Randall's Rant: Heed Scott's words on U.S. Open

By Randall MellJune 5, 2017, 8:22 pm

Don’t screw up another major championship ...

And please get back to your primary mission ...

That’s pretty much what Adam Scott told the USGA Sunday after he finished his final round at the Memorial.

When a respected voice of restraint and reason uncharacteristically sticks his neck out to chastise the governing body that sets up the U.S. Open, we all ought to pay attention.

The USGA must feel like it got scolded by Atticus Finch.

Or John Boy Walton.

Scott parses his words carefully. There’s no history of histrionics with him, quite the contrary. Out on tour, he’s a voice you take seriously. He has made his opinions matter because they’ve been so measured.

Still, the knee-jerk reaction from the public at large is a backlash against Scott. There are already those depicting him as just another entitled pro “whining” about the few times a year he faces tough conditions.

That’s not what I’m hearing in Scott’s words, though I’d actually like to hear more from him, an even deeper dive into what bothers him about USGA setups and rule making.

“Hopefully, they get it right this time, from a playability standpoint,” Scott said of the U.S. Open setup at Erin Hills next week.

Obviously, Scott believes the USGA has been getting too many things wrong.

“Let’s just have something that’s a challenge and interesting, not just playing brutal,” he said.

Really, this all comes down to how Scott defines brutal.

I seriously doubt he is defining brutal as exacting, demanding and tough.

I suspect he’s just fine with that as a challenge. I suspect he defines brutal as “tricked up,” where the USGA pushes shot making too close to the edge, where luck blurs a line with skill, because that’s where the USGA has veered too often. It’s where the USGA has almost forced the game to go, to keep making par a good score at the U.S. Open, with the ball and equipment making “skill,” more than it’s ever been, about power.

Scott seems to be concerned green speeds are getting out of control, to the point where a player doesn’t know if his ball is going to inexplicably start rolling off a subtle crest as he sets up over it with his putter, a la the Dustin Johnson debacle at Oakmont last year.

Or if the greens will suddenly become like putting on broccoli (Henrik Stenson said that at Chambers Bay two years ago) or on cauliflower (Rory McIlroy said that at Chambers Bay). I suspect Scott would be fine with par legitimately being a good score, but that’s the problem.

Par isn’t really a good score in U.S. Opens anymore. It too often requires tricky tightrope walks to make par a good overall score. To get par as the winning score on most venues, the setup has to be so extreme it flirts with unfair.

Yes, the last three U.S. Opens have been won with under-par totals, but imagine how tricked up Oakmont, Chambers Bay and Pinehurst would have to have been to make par a winning score.

Four years ago, Justin Rose won Merion with a 1-over-par 281 total. Even that came with what some players complained was trickery, with some claiming a few Merion fairways were cut and routed differently from its natural design.

“Maybe it’s time to do away with the even-par target, just thinking about the bigger picture of the game of golf,” Scott said. “Maybe we should get the numbers out of our heads and try a new strategy.”

Blame how liberal “regulation” of ball and equipment advances has disproportionately favored power players, with so many 330- and 340-yard drives launched today.

Scott is a power player, and so whether that’s one of the issues he has with the game’s governance is unclear in this particular conversation. What’s clear is he has issues with the game’s governance.

“I think they’ve really dropped the ball where the game is at, over the last 20 years especially,” Scott said. “I know their intent is not to do that. I don’t question their intent at all ... I guess their primary role of administering and looking after the game, they’ve kind of dropped the ball in that sense and gotten worried about other things.”

Mostly, what I’m hearing in Scott is that he doesn’t trust the USGA to get its setups right. That mistrust is the damning tone I hear.

“They’ve taken criticism over the last two years,” Scott said. “I’m sure they’re not liking it. They’re going to have to try to run a really good event. The ball is in their court. They control it all.”

This is a voice of restraint and reason the USGA should find worthy of courting. It’s a voice we all should try harder to understand.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell


On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Web.com Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Web.com Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.