Notes: PGA Tour, Trump agree to changes at Doral

By Doug FergusonSeptember 1, 2015, 7:57 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Once among the most popular stops on the PGA Tour schedule, Trump National Doral had more players grumbling than ever. The complaints mainly were that the power players had too big an advantage.

The Tour was listening, and so was The Donald.

As part of constant feedback on golf courses, players were allowed to submit their thoughts (signed or anonymous). Those were presented to Trump and work has been underway to make a few changes for next year's Cadillac Championship.

''I just went over some changes to make it more friendly for guys who hit it my length instead of it being a bomber's paradise,'' said Brandt Snedeker, among those who offered reasonable suggestions. ''I think Gil (Hanse) tried to do the right thing to tighten it up, but it's hard to see how a golf course plays until guys play it. You don't know what bunkers are in play and out of play.''

The changes are mostly about the bunkers on six holes - Nos. 2, 6, 7, 12, 14 and 17.

The seventh hole was a prime example with two bunkers to the left and another bunker farther out on the right. The fairway sloped toward the right bunker, leaving the medium-length players limited options - a tiny landing zone, playing short of the left bunkers for a longer approach over the water to the green, or seeing their tee shots tumble into a bunker and facing that shot over water.

Andy Pazder, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said a shorter bunker is being removed and another bunker is being added further out on the left.

''That makes the tee shot more fair,'' he said. ''And even the long hitters who can't quite carry the bunkers on the left and still hit 3-wood comfortably.''

That was just one example. The other changes are mainly about covering over some bunkers that were in play only for the medium hitters and extending or moving bunkers that would challenge the longer hitters.

Pazder described the changes as a result of ''continuous feedback we've received over the last few years after Gil's redesign.''

''This is designed to create a little more of a level playing field as it relates to those who carry it 300 yards and those who don't,'' he said.

Dustin Johnson won this year. Next on the leaderboard were J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott.

MINOR MOVEMENT: Points in the FedEx Cup playoffs are worth four times the value this year, down from five times the value a year ago. The idea was to give players a chance to move up with good play, without making it too volatile.

Here's how it shaped up after The Barclays:

Henrik Stenson finished alone in second at The Barclays and moved from No. 41 to No. 4, the same change it would have been last year.

Zac Blair started at No. 106, finished in a two-way tie for fourth and moved to No. 45. A year ago, if the player at No. 106 had finished in a two-way tie for fourth at The Barclays, he would have moved to No. 35.

One reason for the change was to avoid someone toward the bottom making too large a jump. Martin Laird was at No. 95 in 2010, was runner-up at The Barclays and shot all the way up to No. 3. Had that happened this year, the No. 95 player would have gone to No. 10.

CADDIE KNACK: If the American players can't win the Ryder Cup, maybe their caddies can.

The World Caddie Matches is in the planning stages for next year, a 36-hole event over one day featuring 16 professional tour caddies from the United States against 16 from around the world. It would be fourball matches in the morning, followed by singles in the afternoon.

Steve Hulka, the captain of the U.S. caddie team, says Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Connecticut has offered to host the inaugural event. The draw for matches would be held after the conclusions of The Barclays, and the competition would be the following day.

Mike ''Fluff'' Cowan is the assistant captain for the U.S. Captains for the caddies from around the world are Gareth Lord (who works for Henrik Stenson) and Mark Fulcher (Justin Rose). Still to be determined is a qualifying process for both teams.

And just like the tours on which they work, the plan is to have a charity component. The idea is for the caddie of each PGA Tour winner starting with the Travelers Championship to donate $500 into a fund, with the caddie for the runner-up donating $300.

Hulka said it could turn into an event played before each Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

SMALL MARGINS: The final round of the Wyndham Championship was another example of how thin the margins can be in the FedEx Cup.

Cameron Percy and Vaughn Taylor were not remotely close to getting into the top 125 and qualifying for the playoffs, but the final hour did make a difference. Taylor made bogey on three of his last four holes to finish at 6-under 274, two shots behind Percy, who played that stretch at 2 over and finished two shots ahead.

Percy wound up No. 150 in the FedEx Cup with 360.773 points, just ahead of Taylor at 360.667 points.

But the FedEx Cup bonus structure pays out to 150th place. By finishing sixth-thousandths of a point ahead, Percy got $32,000. More than money, he has conditional status on the PGA Tour next year, and full status on the Tour for the weeks he doesn't get into PGA Tour events.

DIVOTS: Sam Horsfield of England has withdrawn from the Walker Cup because of personal reasons. He was replaced by Ewen Ferguson of Scotland. ... Jon Rahm of Spain, a senior at Arizona State, won the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He is the first Spaniard to win the award, and provided he stays an amateur, will be exempt into the U.S. Open and British Open. Rahm tied for fifth at the Phoenix Open this year. ... Players hoping for a hole-in-one might stand a better chance with Scott Tway as the caddie. He works for Brian Harman, who made two aces Sunday at The Barclays. And he was working for brother Bob Tway when he made two aces in the same tournament at the 1994 Memorial. ... Jeff Maggert and amateur Trip Kuehne are among those to be inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame on Oct. 12 in San Antonio.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day has four PGA Tour wins this year, the most by an Australian in one year since Jim Ferrier won five times in 1951.

FINAL WORD: ''I would have made a fortune on the Champions Tour this year.'' - Kevin Chappell, who had at least one round of 75 or worse in seven tournaments this year. Champions Tour events typically are 54 holes.

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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.