And before you get the idea that the USGA has gone all soft on us, heres a reminder from course set-up guy Mike Davis: This years U.S. Open will be able to play close to 400 yards longer (7,600 plus) than any previous U.S. Open. And we think, Davis said, that weather conditions will allow us to dial in the firmness pretty close to the way we want.
Its just that Davis still remembers the 1998 U.S. Senior Open staged at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles In July. At that championship the kikuyu grass greenside roughs were allowed to grow virtually unchecked. Hale Irwins winning score of 285 was the only over par winning score in the Senior Open in the last 16 years.
Kikuyu grass is very grabby. And as a result, said Davis who was at Riviera in 1998, it made the players, at times, look almost stupid around the greens. That blade of grass at that time of year is just too strong.
The greenside roughs at Torrey Pines are also primarily kikuyu. But Davis says the plan is to overseed and create a friendlier blend of ryegrass and kikuyu to give the players a fighting chance around the greens.
Greenside kikuyu at the Buick Invitational, played at Torrey Pines this week and at the Northern Trust Open, played at Riviera next month, isnt healthy enough in winter to present the kinds of problems it does later in the year.
The LPGA season begins Feb. 14-16 with the SBS Open followed by the Fields Open, both of which will be played in Hawaii.
Heres the twist:
Former World No. 1 Annika Sorenstam will probably play in both events, for the first time in her career. Current World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa will play in neither, for the first time in her career.
Sources say Ochoa wants to pay more attention to gearing her schedule around the four womens majors in 2008. Her first event of 2008 will be the HSBC Womens Championship in Singapore Feb. 28-Mar. 2.
The first LPGA major is the Kraft Nabisco Championship April 3-6.
Sorenstam is engaged to be married to Mike McGee. The wedding date is scheduled for some time in 2009. Word out of her camp is that she is healthy again and champing at the bit for the 2008 LPGA season to begin.
BACK TO SCHOOL:
The latest domino to fall in the scheduling game that faces the Wie family has to do with Michelles father, B.J. Wie.
Thats Dr. Wie to you.
It is not widely known that B.J. Wie holds a PhD and is a faculty member of the University of Hawaiis School of Travel Industry Management. It is even less widely known that B.J. Wie is currently on what a school official recently termed unpaid personal leave.
The elder Wie, reported the school official, is expected to return to his teaching assignments by the beginning of fall semester, 2008.
That means, among other things, if Michelle returns to Stanford for the fall quarter later this year, she will be free from the watchful eye of both parents. Michelle Wies parents drew criticism from at least one Stanford official late last year when it was learned that her parents were living in off-campus quarters during the first term of her freshman year. One school employee referred to B.J. and Bo (Michelles mother) as helicopter parents because they were perceived to be hovering over their daughter.
Meanwhile, officials of the SBS Open are expected to announce, within days, what players will get sponsors exemptions to that tournament. A Wie representative did not immediately respond to a request on whether Michelle had applied for one of those exemptions.
Its not too early to start examining the years first bubble. The WGC-Accenture Match Play is just a month away and the scramble for invitations at the moment is a wild one.
The top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking get bids. Ernie Els, currently No. 5, already has said he will skip the event. So, barring other dropouts, that leaves anybody near No. 65 on the list hustling for his spot.
At the moment Colin Montgomerie is languishing at No. 65. Jonathan Byrd, Carl Pettersson and Sean OHair'all prominent players--are Nos. 67-69, respectively. Anthony Kim ranks 64th, Camilo Villegas 63rd and Daniel Chopra, who won earlier this month at Kapalua, is No. 61.
Invitations become official after the release of the world rankings on Monday Feb. 11.
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