrected the flaw.
'I was still hooking it when the (U.S. Open) entry thing was there,' he said.
A DANGEROUS GAME
Hobbies are taking a toll on Lee Janzen. He rolled his ankle playing baseball at his son's school and, most recently, injured his ribs playing pingpong.
How can you get hurt at pingpong?
'Playing doubles, going across the table and trying to run around for my forehand,' Janzen said. 'We have tile on our back porch. I just tripped.. I gave up my body and hit the winner.'
Janzen crashed into a large candle holder that gave him a deep bruise. He also broke glass that caused a gash in his elbow, and his knees swelled slightly.
He is playing through his injuries and has learned his lessons.
'I'm just going to be very cautious the rest of the year with what I do,' he said.
Se Ri Pak learned early in her career that speaking English on the LPGA Tour would be as important as hitting fairways and greens.
She had a translator her rookie year in 1998 when she won two majors, then went without the next couple of years and struggled.
'I would say some things and you guys would think I'm silly,' she said.
Still, she insisted on getting by on her own, and she has become more charming every year. Her play has improved, and Pak sees a connection.
'I have to take care of myself on my own, and learning English was good,' she said. 'Whenever I go anywhere, it feels like more confidence. I started speaking English, and this made a big difference and helped my game. Golf is so sensitive. You let little things bother you, then you might not play good.'
PROVING HIS POINT
Jeff Maggert only has two PGA Tour victories, but he is a perennial contender in the U.S. Open, with six top-10s in the last nine years.
He attributes that to Shinnecock Hills -- a missed cut in 1986, a tie for fourth in 1995.
'My first professional tournament was the '86 U.S. Open. The weather was horrendous and I shot a ton,' Maggert said. 'I felt so inadequate, I didn't know if I could ever compete in another U.S. Open.'
He missed the cut at The Olympic Club the next year, then didn't qualify for another U.S. Open until 1993. When he returned to Shinnecock in 1995, Maggert lurked behind the leaders Sunday afternoon and tied for fourth.
'To me, that was the first step,' he said.
Tony Jacklin, who started Europe's dominance of the Ryder Cup, will be captain of the Rest of the World team in the UBS Cup at Sea Island, Ga., in late November. In the matches for players 40 and older, the U.S. team has won the first two years under Arnold Palmer.
Katherine Hull, an All-American at Pepperdine, won in her professional debut last week on the Futures Tour.
The Palmer Cup matches are expanding to include college players from Europe instead of just Britain and Ireland. They will take on U.S. college players at Kiawah Island (Classique Golf Club) from July 7-11. The event also signed Monster Worldwide Inc. as a sponsor.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Only 20 players finished the Memorial under par. The only other tournament this year with fewer players under par was the Masters with eight.
'The thing most unfair was that Tiger shot under par and nobody else could do that.' -- Lee Janzen, on the U.S. Open setup last year at Bethpage Black.
Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings
AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.
The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”
The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.
Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.
“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”
Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke
With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.
Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.
The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.
The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.
As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”
“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”
Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.
“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”
All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.
“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”
Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.
Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.
“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”
Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.
Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same
AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.
According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.
The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.
The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption
Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.
The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.
"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."
Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.
Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.