The Way the Ball Bounces

By Mercer BaggsJuly 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
SANDWICH, England ' Tiger Woods walked along the mounds that are Royal St. Georges fairways, wiping his brow as the heat intensified Tuesday.
It is those contours, however, not so much the sun, that will make a man sweat in this 132nd Open Championship.
These fairways are very difficult to try and hit, especially with all the mounding in them, Woods said. And thats just the way it is. You try and understand youre hitting good shots, youre going to get bad bounces ' hit marginal shots and get great bounces.
Irelands Padraig Harrington, the highest ranked European (ninth) in the field, agreed: You have to accept the good and the bad bounces.
Its going to test our patience, added U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, I think more than any course Ive ever played.
This is the 13th time Royal St. Georges has hosted an Open Championship. It has produced a list of champions far less suspect than its fairway caroms.
John H. Taylor (1894), Harry Vardon (1899, 1911), Walter Hagen (1922, 28), Bobby Locke (1949), Sandy Lyle (1985) and Greg Norman (1993) are among RSGs accredited winners.
Things have changed a bit in the decade since Norman fired a final-round 64 to win his second Claret Jug. The course, which was the first venue outside of Scotland to host this championship, has been lengthened 246 yards to a healthy 7,106. Nine of the tees have been altered.
But while nuances have changed, the essence is still the same.
Whereas Olympia Fields, site of this years U.S. Open, was straight forward, Royal St. Georges is more Jerry Lewis than Dean Martin.
Here, what you see is not always what you get. Because you cant entirely distinguish what it is you are seeing.
My definition of this golf course is a quirky golf course, said Norman. Youve got humps, lumps and hollows.
Some of the shots are semi-blind, some shots you have to trust the distance how far you want to hit it through the air, but then you have to calculate a 60-yard run, and hopefully that run is going to be straight.
Some of the greens are situated low, some are high. Some are exposed, where the greens are very, very firm and fast, and some are receptive, where you can spin the ball back with a pitch shot.
You have got to get to know the golf course early on in the week, and if the conditions stay the same, you get a good feel about the golf course.
Woods, who is usually more exacting than exhausting in his major preparation, played his third practice round at RSG Tuesday morning, teeing off a shade past 6:00 AM.
Its playing differently than what Ive seen on videos, a different wind, said the 2000 British Open champion. I remember Greg (Norman) hitting driver, 4-iron on the last hole (in 1993). Today I was debating whether to hit 2-iron or 3-iron off that tee.
This is Tigers first visit to Sandwich, situated along Englands southeast coastline, as it is for many in the field. And all involved have been treated to a series of glorious sun-drenched days.
The conditions remind Norman of the time leading up to the 93 championship, when the sun teamed with the wind to create a treacherously fast and firm layout.
Id love to be able to sit here in the locker room for about four hours and listen to what the players said after the first day they played here, said Norman.
Like the first fairway ' if the conditions stay like this, 20 percent of the field will only be able to keep it on the fairway. They may all hit the middle of the fairway, but it wont stay on.
Wednesday rains took the teeth out of the course a decade ago, and may again do so this time. Thunderstorms are a possibility over the next two days.
But, forecasters predict, players will not have to endure the extreme wrath of Mother Nature, as they did Saturday at Muirfield a year ago.
It was very cold, very windy and very wet. And nothing defines that days apocalyptic attitude more so than Woods round.
Two off the lead at the start of the day, Woods, who had already won the Masters and U.S. Open, struggled mightily, lashing through the heather on his way to a 10-over 81. He recovered Sunday to shoot 65 and tie for 28th. Still, it was his fifth finish outside the top 10 in eight British Open appearances.
It marked the first of four consecutive majors played without a victory. For the first time since 1999, he is without a major trophy on his mantle.
I just would like to play more consistently. If I do that Ill give myself a chance to win, he said. Youre not going to win every one, but certainly at least you can give yourself a chance coming down the back (nine) on Sunday. Thats one of the things I havent been able to do.
Woods was five back entering the final round of last years PGA Championship before rallying to a runner-up finish. He had bookend rounds of 76-75 at this year's Masters, and a third-round 75 knocked him out of contention in the U.S. Open.
Though recently winless in golfs four biggest events, Woods does have four victories this season.
He won three times in his first four starts coming off of knee surgery, had one top 10 in his next six, and then quashed all talk of a slump by crushing the field in his last tournament, the Western Open.
The key to making it two in a row this week may well lie in events beyond his control ' the spastic ball-hops.
Woods said he hit a 2-iron down the 17th fairway Tuesday only to have it finish in the knee-high hay.
I think everyone will probably say this is the most severe fairways were going to play, as far as bounces go. Not too often do you hit the ball down the middle and you end up in the bunker or the rough because of the bounces, he said.
It comes down to getting the right bounce, and a guy getting a bit a luck on this golf course.
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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.