PGA Mulls Waste Bunker Dilemma
The PGA of America, The Golf Channel has learned, is close to announcing that it agrees.
Quick background: Cink beat Ted Purdy in a playoff at Harbour Town after some creative but legal 'gardening' with loose impediments in a waste area to the left of the 16th hole.
Part of the fallout was the realization that Whistling Straits, site of next month's PGA Championship, has hundreds of waste areas. In a waste area, a player is allowed, among other things, to ground his or her club and remove loose impediments.
Late Tuesday Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's Managing Director of Tournaments, said his organization was leaning toward playing everything 'through the green' at Whistling Straits.
'Through the green' means players would be able to ground their clubs in sandy areas, including greenside bunkers, throughout the course. What's imperative, Haigh added, is that players know exactly what constitutes a loose impediment.
In other words, if the PGA of America decides on 'through the green,' it will strive to eliminate the ambiguities of Harbour Town that led to what many people thought was a preferred lie that helped Cink win the tournament.
The last time the PGA of America played sandy areas as 'through the green' was at the 1991 Ryder Cup matches at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Not coincidentally, course architect Pete Dye, designed the Ocean Course and Whistling Straits.
Haigh said the decision on whether to play 'through the green' at Whistling Straits could come as late as the Thursday morning of the event. He pointed out that players hitting into sand outside the ropes under 'through the green rules' will be at an obvious disadvantage because, in many cases, spectators will have walked in those areas. Sandy areas inside the ropes, he said, will be maintained.
But players won't have to rake bunkers. And they won't have to worry about grounding their clubs.
Earlier this week, defending PGA champion Shaun Micheel, who played Whistling Straits for the first time last June, told me he favored the PGA declaring all waste areas as hazards. But, he conceded, 'they'd have to put rakes everywhere. I don't know if there are that many rakes. They might have to go to Home Depot.'
Instead there might not be any rakes. Which is the other way to attack the potential problem.
Micheel and several other players praised Haigh and the PGA of America as even-handed in its course set-ups over the years. But at least one Tour player said the conditions at Whistling Straits, which, at 7,597 yards, will play as the longest course in major championship history, could produce scores in the 90s.
Haigh is acutely aware how severe conditions can get along Lake Michigan at Whistling Straits when the prevailing winds blow. Plus, the last thing the PGA of America wants is the kind of notoriety the USGA achieved at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills when the course temporarily, at least, got out of control during the final round. Nor does the PGA of America want a repeat of the Cink controversy.
'We will make everything absolutely clear on the rules sheet (distributed to the players),' Haigh said.
Haigh also said his organization will, if conditions dictate, consider shortening the 618-yard par 5 11th, the 516-yard par 4 15th, and the 500-yard par 4 18th. If this happens, Haigh said, it won't be because of the lengths of the holes (the 15th is the longest listed par 4 in major championship history). It will be because of the carry distances off the tee.
'It's a difficult golf course with challenges unlike any other,' Haigh said of Whistling Straits.
And it's terrific to see the PGA of America assessing the upsides AND the downsides of those challenges with an open mind.
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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."