Notes TPC at Sawgrass Getting Face Lift

By Associated PressMay 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A pile of dirt was all that remained from what used to be the TPC at Sawgrass clubhouse. The driving range looked more like a dirt bike track. There was a shovel in the middle of the first green, not a flagstick. The island green on the par-3 17th resembled a pie shell, ready to be filled with pumps, pipes, gravel, dirt and grass. (Demolition Photo Gallery)
 
It was enough to make PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem take a deep breath.
 
'I was up there the other day looking at the stuff and said, 'Oh my goodness,'' Finchem said. 'We're going to have The Players Championship a year from now?'
 
17th green at the TPC at Sawgrass
The putting surface has been stripped bare on the famed 17th green at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Last week was the date of next year's tournament, as the PGA Tour's crown jewel moves to May. And while Sawgrass looked like an abandoned municipal course, the overhaul is right on schedule.
 
'When you do it all at once, it looks a little daunting,' Finchem said.
 
Also daunting is a new tee being built on the 219-yard eighth hole, making it play closer to 240 yards. David Pillsbury, chief operating officer of the tour's golf course properties and the man in charge of the TPC project, said the new tee on No. 8 is among five holes that will be lengthened by a combined 75 to 100 yards. But that's not to say the tees will be used.
 
'The winds will be different in May,' he said. 'This gives us flexibility for setting up the course.'
 
There were other subtle changes, beyond reconditioning the fairways and greens. More than two dozen oaks, pines and palm trees have been planted on the left side of the par-5 ninth fairway, making for a difficult escape. Pine trees have been added to the right of the sixth, seventh and 10th fairways.
 
The slopes on four greens -- Nos. 4, 13, 15 and 17 -- are being reduced by an inch.
 
And the practice range is all dirt, although Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and others are not at a loss. The ninth fairway has been transformed into a practice area for PGA TOUR pros only.
 
'I was skeptical at first,' Furyk said. 'I actually don't mind it. When you're on a driving range, you're limited to one spot. Here, I can move around the fairway, hit back toward the tee, get some different shots.'
 
Pillsbury said the next month is critical for planting grass on the greens, although the weather has been favorable. The only concern is whether the Mediterranean-style clubhouse is completed on time, much of that depending on hurricane season, although Finchem said the tour has a contingency plan if it's not ready by The Players Championship.
 
'That's going to go down to the wire,' Finchem said. 'Everyone tells me we can do it. We've put a solid plan together. If we don't have a clubhouse, that would be a disappointment. But we need to plan both ways.'
 
But while the course remains a work in process, there were other signs that brought optimism. Finchem played in his club championship at Pablo Creek over the weekend, and couldn't help but notice the blue skies and bright sun.
 
'I told everybody that's the weather we can expect the next 10 years,' Finchem said. 'Then I was on the beach the next morning with my daughters, and porpoises were up and down the beach. It reminded me that our guests will have a good time.'
 
LURING TIGER
When the International was created 20 years ago, organizers wanted a date that would draw the best players from around the world. Now that the PGA TOUR produces an international field every week, the Colorado tournament has the same goal as everyone else.
 
Get Tiger Woods.
 
In a gambit to lure Woods back to Castle Pines for the first time since 1999, the International will move to the week of July 4 beginning next year. The date is currently occupied by the Western Open, an event Woods always plays.
 
'We certainly studied Tiger's playing pattern,' executive director Larry Thiel said. 'We found out he was very comfortable with that date and he played it consistently.'
 
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Padraig Harrington left Winged Foot nine years ago and felt like quitting golf. Instead, it made him realize he needed to change his game.
 
The '97 PGA Championship was his second major championship in the United States, and his short game was no match for a course set up like a U.S. Open, with deep rough lining the fairways and around the green. He didn't hit it far enough or straight enough, and the Irishman shot 77-71 to miss the cut by two shots.
 
'I went home from Winged Foot being absolutely, totally trodden on,' Harrington said. 'It just took the life out of me when I was there. ... I thought every course was like Winged Foot. I didn't realize it was a beast in its own right. But it's definitely the catalyst for me changing everything in my golf swing so that I could probably compete better in the U.S. Open.'
 
The next time Harrington played a major in New York was at Bethpage Black in the 2002 U.S. Open. He played in the final pairing Saturday with Tiger Woods, and wound up in a tie for eighth.
 
ON THE CLOCK
Winning the Byron Nelson Championship came with a one-of-a-kind perk for Ted Purdy.
 
He went to a Salesmanship Club of Dallas meeting late last year and started asking around how he could get a piece of woodwork that Nelson creates in his shop. Nelson's wife, Peggy, told him it was only a hobby and that Nelson didn't sell the items, he just gave them to family and friends.
 
'Lo and behold, probably a month or two later, I got in the mail a wooden clock that Byron had made for me,' Purdy said. 'It's really neat. He's got this stamp that says, 'Made by Byron Nelson.' He put it on the bottom of the clock. I wish he had just stamped it right on the face. That's going to be displayed.'
 
DIVOTS
To get a clear picture of how the new Ryder Cup points system emphasizes current form, consider the last month. Brett Wetterich, who had never finished higher than fifth in his career going into the season, is now 10th in the U.S. standings after a five-way tie for sixth in Houston, a three-way tie for fourth in New Orleans and winning in Dallas. Chris DiMarco, a runner-up at the Masters and the NEC Invitational last year, started 2006 at No. 4 and now is No. 15 in the standings. ... Annika Sorenstam has gone five stroke-play tournaments without winning, her longest drought since 2001.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Karrie Webb has won 31 percent of her LPGA Tour events (10-of-32) by at least five shots.
 
FINAL WORD
'I ache a lot more.' -- Jim Furyk, asked the difference between himself as a player in 1995 and 2006.
 
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.