Trying to make sense of the Highlands Course

By Rex HoggardAugust 14, 2011, 4:43 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – This is not a golf course problem, or a Rees Jones problem, or even a Phil Mickelson problem. This is a set-up problem.

As a rule, the PGA of America and Kerry Haigh, the organization’s point man on golf course set up, have gotten it right. There have been no Shinnecocks or Carnousties, set-up snafus to hang on the “never again” bulletin board. But this week’s blueprint at Atlanta Athletic Club doesn’t feel right.

On Wednesday, first-alternate Paul Goydos figured on the “Grey Goose 19th Hole” that he’s never played a course with a driveable par 3 (No. 15) and a three-shot par 4 (No. 18). After this week, many in the PGA Championship field are hoping they don’t see one again.

This goes beyond typical Tour pro nit-picking and cliché claims that “they all have to play the same course.” This is a question of intent, as in did Jones & Co. intend the closing hole to be played 4-iron/4-iron, the way Mickelson did earlier this week? Or the par-3 15th hole played to effectively the same yardage from two different teeing areas?

Mickelson said modern architecture is to blame, but in the case of the PGA it seems a lack of vision is the culprit.

“(No. 18) would be an awesome par 5,” Ryan Palmer said. “What is wrong with par 71? Why are entertaining par 5s so bad? If I’m a fan have guys hit a driver and have a rescue wood in. That’s exciting.”

The Highlands Course’s 18th is a par-5 51 weeks a year, with a back tee that stretches the hole to 573 yards, but has played as a par 4 for the PGA, a big, thoughtless par 4.

Sure, David Toms’ final-hole heroics in 2001 at AAC were entertaining, but there is a better than even-money chance Sunday’s winner will play the hole the exact same way. It’s the way a large portion of the field has been forced to play the hole this week. If everyone does it, is it still special?

Most players hit fairway wood or hybrid off the tee because the landing area for most drivers is little more than 18 yards wide - miss right and there are bunkers and a likely lay-up - miss left and the water awaits.

“There’s nowhere to hit it off the tee and the bunkers are virtually unplayable,” said Steve Stricker, who actually made par the Toms way on Saturday at the 18th hole. “It’s a better par 5 than a par 4.”

The 2008 U.S. Open was arguably the best major of the decade in no small part to the fact that U.S. Golf Association set-up man Mike Davis fought to keep Torrey Pines’ closing hole a risk-reward par 5. Instead of a false sense of par the USGA went for pyrotechnics, and it worked.

It would have worked at Atlanta Athletic Club, but instead we have a scoring average more than a half stroke over par (4.57), more double bogeys (37) than birdies (25) and virtually no chance for closing dramatics, just disaster.

And the one hole where there was excitement in 2001 (No. 15, where Toms made an ace in Round 3) received a nip/tuck that added an odd 38 yards and virtually nothing new or interesting to the hole.

“It played the exact same yardage (for Rounds 1 and 2),” said Palmer of the 15th hole.

Huh? According to the PGA the 15th hole played from the back tee on Thursday (253 yards) and the next tee up on Friday (236 yards).

“It was 240 (yards) both days, hit the exact same club, a hybrid,” Palmer said. “Because on Thursday the back tee is more elevated and the pin was in the front. On Friday the lower tee is not as elevated and the pin was back.”

Which makes the 15th hole’s new tee little more than wasted real-estate, and why this week’s set-up may have been a wasted opportunity.

New heat-resistant grasses at AAC promised almost unlimited set-up possibilities. The Highlands Course could have been set up as hard and fast as the PGA wanted, but instead of creative we got carnage. No, this was definitely not a golf course problem, this was a set-up problem.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.