Notes: Super slow greens and heavy heat at Inverness Club

By Associated PressJuly 30, 2011, 1:44 am

TOLEDO, Ohio – At most events set up by the U.S. Golf Association, there’s a long line of players complaining about how hard and slick the greens are.

Thanks to heavy rains overnight – and almost 4 inches of precipitation in the last week – that isn’t a problem at the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club.

In Friday’s second round, delayed 2 hours and 45 minutes by an early morning cloudburst, the problem was the greens – usually as fast as a slippery slide – were downright slow and spongy.

“I think all of us are a little thrown off,” said Jay Haas, who shot a 69 after the storms left. “We get a downhill putt and I don’t think people are getting the ball to the hole because we just think it’s going to be fast.”

Usually, a USGA setup involves narrow fairways, greens that register “marble floor” on the Stimpmeter and high rough.

Some of the players are thankful that Inverness isn’t baring her usual fangs.

“I played here when (Paul) Azinger won,” said Peter Senior, referring to Azinger’s playoff win over Greg Norman in the 1993 PGA Championship. “You’d get on the wrong side of the hole and you had 6 or 7 feet to clean up. So we’re pretty fortunate that the greens are as soft as they are. Even when you miss it short side now, you can still get up and down reasonably easy.”

The weather forecast is for clear skies, temperatures in the 90s and high humidity for the rest of the weekend.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Nick Price, on going from the cool and windy climate at last week’s Senior British Open to the heat and humidity at this week’s U.S. Senior Open: “It feels like we’ve gone from Alaska to the Amazon.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: Mark Calcavecchia, on the same subject: “Last week I was intentionally trying to be cold because I knew I was going to be hot as hell for about a month at least.”

NOT HIS FAVORITE: It was a loaded question, but Calcavecchia didn’t care: Were you a good U.S. Open player?

“No. I was a horrible Open player. I’ve never sniffed it in a U.S. Open,” said the loquacious former British Open champion.

He said it’s easy to see why.

“Historically, the rough’s usually chip-out rough and I’m not exactly (ultra-straight) Calvin Peete or David Toms or Fred Funk with the driver. I tend to hit it a little bit crooked, and that usually doesn’t pan out well in the U.S. Open.”

There are exceptions, he said.

“Phil (Mickelson) has no idea where it’s going (off the tee) and he’s had five seconds in the U.S. Open,” Calcavecchia said, drawing laughs from reporters. “So I guess that disproves my theory. But I’m not Phil, either.”

HOMETOWN BOY: Steve Schaff almost waited too long to sneak back into his hometown. Now he’s making the most of it.

Schaff was 3 over par with four holes left in his U.S. Senior Open qualifier in Florida, but finished birdie- ace-birdie-birdie to make it into a playoff with Damon Green, whose day job is caddieing for Zach Johnson.

Even though Schaff, who attended the University of Toledo, lost out in a playoff, he still joined the field this week as an alternate.

He showed consistency – 39-39-78 each day – but was doomed to miss the cut at Inverness Club.

Still, he was thrilled to even be a part of the tournament.

“Day 2 of the dream,” he said with a smile after Friday’s second round. “It was really great. I felt a lot better today. Just being out there with John Cook and Peter Jacobsen was a lot of fun. I really wish I could have played better. I didn’t score great, but this was an experience of a lifetime, for sure.”

The 54-year-old said down the road he’ll have one memory in particular.

“The people here at my home, the reception, just the love I felt from all the friends that I’ve had and people I’ve worked for and worked with over the years here,” he said. “I really don’t have words to describe the experienced I’ve had. It’s going to take some time to sink in. But it’s amazing.”

SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Mark Wiebe’s hopes in the U.S. Senior Open were slipping away. Then, like any good do-it-yourselfer, he restructured his game.

After making two bogeys and a double-bogey in a four-hole span in his opening nine holes in Friday’s second round, Wiebe turned things around by playing the last 10 holes in 3 under to shoot a 67 that left him a 3-under 138 through 36 holes.

So, was the problem more mental or physical, Mark?

“No, it’s mental. I made a couple of bonehead moves and I learned from them and stopped making them,” he said.

LATE LAPSE: Japan’s Kiyoshi Murota had the lead all to himself in the U.S. Senior Open.

Then came two troublesome holes.

Murota made bogey and double-bogey at Nos. 8 and 9 to finish up his second round Friday with a 69 that left him at 5-under 137.

Through an interpreter, he related what went wrong.

“It’s hard to hit it from that deep rough,” he said of the bogey.

As for the 6 at the par-4 8th?

“It’s very difficult, very sensitive chipping out there,” he said.

He jokingly blamed the media for his late problems.

“I was thinking about I’m going to lead,” he said. “And I’m going to have to come over here and you’ll interview me. So I got nervous and made bogey and double-bogey at the end.”

DIVOTS: David Frost was disqualified for choosing to not reload after hitting his drive out of bounds off the ninth tee. He was 5 over at the time and well past the cut line anyway. … D.A. Weibring aced the 170-yard third with a 6-iron, his second on the Champions Tour to go with four on the PGA Tour. … Over-50 crowd favorite Tom Watson elected to play at The Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour instead of playing with his peers. He shot 75-71-146 in West Virginia and missed the cut by five strokes.

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.