Another Massacre at Winged Foot

By Mercer BaggsJune 13, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Retief Goosen was practicing his mid-range game Tuesday at Winged Foot, hitting balls from about 45 yards out off a practice fairway. He then moved over to his left, into the rough, where he hit a few more. He then moved over a little further left and the bottom half of his shoes disappeared. Another few steps over to the left, and grass completely covered the cuffs of his pants.
 
For the first time, the United States Golf Association is implementing a graduated rough at their National Championship.
 
Rocco Mediate
Rocco Mediate plays out from some of the gnarly rough at Winged Foot.
The concept is quite simple: The further you hit it off line, the worse the deal is, said Mike Davis.
 
Davis is the USGAs new set-up man for the U.S. Open, taking over for the retired and oft-criticized Tom Meeks. A couple of years ago, he suggested the idea to USGA Executive Director David Fay, and it took off from there.
 
Now, as Davis says, Were better fitting the punishment to the crime.
 
According to Davis, the fairways on Winged Foots West Course measure 22-28 yards wide. After that, there is a 6-foot swath of intermediate rough that measures about 1 inches long.
 
The next 20 feet out is called the first cut of primary rough, and stands about 3 inches tall. Our goal is to have this rough playable, but still penal, Davis said. We want to allow the players to show their skills.
 
After that, you have the second cut of primary rough. This is where it gets interesting, and where bad drives come to die -- or get lost. The gallery has even been pushed back an extra 15 yards to keep fans from trampling down the highest rough.
 
This measures about 6 to 8 inches, explained Davis. Youre going to get a lie where you just have to advance the ball, try to get it into the fairway. There is almost no chance to get the ball on the green (from this cut).
 
Defending champion Michael Campbell got a chance to play his first nine holes on the West Course Monday. Tuesday, he was simple and direct in his assessment of the rough.
 
What I saw yesterday was brutal, he said. Its probably a golfers nightmare this week, because you cant see the ball sometimes.
 
That, according to Davis, should only happen if you drive it well off line ' and if you do, then you deserve what you get.
 
You have about a 41-to-46-foot corridor to drive the ball and keep it in play, Davis said. That includes the fairway, the intermediate rough and the first cut of primary rough. Beyond that, you should have to pay the penalty.
 
He then added matter-of-factly, This is the U.S. Open.
 
It makes sense, said Chris DiMarco. If you miss the fairway by a yard, you shouldnt be more penalized than if you miss it by 20.
 
The rough isnt the only thing players have to concern themselves with this week. Theres also the matter of a par 70 playing to 7,264 yards. But even more so than distance, the biggest detraction to scoring may very well be the greens.
 
I think everyone is so wound up thinking about the rough, they do forget about the greens a little bit, said Luke Donald. They are quite slopey in places; I think the first few greens especially.
 
You really do have to think about where you want to position your second shot into the green, because the greens are that slopey, usually from back to front, which makes it tough. You cant be too aggressive out there.
 
These greens are some of the most severe greens youll ever face, said two-time U.S. Open winner Tiger Woods.
 
The last time a major championship on the regular tour was contested at Winged Foot, the 1997 PGA Championship, Davis Love III won in a runaway with an 11-under total. In 1984, the last time a U.S. Open was held here, Fuzzy Zoeller defeated Greg Norman in a playoff after both men tied at 4 under. And then there was 1974, known as the Massacre at Winged Foot, when Hale Irwin was crowned champion with a 7-over score.
 
As for predicting a winning number this time around, Davis believes that there are too many factors that could sway scores in either direction. The course is still on the wet side from an abundance of rain over the past few weeks ' and more rain is expected on Wednesday. Davis is hoping that the course will dry out by Friday so that players and fans will get a true sense of how it is supposed to play over the weekend.
 
I dont think youre going to have the so-called Massacre at Winged Foot, where players just walk off saying its impossible, Davis said. Could 7 over win? Yeah, maybe, if it got crusty and really windy. Maybe it could.
 
But black numbers, Davis says, are not the USGAs goal this week. And neither do they want anything resembling Shinnecock Sunday in 2004.
 
We tried to get the golf course set up in a way that its a very stern, rigorous test, but that its not so much so that they cant use their skills to play the game and to where good shots are penalized. We dont want that,' he said.
 
Phil Mickelson has spent the better part of nine days over the last month prepping his game for this layout. He said that he feels like he knows the course better than anyone outside of club member Andy Svoboda, who is also in the field, but that scoring is all relative to the conditions.
 
This golf course is set up for pristine conditions ' zero wind, 80 degrees and warm. And if they dont get it, this course will be almost unplayable, he said. The greens are going to be way too fast, the rough is going to be too thick, and the fairways are going to be too tight for anybody to sniff par if we get 15-, 20-mile-an-hour winds.
 
If were faced with that, everything changes, because were looking at ' I think (good) scores are going to be higher than 74.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Getty Images

    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

     

     

    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.