Longer Tougher Pine Needles Awaits Women

By Associated PressJune 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Plenty has changed since the last time the U.S. Women's Open visited the sandhills of south-central North Carolina.
 
The course is 400 yards longer than it was for the Women's Open's last visit in 2001, with the 15th hole now 125 yards longer and increased to a par 5.
 
The new Bermuda grass surface allows for bouncy fairways and treacherous rough, and it wouldn't be a Donald Ross creation without a set of challenging, topsy-turvy greens.
 
The best women's players in the world are back on the revamped track at Pine Needles, and with play set to begin Thursday, the new-look course promised to test their abilities both to strike accurate shots and remain mentally sharp.
 
'It's a little different from what you expect from a U.S. Open course,' LPGA Championship winner Suzann Pettersen said Wednesday. 'Just off the tee, it doesn't look that tight. You've still got room. You have long par-4s, but the fairways are fairly wide. And the rough is kind of patchy, so you can get lucky if you miss a shot. ... If you can hit it dead center in the fairway and dead center in the greens this week, you'll do fine.'
 
Easier said than done. The 6,644-yard course is a par 71 and is the longest championship course at sea level, the result of reverting to Ross' original design plan from the 1920s.
 
'If we don't get a few gripes during a championship ... we're not quite sure we set the championship up right,' said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition. 'For what we're trying to do for their championships and really trying to test every aspect of their game for the nth degree, it is going to be a hard test. In theory, it's the hardest test they have all year.'
 
Four holes have been altered since the Women's Open was last here, with the most notable being the change of the 523-yard 15th. The par-4 No. 2 was extended to 450 yards -- 40 yards longer than before -- to prevent players from booming their drives over the hill.
 
'We've moved it back a little bit to really put what Donald Ross wanted back into play, kind of the flat drive zone,' Davis said.
 
The 10th hole is 60 yards longer and, at 518 yards, is 'a legitimate par 5,' Davis said, and there's a new tee on the par-4 12th.
 
The design seems to suit Annika Sorenstam well -- each of her three Open titles have come on Ross-designed layouts, including one at Pine Needles in 1996.
 
'I obviously love old, traditional courses,' Sorenstam said. 'When you play an Open, just like this, you have to drive the ball well. You have to hit -- you have to have such good control with your irons, and you have to have an incredible short game.'
 
For the third time in 11 years, the Women's Open has come to the golf hotbed that also hosted the men's U.S. Open twice since 1999 at nearby Pinehurst No. 2.
 
Both of the previous Women's Open winners at Pine Needles are back in the fold. Sorenstam's second title came five years before Karrie Webb claimed an eight-stroke win here.
 
'Coming back to Pine Needles is something I've been looking forward to since the last time we played here,' Webb said.
 
Pettersen could have been seeking her third straight major, had she not blown a three-shot lead on the last four holes of the Kraft Nabisco in April and losing to Morgan Pressel. She bounced back earlier this month by holding off Webb to win the LPGA.
 
'It felt like I've been very close for the last three months, two months,' Pettersen said. 'It wasn't a big surprise that my game was good enough and ready to win. Since then I've just trying to maintain and get a little better on everything. Now it's the U.S. Open, and this is the big test.'
 
It also wouldn't be a Women's Open at Pine Needles without some fresh faces.
 
This is where Pressel, then 13 years old, in 2001 became the youngest qualifier in the tournament's history. Pressel -- the youngest player to win a major -- no longer has that title, which belongs to Alexis Thompson, who at 12 has taken her place.
 
In all, 25 players younger than 20 are in the field of 156.
 
'I feel old out here, and I'm 26,' Pettersen said.
 
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  • Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

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    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

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    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

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    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee: