Notes Bunker Mentality King for a Day

By Associated PressMay 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- The furrows are back in the bunkers at Muirfield Village, although Jack Nicklaus doesn't expect quite as many furrowed brows from the players.
The bunkers were all the rage -- outrage in some cases -- when Nicklaus had an extra tine removed from the Amish-made rakes to create deep ridges in the sand last year at the Memorial. His intent was to restore the penalty of hitting into a bunker, although some players said the size of the furrows took skill out of the sand shot.
'This year, we're consistent with the size, and we really don't think the players are going to find it to be a big hazard,' Nicklaus said. 'It puts a little ripple in the sand. Can you get a bad lie? Yeah. You'll be pretty hard-pressed, though.'
Nicklaus gave them a test over the weekend, hitting six bunker shots.
'One was a long bunker shot, and other five I hit within a foot,' he said. 'I said, 'Well, if I can do that, I think it's going to be pretty easy for those guys.' I don't think that will be an issue this year, frankly.'
The buzz word for the bunkers is called 'rough raking,' perhaps to get the word 'furrow' out of the vocabulary this week. But if the penalty won't be severe, why use any special rake at all?
'I just want them to say, 'I'm really not sure I want to be in there,'' Nicklaus said.
He used the 18th hole as an example, a 444-yard hole with a water hazard down the left side and bunkers to the right. Most players want to avoid the water, so they will hug the right side of the fairway, and if it finds the sand, they can knock it onto the green.
'If they put the ball in the bunker this week on the right side, they could get a decent lie,' Nicklaus said. 'Or they might not get a good lie. So they're going to say, 'I'm not sure I want to be in there. Maybe I ought to play this hole the way it's designed. Maybe I ought to take a 3-wood or a 5-wood or a 2-iron and put it down there in play.'
Nicklaus rattled off some sand statistics from last year, but one really got his attention. Carl Pettersson, the winner, hit into only one bunker all week.
Masters champion Zach Johnson took last week off after winning the AT&T Classic in Atlanta, although it could hardly be called a week of rest. He went home to Iowa for the first time, and it must have felt as though he owned the state.
Johnson went to Des Moines on Thursday to meet with the governor on what became 'Zach Johnson Day.' Then it was off to Drake, where the president and athletic director showed him off around campus.
'I saw so many past teammates of mine, friends of mine, coaches,' Johnson said. 'Getting back on campus was pretty awesome. It's been years since I had been back.'
Friday was set aside for his charity, 'All For Kids.' And on Saturday, he spent three hours at his golf club -- there's now a Zach Johnson Drive that's about 200 feet long -- signing memorabilia for club members. Johnson estimates he signed closed to 800 items.
'Sunday,' he said, 'was a relaxing day.'
It took two days for Sean O'Hair to get over THE PLAYERS Championship, and for good reason. He was two shots behind Phil Mickelson when he put two balls in the water on the island-green 17th, took quadruple-bogey and wound up tied for 12th.
'There was just one goal, and that was to make birdie,' O'Hair said.
He returns to competition this week at the Memorial, and he feels fresh from two weeks off except for a little practice and recreational play. One round was with his wife, Jackie, who last year finished 3-3-3-3 from the members' tees at Cypress Point to shoot 75.
'We weren't playing against each other. We were playing a team deal,' O'Hair said when asked who won. 'It was just nice, leisurely golf. It was just nice to have fun, just go on the golf course and not feel like you have to beat 1,000 balls. It was a refreshing break.'
O'Hair could use one.
After the Memorial, he faces a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Open.
The Champions Tour will be going to the Dominican Republican next year, meaning all three tours under the PGA TOUR umbrella will play a regular tournament south of the U.S. border.
The PGA TOUR added Mexico to the schedule this year and will add Puerto Rico for 2008, while the Nationwide Tour has been played in New Zealand and Australia the past couple of years.
The Champions Tour event will be held April 4-6 -- one week before the Masters -- at Punta Espada Golf Club in Cap Cana.
For those who can't make it to the U.S. Open, they can see a slice of Oakmont history at the World Golf Hall of Fame. On display in the weeks leading to the U.S. Open are the clubs and bag used by Johnny Miller in 1973 when he shot 63 in the final round, which many regard as the best round ever in the U.S. Open.
The display is in the museum's Locker Room Exhibit. It features his MacGregor Tourney Custom irons (2-10), along with a sand wedge, a Bulls-Eye Putter and MacGregor woods (1-3-4).
Miller was the first player to shoot 63 in the U.S. Open, and he remains the only player to shoot 63 in the final round of a major to win.
NCAA champion Stacy Lewis of Arkansas has been awarded the Dinah Shore Trophy, which recognizes a female college player who excels in golf and academics. Lewis has won three times this year while maintaining a 3.72 GPA. ... This from Kevin Kowalski, the vice president of brand management for Crowne Plaza, title sponsor of the Colonial: 'You look at that Wall of Champions, it is the Hall of Fame. It has every legend but one, and he should be embarrassed that he's not up there.' He presumably was talking about Tiger Woods, although it could have been Gary Player, who played the Colonial only six times during his career. ... Peter Lonard has played 17 out of 21 weeks on the PGA TOUR. Pebble Beach was the only tournament he missed when he was eligible to play.
Hale Irwin has not missed the cut in the 50 Champions Tour events he has played that have one.
'I'll have to play real quick, won't I?' -- Tiger Woods, when asked what he would do if he had a one-shot lead on the 18th hole and learned his wife was about to have their baby.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”