Notes: Muirfield's No. 14 could yield a lot of birdies

By Associated PressOctober 2, 2013, 8:55 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – The signature 14th at Muirfield Village can be a birdie hole for Tiger Woods – and maybe even a once-a-month hacker.

It's all about the approach, and that will lead to a lot of strategy at this week's Presidents Cup.

Off the tee, it's a relatively easy long-to-middle iron to a generous fairway, the ball coming up just short of a pleasant brook that bisects the hole and then snakes along the right side of the green.

From there, it's a lofted iron to the kidney-shaped green, bounded by three menacing sand traps on the left, with an abrupt slope to the creek on the right.

To add yet another element of suspense to this week's Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour, which sets up the course for the biennial team competition, toyed with the idea of shortening the par-4, 325-yard 14th so that long hitters could bomb away.

From the looks of it, few will take the bait.

Phil Mickelson - known for never shying away from a risky shot – probably won't even pull out driver. (Then again, with Mickelson, you never know for sure.)

''No. 14 will be up to each player,'' he said Wednesday on the eve of the start of the four-day event. ''As a player who likes to go for it, even I have a hard time understanding the advantage of going for it. Very simply put, there's water right, bunkers left with a green that's so severely pitched you can't stop it on the green.''

He's certainly not alone.

U.S. captain Fred Couples sounded as if he would discourage any of his players from going for it.

''On the 14th I watched Hunter (Mahan), Webb (Simpson), (Bill) Haas and (Brandt) Snedeker play the hole,'' Couples said. ''They all tried to drive the green. Three of them could actually reach the front part - it depends on where the pin is, but it's (still) a very difficult shot. Most players can probably get it up and down in front of the green but there isn't much room.''

The International team will decided as matches progress.

''It depends on the day,'' assistant captain Tony Johnstone said. ''I think some of the guys will go. Some of the guys feel that it's never the right option, that they would rather just knock it short and chip it on and they'll make more 3s from there. It's going to depend on the day, how the matches are going, how the guys are feeling, where the wind's blowing. But these guys are all world-class players, so it's whatever they desire to do.''

Keegan Bradley, who will be paired with Mickelson in the better-ball matches on Thursday, said the distance makes it particularly debatable to go for it off the tee.

''It's very difficult on that hole if you go for it and don't hit the green,'' he said. ''You're going to see a lot of guys still laying up because it's so brutal. But it's definitely right there.''

THREE'S A CHARM:The legendary year of Jordan Spieth added yet another chapter on Thursday.

The 20-year-old, who didn't have a PGA Tour card a year ago but won one time and played his way onto the U.S. Presidents Cup team, aced the signature 12th at Muirfield Village during a practice round.

''I got good video of him getting the ball out of the hole if you want to see it,'' U.S. assistant captain Davis Love III said.

He drained a 7-iron from 176 yards for his third hole in one – and second this year after jarring a shot at Puerto Rico.

Spieth was playing with Woods, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker.

''Tiger had already hit and he hit an 8-iron and it looked like he went after it, so I went ahead and hit kind of a smooth 7,'' the Texan said. ''It started at the flag and never really left it. I had flown the green a couple days before and I thought it was perfect. It took a little while to trickle and I thought it was going to be about a foot short. All of a sudden it dropped.''

Spieth swapped high fives with everybody in his group, including the caddies and officials. The crowd behind the green roared.

''It was really cool,'' he said. ''A cool environment that we had so many people around.''

DO AS I DID: K.J. Choi has won 17 times around the world. That includes the 2007 Memorial Tournament – held on the same Muirfield Village layout that is hosting the Presidents Cup this week.

He did not make the International side, but still is working in an official capacity this week. He's handling analysis for the television feed back to his native South Korea and is acting in an advisory role to the 2015 Presidents Cup, which will be held at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea.

It figures that he ought to provide some perceptive comments for both sides because of his success at Muirfield Village.

Asked if he thought the International side would win, he laughed and said, ''I wish!''

THAT'S MR. COUPLES, TO YOU: Couples, the U.S. captain, said he was approached by a younger man during a practice round on Tuesday.

''I met (Jordan Spieth's) father, who is probably eight years younger than I am, which is really weird,'' Couples said to loud laughter. ''I wasn't expecting that, but he came up and said, 'I'm Jordan's father.' I looked and thought he was 30 years old.''

Asked if Mr. Spieth addressed him as Mr. Couples, he cracked, ''No, he didn't, actually, but I told him to from now on.''

CHANGE IN SCHEDULE: International captain Nick Price believes that the way teams are chosen and other factors favor the United States. Maybe that's why the Americans are 7-1-1 in Presidents Cup play.

One area where Price was able to get the rules changed was the schedule. Play on Thursday will get under way with four-ball, or as it is commonly known, better-ball competition.

Traditionally, the first day was devoted to foursomes or alternate-shot play.

In four-ball, the low score for each pairing counts within the group. For example, if Ernie Els has a birdie at the fifth hole while paired with Brendon De Jonge in their match with Stricker and Spieth, and the Americans each par it, the Internationals win the hole.

''When Ernie and I went to see (PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem) last year, just to talk about it, that was one of the concessions that he made,'' Price said. ''Both Ernie and I felt it was very important just to change it from the hardest format (foursomes) to the better-ball. That was a positive move for us.''

The International side has seven first-time participants in the Presidents Cup. Since foursomes is a format that none of those rookies has played before in international competition, Price believed it was advantageous to push that new experience back a day.

OTHER KEY HOLES: While many might be watching to see if someone goes for the green at the par-4 14th off the tee, there are several other decisions that will need to be made by players.

Snedeker takes us on a quick tour of the course and the choices made during the better-ball competition.

''Obviously, I think the par-5 fifth will be an important one on aggressive, you want to be there. If you're both in the fairway, who's going to go and who's going to lay up?'' he said. ''(The par-5) No. 11 will be a decision off the tee. If you want to be aggressive and hit driver and try to get down there and knock it on in two or lay back and play it as a three-shot hole. It depends on what your partner does, how you play that hole. And then 14 will be the only other one I could see being an issue.''

DIVOTS: Jay Haas Jr. is caddying for his brother, Bill Haas. Angel Cabrera's bag will be carried by his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. ... NBC will provide more than 890 live hours of coverage of the Presidents Cup. The competition will be on Golf Channel from 1 to 8 p.m. EDT on Friday and Saturday, then carried on NBC from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. ... It may be the International team, but several players live at least part of the year in the States: Jason Day (nearby Westerville, Ohio), Brendon de Jonge (Charlotte, N.C.), Graham DeLaet (Boise, Idaho), Ernie Els (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and Marc Leishman (Virginia Beach, Va.), in addition to team captain Nick Price (Hobe Sound, Fla.) and assistants Mark McNulty (Orlando, Fla.) and Shigeki Maruyama (Los Angeles). ... The two sides had similar success (or lack of it) at the 2013 Memorial Tournament, held in June at Muirfield Village. Each team had two players miss the cut, the Americans had a 2-1 edge in top-10 finishes and the Internationals had a 6-4 advantage in those finishing in the top 50. However, the trump card is Matt Kuchar of the U.S. won the tournament.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."