Notes Youth on center stage at Oakland Hills

By Associated PressAugust 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' This was the time for American players on the bubble for making the Ryder Cup team to make a statement. It wasnt what Hunter Mahan had in mind.
 
Mahan is 10th in the standings ' only the top eight qualify after the PGA Championship ' and he got off to a rugged start with a double bogey. It didnt get much better. He had a triple bogey on the fourth hole and shot 42 on the front nine. His round ended with one last bogey for an 81, the highest score of his career.
 
Woody Austin, who is at No. 9, went out in 40 and only three tough pars at the end allowed him to shoot 79.
 
D.J. Trahan (No. 11) opened with a 72, while Zach Johnson (No. 13) had a 76. The most impressive performance came from Sean OHair, who won in Tampa earlier this year and is No. 14 in the standings.
 
OHair was atop the leaderboard most of the morning and finished with a 1-under 69.
 
Its in the back of my mind, OHair said. I really want to play on the team, but thinking about it would get in my way. It almost would make me try too hard to get on the team. So if I just focus on what gets me to play well, it will me get on the team. And if I do get on the team, it will help me play well in the Ryder Cup.
 
Rocco Mediate, who was at No. 12 and has captain Paul Azingers attention as a possible pick, opened with a 73.
 
Azinger will select four players as captains picks.
 
YOUTH ON STAGE
 
Among the more interesting groups for the first two rounds of the PGA Championship were Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas, three young players with increasing appeal.
 
It was a big gallery for a Thursday tee time, Kim said.
 
Garcia and Kims popularity comes more from their performance, Villegas more through marketing.
 
Garcia is a 28-year-old Spaniard who won The Players Championship this year and is considered by some as the best to have never won a major. He was solid in the first round, with two birdies against one bogey for a 69. Kim has the swagger of L.A., where he grew up, and the 23-year-old came of age this year with victories at the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National. He shot 70.
 
Villegas is a 26-year-old from Colombia, who still hasnt won on the PGA TOUR. But he is famous for his Spider-Man routine when reading putts, model looks and natty clothing. He stayed with his more accomplished peers for much of the round until playing the final five holes in 5 over for a 74.
 
It was great, Garcia said. Anthony is a great guy. Obviously, Im good friends with Camilo. I think this is the first tournament round I played with Anthony, and its very impressive.
 
A TOUGH TEST
 
Paul Goydos found Oakland Hills to be as tough as any test in golf. But his exam wasnt over after he made par on his final hole for a 74. Two officials escorted him to the locker room for a drug test.
 
Drug testing on the PGA and European tours began in July, although this was the first time at a major championship.
 
Moments later, Anthony Kim was escorted to the clubhouse for his drug test after a 70.
 
I was ready. It took 10 minutes, Goydos said.
 
Goydos is among those who accepts drug testing as a way of the sporting world, although he was intrigued by the philosophy.
 
In this case, youre guilty until proven innocent, he said. And now I have 10 days to prove Im innocent.
 
He was referring to the time it takes to get results, although it might be a little longer. Charles Howell III was among the first to be tested at the AT&T National last month at Congressional, and he received an e-mail 20 days later from the PGA TOUR saying he passed.
 
CHANGE IN PLANS
 
Having parted ways with his caddie, Steve Strickers plan for the summer was to use veteran looper Jimmy Johnson for a couple of tournaments, then use wife Nicki at the PGA Championship. A good player, she caddied for him early in his career before having children.
 
But then Stricker wound up in the hunt for the Ryder Cup, and everything changed. Johnson is still on the bag.
 
She pulled herself out, Stricker said of his wife. Ive been on that Ryder Cup bubble, and she thought the last thing we needed was for her to come here on the bag and be a story and take away from all that. She did it. She said this was not a good time for it.
 
Stricker needed a good round, and he got one with a 71. He is No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, the last spot for an automatic berth, and his hopes start with making the cut.
 
RUDE AWAKENING
 
Robert Allenby thought it was strange to see glass around the back of his courtesy car on his way to the PGA Championship on Thursday. Seconds later, he realized someone had broken into his car.
 
I walked out and said, Whats all that glass? Allenby said after opening with a 76. Then I saw a half-dozen cars just like it.
 
Allenby said nothing was missing from his car, but that wasnt the case for what he estimated to be 10 other courtesy cars that were parked at the Southfield Marriott about 5 miles from Oakland Hills.
 
Other victims included K.J. Choi, who had his 5-wood in the back. That was left alone, but the navigation system was torn out.
 
My navigation system was still there, Allenby said. But the others, they took the center console out of every car. I dont know why they didnt take mine. Maybe I had it on the wrong channel.
 
QUICK TRIP
 
Nathan Green had planned to stay home in Dallas this week until he learned that two players had withdrawn from the PGA Championship since Monday, and he was the first alternate.
 
Green arrived in the Detroit area Wednesday night, and had to be at Oakland Hills in time for the 7:30 a.m. start. He waited through the morning batch of tee times, had breakfast, hit balls, then waited some more.
 
Alas, no one else withdrew, and it was time for the Aussie to go back home to Dallas without ever seeing the course.
 
I thought it was a bit of a long shot, he said. But I had to be here just in case.
 
Green said he once spent all week as an alternate at the Australian Open, but never at a major. He didnt play in the 1996 U.S. Open here, and he didnt go through U.S. qualifying for the British Open at Oakland Hills last year.
 
He didnt seem the least bit bothered by such a quick trip.
 
I wasnt doing anything this week, anyway, he said.
 
SURPRISES
 
Along with an eclectic group of players under par, there were a few surprises in the first round.
 
Jay Haas, the 54-year-old who got into the field as the Senior PGA champion, made eagle on the second hole and shot a 73. The last time Haas played as the senior champion, he made the cut at Medinah in 2006.
 
And of the 20 club pros in the field, Frank Esposito Jr. led the way with a 71. Esposito is the head pro at Brooklake in New Jersey.
 
DIVOTS
 
Sean OHair was being interviewed when former Masters champion Zach Johnson walked by and posed as a reporter. Can you tell me about your shot on 18 and what you did there on your approach shot? What happened? Did you miss it left or right, please? OHair smiled and replied, You tell me how you won the Masters and Ill answer the question. Among those at Oakland Hills was Morgan Pressel, the youngest LPGA major champion in history. She was visiting family, had dinner planned with Davis Love III and wanted to walk a few holes with Adam Scott. Temperatures topped 100 degrees in the first round last year at Southern Hills. As the afternoon groups were teeing off Thursday, it was 75 degrees.
 
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.