Which course deserves a FedEx Cup playoff event

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 24, 2010, 11:04 pm

In this edition of Travel Punch Shots, TravelGolf.com senior writers Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker weigh in on two courses that are tough, exciting and deserve to host a PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff event.

By MIKE BAILEY

No disrespect to Ridgewood Country Club and The Barclays, but how about bringing the PGA Tour playoffs to the west coast? Specifically, I would love to see a FedEx Cup playoff event at the recently renovated Bayonet Course at Bayonet/BlackHorse in Seaside, Calif.

In the old days, Bayonet had a reputation as one of the toughest hombres in the West, and it played hosted to a number of professional events. Now that it's received a facelift as part of a $13 million renovation by architect Gene Bates, it's even better – a lot better.

And it's still really tough. I'd love to see the tour pros tackle these narrow fairways and firm, tricky greens. In fact, at a U.S. Open qualifier at Bayonet earlier this year, the medalist shot even par, and there were a few scores in the 90s. At just over 7,100 yards, Bayonet isn't long by today’s PGA Tour standards, but its rating/slope of 74.8/141 is a testament to its difficulty.

If the course is set up firm, as it typically is in the summer and fall, even the pros will have a hard time holding the greens at Bayonet.

As for tough holes, take your pick. The ninth is a 480-yard dogleg right uphill par 4. And just for good measure, there are deep bunkers guarding a green with plenty of tough pin positions.

The finishing stretch doesn't appear particularly foreboding, with two par 4s less than 400 yards, but trust me, it isn't easy, and it could make for great drama. The last two holes, a 225-yard par 3, and a 519-yard par 5 that plays uphill sets up for an exciting finish.

Besides difficulty, though, Bayonet is also easy on the eye. The renovation saw to that. Underbrush was cleared and trees trimmed to provide views of Monterey Bay not seen in years. Bunkers were renovated. And the golf course is pure bentgrass, tee to green now, so all you see is deep green turf surrounding ragged edged snow-white bunkers and ocean blue in the background.

The course is also very walkable, both for fans and players. And the Pacific Ocean provides plenty of air conditioning. What's not to like?

By BRANDON TUCKER

Golf hotbed Reno-Tahoe is a more deserving destination than serving as host of a sponsor-less PGA Tour event opposite the British Open. It deserves a FedEx Cup playoff event.

Tahoe's North Shore is a 30-minute drive from Reno-Tahoe Airport and is home to a handful of tour-worthy courses. Timilick Club in Truckee would be the most fitting for a PGA Tour playoff event. It’s a new private club that offers some daily public tee times while it tries to fill membership. It ranks among the best courses I've seen in 2010 and would be a great showcase of the area beyond Edgewood Tahoe on the south shore. Spectators who come to town would surely fall in love with Truckee's historic downtown and wealth of natural attractions around Lake Tahoe.

Designed by Johnny Miller and John Harbottle, Timilick is a more traditional-looking course compared to its showier mountain neighbors, and the routing is pretty easy to walk, especially on the flatter front side.

And the hole variety is tremendous, boasting not only varying visual scenery but it demands plenty of different shots too. There are two drivable par 4s (the 11th is one of the best out there), elevated greens and downhill holes, plus a 600-plus-yard finishing hole with plenty of trouble to create some playoff drama.

The course plays to a par of 71 and at 7,022 yards it might need a few new back tee boxes built to cope with today's best players and its High Sierras elevation, but many of the bunkers are deep and severe and the fairways could be thinned a bit to ensure a little bite. Then again, just about every course on tour has been getting chewed up this year.

The world's best pros would have a hard time finding faults here. They could even fly in on their private aircraft just a mile down the road at Truckee-Tahoe Airport.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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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 one 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.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he 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.