Risk-reward possibilities at Pebble Beach for US Open
Pebble Beach has a couple of candidates, although Mike Davis might not know which will work – if any – until the tournament begins.
“I think this using different teeing grounds … whether it’s a drivable par 4 or a different tee for a par 3 or a par 5 or whatever, the idea is to mix it up,” Davis, the senior director of rules and competition, said Monday at the U.S. Open media day. “It makes the players think more. And, really, in some cases if you get a drivable par 4 or some other risk-reward, it allows a spreading of the scores.
“Instead of just seeing pars and bogeys, you might see some eagles and birdies, but you also might see some double bogeys.”
It would seem the best candidate is the par-4 fourth, which measures 331 yards on the card. It plays slightly uphill to a small green surrounded by bunkers, with a severe drop toward the Pacific Ocean on the right and a gully behind the green.
“So much of it really plays into what wind we’re going to get that week,” Davis said. “We think we’re going to tend to get a westerly or a north wind, but that plays into it so much. Because if we set it up thinking it’s going to play one way and we get a different kind of wind, it would backfire on us. We know there are some options out there to do different things. We’re going to have to wait until we get the weather forecast right before we set tee markers.”
Some players took on the 321-yard sixth hole at Winged Foot in 2006, the first year Davis was in charge of setting up the courses. Oakmont had two par 4s that could be reached – Nos. 2 and 17 – while the USGA moved forward the tees on the 14th at Torrey Pines. Davis contemplated a forward tee for the downhill sixth at Bethpage Black, although rain negated that.
Beyond the fourth, it’s possible to see forward tees on the par-4 third hole to tempt players to take it over the trees with a draw and cut off the dogleg, as Dustin Johnson did during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It also would not be surprising to see a forward tee on the signature 18th hole to give everyone a chance at going for the par 5 in two.
SINGH’S ROAD: Vijay Singh has the longest active streak of consecutive majors played at 63 through the Masters. Whether he can continue that streak at the U.S. Open could depend largely on the next two days.
Two weeks remain to get into the top 50 and receive an exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Open. The focus typically is on those who are just outside the top 50, such as Rickie Fowler at No. 53.
For Singh, it’s a matter of staying there.
He started the year at No. 26, and when he missed the cut at The Players Championship, his ranking tumbled to No. 46. Singh is playing the Texas Open and the Byron Nelson Championship the next two weeks, which might not work to his advantage if he doesn’t play well. Singh has missed his last three cuts and has only one finish in the top 10 this year.
He likely will need to pick up some points over the next few weeks to stay in the top 50, depending on what happens behind him. Singh already is eligible for the British Open as a Presidents Cup team member.
Those outside the top 50 needing to move up include Graeme McDowell (51), J.B. Holmes (52) and Anders Hansen (56).
LISTEN TO LORENA: Lorena Ochoa spent two years at Arizona before turning pro. She sounds as though she wishes she had stayed longer, and in an era of teenagers turning pro, she wishes more of them would.
“My advice for the young players would be make sure you finish your junior career and go to college and then become professional after that,” Ochoa said at her final tournament in Mexico. “The LPGA is going to be there forever. There is no rush.”
Ochoa said going to college allows players to learn to compete and pick up a degree, along with gaining maturity on and off the golf course. She is concerned to hear so many players 17 and 18 thinking about going pro.
Michelle Wie is doing both, and she appears to be far more at peace with herself since starting at Stanford.
“I say, ‘Go to college, stay in college,”’ Ochoa said. “Figure out what you want to do 100 percent, so by the time you play three or four years, you don’t burn out and you can stay playing golf longer.”
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Alexis Thompson will make her pro debut next month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
SUNDAY SWOON: Paul Goydos was irritated after his final round of The Players Championship, and not just because of a five-putt on No. 7 and an 81 on this scorecard.
Sunday – or even Monday as was the case at the Bob Hope – have not been kind to him.
In the nine final rounds Goydos has played this year, he has shot over par in every round but one – a 65 on the final day at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open.
He shot an 80 on the last day of the Bob Hope. Tied for the lead going into the final round at Pebble Beach, he made a nine on the tricky 14th green and shot 78. In his last two final rounds before Sawgrass, he shot a 78 at the Houston Open and a 77 at Quail Hollow.
His scoring average for the final round is 75.11.
DIVOTS: Tom Watson has been selected to receive the Byron Nelson Prize next week in Dallas, given to a person in golf who embodies the philanthropic spirit for which Nelson was known. … Either these guys are good, of this course was soft. Whatever the case, there were only five rounds in the 80s last week at The Players Championship, the fewest since it moved to the TPC Sawgrass in 1982. … Newcomers to the popular CVS Caremark Charity Classic in Rhode Island include Suzann Pettersen, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler. The tournament, hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade will be held July 27-29 at Rhode Island CC with a 20-player field. It has raised more than $13 million for local charities. … Juli Inkster and Sherri Steinhauer have been selected assistant captains for the U.S. Solheim Cup team next year in Ireland. … The USGA accepted a record 1,296 entries for the U.S. Women’s Open this year at Oakmont. That includes 10-year-old Karen Kim.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The PGA Tour event with the longest streak of American winners is the Texas Open, which dates to 1992 when Nick Price beat Steve Elkington in a playoff.
FINAL WORD: “Johnny Miller criticizes everything I do.” – Tiger Woods, when asked about Miller’s suggestion that Woods needs to get rid of swing coach Haney Haney.
Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana
While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.
The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.
"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."
Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.
According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."
"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."
Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.
Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.
"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."
Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.
Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth
AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.
Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.
“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”
Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.
“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”
U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters
Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.
Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.
According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.
"They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."
Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.
Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client
AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.
In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.
“It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”
Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.
Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.