Fast Furious golf event bucks trend of five-hour rounds
A race-themed PGA West was the setting for the Fast & Furious golf event.
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Is there anything golfers hate more than slow play?
Four-putts, shanks, a bad polish sausage at the turn, you name it – nothing is less digestible than a five-hour round of golf.
It’s one of golf’s great conundrums. Equipment has evolved to make the game more enjoyable. Why hasn’t pace of play?
Last month we visited the first-annual Fast & Furious, an event out to prove that tournament golf doesn’t have to be a five-hour round played on lush, perfectly clipped grass. The event was created by Davis Sezna, president of La Quinta Resort in Palm Desert and his executive director Mike Kelly, who contend that golf can – and should – be played in less than four hours on a firm, fast surface.
Before a shotgun start at PGA West’s browned-out Greg Norman Course, each of the 80 participants signed a contract requiring them to complete all 18 holes in less than four hours. Those who failed to finish in the allotted time would be disqualified.
While PGA West certainly isn’t the first group to take a hard line approach to pace of play – most golf courses have some sort of policy on the matter – the Fast & Furious is the first event we’ve heard of to adopt a definitive start and finish time for a tournament.
“Pace of play is a hot button no matter where you go,” Kelly said. “With this event we feel like we’re taking a step toward solving one of golf’s biggest problems.”
Among the participants at the Fast & Furious was PGA Tour winner John Schroeder, a man who knows a thing or two about slow play. During CBS’ broadcast of the 1980 Heritage Classic at Harbour Town, an open mic caught Tom Kite chastising Schroeder for playing slowly in the group ahead.
“He said some very unflattering things about me,” Schroeder recalled, declining to specify exactly what Kite said. “When I played the Tour I was a slow player, I don’t dispute that. But he and [playing partner] Lanny Wadkins thought we were out of position that day when in fact we were not.”
Schroeder says nothing much ever came of the incident – other than CBS abandoning its plan to mic players – and the issue of slow play on Tour is actually worse now than it’s ever been.
“When you watch players on Tour today, they’re moving at a glacial pace,” Schroeder said. “When I watch those guys on TV I’m saying, ‘What is he thinking about?’ When the average golfer sees that, they go out and copy them.”
Despite his reputation as a pro, Schroeder says he plays much faster nowadays. He frequents The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, where he says three- to three-and-a-half hour rounds are the norm. At the Fast & Furious, he never thought about playing fast in order to finish.
If a former slow-playing Tour player is on board with playing faster golf, it makes sense for amateurs as well. And while there are inherent roadblocks to playing faster – most notably the number of strokes a hacker hits over the course of a round – Schroeder believes the solution is simple.
“It comes down to playing ready golf,” he said. “If you can be ready to hit your ball when it’s your turn, you’ll play a lot faster.”
As golf navigates a sluggish economy, it can ill-afford golfers bailing on the game because it takes too long to play. It’s nice to see PGA West taking an active role in reversing the trend. Let’s hope other courses and tournament operators follow suit.
Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins
Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.
Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.
Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.
After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.
Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.
With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.
Love to undergo hip replacement surgery
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.
Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.
“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.
Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.
Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.
“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”
LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY
NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.
Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.
Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.
Here’s a summary of the big prizes:
Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.
It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.
Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.
There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.
CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.
By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.
LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.
The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.
Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.
Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”
Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.
“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”
Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.
Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.
Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).
In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.
She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.
How did she evaluate her season?
“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.
“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”
Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.
“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.
“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”