Furyk leads Oosthuizen by one at WGC

By Doug FergusonAugust 4, 2012, 10:02 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Jim Furyk spent more time looking at the forecast than the leaderboard Saturday in the Bridgestone Invitational.

He's not sure which one looks more favorable.

Furyk missed a couple of birdie chances early in the third round, and then was more than happy to settle for pars on a Firestone course that was firm, fast, bouncy and increasingly difficult. He made 16 pars, along with one birdie on the front nine and one bogey on the back nine, for an even-par 70 that felt like a hard day of work.

The scoreboard shows him with a one-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen, who had a 68.

Furyk never paid much attention to the leaderboard, so he wasn't aware that he had a five-shot lead at one point on the front nine. Oosthuizen made up ground with three birdies and no bogeys over the final 10 holes to get back into the picture.

Furyk, who was at 11-under 199, will be in the final group Sunday with Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley, four strokes back after a 67. Starting times have been moved up for the final round because of a forecast of thunderstorms throughout the day.

And that's where it gets a little tricky.

''All I'm going off of is the weather forecast I got about six hours ago,'' Furyk said. He learned enough to see the possibility of rain and thunderstorms in the morning, clearing up in the afternoon. There are predictions of gusts up to 25 mph. There might be delays, which could require stopping and starting. And most importantly, the course could play a lot longer and a lot softer.

''I'll be a tough day,'' Furyk concluded.

Saturday was no picnic, mainly because Furyk and so many others were hitting it too far.

There was so much bounce in the greens – compared with how players were able to spin the ball back in the earlier rounds – that Furyk had 68 yards to the pin on the par-5 16th hole and realized he had no chance to keep it on the putting surface. Blame that on hitting a 6-iron 250 yards to lay up. ''Didn't plan for that,'' he said.

Oosthuizen smashed a 431-yard drive on the 16th and hit 6-iron, knowing his third shot would be from the rough behind the green. He hit a beautiful pitch to 3 feet for his final birdie of the round. Masters champion Bubba Watson was proud to announce he hit driver and 8-iron to the 648-yard par 5.

''We had a little bit more wind going on, the greens firmed up a little bit, and I just felt like it was a lot harder to get iron shots close to the pin,'' Furyk said.

Considering the plight of so many 54-hole leaders this year, Sunday could be up for grabs.

It could be a big day for Bradley, who needs a runner-up finish to move into the top eight in the Ryder Cup standings who qualify for the U.S. team after next week.

Rory McIlroy, with an outside chance of returning to No. 1 in the world if he were to win, had a 67 and joined Steve Stricker (68) at 6-under 204, five shots behind. Stricker looked to be closing in on the lead until he hooked his tee shot on the par-5 16th into the base of a pine tree and had to take a penalty shot to be able to make a swing.

Top-ranked Luke Donald also was chipping away, as he often does, until he hit a tree on the last for a bogey for a 71, falling seven shots back.

Tiger Woods broke par for the first time all week, though his 68 left him 11 shots behind on a Firestone course where he has won seven times. Woods is taking an optimistic view out of an otherwise drab week - at least he feels as though he's hitting the ball well.

''Hitting fairways and greens, you're shooting high rounds of 2-under par and 3-under par, that's a good sign,'' he said. ''Those are your worst scores you can possibly shoot that day. It's not good when you're shooting those scores and you get absolutely everything out of it.''

Rafa Cabrera-Bello didn't get much out of his first time in contention at a big event. He played in the final group, starting two shots behind, and disappeared quickly.

He hit a bunker shot fat and just got onto the thick collar around the first green. For his fourth shot, he shanked a chip that went at a 90-degree angle away from the flag. His fifth shot with the putter came up 12 feet short and he did well to make double bogey. On the next tee shot, he hit a duck hook into the gallery. On the ninth hole, his drive landed square behind a tree, forcing him to pitch to the 10th fairway, only it didn't go far enough, and his wedge clipped yet another tree.

The Spaniard wound up with a 77.

Worse yet, his plastic bottle of water crinkled at the top of Furyk's back swing on the par-3 seventh. Furyk had not missed a shot to that point, and this one sailed well right of the green. He glared in the direction of the bottle, figured it was a harmless mistake and holed a 15-foot putt for par.

Those were the putts that kept Furyk in the game.

Lee Westwood would have taken some of those pars. He played alongside Rickie Fowler on Friday when the American shot 80. Westwood got off to about the same start and finished with an 81. He declined comment after his round, but had some fun with Fowler on Twitter.

''You would have beaten me 1up in match play,'' Fowler tweeted.

''I'd have offered a half after 9 and gone in for a cold one!'' Westwood replied.

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Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 4:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.

If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.

“I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”

Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.


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“That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”

That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.

After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.

Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”

Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.

“It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”

Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.

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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.



Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!