Blackwolf Run gearing up for U.S. Women's Open

By Randall MellMay 3, 2012, 9:36 pm

It’s back to the Enchanted Forest for women’s golf.

That is what Blackwolf Run feels like as host to the U.S. Women’s Open.

With the championship just nine weeks away, the U.S. Golf Association is busy with the Kohler Co. in a bid to once more make Blackwolf Run the most bewitching and beautiful challenge in the women’s game.

Fourteen years ago, Herb Kohler introduced the sport to his beguiling design carved through the woods of Wisconsin. Blackwolf Run was as picturesque as it was wicked in its debut as host of the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998. With players sparring with golf goblins all week, Blackwolf Run delivered a fairytale ending. It delivered amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn’s 72nd-hole dramatics to force a playoff with South Korean sensation Se Ri Pak ultimately winning.

“I was afraid of the golf course,” Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez remembers from her adventure there in ‘98. “I had won a lot of golf tournaments, and it intimidated me quite a bit.”

So much so that Lopez, Meg Mallon and Jane Geddes stuck towels on the end of their golf clubs and waved them like white flags as they walked the 18th hole at the end of the second round. They were cumulatively 44 over par and all headed home with missed cuts.

“The great surrender,” Kohler remembers today.

Those white flags remain a defining image from the championship.

Mallon took a 9 on the championship’s opening hole of the opening round.

“I’ll never forget that,” Kohler said. “I admire Meg a lot, and it was sort of ghastly watching her start like that. I think it impacted the psychology of all the players.”

At one point early in the first round, Lopez said her caddie sensed her uneasiness.

“Can I get you something?” he asked her.

“Two valiums,” Lopez answered.

Pak ultimately won in a playoff despite shooting 75-76 on the weekend. She and Chuasiriporn finished at 6 over for 72 holes. You have to go back 36 years to find a higher 72-hole score by a winner in a U.S. Women’s Open. You have to go back to Winged Foot (+7) in 1974 to find a higher 72-hole score by a winner in any major.

A word of caution for the women headed to Blackwolf Run for the July 5-8 championship. The early word is it will be just as bedeviling as it was in ’98.

The course will play to 6,984 yards, more than 500 yards longer than it played in ’98.

While it won’t be the longest U.S. Women’s Open venue in history, it will feel like the longest. The Broadmoor in Colorado played to a record 7,047 yards last year, but the high altitude didn’t make it feel that long.

The USGA is cutting the women a break this time around Blackwolf Run. It will play as a par 72 instead of a par 71. The seventh hole will play as it was naturally designed, as a par 5 instead of a par 4.

That doesn’t mean the test won’t still be fierce. Kohler ordered a renovation of Blackwolf Run’s grasses in 2009 and ‘10. With new A4 bentgrass on the greens and Memorial bentgrass on the fairways, the course can play a lot firmer and faster, given Mother Nature’s cooperation.

“This will definitely be the toughest test of the women’s year, and rightfully so,” said the USGA’s Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women’s Open.

Kimball wasn’t there to see how Blackwolf Run played in ’98 – he was a freshman in college – but he has studied recordings of NBC-TV’s telecast.

“It looked like it played the way we expect and want for a national open championship,” Kimball said. “It was a physical and mental grind all the way to the end. I expect we will get another grind out of Blackwolf Run in 2012.”

Blackwolf Run made a powerful first impression and launched Kohler’s emergence as a force in major championship golf. Whistling Straits, already home to two PGA Championships, was officially opened on the Monday that Pak beat Chuasiriporn in a playoff. In a test of his improvisational skills, Kohler managed to shuttle major golf dignitaries to Whistling Straits in the morning and then back to see Pak win.

“It was such a dramatic impact, this whole thing, on me, on the company, on our opening at Whistling Straits,” Kohler said. “And then to have a conclusion like we had with these players, it was a fairytale that you couldn't write. You couldn't make up. It was our first major, and it was absolutely remarkable.”

Blackwolf Run’s strong first impression paved the way for more majors on Kohler’s courses.

“I didn’t see it coming back then,” said Michael Lee, superintendent of the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits courses. “I don’t think anyone did, except maybe Mr. Kohler, and I won’t speak for him. When we hosted the Andersen Consulting Championship three years prior to the U.S. Women’s Open, I told the staff to enjoy the week, because I thought that would be the largest event we would ever host. I was wrong. Mr. Kohler had a vision I didn’t see.”

That vision plays out some more at Blackwolf Run this summer.

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Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd was loving it.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.