Whistling Straits Hot Commodity in Golfing World

By Associated PressJanuary 25, 2005, 5:00 pm
For those who like to plan ahead, and we're not talking about putting snow tires on the car in August, the 2020 Ryder Cup will be played at Whistling Straits in the new golfing mecca of Wisconsin.

That's the same year Phil Mickelson is eligible for the Champions Tour.

'It is a long time out,' PGA of America president Roger Warren conceded. 'The last one we had, previous to that, would have been 2016.'

04 PGA ChampionshipMaybe the PGA should take its cue from the Olympics.

The IOC will meet later this year to select a site for the 2012 Olympics, giving the lucky city only seven years to prepare for the biggest spectacle in sports, played out over three weeks at three dozen venues involving thousands of athletes from more than 100 countries.

The Ryder Cup is 12 Europeans and 12 Americans playing golf for three days.

Alas, it wasn't just the Ryder Cup at the center of this scheduling insanity.

The PGA of America also announced that Whistling Straits would get the PGA Championship in 2010 and 2015, the quickest turnaround for golf's fourth major since it waited only four years to return to storied Valhalla.

But the issues run much deeper.

The most compelling competition in golf last week wasn't Tiger Woods against Tom Lehman in a sloppy duel in the fog at Torrey Pines. It was the PGA Championship against the U.S. Open -- one of them stopping at nothing to make Whistling Straits part of its landscape, the other not losing any sleep over it.

Some history on the course, and the competition for it:
Whistling Straits is the dream of Herb Kohler and the creation of Pete Dye. It is a spectacular, links-styled course stretching over 7,500 yards with more than 1,400 bunkers and sensational, limitless views of Lake Michigan.

It opened to rave reviews, and quickly courted the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

The PGA Championship already was booked for the next 10 years, but so what? PGA officials simply took the '04 tournament away from Valhalla and awarded it to Whistling Straits. There wasn't much outcry because the PGA of America owns Valhalla, and no one thinks much of Valhalla as a major championship course, anyway.

Whistling Straits indeed proved to be worth the fuss last year.

There were more than 300,000 spectators, only a dozen or so ankle injuries from walking the cliffside course, and a three-way playoff won by Vijay Singh.

It was so successful that the USGA became interested again.

With the U.S. Senior Open scheduled for Whistling Straits in 2007, the USGA was leaning toward taking the U.S. Open there in 2012. But the blue coats dragged their feet. They postponed the decision at a November meeting until the USGA annual meeting next month.

And that was all the time the PGA needed to swoop in.

First came the announcement that the 2010 PGA would not be played at Sahalee -- it had been on the schedule since 2000, by the way -- because it would conflict with the Winter Olympics behind held in Vancouver.

Sorry, but aren't the Winter Olympics held in the winter?

And if this is about having enough corporate money to go around, remember that the Olympics were awarded to British Columbia two years ago. Did the PGA of America just now figure that out?

'The consensus of everyone involved was that it would be very difficult to compete with the Olympics when you talk about corporate support,' Warren said. 'The decision to compete with the Olympics is not something we wanted.'

That didn't seem to hurt the 1980 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, only 280 miles away from Lake Placid.

Maybe that's because it was an era when the focus was on golf, not money.

And it's interesting that the PGA doesn't want to compete for corporate money with the Olympics. It sure didn't mind taking away from the women when it picked Hazeltine in Minnesota for the 2002 PGA Championship -- after the LPGA Tour had already announced the Solheim Cup would be played a month later at nearby Interlachen.

One can only suspect the PGA carried a win-at-all-cost attitude when it gave the shaft to Sahalee, a pretty, tree-lined course outside Seattle in an area starved for championship golf.

'We want to bring back a PGA event to Sahalee,' Warren said.

The PGA Championship has vacancies from 2012-14, and it's surprising the PGA of America didn't just pick one of those years -- unless it had some other PGA event in mind, like the Club Pro Championship.

Meantime, USGA executive director David Fay said he spoke to Kohler and Jim Awtrey, the outgoing CEO of the PGA, and offered them his sincere congratulations for their trifecta.

'I commend the PGA for identifying Whistling Straits early, taking the bold step of taking the PGA there last year and buttoning it up,' Fay said Tuesday. 'Once they got what seems to be a winner -- clearly, it's a winner in the eyes of the players, press and public -- it was a good move on their part.'

The USGA will move on with no shortage of great courses available.

Then again, the U.S. Open doesn't need a golf course to establish its identity.
 
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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.