O'Toole outspoken on issues with Women's Open

By Randall MellMarch 20, 2014, 11:32 pm

PHOENIX – They’re getting a hand-me down.

They’re getting the men’s leftovers.

In a nutshell, that summarizes what the women don’t like about the U.S. Women’s Open being played the week after the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in June, according to fourth-year LPGA pro Ryann O’Toole.

With USGA executive director Mike Davis speaking at an LPGA players meeting at the Founders Cup Tuesday night, O’Toole stepped up as the most outspoken critic of plans to play the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in back-to-back weeks. She pressed Davis on why the women aren’t scheduled to go first.

“I think what we wanted to hear was more of the truth, and I think what we heard was what we were supposed to hear,” O’Toole said.

What O’Toole heard Davis say is the grasses and greens are easier to set up for a major championship test if the men go first. He also reassured the women that the course will stand up and offer them a quality major championship test.

“I think the biggest thing we will lose is the pristine conditions you get at a major championship,” O’Toole said. “When you go to a U.S. Open, the course is groomed to perfection. It’s the best course we play all year, but now we are going to be playing it the week after the men play it.

“You can’t tell me it’s going to look the same. It is not. We know what a U.S. Open course looks like after we’re done with it. For them to say the course is going to be in great shape, and the greens are the only reason why the men are going first, makes no sense. It’s just something we are going to have to see to believe.

“I’m not alone feeling that way. I would say 90 percent of the tour agrees with what I’m saying.”

Paula Creamer is trying to keep an open mind, hopeful that the exposure playing after the men will prove a boost to women’s golf, but she has her concerns.

“I think it’s awesome we are at the same venue,” Creamer said. “However, at a place like Pinehurst, we could be playing at the same time, on different courses.

“I’m just taking it as it is. There’s nothing I can do. I know a lot of people are upset with it and don’t agree with it.”

Cristie Kerr said Davis met some serious skepticism in his presentation to LPGA pros. 

“I think they believe what they are telling us is true, but we were all just sitting there doing this [shaking our heads],” Kerr said. “They are thinking the course will be in as good a shape the second week as it is the first. Mike Davis said if you think anything differently, you don’t really know agronomy. And we are like, 'Well, we’ve only been playing golf for 30 years.’

“They were here this week, so obviously they are concerned, but it is what it is. We all love the U.S. Open and we’ll just have to make the most of it.”

Juli Inkster hears the trepidation but is urging her fellow players to keep an open mind.

“We just need to see how this will play out,” Inkster said. “There are a lot of if, ands or buts, whatever, but until you get out there and let it play out, you can speculate all you want. My philosophy is it does you no good to say, 'Why aren’t we going first?’ The bottom line is men sell tickets. They’re going to go first. It could be really good for us, but you just got to let it play itself out.”

Morgan Pressel can’t wait to play Pinehurst, but she hears the trepidation from peers all around her. 

“There are people definitely nervous about the week,” Pressel said. “We don’t know what to expect. It’s unprecedented, and it will be interesting.”

Davis says the USGA's agronomy staff's challenges dictated the men go first. 

“It's the superintendent, and it's our Green Section staff who felt that we had a much better chance of getting the golf course right for both championships, how we want to set it up, with the men going first and the women going second,” Davis said earlier this year. “It really gets down to the putting greens, that they're going to be the same green speed for both weeks. But the first week, if Mother Nature is cooperative, they're going to be slightly firmer.”

Davis said it is simply easier to go from very firm greens to slightly less firm than the other way around.

LPGA pros are suspicious there’s more to the men going first than that.

“I think the bottom line is we weren’t going to kick up as much of a fuss as the guys would have playing second,” Katherine Kirk said. “The guys would never have done it. Obviously, that wasn’t said and probably would never be said.”

O’Toole believes that, too.

“The men would never stand for having the women go first, and then playing after us,” O’Toole said. “Ultimately, we think that’s the idea.”

The number of divots the women are likely to have to play through is a major concern, but they see the potential upside with all the attention the women's game is already getting for this U.S. Women's Open.

“The USGA has been awesome to us,” Kirk said. “I think they know what they’re doing, and I think it will be a great event. I think if we can turn it into a positive and ride the coattails of the men, it will be great for us.”

O'Toole is eager to play the U.S. Women's Open, even if it may not be in optimum conditions.

“At the end of the day, we’re still all excited to play Pinehurst No. 2,” O’Toole said. “It’s a great golf course. It’s one of my favorite courses.

“It could be a big plus playing it this way, or it could be a disaster.”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.