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.
 
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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.