Rocco rolls and weather roils

By Brian HewittJuly 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipWhat we needed, I had written in this space and opined on GOLF CHANNELs air, was something different, something to make us forget that this 137th Open Championship was Tigerless.
 
Little did I know at the outset Thursday that Rocco Mediates summer of love affair with the game would continue late in the first round at Royal Birkdale.
 
When last seen at a major championship Mediate was taking Tiger Woods to the limit at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. Woods triumphed, but only after 19 holes of playoff golf on the Monday after the Sunday on which the championship was supposed to end. Then Woods shut his season down because of a bum left leg.
 
Rocco Mediate
Rocco Mediate is looking for redemption after a near-miss at the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
Sneaky good Mediate remained on a roll Thursday in England when he birdied the last two holes to gain a share of the first-day lead with Robert Allenby and Graeme McDowell at 1-under 69.
 
It has been, Mediate said, an amazing trip.
 
Before that, the story was the weather. And I can guarantee that none of the early risers Thursday looked out their bedroom windows at the wind and chill and rain and thought about Tiger Woods.
 
For the first half of the first day Birkdale presented players with the kind of conditions where the wind whips so hard the flagsticks double over in silent laughter at the futility of the prospect of anybody breaking par. The kind of weather where, years from now, we will still be talking about the gale that blew and the compellingly miserable conditions at a place that changed from Birkdale to Barkdale on the first day of the 2008 championship.
 
You knew something odd was up when you saw the name Shintaro Kai at the top of the leaderboard early. This 27-year-old Japanese journeyman arrived in England having missed his last two cuts in his native land. But when he birdied the first hole he sprinted ahead of the field.
 
Then you looked at some of the other early numbers: Vijay Singh 11 over through 13; Rich Beem 9 over through six; Phil Mickelson 7 over through nine. Those are all former major champions, folks.
 
My pre-tournament pick, Lee Westwood, who grew up not that far from Birkdale, was 5 over through 10. Westwood managed to bring it home in 75. Singh wasnt so lucky. He shot 80.
 
To repeat, nobody at this point was thinking very much about the recuperating Woods, snug in his cozy Florida home back in the States.
 
The game was on and the game was hard. Temperatures in the 50s. Winds in 20s, gusting up to 35. Rain blowing sideways. Dunes and mounds looming like frozen tidal waves. Rough that was wet and thick and nasty and unforgiving.
 
No, Toto, we werent in Kansas anymore. Or, for that matter, Augusta or Torrey Pines.
 
You cant believe the ball can go that short, said Retief Goosen when asked about playing into the wind after shooting a 1-over 71.
 
Youre trying to keep your grips dry and youre trying to keep your glove dry and that throws off your rhythm, said 5-time Open Championship winner Tom Watson after carding 74.
 
Today it gave us a big test, said Justin Rose, who returned 74.
 
You can get an ear ache out there because its blowing so hard, said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger from the sanctuary of the TV booth.
 
I felt like anything in the 70s was gonna be a good score, said world No. 2 Phil Mickelson after shooting 79.
 
So now the big question is: How will Fridays weather shake out? There is no guarantee that Thursdays pattern will be repeated. If its calm in the morning and ugly in the afternoon, half the field will have had what amounts to about a six-shot lead over the other half.
 
Weather, the joke goes, has been around a long time. Weather also doesnt know what day of the week it is. Weather quite often isnt fair. And theres scientific evidence to prove that weather knows a Tiger Woods from a Shintaro Kai, who by the way, signed for 80 Thursday.
 
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    Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

    Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

    “While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

    It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

    “What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

    The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

    “I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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    Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







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    Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

    The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

    Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

    Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

    1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

    2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

    3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

    4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

    5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

    6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

    7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

    8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

    9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

    10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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    Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

    It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

    Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

    "The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

    Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

    That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

    "You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

    "But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."