Par 5: Hating Rees' pieces

By Randall MellSeptember 13, 2011, 2:14 pm

Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large ...

Can Phil Mickelson win on a golf course built by a designer whose work he disdains?

Jack Nicklaus liked to say when he heard players complaining about the golf course, he’d scratch their names off the list of foes he thought he’d have to beat.

Following that logic, we would be scratching Mickelson’s name off the list of FedEx Cup favorites at the BMW Championship this week.

Mickelson doesn’t like the redesign work architect Rees Jones did to Cog Hill’s Dubsdread Course. He made that clear last year. Mickelson struggles to hide his disdain for much of Jones’ work.

“This is an example again of how modern architecture is killing the participation of the sport,” Mickelson said of Jones’ redesign work at the Atlanta Athletic Club during the PGA Championship last month.

Of course, Mickelson is not alone in his scorn for the changes at Cog Hill. Nicklaus would be scratching a lot of names off his list in a week like this.

“It’s tricked up,” Steve Stricker said of Cog Hill’s makeover.

“It’s a wreck,” Stewart Cink said.

When Tour nice guys Stricker and Cink speak out, there’s a problem for the history-rich event formerly known as the Western Open.

The Western Open got its start in Chicago in 1899. Cog Hill’s been home to the tournament since 1991, but the site’s future as host hangs in the balance. This could be the last PGA Tour event played there. The Western Golf Association is holding off until after the tournament to address the matter. With the Ryder Cup at Medinah next year, the BMW’s scheduled for Crooked Stick in Indianapolis. The 2014 event’s set for Cherry Hills in Denver. The 2013 event's home has yet to be named.

Still, despite Mickelson’s feelings about Jones’ work, he shouldn’t be dismissed this week, not after shooting 10 under par on the weekend with his new belly putter at the Deutsche Bank Championship in his last start. Despite some sluggish play this year, Mickelson is still 10th in FedEx Cup points. Also, Mickelson has won on Jones’ work before. The lefthander has played 41 PGA Tour events on courses redesigned by Jones and won four times: 2000 and ’09 Tour Championships at East Lake; ‘05 PGA Championship at Baltusrol and this year’s Shell Houston Open at Redstone.

Will Webb Simpson hold onto the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup points standings?

Simpson’s victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship in the last FedEx Cup event was his second title in his last three starts. He’s on fire with a 66.45 scoring average in those three events, 46 under par in that run.

But halfway through the FedEx Cup playoffs, Simpson isn’t necessarily the man to beat.

Since the playoffs began in 2007, Vijay Singh’s the only halfway leader to close the deal. He won the first two playoff events in ’08 and held on to take the big prize despite Camilo Villegas’ bold finish winning the last two playoff tilts.

In the four previous FedEx Cups, Jim Furyk’s come from farthest back over the final two playoff events to win the ultimate prize. Last year, he was 11th in the standings going to the BMW Championship and still 11th going to the Tour Championship. Every other winner’s come from within the top three in the standings halfway through the playoffs.

Just how potentially volatile are the playoffs?

Chris Stroud barely squeezed into the top 70 to make it to the BMW Championship, but it’s possible he could surge all the way to No. 3 in the Fed Ex Cup points standings with a victory at Cog Hill.

Still, nobody outside the top seven has a chance to overtake Simpson for the No. 1 spot in points this week.

Who is going to be PGA Tour Player of the Year?

There are six two-time winners this year, and you’d have to rank them all as frontrunners.

Simpson, Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson have all won twice this season. A third title might win one of them the FedEx Cup and Player-of-the-Year honors.

If we're ranking those six, Bradley would have to top the list as the only one with a major among his two titles.

How dominant is Yani Tseng becoming?

After winning the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last weekend, Tseng heads to the Navistar Classic this week looking to claim her sixth LPGA title this season.

Tseng’s dominance is also revealed statistically. She leads the LPGA in scoring (69.59), money winnings ($2,116,051), driving distance (268.4 yards), greens in regulation (75.1 percent) and birdies (4.61 per round). If she led in putting, she’d hold the top spot in all the most meaningful statistical categories. She’s third in that department.

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

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.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

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. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

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.

Made Cut

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.

Missed Cut

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:

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.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

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.