Notes Watsons Woes Kohlers Creation

By Associated PressJuly 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
U.S. Senior OpenHAVEN, Wis. -- Tom Watson worked all week to build an insurmountable lead at the U.S. Senior Open. When it looked like he finally had it on Sunday, everything fell apart.
'You can write the story pretty easy,' said Watson, who shot a 6-over 78, including a 43 on the back nine. 'When I make double bogey at 11, a par-5 which is reachable in two today, that was a real wake-up call right there that the golf course wasn't going to give in very easily.'
Watson had finished second in three of the past five U.S. Senior Opens, but this time, he collapsed by losing eight strokes over the final eight holes as Brad Bryant won by shooting a 68 on Sunday to finish 6-under. Watson finished fourth, five strokes behind.
The breakdown began when Watson's third shot on the 11th bounced down into a greenside bunker. He chipped out to the fringe, then managed to three-putt for a 7.
The worst was still coming for Watson, who is now 0-for-8 in his attempts to win the high-profile Champions Tour major.
'I think if he drives the ball in the fairway at 11, he probably goes on to knock it up on the green in two and makes a birdie and goes on and wins the tournament,' said playing partner Loren Roberts, who finished third at 2-under. 'It seemed to me like 11 was such a body blow there and it compounded with a three-putt from just off the fringe. It just kind of took all the wind out of his sails.'
Watson, a five-time winner at the British Open with eight major victories on the PGA TOUR, also blew leads at this tournament in 2005 when Allen Doyle eventually came from nine strokes back to win and again in 2006.
Watson's collapse was the second largest in the U.S. Senior Open's 28-year history, behind Doyle's comeback.
Watson finally seemed to have this major in hand after his birdie on No. 10 moved him to 9-under par. Then came No. 11, and he bogeyed No. 12 and No. 13 when he missed a pair of short putts, the second lipping around the cup but staying out.
'It's a very special tournament for me and I had it in my grasp,' Watson said. 'I had the reins, and I lost the reins at 13.'
Even a nice save on the 14th didn't help Watson, who drove it behind a shrub on the par-4 15th hole.
'I hit the ball in the rough too many times, and today I got my just reward hitting the ball in the rough,' he said. 'I had to put the ball in the fairway today, and I didn't do it enough times. That was the killer for me.'
Herbert V. Kohler Jr. smiled broadly when he heard Tom Watson declare that Whistling Straits is 'about the prettiest golf course I've ever played.'
Kohler, whose Kohler Co. developed the course that hosted the U.S. Senior Open, said the compliment from the five-time British Open champion was a sweet one.
'Those are tall words, and I am humbled and honored,' said Kohler, who had Pete Dye design the course on the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan to honor the great links courses of Ireland and Scotland that host the British Open.
The grandeur and severity of Whistling Straits produced exciting golf for the Senior Open, with winds whipping up to an estimated 25 mph on Sunday.
Attendance, however, was slightly disappointing.
In 2004, a record 320,000 fans flocked to Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship.
The senior event drew 23,000 people Sunday and an estimated 118,000 for the tournament, but Kohler believes the dates of the Senior Open hurt attendance.
'It's difficult to pull people away from their homes on a Fourth of July weekend because it's such a big family weekend. So we're pleased we have drawn so many fans to watch these great golfers,' he said.
The PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straits in 2010 and 2015. The course is also scheduled to host the Ryder Cup in 2020.
About 2,500 volunteers greeted fans, chauffeured golfers and made sure the Senior Open ran smoothly even with temperatures reaching the mid-90s on Sunday afternoon.
Cindy Pfrang, part of a group of 15 non-paid staffers from the Quit Qui Oc Golf Club in nearby Elkhart Lake, Wis. helped direct traffic around the 10th tee.
After applying a year ago, Pfrang, from Mesa, Ariz., heard in October that her annual summer back in Wisconsin would include quieting the spectators as golfers teed off, helping give directions and holding back the crowd as the pros approached her area.
She said the experience was memorable.
'The golfers and the crowd are a lot of fun,' she said.
The volunteers paid $150 for their two embroidered U.S. Open shirts, a stylized rain jacket and a cap or headband. In return, they received free parking, daily food vouchers and a pass to watch golf after they completed their four-hour shifts.
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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.”