USGAs Antiquated 18-hole Payoff Needs to Go

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
USGANEWPORT, R.I. -- Annika Sorenstam was so tired from playing 54 holes in two days that she took Tuesday off after winning the U.S. Women's Open. Pat Hurst was exhausted before she got to the first tee for the 18-hole playoff, and that was after a night of rest.
 
Imagine how Billy Burke and George Von Elm must have felt.

It was 75 years ago when they engaged in the longest playoff in golf history at the 1931 U.S. Open. They were tied after 72 holes of regulation, the final 36 holes in one day. There was a 36-hole playoff the next day, and both men shot 7-over 149. So they came back a fifth day for 36 more holes, and Burke shot 148 to win by a single shot at Inverness.
 
By comparison, Sorenstam got off easy.
 
The USGA is the only golf organization that still believes an 18-hole playoff is the fairest measure of a champion.
 
But if that's such a fair test, why did it ever change from 36 holes?
 
And what keeps the USGA from getting with the times and changing to a four-hole playoff (British Open), a three-hole playoff (PGA Championship) or a sudden-death playoff (Masters)?
 
Not even the winner at Newport Country Club liked the idea of 18 holes.
 
'I think maybe a three-hole playoff would have been a little better, especially when all the excitement and adrenaline was there last night with all the people,' Sorenstam said.
 
Turns out she only needed one hole, anyway. Sorenstam hit sand wedge that spun back to 6 feet for birdie on the opening hole, Hurst three-putted for bogey, and everyone was asking about a mercy rule the rest of the morning.
 
'You work so hard, and then we leave Sunday and we still don't know who won,' Sorenstam said. 'It's kind of funny how that all works out. It makes for a long week, that's for sure. You would think that you could determine a winner within 75 holes.'
 
Hurst offered either a three-hole or a six-hole solution.
 
Strangely enough, everyone wondered whether Hurst had the stamina to keep up with Sorenstam over 36 holes on a sun-baked afternoon at Newport, with only about 25 minutes to grab lunch between the third and fourth rounds. A 37-year-old mother of two, Hurst is more likely to be found at McDonald's than Gold's Gym.
 
But fitness wasn't an issue Sunday.
 
Hurst sat on her bag during long waits in the five-plus hour rounds, but her game was superb. She matched Sorenstam shot for shot over 36 holes, playing her best golf -- a final-round 69, matching the lowest score of the tournament -- as the day wore on.
 
What killed her was getting some rest before the Monday playoff.
 
'The competitive juices weren't flowing as much as they were yesterday,' Hurst said. 'You're in the moment. I felt like I lost a little bit coming back out the next day. I wasn't into it as much as I was into it yesterday.'
 
And those are just the players.
 
The atmosphere was dull Monday morning. Instead of 20,000 people crammed into the bleachers and packed behind the ropes, there were about 800 people at most to watch the start of the playoff, a number that swelled only slightly.
 
The USGA said 4,655 people showed up Monday, but some were eating lunch on picnic tables by the entrance, enjoying a summer afternoon in Rhode Island, waiting for a winner who could have been crowned the night before.
 
Volunteers who could have been sailing or sunning returned to Newport to hold ropes and post scores and drive shuttles. The playoff was televised by ESPN -- Johnny Miller and Roger Maltbie didn't bother returning -- and the network probably wished it could have dumped this off on The Golf Channel after Sorenstam led by three shots after three holes, and five shots at the turn.
 
Hurst and Sorenstam played 36 holes Sunday. Why did they need 18 more on Monday?
 
And if sudden-death is such a sham, why does the USGA use that in case of a tie after the 18-hole playoff? Why get away from the marathon match 75 years ago between Burke and Von Elm?
 
The other organizations wised up.
 
The Royal & Ancient gave up on the 36-hole playoff in time for Jack Nicklaus to beat Doug Sanders over 18 holes (72-73) in 1970 at St. Andrews. Then the R&A really went outside the box, introducing a four-hole aggregate playoff in 1989, won by Mark Calcavecchia at Royal Troon. Were they lesser champions because they didn't play 36 holes?
 
One could argue that Greg Norman might have won in 1989 if he had 18 holes instead of four, but an argument could be made just as easily that the Shark still would have found calamity waiting for him at the end.
 
The PGA Championship used to have an 18-hole playoff after it changed to stroke play in 1958, and it was the first of the men's majors to switch to sudden-death in 1977 when Lanny Wadkins won at Pebble Beach. Then it copied the R&A by going to a three-hole playoff in 2000, when Tiger Woods defeated Bob May.
 
The Masters switched to a sudden-death playoff and is sticking to it, although wouldn't it be sweet to see a three-hole playoff over Amen Corner -- a par 4, par 3 and a par 5?
 
As for those who believe anything but 18-hole playoffs can produce fluke champions, explain Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan in 1955 at The Olympic Club.
 
There's no reason for the USGA not to change, especially since it has gone from an 18-hole playoff to a 36-hole playoff to an 18-hole playoff during its 111 years of championship golf.
 
And there's nothing in the Rules of Golf that spells out how to crown a champion.
 
Only that the lowest score wins.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.