The Day the Open Finally Lost It
OK, so Sergio Garcia had an 80 ' a quirk, maybe? But how about Ernie Els 80 or Scott Verplanks 83? Billy Mayfair rang up an 89, Tom Kite an 84, Craig Parry an 85. Hey ' whats going on here? Did these guys play three or four extra holes?
You cant blame the weather ' Shinnecock Hills was an absolute delight last week, only one evening of rain, no cold fronts moving through, breezes causing no more concern than they do at any course in, say, Ohio, this time of year. And yet, once again the conditions of the course were completely out of whack for such a prestigious competition as the U.S. Open.
Im not going to presume all is wrong with the United States Golf Association. Undoubtedly some will think there was no problem at all, since all 156 players faced the same conditions ' more or less, anyway. There was much grumbling about the par-3 seventh green and the inconsistent syringing of it during Sunday. But before blame is pointed toward the USGA, hear what Walter Driver, the chairman of the USGA championship committee, had to say:
We start setting courses up for championships four and five years in advance, said Driver, and you cannot change an Open course setup in 12 hours. It's not possible.
So we went from having lots of compliments for what we did for three days, and then the wind blew harder and in a different direction than we anticipated, and you simply can't go redo the greens in 12 hours.
Driver is correct in that some blame for carnage has to do with abnormal weather conditions, conditions no one could predict a year or two ago when officials begun mapping out plans for this championship. However, the USGA must be blamed for 28 scores in the 80s the final round. The organization tries to get the course as close to the edge as possible, and all it takes is for one or two little glitches to occur when tournament week rolls around ' and all hell suddenly breaks loose. Its just not possible for 28 out of a weekend field of 66 to shoot in the 80s ' not when you start with the finest players on the planet.
We don't have a target stroke average for the field, said Driver, alluding to the bloated number in the 80s, so it would not be appropriate for me to say whether that was under or over our target. Yes, it was very high.
Frankly, I'm surprised. I would have expected the scores to be lower. But the course played more difficult than we expected it to and the scores were higher. But we don't manage toward a given score at any time, just the course got very dry and very fast and very hard.
Driver said he heard nothing but compliments the first three days for the way the course was set up. That may be a little overstated, but needless to say, it was nothing to match the crescendo on Sunday. And Driver most certainly heard the criticisms, too.
It did blow all night long, it did blow not in a prevailing way, he said. The prevailing wind usually brings moisture off the coast. This wind brought dry, hot air, dried the course out. We went out this morning and moved the hole locations that we had anticipated using on both 7 and 11 to put those in the most accessible and benign locations on those holes.
I putted most of the holes myself. I thought they were playable. That was at 7:30 this morning. By about 9:30 or 10:00 (a.m.) it was apparent that the golf course had continued to dry out in that hot wind and we started to start putting water on it.
We began syringing at the seventh hole and we syringed all the holes on the golf course at one time or another and some multiple times. So it was not just the seventh hole - although the seventh hole was particularly difficult - but we tried to maintain all of the greens in a consistent way.
You could tell the tournament was slowly getting out of hand as the week went on. Thursday and Friday it was very difficult, but still reasonably fair. Saturday was crazy golf on a few holes, but overall it was fair. Sunday it got totally out of control.
Jeff Maggert could see something ominous coming as the week moved on. He was one of those who contended as best they could, but on Sunday completely blew a gasket.
What everybody saw on TV speaks for itself, said Maggert. I mean, any sane person can be the judge of how the greens played and realize that it's a little ridiculous.
I really felt after Friday that they (the USGA) were going to let this happen to the golf course. They look up at the scoreboard and they see all those red numbers and they panic. They don't want 10-under to win their tournament, and that's just the philosophy that they've had forever.
Maggert wasnt entirely correct. The USGA does not want to see scores like Sundays at the Open ' thats embarrassing.
But they dont want to see 10 under, either. This week was probably one of the few times when 10 under would have been a perfectly sane number at the Open. The weather was nearly perfect, and many of the worlds best players were playing at their best.
Then came Sunday
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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion
Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.
Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.
“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.
It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.
“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”
The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.
“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”
Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey
Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:
Tiger sighting on the range! pic.twitter.com/rcJYLCes7R— Morning Drive (@GCMorningDrive) January 23, 2018
Back on TOUR.pic.twitter.com/OPmjaXFo1l— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 23, 2018
Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open
The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.
Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.
Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:
1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.
2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.
3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.
4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.
5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.
6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.
7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.
8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.
9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.
10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.
Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'
It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.
Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.
"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."
Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.
That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.
"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.
"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."