Bunkers making players bonkers at Atlanta Athletic Club

By Doug FergusonAugust 13, 2011, 7:21 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The longest par 70 in major championship history. Water on half of the holes.

There was plenty of evidence that Atlanta Athletic Club would be a strong test for the PGA Championship, and it has proven to be just that through the opening two rounds. But perhaps the biggest challenge is something not many players considered before they arrived.

The bunkers.

Not just where they are located, but the sand that fills them.

“The sand is very heavy,” D.A. Points said. “The sand is very powdery, so your ball rolls into it; it does not sit on the top of the sand. It sits a sixth of the golf ball down. It’s almost better if you can somehow hit a shot into a place where somebody has already raked.”

Rickie Fowler was 3 under in the third round Saturday when he caught a bunker short and left of the eighth green. His next shot was a shocker, sailing some 40 yards over the green, behind a row of bushes, almost on part of the fourth tee. He wound up with triple bogey, erasing the three birdies he had made.

Tiger Woods had a soft lie and an awkward stance in the bunker on No. 11 in the second round. He blasted out, turned his head away when sand flew into his eyes, and was able to see again just in time to take in his ball racing across the green and into the water.

“Bunker play wouldn’t really be a strength at the best of times,” Graeme McDowell said after missing the cut. “But out of these traps, they are just unplayable.”

Scott Verplank managed just fine with some of the lies he had Friday, saving par all four times he was in the sand around the green. From the fairway on the 14th, however, he poked it out to the fairway some 100 yards short of the green and had to scramble for bogey.

Perhaps most telling was one of the purest shots of the tournament.

Paul Casey was in a bunker just right of the 18th fairway - the same bunker where moments earlier, Woods put a 4-iron into the water. When he saw his ball, he realized he had received a good break. Why? Because it was in a spot that had been raked.

Needing par to make the cut, he hit 4-iron to 18 feet and two-putted to make it to the weekend.

“It was a spot that had a lot of action,” Casey said. “The caddies had raked it and I had a good lie. This sand is lumpy, clumpy, whatever the word is. And it’s incredibly light. So the weight of the ball sits down. You can’t get at the back of the ball. That’s why you’re seeing either low shots or chunks. There’s no in between.”

In a way, it’s like links golf - avoid bunkers at all costs because it can be a half-shot penalty.

Casey has no problem with that. Bunkers are supposed to be hazards and players aren’t supposed to hit into them. Too many times on too many courses, players have tried to put it in the sand for an easier shot.

But on this course, there are plenty of other defenses, whether it’s water guarding the greens or the contours on fast greens, making it difficult for anyone on the wrong side of the hole.

“Bunkers are hazards, but it has to be in balance with the rest of the course,” he said. “These are making guys look silly. And it’s killing creativity and shotmaking.”

Casey could relate to Fowler’s plight in the sand Saturday. Earlier in the day, he hit into the water, then the bunker, and sailed well over the green and made an 8. Fowler at least escaped with a triple bogey.

Points was one shot out of the lead going into the weekend, which he attributed to keeping the ball in the fairway. That normally means a player is happy to avoid the rough. In this case, throw in the bunker.

“If it’s a fairway bunker shot, it’s no fun,” Points said. “And if it’s a greenside bunker shot, it’s hard to get much spin on it and the ball just comes out real heavy.

“It’s a hard sand to judge.”

There have been endless examples of how difficult the bunkers are playing. Rory McIlroy on the third hole Friday had a shot on the upslope, strange in that it wasn’t plugged. It took him two shots to get out. Woods hit a tee shot on No. 18 in the first round that buried in the slope and left him no chance but to go sideways, and he did well to get to the edge of the fairway.

For Casey, the most telling moment came Friday.

He was playing with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker. All three hit similar tee shots that landed in the same bunker.

“Jimenez had a good lie and hit it close,” Casey said. “Mine came out thin and right, hit some trees and went over by the gallery. Stricker chunked his 30 yards. So you had three tour players in the same bunker not within 100 yards of each other.”

Casey is out of the tournament. He barely made the cut, and that quadruple-bogey 8 sent him to a 78. His only concern is whether the bunkers will make a difference to someone down the stretch Sunday, with the final major of the year on the line.

“I just hope it doesn’t cost someone coming in,” he said.

A bunker getting a lot of attention on the final hole of the PGA Championship? Now that sounds familiar. Dustin Johnson was in one on the last hole at Whistling Straits last year, except he didn’t know he was in a bunker.

In Atlanta, there’s no mistaking them.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”


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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.


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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1

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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.”