A six-way tie for the lead at Waialae

By Doug FergusonJanuary 15, 2010, 6:03 pm

2007 Sony Open

HONOLULU – The Sony Open is the first full-field event on the PGA Tour, so introductions are in order. It’s not unusual for players to walk down the range or onto the putting green, see a player, then look over to the stitching on his bag to find out who he is.

More unusual is to see an unfamiliar name atop the leaderboard.

That’s where Troy Merritt comes in.

The 24-year-old from Boise State, who had a decorated college career and went wire-to-wire at Q-school to earn his card, had never played in a PGA Tour event until Thursday, when he steadied his nerves, stuck a tee in the ground, heard his name announced and then navigated his way around wind-swept Waialae in 5-under 65 for a six-way share of the lead.

“Things went way better than I thought,” Merritt said.

He was tied with Davis Love III, Robert Allenby, defending champion Zach Johnson, Ryan Palmer and John Merrick.

It was only fitting that Merrick was the last guy to join the lead, because he featured prominently at the start of the round – even though he wasn’t playing. Merritt was walking down the third fairway when Rickie Fowler noticed that the wrong name was on the hand-held scoreboard in their group. It said “Merrick,” a phonetic mix-up by tournament officials.

“We have lockers right next to each other,” Merrick said. “Probably will all year.”

Among the 10 players one shot out of the lead was Steve Stricker, and he was not the least bit ashamed to admit that while “Troy Merritt” was vaguely familiar, he didn’t know him.

Even so, it brought back memories to when Stricker first played on the PGA Tour.

“It was tough to draw the club back,” he said.

Then he paused.

“Is that what he shot? 5 under?” Stricker asked. “That’s pretty strong.”

Strength mainly belonged to the wind, and that might have been the biggest surprise of the day. The shores of Waikiki had been relatively calm throughout the week, and the early starters were jolted to attention at dawn when the palm trees were swaying.

“I just figured we wouldn’t get much wind,” Pat Perez said after his 66. “And it was howling.”

No matter how hard the wind blows, or even which direction, Waialae seems to yield good scores, perhaps because with 144 players in the field, someone is bound to go low.

Thursday brought quite the mixed bag.

Davis Love III has been coming to Waialae for years, even though it’s a course on which he has never won. He turns 46 in April, and if anyone saw him trotting out to the 11th green late Saturday evening after checking into his hotel, it might be a valid assumption that Love is as enthusiastic now as he was his rookie year.

Actually, it was the fact Love had not felt grass under his feet for a month, and had not competed in two months. It was cold along the Georgia coastline, so he hit balls from his garage into a mat. Then came the family holiday to the snow of Idaho. Just his luck, mats were still being used on the practice range at Waialae.

“I was dialed in for hitting off the mats,” Love said.

He dialed his game in quickly, too, making a birdie on the opening hole of his 2010 season and not making a bogey. He also finished with a birdie, and was pleased.

“I was optimistic,” Love said. “But I was anxious about competing. Once I got it going, once I got under par … I’ve been out here a long time. You don’t forget.”

Not so optimistic was Allenby, even though no other player arrived on Oahu with better form. Allenby won the last two times he played, in South Africa and Australia. Just his luck, he went for a walk Monday morning with his wife, Sandy, stepped off a curb the wrong way and twisted his ankle so severely that he thought about withdrawing.

“I’ve come too far,” Allenby said, and considering Hawaii is about halfway between Florida and Australia, no reference is needed. He had been in Florida, for the record, and found the weather far better in Honolulu, anyway.

Like so many other golfers who are injured, Allenby kept the risks and his expectations low. There was that 4-iron he hit cleanly on the tough par-3 fourth hole for birdie, yet also a 6-iron to the green on the par-5 ninth that he couldn’t fade because he was afraid to put too much weight on his right ankle. He scrambled for birdie and a share of the lead.

“I think if I was at Kapalua, I wouldn’t be able to play,” Allenby said. “There is a lot of slide slopes there. But here, it’s dead flat. I couldn’t have asked for an easier course to play – walking-wise, not hitting-wise.”

He managed both just fine, along with so many others. One round into the Sony Open, 16 players were separated by one shot.

Not everyone had an easy time with it. Fowler, the 21-year-old rookie who lost in a playoff last fall in Arizona, made double bogey on his opening hole and shot 75. John Daly had a 73, bemoaning that he couldn’t make a thing.

Merritt had company, too. Among those at 68 were a pair of other rookies in Martin Flores and Brian Stuard, who also was playing a PGA Tour event for the first time. For now, the PGA Tour must feel like paradise.

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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?

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.