Notes American long hitters meet long rough

By Doug FergusonSeptember 29, 2010, 3:50 am

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – This might be the longest-hitting American team ever in the Ryder Cup. If they don’t hit it straight off the tee at Celtic Manor, it might not matter.

While the fairways are plenty wide, the rough is every bit as thick as it was in 2004 at Oakland Hills.

Dustin Johnson, as long as anyone at the Ryder Cup, only hit driver off the tee on the par 5s during his practice round Tuesday. As for the rough, he described it as so deep that anything more than a 6-iron away, he would not be able to get it on the green.

“You have to be pretty conservative off the tee,” Johnson said.

It doesn’t help that rain moved over the Twenty Ten course Tuesday afternoon, and heavy showers were expected Wednesday. The grass could get even thicker when the matches get under way on Friday.

“The rough is so thick out there, and they are worried about our captains driving carts in the rough so that they didn’t knock it down,” Jim Furyk said. “I joked in our meeting that maybe they are afraid of losing a couple carts in it because it’s about as thick and as long and difficult as we’ve ever seen in my career.

“So length is great, but if you can’t put it in play, it’s not so good.”

European captain Colin Montgomerie said he did not ask that the characteristics of Celtic Manor be changed to cater to his team. He wanted it set up so that the best team wins.

Even so, this is a European Tour course – Graeme McDowell won the Wales Open a few weeks before winning the U.S. Open – and it should favor the home team.

McDowell, however, recalled the rough being patchy without a summer of growth. He found Celtic Manor quite different now.

“It’s not patchy anymore,” McDowell said. “It’s just thick. You miss fairways, you’re going to be punished. The course has some length to it and the driving is a premium this week. You have to drive the ball in the fairway, preferably long. I know that works everywhere, but it certainly works this week, for sure.”


PRACTICE WELL SPENT: The wallets belonging to Englishmen Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher were considerably lighter after Tuesday’s practice round with teammates Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald.

“I’ve got nothing left,” Poulter said. “They cleaned Ross and myself out. Paddy had two eagles, which was quite interesting.”

However, just moments earlier, European captain Colin Montgomerie said in the interview room that wild-card selection Harrington had made three eagles.

“No,” said Poulter, noting that what would have been Harrington’s third actually “horse-shoed out from 40 feet.”

Not that it made much difference.

“They made an awful lot of eagles out there,” Poulter added, with a rueful smile. “Good for them.”

As he headed for the door, someone asked Poulter what the wagers were. He simply rolled his eyes.

“Too much,” he said. “I need to go to the cashpoint (ATM machine) right now.”

Phil Mickelson rarely plays golf anywhere without some cash on the line, and Tuesday was no different. On the eighth hole, Rickie Fowler stuffed a wedge to 4 feet, while Mickelson came up 25 feet short. Mickelson conceded the putt, then knocked his birdie putt into the back of the cup to match his birdie. “Nice push there, Rickie,” Lefty said with a grin.

While the sum wasn’t disclosed, Mickelson’s partner – Dustin Johnson – was relatively glum in saying the match against Fowler and Bubba Watson ended in a draw.

NO PODS: Paul Azinger rode his pod concept to a Ryder Cup win and a book to motivate businessmen. That doesn’t mean Corey Pavin will be copying his plan.

Pavin has remained largely mum about how he plans to lead his team to a second straight win. But team member Stewart Cink said Tuesday that, if there is a pod plan, the players don’t know about it.

“There has not been the kind of communication about it,” Cink said. “They may be doing that more in assistant captains and captains’ meetings, but there has not been quite as much black and white expressed to us.”

Azinger gave much of the credit for the 2008 U.S. win to a system used by the Navy to train SEALs in which they are paired in small groups and do everything together. He grouped players based on their personalities and they practiced, ate and played together the entire week.

“Last time, it worked really well because it was something that was unique and new and we were all sort of desperate for something to hang onto because we had lost all those Ryder Cups in a row and we just latched on it and went with it all the way,” Cink said.

That doesn’t mean Cink thinks it’s such a good idea for this year’s team.

“I think it would be a little risky for a captain to just copy that system exactly, just because, you know, that was Paul Azinger’s plan,” Cink said. “That wasn’t like the U.S. Ryder Cup team official agenda. That was Zinger’s deal, and he did that really well and the players really took hold of it well. To copy that system, I don’t know would be the right thing to do.”


PUTTING TIP: Steve Stricker, one of the best putters in golf, isn’t one to takes a lot of advice on the greens.

Except when it comes from Tiger Woods.

“Tiger looked at me today,” Stricker said. “We’ve talked about our strokes over the years and he gave me a good little pointer, and it’s something that my caddie and I mentioned last week, something in my setup that didn’t look quite right.”

Woods noticed that Stricker’s hands were too low before he takes the putter back. The heel of his putter usually is well off the ground, and Stricker said his caddie noticed that it was lower last week at East Lake. He just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the setup.

“It felt like my old self again today,” Stricker said.


DIVOTS: Lee Westwood is playing in his seventh Ryder Cup, although he is assured of something new this week—a partner. None of Westwood’s previous partners in fourballs and foursomes made this year’s team—Nick Faldo, Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Soren Hansen. … The Americans are trying to make fans in Wales. Assistant captain Jeff Sluman was handing out lapel pins of the American flag to the fans, as were some of the players. … Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods made their Ryder Cup debut in 1997. Woods has played on only one winning team, in 1999. Furyk has played on two winning teams because Woods missed 2008 recovering from knee surgery. “Finally won something more than Tiger Woods,” Furyk said.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.