Notes Furrowed Bunkers Annika Update
The latest discussion centers on the consistency and the raking of the bunkers. Jack Nicklaus, in the June issue of Golf Digest, says the USGA is missing an opportunity at Oakmont by not furrowing the sand there to increase the difficulty of an already ferocious test.
Nicklaus ordered up gap-toothed bunker rakes for his Memorial Tournament last year, and the move was met with a collective howl from the players (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
Nicklaus also told Golf Digest that he will furrow the bunkers again at this years Memorial, which begins May 31. But, he said, the rakes will produce furrows that are less severe.
Meanwhile, USGA course set-up guy Mike Davis told me the USGA considered furrowing the bunkers at Oakmont where there is a history of that kind of conditioning.
Instead, the USGA came down on the side of a softer sand that causes player headaches of a different kind. Its harder to nip the ball (out of soft sand), Davis said. Were not afraid of the player getting an occasional fried egg.
And he wasnt talking about the concession stands.
Still no official word yet on whether Annika Sorenstam or Michelle Wie will be playing in the Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika that begins in South Carolina at the end of the month. But the news, at least from the Sorenstam camp, is encouraging. Both Wie (hand) and Sorenstam (neck and back) have been sidelined by injuries for much of the year.
Sorenstam spokesman Mike McGee reports that Annika has been off painkillers since last week and the discomfort hasnt returned. Which we think is great, McGee said.
Among Sorenstams daily therapy exercises is one where she utilizes a device that stretches her neck while she lies on her back. The object is to take stress on her vertebrae.
Sorenstam has been chipping and putting every day and, most recently, began hitting 25-50 100-yard shots off a tee. This, too, is without pain; although, McGee says, shes still hesitant to go down and dig the ball out of the dirt.
Shes hoping to play the Ginn Tribute, McGee says, but we still have no idea or true time frame.
Sorenstam is still experiencing tingling in here right thumb and soreness in her rotator cuff and arm area.
Wie has committed to play in Sorenstams event but is still waiting for the green light from her hand specialist to play in the Ginn Tribute.
Both players are acutely aware that the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola and the U.S. Womens Open fill two of the next three slots on the LPGA schedule in the weeks after the Ginn Tribute.
GRASS IS GREENER:
The success of the playing surface of the greens at THE PLAYERS last week did not go unnoticed by golf officials elsewhere.
Ken Mangum, the Director of Golf Courses and Grounds at the Atlanta Athletic Club, reports that he is considering changing grasses for his greens between now and the 2011 PGA Championship.
So we can have some firmness that makes the course play different than the soft August bentgrass, Mangum informed me.
Mangum also said a decision has been made to upgrade the grave site Friday of golf great Bobby Jones. It needed some work, Mangum said, and we are going to install new sod and a flag with the four Grand Slam trophies on it.
Jones is buried in Atlantas historic Oakland Cemetery, which also contains the tomb of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind.
SEVE AT 50:
Hard to believe Seve Ballesteros is 50. The golf images from his youth are so indelibly etched.
Life is like a dream, Ballesteros said earlier this week in Alabama where he will make his Champions Tour debut. You go to bed and you wake up with age. I dont know if thats a good translation, but we say that in Spain.
In one way it looks like its been many, many years. And on the other hand it looks like it was just yesterday when I joined the TOUR, you know? Time goes by very quickly for everybody. For everybody.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.