Open Anticipation

By Mercer BaggsJune 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Temperatures in the 50s and light, early-morning showers greeted players Wednesday at Olympia Fields, site of this weeks 103rd U.S. Open. Its the second consecutive day that the course has received rain.
 
The weather really affects what we can do, said Olympia Fields golf course superintendent Dave Ward. Were working with Mother Nature and were working with the creation of man.
 
Officials said they are still trying to get the greens at a consistently fast ' but fair ' speed.
 
Wed like to see the greens a little firmer, but with the lack of sunshine and the little bit of rain weve had thats been difficult, said United States Golf Association vice-president Fred Ridley. But with the wind and a couple of days of sunshine, I think youll see the greens a little bit testier than they have been in the past few days.
 
Ridley added that the rough was mowed Tuesday night and will probably be allowed to grow the remainder of the week. Right now it is almost four inches in its most severe spots.
 
My observation is that this is not a pitch-out type of rough, he said. There are times when the ball gets down in the grass and its pretty hard to do anything with it. But Ive seen three or four different variations of lies being out on the golf course the last couple of days, and thats really the desired result as far as were concerned.
 
PERRY THRUST INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
 
In the revolving door that leads to Golfs Hottest Player, Kenny Perry may be on his way out, or en route to another visit.
 
Perry won the Bank of America Colonial and the Memorial Tournament in consecutive events before taking last week off.
 
I was pretty swamped by interviews, people calling me. I really hadnt had a chance to catch my breath, Perry said of his week away from golf. I told my caddie I had to come back to work to even get a good nights sleep.
 
Perrys pair of victories were the fifth and sixth of his career. Prior to that, he had won only once since 1995. This is the closest the 42-year-old has come to professional fame since he lost in a playoff to Mark Brooks in the 1996 PGA Championship.
 
The Franklin, Ky., native ' where they will soon be holding Kenny Perry Day ' still wonders what life would have been like had he been the victor at Valhalla.
 
I dont know if I would have handled it as well back then. I was a lot younger. I dont know how I would have carried myself after that win, he said, adding he had no regrets. But Ive thoroughly been very happy with my career and how its gone and how Ive played.
 
I just opened a few eyes those last couple of weeks, and thats been the big difference I guess.
 
Perry said he wasnt able to practice much last week, and that his game is a little off-center as the first round nears. But hes not about to fret, rather hes focused on the positives.
 
I just took the attitude that Im going to enjoy this, he said. Ive kind of flown under the radar for 17 years. Ive had a good career, nothing fantastic, and then I win two tournaments back-to-back, and its like the whole world changed.
 
Ive enjoyed it immensely, and Im looking forward to this week. Its quite a challenge for me.
 
LOVE MOVING FORWARD
 
Davis Love III has quite a challenge as well this week. He, too, has to try and put off-course distractions aside in order to contend for his first U.S. Open title.
 
But, unlike Perrys, Loves peripheral life is clouded with sadness.
 
Love is competing in his second event since he discovered the body of his brother-in-law, Jeffrey Knight, who had committed suicide, on May 16. He played in last weeks FBR Capital Open and tied for seventh.
 
Its a welcome challenge for me to get out and play a golf tournament that keeps me distracted for a while, he said. It was good for me to play last week, and obviously I wanted to get ready for this week. If the U.S. Open doesnt get you concentrating, nothings going to.
 
Knight was married to the sister of Loves wife, Robin. He handled a variety of business affairs for Love but was not involved in his golf course design company. Knight killed himself days after admitting to both Love and the FBI that he had stolen in the neighborhood of $1 million from the worlds No. 3-ranked player.
 
Most of Love's family are currently on vacation in Florida.
 
They know that my place is to be, one, out here at work, and two, out here with my friends, said Love, whose father, teaching professional Davis Jr., was killed in a plane crash in 1988.
 
Weve been reminded twice tragically in our family how important it is to stay close and take care of each other, he said.
 
It shows you that your career and your life of earning money or the business of life is not the most important thing, that family is the most important thing.
 
Love, who won the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot, is seeking his first U.S. Open title. He tied for second in 1996, missing a putt inside of two feet that would, as it turned out, have forced a playoff with winner Steve Jones.
 
Nothing is going to stop me from trying to do my best. Last week, people came up and said, I cant believe you played so well. I said, I cant believe I bogeyed three holes in the last round.'
 
So thats my attitude, is Ill play golf, and maybe when I go home next week it wont be as much fun as a normal week off, but Ill still keep playing golf as hard as I can.
 
NOT-SO-WEIRD QUESTION
 
When Tiger Woods wins the Masters, people start buying tickets for the PGA Championship in anticipation of the Grand Slam.
 
When Mike Weir wins the Masters, people, almost as an obligation, ask him if its possible to complete the single-season Slam.
 
A slap in the face? Not to Weir.
 
Its not an insult at all. Hes the guy that has won four majors in a row, so its a legitimate question. For me, its my first major championship, but at the same time, Ive said this before, if I didnt feel like I could do it, Id never do it, Weir said.
 
Things have to fall all into place, and the stars have to line up. But well see what happens this week, and well go from there.
 
But you never rule anything out.
 
A LOOK INSIDE THE BARNES DOOR
 
In 1995, Ernie Els was the reigning U.S. Open champion. As is USGA tradition, he was grouped with the most recent British Open and U.S. Amateur winners, Nick Price and a 19-year-old Tiger Woods, respectively.
 
At the time, Els thought to himself, If this guy ever learns to hit the ball straight, were all in trouble. And well he was right.
 
Now, he gets another look at a promising young ball basher, Ricky Barnes.
 
Barnes, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, is grouped with Els, the British Open winner, and Woods, last years U.S. Open champ, over the first two rounds at Olympia Fields.
 
Ive played so many times with Tiger now, I know what he does, Els said. But Ricky, I mean, Id like to see how he plays. There was quite a bit of hype about him at the Masters, he played so well. Hes a big, strong guy, and Id like to see how he rips it past us Thursday.
 
Woods has already had a first-hand experience with the University of Arizona senior. The pair played together in the first two rounds of this years Masters Tournament, where Barnes bettered Woods by six strokes over the two days.
 
Barnes eventually finished as low amateur, tying for 21st place. Woods, incidentally, tied for 15th, one shot lower.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.