The Open-Minded US Open

By Brian HewittJune 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenLA JOLLA, Calif. -- In case you hadnt noticed, this is not your grandfathers U.S. Open anymore.
 
The 108th edition of our national championship begins Thursday at a stunning and municipal golf course called Torrey Pines South in San Diego.
 
The USGA wont get bent out of shape if 10 under wins. The USGA has decided to set par for 18 holes at 71 instead of the usual and grueling par 70.
 
There will be a short par-3 and, probably, a drivable par-4. And the finger and footprints of a forward thinking course set-up guy named Mike Davis and a state-of-the-art superintendent named Mark Woodward will be all over the place.
 
Davis title is Senior Director of Rules and Competitions with the USGA. Woodwards is Manager of Golf Course Operations. But neither is much for standing on ceremony or sitting still for formalities.
 
To be sure, there are still monied, blue-blazered and even hidebound members of the USGAs executive committee. But the U.S. Open has transitioned quite nicely into the 21st century.
 
Overlay Davis and Woodwards expertise with the renovation work of Open Doctor Rees Jones; throw in a crisp weather forecast calling for highs in the low to mid-70s; and add the intrigue of a special Thursday-Friday grouping that includes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and you have a monster golf buzz.
 
You also have elements that the true golf aficionado will appreciate. If you like to play golf and like to know why a golf course looks and plays the way it does, keep reading. What follows are five reasons why preparing a U.S. Open these days has evolved into a highly-sophisticated science practiced by people who appreciate golf courses as works of art.
 
Even your grandfather might be impressed.
 
THE GREENS:
Woodward supervised the conversion of the greens from a stand of bentgrass to a pure strain of poa annua. That, says Woodward, allows us to get the green speeds to the firmness that the USGA needs for this event.
 
Those speeds, says Davis, will be close to 13 on the Stimpmeter. That speed, Davis adds, is subject to change. What he means by that is that playability will be paramount. Too firm is no good. And Davis, in his third year as No. 1 set-up guy, will not be afraid to err on the side of caution.
 
THE FAIRWAYS AND ROUGHS:
The fairways will be 100 percent kikuyu grass which when cut to fairway length props the golf ball up quite nicely and rewards the accurate player off the tee. The process of bringing the fairways to pure kikuyu involved widespread use of an herbicide called Revolver which, when applied, kills every other kind of grass except kikuyu.
 
The roughs had to be overseeded with ryegrass to tame the tendency of kikuyu in June in San Diego to get too thick. Dont take this the wrong way, there will be U.S. Open rough at Torrey Pines. But there will be several different cuts depending on how far the player is off the fairway.
 
THE THIRD HOLE:
On at least two days, this downhill hole will play from a tee box, set on a bluff, at 142 yards. Davis says the prevailing wind will be into the players faces. Long and left are the ocean and a canyon, respectively. Yes, Davis, says, this hole will remind people of the short 7th hole at Pebble Beach. But several players have already commented that it will be difficult to stop a golf ball from the 195-yard teeing ground if the green is U.S. Open firm. If they put the pin front left, youll have 10 groups waiting on that tee box, says Pat Perez, who worked at Torrey Pines as a teenager and estimates hes played the course at least 250 times. This is one hole Davis will watch closely during the practice rounds. Similar to the first green at Winged Foot at the 2006 U.S. Open, the third at Torrey is a hole Davis will not hesitate to protect from unplayability with water and manageable hole locations. But dont be surprised if the third winds up being the most talked about hole on the golf course before the week ends.
 
THE 18TH HOLE:
Many assumed this reachable par-5 would be converted into a bearish par-4 when Torrey Pines received the 2008 U.S. Open. But Davis wanted it to play as a risk/reward par-5 and he was able to convince USGA executive committee member Jim Hyler that this was the way to go. You can count on the 18th being reachable in two shots for much of the field on Sunday. And you should not be surprised if somebody makes a birdie or even an eagle on the 72nd hole to win the championship. Dont count on your grandfather remembering that ever happening at a U.S. Open in his day. We want players to get out there and have a choice, says Davis. To sit back there saying, Am I going to fly the pond? Can I keep it on the green? .Those things are very appealing to us.
 
THE GOAL:
Transparency was never a watchword for the USGA in its history of preparing championship tracks. But transparency is imperative in American business these days. And Davis, with help from Hyler, has gently but persuasively brought the U.S. Open out into the open.
 
I can promise you this golf course could be set up significantly harder than what its going to be set up, Davis says. We got a fair number of calls right after the Buick (Invitational, played at Torrey Pines South last winter) when Tiger got 19 under, or whatever it was, saying are we nervous about Torrey Pines being too easy for the U.S. Open. I know Jim (Hyler) and I feel anything but that. Our fear, knowing what the kikuyu was going to be like, knowing what the firmness was going to be like, is that Torrey Pines, given the length of the golf course (it can be stretched to more than 7,600 yards), is one place that actually could become too tough. So keep that in mind.
 
Contrary to what a lot of people think, there is no target winning score, says Hyler, who also serves as the chairman of the USGA Championship Committee. We are not trying to protect par or produce over par final scores. We want the course to be set up rigorous, stern but fair. Then whatever the winning score turns out to be is what it turns out to be.
 
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  • 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.


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    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.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


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    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''