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.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.