Par at US Open You Bet

By Associated PressJune 19, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Amid howls of protest from players 30 years ago at Winged Foot Golf Club, the man running the U.S. Open summed up a philosophy still very much in play today.
'Our objective is not to humiliate the best players in the world,' Sandy Tatum said. 'It's to identify them.'
On Saturday afternoon, with Shinnecock Hills baking in the Long Island sun, the U.S. Golf Association came dangerously close to doing both.
The best players in the world watched in varying stages of disbelief as putts rolled off greens, balls bounded into bunkers and downhill 3-footers quickly became 10-foot comeback putts.
USGA officials were watching, too, presumably with devilish delight.
You see, the people who run the U.S. Open have trouble with the concept of par. They cringe when it's broken, as if it were an affront to the game they're charged with protecting.
To make sure it isn't, they turn par-5s into par-4s, trim fairways to tiny strips of green ribbon and grow ankle deep rough everywhere they can.

When all else fails - as it did during the first two rounds of the Open- they simply stop watering the greens.
'They were probably losing sleep last night with all the guys under par,' Jeff Maggert said.
True to its charge, the USGA finally found the right recipe Saturday for its annual examination of the world's best golfers. If this was an exam, though, it was one without a lot of answers.
The wind that usually protects Shinnecock barely blew until late in the day, but the greens were slicker than oiled lanes at the local bowling alley. In a field of 66 players, only three broke par, and only one of them was in contention.
'The Masters was hard, but it was nothing like this,' amateur Casey Wittenberg said.
Under their breath, players muttered about the USGA. They cursed the conditions that got even more absurd as the day went on.
Those running the Open insist they heard none of it, of course, and wonder what the fuss is all about. Protecting par is a hard business, after all, on a course that measures a dinosaur-like 6,996 yards from the back tees.
'We've had nothing but positive feedback through 54 holes on 53 of them,' said Walter Driver, chairman of the USGA championship committee.
Ah yes, the 54th. That would be No. 7 on the scorecard, No. 1 in the hearts of anyone who likes to see players tortured.
The seventh was rapidly turning into the joke of this Open even before the wind shifted and workers mistakenly ran a roller over it Friday night. That combination led to a lot of mini dramas that drew huge throngs of people.
They groaned in unison as balls headed toward the hole rolled off the green. They moaned in sympathy when their favorite, Phil Mickelson, imploded there.
Think this game is tough? Try having to aim into a greenside bunker to make par on a par-3.
'When you have to hit it in the bunker to make par it's not a very good hole,' said Maggert, who did just that. 'Really, that was my plan off the tee.'
The hole almost wiped away the goofy grin Mickelson constantly wears when he hit a shot that was nearly perfect - only to watch it roll off the back of the shaved green. It got worse when Mickelson got a little bold with his chip, knocking it about 8 feet past the hole.
While Mickelson waited to putt, Shigeki Maruyama rolled his birdie putt off the back of the green into a swale, giving him a taste of what was to come.
Mickelson barely touched the putt, then followed it as it rolled slowly past the hole. In an almost comical scene, Maruyama's caddie ran to his bag to get it out of the way as the ball rolled to the edge of the green.
By the time it was over, Mickelson had a double bogey and was out of the lead.
'I really do love it,' Mickelson insisted, referring to the course. 'It's just that one hole today that was just a little bit ...'
What the USGA would have done to have a hole like that last year when Jim Furyk tied an Open record by shooting 8-under 272 at Olympia Fields outside Chicago. When Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot in 1974, he was 7-over-par, the kind of score that made USGA types feel like winners, too.
Furyk's Open record appeared in jeopardy after the first two rounds when greens softened by rain and a lack of wind allowed Mickelson and Maruyama to share the lead at 6 under.
That changed quickly on a course where par on Saturday became a cause for celebration.
'On a scale of one to 10, it's an 11,' Ernie Els said.
Things don't figure to get much better on Sunday, though many of the toughest pin positions have already been used.
If the wind blows even a bit, it could get downright scary.
'It's going to be fun to watch,' Fred Funk said. 'It's going to be a bunch of car wrecks. It's going to be like there's oil on the track at Daytona.'
For the national championship, the USGA wouldn't have it any other way.
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.