Its Not About Fair

By Associated PressJune 22, 2004, 4:00 pm
Something strange happened the day after the U.S. Open.
A black round cap about the size of a hockey puck mysteriously rose from the ground and started spraying water over Shinnecock Hills. In the golf industry, they call this a sprinkler.
Then a couple of players searched and found ' eureka! ' a pitch mark that needed to be repaired.
In other words, Shinnecock Hills returned to being a golf course, one of the finest in the country.
No one was sure what to call the links-styled course ' or the competition it held ' during a final round that identified the best players, humiliated the rest and set a U.S. Open record for complaints.
There is no denying the U.S. Golf Association, which treats par as its most precious commodity, went over the edge to make sure the toughest test in golf lived up to its reputation.
By continuing to double-cut the greens ' they were so dead, its a wonder there was any grass left to mow ' and refusing to water them until certain holes became unplayable, the U.S. Open more closely resembled a demolition derby than a national championship.
Good shots are not staying in fairways. Good shots are not staying on greens, Tom Kite said. Youve got the best players in the world. If they cant shoot under par, then its got to be out of control.
Robert Allenby had the best round at even-par 70.
Five players shot 79 and still moved up the leaderboard.
The 28 players who failed to break 80 included Ernie Els, the No. 2 player in the world.
Its not the first time theyve done this, and it wont be the last, Mark Calcavecchia said of the USGA, shortly after grinding out a 75. On that note, I need a beer.
But for all the silliness Sunday, the lasting image is U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and runner-up Phil Mickelson playing a game unfamiliar to many others.
They were the only guys to beat par for the tournament.
They played the kind of golf that wins the U.S. Open.
Its not about whether the golf course is fair. Its about shooting the lowest score.
Tee shots dont stay in the fairway? Mickelson only missed two of the last eight fairways. He played with such control that he used a variety of shots to keep the ball on the green and below the cup, giving himself a chance at birdie. His run of three birdies in four holes to briefly take the lead was sensational stuff.
After closing with 71, Lefty was asked if it was a fair test.
I dont know what to say. I felt like I played some of the best golf of my life, he said. I hit some of the best shots, I putted better than I probably ever have putted. And I still couldnt shoot par. So you tell me.
Then again, he would have shot 69 if not for that three-putt double bogey on the 17th that perhaps cost him the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Goosen showed incredible resiliency, if not poise. Almost as impressive as Mickelsons birdie run was the Goose saving par on No. 13, saving bogey on No. 14, and answering Mickelson with a birdie of his own on the 16th to regain a share of the lead. He took only 24 putts in the final round, and had no three-putts for the tournament.
The way the course is set up, its important to save pars, Goosen said. I kept telling myself, Keep playing for pars and you can win this event. And it turned out that way.
Sure, it was tough.
One could argue that this is not how golf is meant to be played ' away from the flag, at times away from the green.
But it cannot be called unfair because everyone played the same course.
The last time a major championship came under this much scrutiny was the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, already regarded as the toughest links in the world before a combination of high rough, narrow fairways and vicious wind made it even worse.
The winning score was 6-over 290. The winner was a guy named Paul Lawrie.
Davis Love III sniffed that Carnoustie got the champion it deserved, and he was right. Lawrie shot 67 in the final round and birdied the last two holes of the playoff with a 3-iron in 12 feet and a 4-iron in 3 feet. The guy who played the best golf won. (Jean Van de Velde played even better until his brain malfunctioned on the 72nd hole).
Instead of celebrating great play, the U.S. Open turned into a protest from players who were led to believe that this major would change its personality overnight.
It is not the greatest test in golf, only the toughest.
Everyone should know that by now.
I come to the U.S. Open expecting nothing to be fair, two-time champion Lee Janzen once said.
Els took such a beating that he bolted from Shinnecock without saying a word after making four double bogeys, more than he had made all season. The 80 was his highest score ever in the U.S. Open.
People will ask whether the USGA went too far in the setup of the golf course, Els wrote Tuesday on his Web site. Personally, I think the course was fair. Severe, but fair.
Its a shame that we even need to have this debate, because Shinnecock is a wonderful course.
Ultimately, it identified the best player.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.