The Goods on Valhalla

By Brian HewittSeptember 3, 2008, 4:00 pm
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was scheduled to visit Valhalla Golf Club Wednesday to make his final course set-up recommendations for the much-anticipated matches that will take place later this month at the private Louisville club.
What he found was a course that has received very little rain in the last month. As late as early August the combination of heat and dryness forced course officials to actually rope off certain stressed sections of greens and fringes.
But, head Valhalla professional Keith Reese said this week, Those areas have come along fine. The course looks great.
Reese, like many other Kentuckians, is excited about how long-hitting, native son J. B. Holmes will perform. Azinger made Holmes one of his four captains picks Tuesday and Reese confirmed that Holmes has played Valhalla on many occasions, most of them as a collegian at the University of Kentucky, which is located nearby in Lexington.
Reese talked in amazement about the driver, 7-iron Holmes hit on a cold, wet day into the par-4 16th after it had been lengthened to 510 yards.
Reese also said the biggest legend at Valhalla surrounds Holmes conquests of the 545-yard par-5 18th that plays to an elevated green.
The legend is, Reese said, is that J.B. has never hit more than a 9-iron into the green with his second shot.
Kenny Perry, another Kentuckian, said at last months PGA that he would love to partner with Holmes and be first off in the foursomes matches Friday morning, Sept. 19.
That, Reese said, would certainly send some electricity through the crowd.
After 17 consecutive years at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club near Chicago, the BMW Championship (formerly the Western Open) has moved this week to Bellerive Country Club near St. Louis.
But that hasnt stopped the good folks at Cog Hill from staying busy, even though the course has been closed since last September for a Rees Jones renovation.
GOLF CHANNEL has learned Cog Hill has Olympian aspirations.
Nothing wrong with the home field advantage.
And with that statement, Cog Hill owner Frank Jemsek officially threw his hat into the ring in a bid to land the Olympics for his golf course in 2016.
Jemsek is aware that there are more than a few hurdles to clear before his dream of bringing the entire golf world to his famed Chicago-area public course complex in eight years. But he says he has already reached out to officials heading up the Chicago bid for the Games in 2016.
First, the International Olympic Committee must award the 2016 Games to Chicago. (Experts say Madrid, Spain is an early favorite.) Second, the IOC must grant golfs application as a new sport. Currently there are seven sports applying for two available new spots in 2016.
Crunch time will come in October of 2009 when the IOC announces the host city and the new sport awardees at its meetings in Denmark.
Meanwhile, Jemsek will continue to campaign. He said he expects his chief competition to come from private Chicago-area clubs Medinah and Olympia Fields, both of which have hosted U.S. Opens in recent years.
The Tour pros know Cog Hill, Jemsek said. Plus its a course the public can play. Think of how many golfers would like be able to say they played the course where they had the Olympics.
Cog Hill No. 4 can also handle crowds. On Sunday of the final round in 1997 when Tiger Woods won, there were 50,000 people in attendance.
Meanwhile back at Valhalla, and more on just how partisan will those Kentucky crowds be:
PGA of America spokesman Julius Mason said people who applied for tickets to the Ryder Cup matches were notified last October whether they had made it through the lottery. All tickets, he said, were mailed by the end of last month.
Mason explained that the lottery gave all applicants an equal chance of getting an opportunity to buy tickets. But, he added, it has been the PGA of Americas experience that a higher percentage ticket applications come from fans which live closer to the venue.
In other words, yes, it will at times sound like an SEC football game.
I expect a real boisterous home advantage, said U.S. captain Paul Azinger.
European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo remains under attack throughout much of Europe for leaving Irish stalwart Darren Clarke off his team and making Englishmen Ian Poulter and Paul Casey his captains picks.
But in a one sense Faldo has managed to take a certain amount of the pressure off of his players, who will arrive at Valhalla as heavy favorites.
If the Euros lose, the critics will be quick to heap the blame on Faldo. If the Euros win, many of those same critics will insist the players did it despite Faldo.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.