Players Not Sold on New Houston Open Course

By Associated PressApril 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
HUMBLE, Texas-- The Shell Houston Open will move to the weekend before The Masters next year, a change organizers hope will lure a more star-studded field.
It's not the date, but the course that could keep many away.

The Tournament Course at Redstone, where Stuart Appleby shot 19 under last weekend to win the event, got a lukewarm response from the players, most of whom were seeing it for the first time.
Vijay Singh won the previous two Houston Opens at the adjacent Jacobsen/Hardy course at Redstone. The event moved to the 7,457-yard Rees Jones layout this year.
Singh said too many of the holes look the same.
'The golf course did not grow on me,' said Singh, the 2000 Masters winner. 'Normally, the more you play, the more it grows on you. I just hope they go back to the old golf course next year. I think that's the consensus of most of the players.'
Bob Estes, who finished second to Appleby, didn't like the distance between holes. The second tee was more than a quarter mile from the first green and though players had carts waiting to shuttle them, Estes said the process backed up play.
'It's just so spread out, the rounds were really long, and that's the downside of it,' Estes said.
Appleby led wire-to-wire and won by six shots. Naturally, he liked the course, but said it was not the ideal tuneup for Augusta. But he added that no course really is and said most players only play the week before majors for the competition.
'Certainly, if I play like this next year going into Augusta, I'll have the next event to gain the momentum and the vibe going in,' he said.
Others did have compliments for the new course north of Houston, which former PGA champion David Toms helped Jones design.
John Daly, who drew the largest galleries last week despite finishing tied for 59th, said the new course was more demanding than the old one off the tee.
'The other one, you can rip driver on all the par 4s and par 5s and this one here, you can't,' he said. 'But I do like it. It's an awesome golf course.'
Outside of a few long walks, Estes enjoyed it, too.
'It's definitely hard enough to challenge all of us,' he said.
Larry Mize, who won The Masters in 1987, said The Tournament Course does have similarities to Augusta.
'You've got big, undulating greens and your iron play is as key as it is at Augusta,' said Mize, who finished at even-par last week. 'You can get some Augusta-like putts out here. I think it can work as a warmup.'
The Houston Open was often played the week before the Masters in the late 1980s and early '90s. It was two weeks before The Masters in 2002, the final year it was played at the TPC at The Woodlands.
It got the late April time slot in 2003, and tournament director Steve Timms said organizers asked the PGA Tour for a change. While acknowledging organizers hope to draw more marquee stars with the move, Timms said the request was also made to protect the course's condition.
Last week, the course was in transition between its winter and summer grasses, requiring more water. Estes said the fairways felt overwatered.
Timms said the course will play firmer and faster -- and more like Augusta -- in late March because of a reduced need for water. The Jones layout will host the event for at least the next six years.
'We're on a heavily overseeded golf course, and playing earlier, with the temperatures here as they are in late March, that works perfectly for us,' Timms said.
Timms isn't expecting Tiger Woods to change his usual routine of skipping the tournament before any major. But Timms expected to draw a few more marquee names than this year's did.
'We were going to take whatever date we got and do the best we could,' he said. 'This will give us a higher probability of attracting a good field. Now, it's just up to us to do all the things we need to do to make this an event players want to play in.'

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.