Nicklaus wants to challenge not punish players

By Associated PressJune 2, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' The morning calm at Muirfield Village was shattered by a sound that was sure to be sweet music to players.
 
It came from the engine of a lawn mower.
 
Mowers were thought to be a myth last year at the Memorial. The rough was supposed to be 4 inches, yet it doubled in length by the end of the week, and was particularly punishing around the greens. It felt as though the U.S. Open had arrived two weeks early.
 
Geoff Ogilvy feared some players would stop coming.
 
Phil Mickelson showed his displeasure by praising the course of every tournament he had played that year except for the Memorial. Even before his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lefty did not have Muirfield Village on his schedule this year.
 
We were over the top last year, said Slugger White, the PGA Tour official in charge of setting up the course.
 
The fault fell to Jack Nicklaus ' at least thats the perception of most players.
 
After all, this is the course Jack built for a tournament he has hosted since 1976. Nicklaus built his career around the majors, and he wants the Memorial to be the next best thing.
 
But even Nicklaus was troubled by the high grass, not to mention the complaints.
 
The one thing I never liked as a golfer was hack-out rough, Nicklaus said Tuesday. Ive always felt that if you put the ball in the rough, there should be some chance of playing a shot to reach the green, but not be able to control the ball like you would normally. I think recovery is a beautiful part of the game.
 
Muirfield Village is spectacular as ever, but not the same this year. The rough is not as dense, not as high. The wooden rakes that created furrows in the bunkers the last three years have been replaced by standard rakes that leave the sand smooth.
 
This came not from concession, rather discussion.
 
Nicklaus met with PGA Tour officials, as always, after Kenny Perry won last year with the highest winning score (280) in 23 years.
 
I dont think Mr. Nicklaus or the Tour liked what came out of last year, said Steve Rintoul, the Tour official who oversaw the course setup this year. The rules committee, in conjunction with Jack, thought it better to have shorter rough.
 
Ultimately, the Tour has the final word in how the course plays.
 
But if Nicklaus is the one taking the heat whenever someone complains ' a chief hobby for most players on this Tour ' then why not just take full authority of his golf tournament?
 
Nicklaus chuckled at the suggestion.
 
We are part of the Tour, he said. What I want to do is cooperate the best I can, have middle round on what I want to do and what the players like. My feeling is, do I want them to not like it? Of course not. I want everybody to be happy, everybody to enjoy it. But not everyone thinks the way I think. Im 69. Guys are 40 years younger than I am, or more. They havent been brought up the way I was.
 
Its more my job to adjust to them than their job to adjust to me.
 
But there are some areas where Nicklaus will not budge.
 
Bunkers that had furrows now are smooth. High rough is now shorter. The Tour also suggested that Nicklaus slow the speed of the greens, and thats where he drew the line.
 
Ill yield to the other two, but thats our golf course, he said. The golf course has always had fast greens.
 
Neither will Nicklaus budge on his belief that players are to be challenged.
 
There are some who believe golf should be about entertainment, that fans would rather see birdies than players grinding over par.
 
Its not for every tournament. Its not for the Memorial.
 
For Nicklaus, there is a difference between tournament golf and entertaining golf, even if both can provide a similar outcome. Carl Pettersson, who won the Memorial three years ago, understood what Nicklaus was talking about.
 
Tournament golf is hard work, he said. Its like a doctor going into surgery; youre worn out when its over. In tournament golf, you have to be thinking on every shot.
 
Nicklaus recalls one PGA Tour event that kept begging him to play. He finally relented, shot four rounds in the 60s and kept falling farther and farther down the leaderboard.
 
My feeling is when youre setting up a golf tournament, you should try to have the best test you can have that week for the players, Nicklaus said. When I played, I chose my tournaments based on how the golf course would be and how the challenge would be. I knew if I had a good challenge, it would not only help my game, but improve my ability to prepare for when I got to a major. To come in town and collect money and get out and not have a challenge was something I didnt want to do.
 
But maybe Im different.
 
In one aspect, he is no different from any other tournament host. No longer a player, no longer Presidents Cup captain after three straight terms, his primary involvement in the PGA Tour comes through the Memorial. And he still looks at a golf course the way he would want to see it if he were still playing.
 
For the most part, this is most guys favorite tournament, and I want it to stay that way, he said. But I want tournament golf.
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''