Round 1 - News and Notes
Two of a Kind
Tennis star Martina Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam winner, is on the grounds this week, watching her boyfriend Sergio Garcia compete.
Sergio, who is seeking his first major title, said he has talked with Hingis on what it takes to win an historic event.
She is in a very similar position to me, he said. She knows what Im going through. She knows what it feels to be in this kind of position. And thats helpful. To me, it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders to be able to talk to somebody that understands that.
Rain Doesn't Slow Greens
Overnight rains did little to help players navigate the greens Thursday.
I didnt see them playing a whole lot softer or slower than the practice rounds, said Dudley Hart, who played in the first group out in round one. I was surprised. Fortunately, I didnt have too many long putts.
Hart took 25 putts in shooting 1-under 69. But regardless of distance, all putts had the ability to be dangerous.
They are faster than at any U.S. Open, said Phil Mickelson of the speed of the greens. Theyre rolling 14 on the stimpmeter. To say 14 on the stimpmeter is hard to comprehend or put in terms ' if the average player has a seven-foot putt, it would roll by seven feet.
Its difficult to make putts or feel like you can be aggressive on the greens.
Mickelson officially used his putter 31 times in round one. And even though he commented on the greens buttery surface, he added they were also the best rolling poa annua greens that Ive ever seen. You can make a lot of putts if you read them right.
The Importance of Driving
Putting wasnt Harts primary concern entering the first round.
I had about eight drivers on the range yesterday at about 1:00 (PM) trying to find a club, he said. It wasnt the driver as much as it was my swing.
Hart and his brother-in-law, Mark, finally found a solution, if only a temporary one, and took it to the course Thursday. The driver of choice came in handy, as he used it 10 times. Hart hit 11 of the 14 fairways, which measure, on average, 24-28 yards in width.
I drove the ball pretty well for the most part, he said. Ive got nowhere else to go, Ive got to stay with it. Ive gotten the ball in the fairway more often than not, and in the practice rounds, that wasnt the case.
Hart finished his first round with three consecutive birdies. He was then asked if he wanted the round to continue.
Im glad to be done, he said with an exhausted smile. Its a long day, playing 18 holes on this golf course, and I dont want to play 19 or 20 ' 18 is fine.
Hale Irwin and Tom Kite criticized reigning U.S. Senior Open champion Bruce Fleisher for withdrawing prior to the start of the U.S. Open because he felt he could not be competitive.
Irwin, a three-time U.S. Open champion in on a special exemption this week, shot 12-over 82 Thursday. 1992 Open champion Kite, who tied for fifth last year, shot 80.
Still, Irwin felt playing was the right thing to do.
Absolutely, I do, Irwin said. Obviously, Im not happy with the way I played, but I was out there. I look forward to next year. At least I was here.
Handling the Pressure
Derek Tolan admitted to being nervous in shooting 8-over 78. But wouldn't you be if you were 16 years old and playing in your first U.S. Open?
'I didn't think I was going to be all that nervous, but you could just watch the tapes. I was walking funny,' he said. 'I was so nervous, I forgot how to breathe.'
Full coverage from the 102nd U.S. Open
Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker
John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.
The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.
That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.
He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.
Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.