Notes Toughest Holes Courses on the PGA TOUR
Here's something for the clubhouse mantle: It had the toughest hole on the PGA TOUR this year.
Even including major venues like Augusta National and Winged Foot, the toughest scoring hole in 2006 was the 426-yard fifth hole at Poppy Hills, which was nearly a half-stroke over par at 4.492.
The rest of the top 50 is not much of a surprise.
The U.S. Open was the toughest of the four majors -- Geoff Ogilvy won at 5-over 285 -- and it was reflected in the list. Winged Foot had six of the hardest holes among the top 20, and 10 holes ranked among the top 50. The first and 18th holes at Winged Foot were tied for third at 4.471, ranked one spot behind the 505-yard 11th hole at Augusta National (4.474).
Oddly enough, the Masters didn't have another hole in the top 50.
Royal Liverpool had two holes among the top 50 (No. 12 was ranked 33rd and No. 14 was 39th). The PGA Championship was a pushover this year on rain-softened greens, so it was no surprise that Medinah had only one hole in the top 50 -- No. 16 came was ranked 40th.
That fifth major -- The Players Championship -- had only one hole in the top 50. The 18th hole at Sawgrass was ranked No. 5.
Among regular PGA TOUR events, the South Course at Torrey Pines (Buick Invitational) had five holes in the top 50, with the 477-yard 12th hole the highest ranked at No. 9. Torrey Pines has been expanded to 7,568 yards and will host the U.S. Open in 2008. The Country Club at Mirasol (Honda Classic) had four of the hardest holes among the top 50.
And as an example of how weather dictates everything in golf, consider the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Ernie Els set the PGA TOUR record in the '03 Mercedes Championships by winning at 31-under par. This year, with slick greens that were even faster because of the blustery conditions, the Plantation Course had two holes ranked among the top 10 -- the 380-yard third hole was at No. 7 and the 218-yard second hole came in at No. 10.
The day Tiger Woods collected his PGA TOUR player of the year award for the eighth time, Paul Casey won his first award as European Tour golfer of the year.
Casey won three times on the European Tour, including the HSBC World Match Play Championship, and he finished second to Padraig Harrington in the Order of Merit by about $47,000. He also went unbeaten in four matches at the Ryder Cup (2-0-2), making a hole-in-one on the 14th hole to close a foursomes victory.
The award was voted on by a panel comprised of the Association of Golf Writers, television, radio and European Tour officials.
'To win three times during the 2006 season and play a part in Europe's record-breaking third successive Ryder Cup victory before finishing runner-up to Padraig in the Order of Merit was extremely satisfying,' Casey said.
Tiger Woods had a swoosh on his hat, his shirt and his shoes when he signed with Nike upon turning pro in 1996. Ten years later, the only golf-related item he has that isn't Nike is his putter.
Woods renewed this endorsement deal with Nike this summer. Terms were not disclosed, although the last two deals were for five years, and his latest contract paid him more than $125 million.
'It's very interesting because we were not really in the golf business,' Woods said about his relationship with Nike has evolved. 'Now we are a leader in the golf industry. We didn't have any hard goods at all, and now we have clubs and balls. I'm going from basically a person who is just happy to be a part of the Nike company to now helping out as much as I possibly can.'
WORLD CUP IDEA
The World Cup goes to China next year, and no telling how many stars from the United States, Australia and South Africa will continue to skip the team event. Clearly, it carries more prestige in some European countries like England and Ireland.
Padraig Harrington has an idea to resurrect the tournament -- make it like a real World Cup.
'I personally would go with probably every four years,' the Irishman said last week in Barbados. 'If it was every four years, then how often does a player stay in the top two in his country for that length of period? So, it would mean that over a person's career, they would look for the opportunity to play in the World Cup every year, because it may only happen for most guys a couple of times at most.'
The Americans take most of the abuse when it comes to absentees. Tiger Woods stopped playing after 2001 when the PGA TOUR briefly changed its criteria that forced him to take the next highest-ranked player (it would have been Phil Mickelson in 2002).
Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have not played for South Africa since 2001; this was the first time Colin Montgomerie played for Scotland; and Adam Scott has not played for Australia since 2002.
U.S. Amateur champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland is among 22 players from Great Britain and Ireland to start preparing for the Walker Cup match to be played next year at Royal County Down in Ireland. ... Tiger Woods is playing a tournament on the U.S. mainland for the first time since Sept. 4. ... The Skins Game will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year by moving to Indian Wells. It will be held on the new Celebrity Course at the Indian Wells Golf Course for the next three years. ... Rich Beem has a new endorsement deal with Tommy Bahama, marketing one of three new lines called 'TB18.' ... The Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge has signed on for another six years, sanctioned by the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour through 2012. One of the more popular silly-season events, it has raised more than $23 million in 15 years for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Bernhard Langer earned $612,672 in 26 starts this year on the PGA and European tours. He earned $900,000 the last two weeks by winning the Father-Son Challenge and the World Cup.
'It means I had a good year. But it also means I had some bad years before that.' -- Steve Stricker, on being voted PGA TOUR comeback player of the year.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta
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.
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.
Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA
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.
Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic
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.
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.
Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe
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.
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.”