Players scoff at USGA's Chambers Bay warning

By Doug FergusonMay 19, 2015, 5:55 pm

Mike Davis hasn't caused this much consternation since he spoke at a PGA Tour players meeting about the evils of the long putter.

Only this time, he was extolling the virtues of Chambers Bay.

Maybe to a fault.

The USGA's executive director hosted a preview of the mysterious U.S. Open course south of Seattle and suggested that even the best in golf will have little chance unless they arrive early and play often.

''The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person's done,'' Davis said. ''Will not win the U.S. Open.''

In the three weeks since that bold prediction, the reaction has been, well, predictable.

''We'll play for second,'' former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said at Quail Hollow with no shortage of sarcasm.

''What's Mike Davis' handicap?'' asked Rory McIlroy, another U.S. Open champion and the best player in the world, something Davis is not. It was a playful reminder that amateurs who run tournaments should not underestimate the skill of those who do this for a living.

No amount of chirping would be complete without Ian Poulter weighing in. Never mind that Poulter has never seen Chambers Bay. He listened to a few players who made scouting trips on their way to the Match Play Championship and tweeted, ''The reports back are its [sic] a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.''

The U.S. Open begins June 18. In some respects, it already has started.

With one comment about what will be required for a golf course hardly anyone knows, Davis added a layer of mystique to Chambers Bay. And perhaps he introduced the one element of a U.S. Open that often gets overlooked.

It's all about attitude.

Jack Nicklaus is famous for saying how he would listen to players complain about the U.S. Open and figure that was one less guy to beat that week.

''It's a massive advantage if you get your head in the right place before you go,'' 2006 champion Geoff Ogilvy said.

Davis didn't make the comment with intentions of putting the world's best players in a foul mood before they even arrive in the Pacific Northwest next month. Given a chance to clarify, he said his point was strategy should be as important as a good short game.

He believes course knowledge will be imperative because of the grass, the elevation changes and sprawling fairways so unlike a U.S. Open test. It's not about how far the ball goes in the air. It's what happens when it's on the ground. The yardage book, to his point, only helps so much. And he lamented the drop in practice rounds as players appeared more concerned with conserving energy than studying for the toughest test in golf.

''My point is, we've seen a trend where golfers are coming and lot of them play nine holes a day and do it for two days,'' Davis said. ''In the old days, they'd come in and play three or four rounds. And they're not doing that anymore for different reasons.''

Jack Fleck once played 188 holes over five days of practice at Olympic Club in 1955, the year he beat Ben Hogan in a playoff. That's a little extreme. Phil Mickelson can take two days to play 18 holes as he meticulously studies a course, particularly around the greens. That's Phil.

''Take Merion,'' Davis said, referring to the 2013 U.S. Open. ''No one played Merion more and studied it more than Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. They spent more time than anybody studying the intricacies of Merion. And guess who finished 1-2?''

Mickelson, however, was asked which U.S. Open course caused him to spend the most time in preparation. Merion was mentioned, and Mickelson dismissed it.

''It's a pretty straightforward course, Merion,'' he said. ''I think maybe Shinnecock was a course that I found there were important areas to know where to go, where not to go, that might be surprising if you played it the first time.''

Any player would be foolish not to see Chambers Bay before arriving for the U.S. Open. Mickelson plans to head there next week, after it closes to the public and before he embarks on his schedule of playing the two PGA Tour events before the Open.

It's impractical, bordering on arrogant, for the USGA to expect golfers to drop everything and go to the far end of the country for one tournament.

''With the way the Tour is, no one is going to go out there and play 10 practice rounds,'' McIlroy said.

McIlroy believes preparation is meaningless if he doesn't have his game. He plans a few practice rounds the weekend before the U.S. Open, another one during the week. That's three practice rounds, which is one more than two, meaning Davis can't rule him out just yet. Right?

But what about the players who don't qualify until the Monday before U.S. Open week? Or the players – two of them last year – who qualify through the world ranking on the Monday of U.S. Open week?

''Will not win the U.S. Open,'' is what Davis said.

Someone will. Someone always does. It could be a surprise, much like the golf course.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.