Black and Blue

By David AllenJune 3, 2009, 4:00 pm
If Rees Jones is The Open Doctor, then Long Island teaching professional Darrell Kestner is The Open Patient. Jones has redesigned seven U.S. Open venues, including Bethpage Black, site of this months U.S. Open; Kestner, the head professional at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., has competed in eight national championships, including the 2002 Open at Bethpage.
While Bethpage Black is a true public golf course, there are few, if any, golfers who have played the course more than Kestner. Counting local Metropolitan PGA sectional championships, New York State Opens, U.S. Opens and casual rounds, Kestner has played the course about 75 times. One of those rounds, a 65 at the Metropolitan PGA Section Assistants Championship in 1987, served as the course record until Craig Thomas of Metropolis Country Club came along and broke it with a 64 in 2007.
Kestner struggled with the lengthy U.S. Open setup in 2002, however, shooting 77-86 to miss the cut, as he says, by a mile. But he wasnt the only player to scuffle along in the second round. Among the other players to shoot over 80 on a cold, damp Friday were Adam Scott (80), Pat Perez (81), Paul Azinger and Stewart Cink (82), and Michael Campbell (83). Campbell won the U.S. Open three years later at Pinehurst.
Ive played in eight U.S. Opens ' at Shinnecock, Oakland Hills, Olympic and Pebble Beach ' and it (Bethpage) is by far the hardest, Kestner said. Its outgrown me.
Kestner failed to get through U.S. Open local qualifying this year, so he wont see the longer, even meaner Bethpage this year. Not that he minds all that much.
At least I dont have to play Bethpage now, he joked. Im not sure I can play that course anymore. At 6,800 yards, yes, but not at 7,400.
For some insight on how Bethpage will play later this month, heres a hole-by-hole blow from Kestner, including some of his recollections from the 2002 Open:
The par-4 first hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 1: Par 4, 430 Yards A dogleg right, this hole plays significantly downhill. Players will either hit 3-wood to the corner of the dogleg or cut the corner with driver, leaving a short iron or wedge into a narrow green. If theres a breather hole on the course its No. 1, except youre so nervous because its the first hole of the U.S. Open, says Kestner. Youre trying not hit people in the gallery.
Hole 2: Par 4, 430 yards A dogleg left, the second shot plays significantly uphill. From the fairway, all youre looking at is the top of the flagstick. It plays a club-and-a-half longer up that hill, says Kestner. In 2002, Id see other players walking up to the green expecting to find their ball, only to discover they were in the bunker. They could not believe it was them. You DO NOT want to be short and right in that greenside bunker, because then youre looking at a plugged lie and a sure bogey.
Hole 3: Par 3, 232 yards A new teeing ground now makes this the longest par-3 on the course. The green might also be the narrowest on the course. In the 2008 New York State Open pro-am, we played the new tee because they were testing them out for the Open, says Kestner. I got lucky and hit a perfect 3-wood to about 3 feet and made birdie. It was the best birdie Ive ever made on that hole. Youre playing into the prevailing wind so it plays longer than the yardage, and you have to be so accurate with your tee shot. If youre long and right, youre dead, and if youre short and left youre probably plugged.
The par-5 fourth hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 4: Par 5, 517 yards The most photographed hole on the course, due to the cross-bunker which separates the fairway in two. The driving zone sits significantly lower than the green, and the green slopes front to back away from the player, making it unreceptive to long approach shots. Its hard to hit in three shots, let alone two, says Kestner. Youve got to hit a towering iron shot in there because youve got this huge elevation change, and a very narrow, fast green. A flat shot is not going to hold that green. Hole 5: Par 4, 478 yards Tee shots on this slight left-to-right diagonal hole must hug the large bunker on the right side of the fairway to give you the best approach into the elevated green. If you push your tee ball to the right youre going to have to carry it 270 yards to clear that bunker, said Kestner. But if youre too far left youre going to get blocked out by the trees. Theyre forcing you to carry that bunker. Then youve got at least one more club up that hill, with two very large, deep bunkers front-middle and side-right.
Hole 6: Par 4, 408 yards In 2002, most players hit a 3-wood to the top of the hill to give them the best view of the green, which sits 50 feet below the driving zone. However, the USGA converted the hillside rough to fairway, freeing up players to hit driver to the bottom of the hill. If they can hit it far enough, they can be in the greenside bunker and try and get it up and down from there, says Kestner. Thats probably not a bad play for the long hitters.
The par-4 seventh hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 7: Par 4, 525 yards A new teeing ground has been added since 2002, adding 36 yards and making it the longest par 4 in U.S. Open history. At 525 yards, its 8 yards longer than the fourth hole, a par-5. Theres no breather for awhile after this hole. They talk about the Bear Trap and other tough stretches of holes, but 7 through 12 at Bethpage, oh my God, theyre hard, says Kestner. Its like the longest mile right there. Youre playing hard for pars, and if you make birdie, you feel like Tiger Woods. Its the meat of the golf course right there.
The par-3 eighth hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 8: Par 3, 210 yards Two new front hole locations will bring the only water on the course into play, forcing players to decide whether they want to be aggressive with their tee shots or play it safe to the middle portion of the green. The green plays extremely fast downhill, however, making two-putts no sure thing. Its a very underrated hole if they put the pin up and get the green speeds up, said Kestner. You have to challenge the pin a bit because if youre well past it, youre likely to three-putt.
Hole 9: Par 4, 460 yards The easiest par-4 in 2002, Jones installed a new teeing ground some 40 yards back. Most approach shots will be played from a severely sloping fairway to a green that is mostly blind. The shorter hitters will do what I did in 02, and hit it to the crest of the fairway, says Kestner. The ball will then roll back down some 30 yards to where all the divots are. Then its a 4-, 5-iron up the hill. If youre able to clear that crest youve got a wedge or 9-iron in. Its a huge advantage if youre a long hitter. Hole 10: Par 4, 508 yards This hole received its fair share of criticism in 2002 because many of the pros couldnt reach the fairway. That wont be a problem this year, as the fairway has been moved back, closer to the tee. But the hole remains a bear. I was aiming for the walkway [in 2002] because if I could hit the walkway, it would roll out to the first cut of rough, said Kestner. But I still had to lay up because of the large gully in front of the green. If you dont hit the fairway, you basically have to lay it up to 75 yards and try and get it up and down from there.
Hole 11: Par 4, 435 yards Deep bunkers guard both sides of the fairway on this straight-away par-4, which features a slightly elevated green that slopes from back to front. Its one of the most undulating greens on the course, said Kestner. Its quick. You need to carry the ball on the green here to walk away with par.
The par-4 12th hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 12: Par 4, 504 yards The third and final par-4 measuring over 500 yards, this hole played as the second hardest in 2002. Michael Campbell, playing in front of Darrell Kestner, made an 8 on this hole after his tee shot buried in the fescue just above the left cross bunker fronting the higher fairway. Its 260 yards to carry this bunker, and even if you succeed, you still have a long iron into the green. Its basically a par-5, said Kestner. Its against a prevailing wind and its hard to get over that bunker. After seeing what happened to Campbell, I hit a 3-wood, short of the bunker, then another 3-wood. That still left me with 40 yards. It plays harder than No. 7, I think.
Hole 13: Par 5, 605 yards A birdie hole in 2002, a new teeing ground has added 50 yards to this par-5, making it reachable in two for only the longest hitters. Shorter hitters will have to avoid a deep fairway bunker about 150 yards out with their second shots. A large bunker looms about 30 yards short of the green, although it appears to be much closer to the elevated putting surface. Whats changing on that hole is the strategy of the second shot, says Kestner. Youre going to have a lot more guys laying up, and theyre going to have to deal with that bunker 150 yards out. The hole also plays into a prevailing wind.
Hole 14: Par 3, 158 yards The shortest of the par-3s, this hole yielded a lot of birdies in 2002. The green was enlarged since then to bring in three new hole locations for this years Open, including one on the narrow front-left portion of the green. Youve got a good shot at birdie here or a breather par, said Kestner. You dont want to short-side yourself here, or youll face a tough up-and-down from the enormous front bunker.
The par-4 15th hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 15: Par 4, 459 yards The toughest hole in 2002, the two-tiered green is perched some 50 feet above the fairway and slopes severely from back to front, making it the scariest green on the course. The green ran as high as 14.5 on the Stimpmeter in 02. It plays so much longer than you think, like 2-1/2 clubs longer, because its so steep, said Kestner. It might be the most demanding second shot on the course. Then when you get to the green, youve got to deal with the severity of the slope there. Its a bear of a hole.
Hole 16: Par 4, 490 yards The teeing ground on this slight-dogleg left sits high above the fairway, offering you a good view of the bowl-like green, which is almost completely surrounded by bunkers. If you can get it in the fairway, youve got a chance of hitting a mid-iron close and making birdie, said Kestner. Its all carry on the second shot, so again it helps to be a high-ball hitter.
The par-3 17th hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 17: Par 3, 207 yards This hole will have a Yankee Stadium-like feel to it, with two large grandstands on the sides seating thousands of spectators. Its a great hole to watch, too. The two-tiered, hour-glass green is surrounded by deep bunkers, and while the green is very wide, its not very deep. Its a narrow tee shot to the right portion of the green and a lot more carry on the left, said Kestner. Its such a big advantage to play a high shot in here that lands soft. A prevailing left-to-right wind will make it challenging to hit the ball the correct distance.
The par-4 18th hole at Bethpage Black

Hole 18: Par 4, 411 yards Much like No. 16, the tee shot plays significantly downhill. A cluster of bunkers on both sides of the fairway squeezes the landing area, making it difficult to keep driver in play. The second shot plays extremely uphill to a blind putting surface that slopes from back to front and is heavily guarded by deep bunkers. Its a very underrated hole, said Kestner. Just like No. 17, you could have a two-shot swing here because you can make birdie, but if you dont get your drive in the fairway bogey is a real possibility.
Darrells pick: The course lends itself to a long hitter who can bring the ball in nice and high and has great patience. A lot of patience. Youre going to have to deal with a good amount of adversity. Tiger is an obvious choice, because of all those factors. Plus, he won it here the last time out. Sergios a great ball-striker, and Vijay. I like Sean OHair. Hed be my darkhorse.
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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.