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.
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.
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.
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.
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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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.