Needles And Pines
Weather delays, searing heat, trying course conditions and the built-in pressure of playing for womens golfs most important prize on its biggest stage has turned into a golfing war of attrition.
The weekend has arrived and relentless afternoon electricity in the local ether has prevented the championship from reaching its halfway mark. Almost everybody is on edge.
Annika Sorenstam, the defending champion, needed 42 strokes to complete the first nine holes of her second round. Karrie Webb, the No. 2 ranked female player in the world, had a 42 on the back nine Thursday. Suzann Pettersen, who won the McDonalds LPGA earlier this month, has carded a 43. So has Hall of Famer Juli Inkster.
Italys Silvia Cavalleri withdrew due to heat exhaustion Friday after nine holes that totaled 44. Michelle Wie sounded like the heat had gotten to her after an 11-over Thursday round, that included a back nine 44, when she said, Theres a fine line between 82 and 69.
Ji-Yai Shin from Korea said this: Im very, very nervous. Very nervous.
If Oakmont was Roger Clemens power pitching in his prime, Pine Needles is Greg Maddux painting the black part of the plate in his mid-30s. Lots of players trudging back to the dugout with their bats on their shoulders.
Fridays early leader in the clubhouse was Koreas In-Bee Park who has a cartoon bumblebee on her golf bag and says her first name in Korean means Queen of Virtue.
She followed an opening 69 with a Friday 73 and hasnt been stung yet by Pine Needles. Her close friend, Angela Park, another Korean teenager, was the first round leader and still in front when In-Bee Park finished her Friday round. Which meant, at least temporarily, the U.S. Womens Open was double-Parked.
Dodging lightning, managing emotions, conserving energy, maintaining focus and marshalling patience have all been part of the test so far. Not to mention the nutritional challenge of deciding when to nosh and when to abstain when you dont know if the officials are going to call you back on the golf course again.
I just eat when Im hungry, said In-Bee Park, who will turn 19 in July. Easy for her to say.
Its the U.S. Open, said Kelli Kuehne, older and wiser. Things never go as you think they will.
Just stay patient, said In-Bee Park. Also easy for the Queen of Virtue to say.
Kicked my bag, got mad, almost broke my toe, Kuehne said at one point. I dont think Ill be kicking my bag any more.
Alexis Thompson, the youngest player in the history of this event'she doesnt turn 13 until next February'plays like an adult but sounds like a pre-teen. When somebody asked her who won the ping-pong match between her and Vicky Hurst during one of the weather delays, she said she thought Hurst might have let her win.
But, Thompson quickly added, dont make that sound like Im a brat.
When the players got to Pine Needles Friday they found a set of greens that were rolling about 12 on the Stimpmeter. That was about three inches faster than Rd. 1s greens, which had been slowed by late Wednesday rains. Turns out the grounds staff had been mowing until 10:30 Thursday night. They resumed at 4:45 Friday morning.
If we dont get a few gripes during a championship, said Mike Davis, the USGAs estimable course set-up guy, were not quite sure we set the championship up right.
To their collective credit, the women havent been complaining this week so much as theyve been busy playing defense on the course and watching the Weather Channel in the locker room.
Davis is the architect of the conditions at the USGAs marquee events. Donald Ross was the original architect of Pine Needles. John Fought, a former U.S. Amateur champion, was the architect of a restoration at Pine Needles that significantly changed what the women faced here at the 2001 Open and what greeted them when they arrived on Monday.
What had played at approximately 6,250 yards to a par of 70 when Webb won here six years ago is now 6,644 on the card to a par of 71. Instead of rye grass roughs the players found Bermuda grass.
Bermuda rough, as we all know, is a more penal rough, Davis said, because the ball falls to the bottom; versus overseeded rye, the ball sits up a bit.
In theory, Davis said, this is supposed to be the hardest test the women will face all year every year. The goal is to take the worlds best players and test them as much as we can without having it be unfair test where well-executed shots arent rewarded.
So the course is sneaky-hard. The weather is more unpredictable than the last episode of The Sopranos. And the eventual outcome'both the who and the when'right now is anybodys best guess.
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.