Marino holds slim lead at Pebble Beach

By Doug FergusonFebruary 13, 2011, 5:13 am

2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Thousands of fans came to Pebble Beach for sunshine, scenery and celebrity entertainment. The leaders were somewhere else Saturday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Far away from the commotion, Steve Marino struggled with the speed of the greens on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula and ended his round with a three-putt bogey from 4 feet for a 1-over 71.

That still was enough for him to take a one-shot lead going into the final round over Jimmy Walker, who had a 63 at Monterey Peninsula, and Bryce Molder, who counted about a dozen people in his gallery at Spyglass Hill on his way to a 68.

Next up is the final round at Pebble Beach, where some measure of normalcy returns to his PGA Tour.

But not entirely.

D.A. Points was among the few players atop the leaderboard who was at Pebble Beach in the third round, and he was getting plenty of attention – or maybe that was for his amateur partner, Bill Murray, decked out in an Elmer Fudd hat.

Points took a double bogey by going over the cliffs on the ninth hole, birdied the 16th and 17th and was poised to take a share of the lead until he couldn’t get out of a fairway bunker on the 18th and wound up with a bogey.

That gave him a 71, putting him two shots out of the lead.

His pro-am team is only one shot behind, meaning Murray gets another crack at Pebble on Sunday.

Marino has been in the final group on the PGA Tour before. He’s never had the assistant head greenskeeper at Bushwood playing in the group ahead of him.

Could he imagine trying to win on the PGA Tour for the first time with Murray in his group?

“That would have been a trip,” Marino said. “I don’t know about that.”

Murray has as many tour victories as the top four players on the leaderboard, which would be none.

Marino, who was at 12-under 202, might be the most tested, having lost in a playoff at Colonial a year ago and finishing with one of the best shots of the young season at the Sony Open last month in Honolulu to finish second.

He is not too bothered by a round that featured a trio of three-putt bogeys, an unplayable lie from a bush and an eagle. Marino said he hit the ball better than he has all week, but could not get used to the pace on the Shore’s greens.

“A strange round,” he said.

Alex Cejka and Tom Gillis were at 9-under 205, while the group another shot back included J.J. Henry, Kevin Sutherland and Aaron Baddeley. They were the only players in the top 10 who have won on tour.

Molder has some experience being in contention, although he is trying to bury part of that memory. A year ago at Pebble Beach, he was closing in on the lead when he took a quintuple-bogey 9 on the 14th hole. Two other players also made 9 on that hole, which is quickly growing a reputation as one of the toughest par 5s on tour without a water hazard.

“I don’t remember what you’re talking about,” Molder said with a grin. “You know, all you can do is laugh. I got there this year (on Thursday) and made a mess of it, had a good up-and-down for bogey.”

Phil Mickelson moved into contention for a fourth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by making three birdies over his final five holes for a 69. That moved him to 7-under 207, only five shots back going into the final round.

“I thought that the round could have been a lot better, but toward the end … I probably got as much out of the round as I could have,” Mickelson said. “But throughout the course of the day, I had many opportunities to go low and I didn’t take advantage of them. I’ve got to go really low tomorrow to give myself a chance.”

It might help that he doesn’t have a lot of experience ahead of him.

Marino isn’t sure that matters.

“All these guys are good,” he said. “Everybody is going to get their experience somewhere, and for some people, it might be tomorrow.”

It figures to be crowded Sunday, inside and outside the ropes.

Because the top 20 pro-am teams play the final round, the cut is top 60 and ties. However, 73 players finished at 2-under 212. That includes two-time defending champion Dustin Johnson, who had to make a 3-foot par putt on the 18th at Pebble to make the cut.

David Duval opened his tournament with no birdies and a 77 at Pebble Beach, but he rallies with rounds of 65 and 70 to make it on the number. Perhaps even more impressive was Jeff Maggert, who opened with 75-74 and shot 62 at Monterey Peninsula.

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

Getty Images

Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

Getty Images

Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.