Players Bemoan Difficult Course Set-Ups

By Associated PressJune 3, 2008, 4:00 pm
Stanford St. Jude ChampionshipDUBLIN, Ohio -- Bay Hill was brutal one year. Shots into the firm greens looked as if they were bouncing off a trampoline, yet the grass was so lush in front of the green it was hard to get the ball close. No one shot better than 69.
 
One major champion unloaded in the parking lot that evening, calling the course a joke and wondering aloud if he would return. Just then, tournament host Arnold Palmer pulled up beside him in a golf cart and asked him what he thought.
 
He looked at the King, shrugged and slowly nodded his head.
 
Not bad, he said.
 
Jack Nicklaus couldnt stop laughing when he heard this story Sunday morning at the Memorial.
 
There was no shortage of media complaints about Muirfield Village, where Kenny Perry won with the highest score in 23 years. Nicklaus might be colorblind, but he can read black-and-white print in a newspaper.
 
The source of players aggravation was rough that might be as thick and long as they see all year. Combine that with the fastest, purest greens on tour and the results were predictable. There were more rounds in the 80s than the 60s. Players near the top of the leaderboard said it was tough but fair. Players near the bottom said it was ridiculous.
 
Nicklaus could relate to Palmer.
 
Not one player said a word to me, he said.
 
Course setups get about as much attention as slow play these days, and solutions are equally difficult to find. Nicklaus made it clear that he wasnt in charge of the way Muirfield Village played'that ultimately falls to the PGA TOUR staff'but it was no different from previous years, except for a wet spring that made the grass grow.
 
The rough, indeed, was troublesome. Mike Weir had a wedge to the fifth green in the final round and chipped out from the deep rough (he still made par). Phil Mickelson rifled a 3-wood some 290 yards to the par-5 11th green in the second round, and the ball rolled off the back into the rough. It was so deep he wound up scrambling for par.
 
I think one of the greatest shots in golf is the recovery, Nicklaus said. I hate it when youre hacking out, and theyre doing that at my tournament. I hate that. But I have no control over that.
 
The lawn mowers werent broken, but the grass was so thick it might not have mattered.
 
Some players felt as though they were at a U.S. Open, and maybe thats why Nicklaus was so amused to hear so much whining. He used to go to the U.S. Open, listen to players complain about the course, and figure those guys had no chance.
 
You have to learn to adjust, Nicklaus said. If I couldnt adjust my game to the conditions, I didnt deserve to do well.
 
The problem is whether the PGA TOUR is getting enough variety.
 
For all the complaining at Memorial, there were birdies to be made. Mathew Goggin made 15 over the first two days, along with his share of bogeys. Even so, Davis Love III has noticed the winning score getting worse in recent years.
 
Scores should be going down, not up, Love said. Thats a pretty good indication that its getting harder. Nobody ever shoots 20 under anymore. And players are a heck of a lot better. The fields are deeper.
 
Love said the course setup was a major topic at the players meeting last month in North Carolina. Why are courses so hard? What kind of show can they put on for the fans and a television audience when theyre scrambling for par?
 
And whos idea was this, anyway?
 
Its a four-letter word, Steve Flesch said at the Memorial. And he runs this place.
 
The mandate actually came from the PGA TOUR policy board nearly 20 years ago, with only a few instructions. Firm, closely mown grass on the tees, fairways and greens. Thick, evenly dispersed rough (when growing conditions allow).
 
The summation of that 1990 document was to have all courses play as difficult as possible while remaining fair. Exactly what that means, of course, is subject to interpretation.
 
Are course setups getting worse?
 
In 22 stroke-play events this year, 10 winning scores were higher, 10 were lower and two were the same.
 
I dont want to sound like the guy whos 44 and not playing good, said Love, who turned 44 in April and is not playing particularly well. But its really hard. It doesnt matter if its hard or easy'its the same for everybody. But is that what we want?
 
This follows a year in which average birdies were way down from previous years, along with TV ratings, and players began asking if fans might lose interest watching the best in the world hack it around every week.
 
I think Phil had the right idea when he said technology has gone two ways, Joe Ogilvie said. We have better balls, better drivers, better equipment. Johnny Miller talks about equipment almost as much as he talks about himself. But 15 years ago, they couldnt grow rough 10 inches. John Deere makes a hell of a tractor that cuts the greens lower and lower and lower.
 
It gets to the point when golf'even for us'gets pretty boring.
 
Next week is the U.S. Open, where the winning score has been 5 over par the last two years.
 
Ogilvie believes PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, the USGA and other golf organizations want courses to be tougher than ever so fans wont think these guys are good simply because of the better equipment.
 
But at least, Ogilvie said, theyre not saying these guys are good because of HGH.
 
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  • What's in the bag: RSM Classic winner Cook

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 20, 2017, 3:52 pm

    PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook earned his first Tour title at the RSM Classic. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Ping G400 (8.5 degrees adjusted to 9.2), with Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661X shaft

    Fairway wood: Ping G400 (13 degrees), with Fujikura Motore VC 7.0 shaft

    Hybrids: Ping G400 (19, 22 degrees), with Matrix Altus Red X shafts

    Irons: Ping S55 (5-PW), with KBS Tour S shafts

    Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50, 56, 60) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

    Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1

    Monday Scramble: For money and love

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 20, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

    It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.

    She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.

    She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.

    Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.

    “It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”

    But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.

    What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak. 


    1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.

    In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.

    Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?

    2. Some of the other awards ...

    Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?

    Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.

    No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green … 



    3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.

    Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.

    Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.

    4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.

    She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.



    5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.

    Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

    Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.

    6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.

    Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time. 

    7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.

    He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.

    Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.



    8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.

    After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.

    He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.  

    “I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said. 

    9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.

    Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:

    Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.

    10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.

    The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.

    This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).

    Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.” 

    Um, has this ever happened before?

    I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71. 

    This week's award winners ... 


    Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.  

    Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s. 

    Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.  

    Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign. 


    All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.” 

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh. 

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.