Rakes Make Memorials Bunkers Tougher

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 30, 2006, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio - Jack Nicklaus turned to an Amish community for the latest weapon to combat low scoring in golf.
Its called a rake.
This isnt the garden variety rake, but a wooden one with tines that are 21/2 inches apart. Nicklaus ordered 150 of them for the bunkers at Muirfield Village, then made a slight adjustment so they would be more potent.
As I was testing them on Saturday, I found that once the bunker was raked the second time, the rake was too narrow and it just went right back to a smooth bunker, Nicklaus said. So I said, Lets take every other tooth out.
The rakes create furrows in the sand, so the ball will sit atop a slight ridge or nestle between them. It makes it difficult to get any spin on the ball, therefore making it tough to get the ball close to the hole.
OK, so its not as high-tech as titanium, not as sophisticated as sub-air pumps.
Still, the gap-toothed, wooden rakes being used this week at the Memorial might be enough to bring scores down, or at least make world-class players think twice about hitting into bunkers.
And thats the whole idea of a bunker, isnt it?
Nicklaus has designed hundreds of golf courses around the world, and he could think of three reasons why an architect would put in a bunker'it looks nice, it helps define the shape of the hole and it penalizes an errant shot.
To this point in time, theyve been aesthetically pleasing and they guide you around the golf course, Nicklaus said. But they havent been penal. So I think that third element needs to come into it. I thought that for a long, long time.
Nicklaus, the tournament host who is not playing the Memorial for the first time, spoke for nearly an hour Tuesday and not once did he say anything about the golf ball going too far.
He long has lamented that technology has required courses to spend millions of dollars lengthening the golf course to make it more challenging. And all he needed to do was build a new rake?
Whether it does any good will be determined over four days at Muirfield Village, where the winning score as been double digits under par every year since 1990. Not that theres anything wrong with that.
But it speaks to the notion that making golf tougher might mean making conditions more ragged.
One reason driving distance has increased so much over the years is that fairways are firmer and tighter than carpet in a five-star hotel. Elaborate lawn mowers can make greens smoother than a billiard table. And the sand is raked so smooth that players dont even wince when they see their balls disappear into a bunker. More times than not, theyre relieved.
Brad Faxon and Jerry Kelly got their first look at the furrows in the bunkers during a morning practice round.
Its a hazard, Faxon said.
Of greater concern to Kelly was the methodology in the art of raking a bunker. When the furrows run toward the target, players at least have a chance of getting their club on the ball. When the furrows are perpendicular, players have to hit behind a clump of sand, and they cant get much'if any'spin on the ball.
And from a fairway bunker?
Its a wedge out, Kelly said. You might be able to move an 8-iron.
Indeed, this was a dominant topic of conversation in the locker room and in the practice areas, driven by curiosity whether this is a new twist to the Memorial or if players can expect to see this every week.
No decision has been made longterm, said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. Its strictly a test.
Ironically, Nicklaus takes the blame for bunkers being so perfect in the first place. Years ago, he wanted a clean look in the bunkers and his staff developed a rake often seen throughout the PGA Tour'round, with tines about 11/2 inches long.
Now, all the bunkers are so perfect, theres no penalty anymore, he said.
Paul Azinger, one of the best bunker players on tour, doesnt necessarily agree. Azinger noted that he was 0-for-10 in sand saves at the Memorial a year ago. I thought they were hard enough, he said.
And while the corn-row look in the bunkers should make them tougher, it could eliminate some of the excitement. In the most exciting finish of this prestigious event, Azinger holed out from a greenside bunker at No. 18 for birdie to beat Payne Stewart in 1993.
In these bunkers, hes probably lucky to be within 20 feet.
When Jim Furyk won here in 2002, the pivotal shot was holing a bunker shot on the par-5 15th for birdie.
The pin would have to be pretty sturdy, he said with a smile.
Defending champion Bart Bryant was asked the last time he saw bunkers like the ones at Muirfield Village.
A little nine-hole golf course in New Mexico, he said. We had one bunker out on the course that never got raked.
He was kidding, but not much.
Whether this becomes part of the tour landscape remains to be seen, like when the tour started putting the flags three and four paces from the edge of the greens in 2003.
Nicklaus doesnt recall any ridges in the bunkers since Oakmont in the 1962 U.S. Open, which he won in a playoff over Arnold Palmer. The furrows were so deep there that the best anyone could do was pitch out sideways.
He doesnt think these ridges are that bad.
Matter of fact, I was in two bunkers when I was out there Saturday, he said. And I got both up-and-down.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

Getty Images

Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

Getty Images

With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

Getty Images

Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.