Randall's Rant: Ultimate risk/reward for Davis

By Randall MellJune 12, 2017, 7:17 pm

This U.S. Open feels like it will be Mike Davis’ defining moment in his reign over this championship.

The Erin Hills setup could brilliantly showcase the sometimes controversial changes in philosophy Davis has used in practically redefining the U.S. Open.

By week’s end, Erin Hills could stand as a testament to why this USGA executive director is right, why the championship is better breaking out of the strict and uncompromising mold it was shaped into in the ’50s under USGA executive director Joe Dey and USGA president Richard Tufts. Those were the guys who made this championship all about narrow fairways, chop-out rough and concrete greens.

Erin Hills could prove the ultimate examination Davis wants, an all-around test of a player’s shot-making abilities but also a test of a player’s creativity, smarts, adaptability and emotional stability, in ways more profound than the Dey/Tufts mold ever was.

U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage

Erin Hills could spectacularly embody why it is important setup complements golf course architecture and why Davis believes setup should vary depending on a course’s unique design. Erin Hills could also embody why his philosophy better showcases not only the all-around ability of the game’s greatest players but the diverse nature of this country’s greatest golf courses.

Or, then again, by week’s end, it is possible this U.S. Open will stand as the final piece of evidence proving the departure from the Dey/Tufts mold has been some sort of failed experiment.

Anything seems possible on this unproven venue hosting its first U.S. Open.

There’s both excitement and angst in the mystery that awaits.

There was a huge risk for Davis in taking the championship to Erin Hills, but there’s potentially a huge reward, too.

Either way, Davis’ fingerprints will be on this venue more than any since he took over course setup in 2006 and took over executive director duties in 2011.

Davis was instrumental in the USGA deciding to take a chance on this upstart course, this relative newborn at just 11 years old. Davis walked the land in ’04, two years before it opened. He had input into the course’s design and redesign.

In some ways, this is his baby, too.

Davis hates that thinking. He doesn’t want the U.S. Open to be about him, but there’s no avoiding it, not with the dramatic changes he has made to setup philosophy.

I would love to see Davis and his team pull this off.

Of course, we’ve learned how one mistake can overshadow everything.

Dustin Johnson’s tour-de-force performance at Oakmont last year was viewed through a fog of confusion created by that controversial rules decision in the final round.

Jordan Spieth’s victory two years ago at Chambers Bay was viewed through a cloud of criticism over the burned-out moonscape that made it play so unlike any other U.S. Open in history.

Davis helped deliver two great winners, but the finishes were somehow diminished by the debate that led to them.

At its best, this U.S. Open can deliver the promise of Chambers Bay without the controversy. It can be a refinished, varnished version of Chambers Bay, with all of its mysterious appeal and none of its downside.

Or this U.S. Open can end up being about a record number of lost balls in the jungle-like fescue, about the slowest of slow play, with wind wreaking havoc and that fescue devouring shots. It can be about the exasperation of balls that won’t stop rolling, adding to a snail’s pace of play.

Here’s hoping it’s the former, because Erin Hills is so malleable, maybe more so than any course in U.S. Open history.

Davis loves malleable.

Erin Hills, with its prodigious length – it could be stretched more than 8,000 yards but won’t this week – with its multiple tee boxes and generous landing areas, allows so many potentially creative tweaks to daily setups. Davis can dramatically change multiple holes overnight if he wishes.

Erin Hills’ malleability allows deeper dives in testing a player’s creativity, smarts, adaptability and emotional stability.

If you’re not a fan of malleability in U.S. Open setups, you might call these daily tweaks curveballs.

If you like narrow fairways and chop-out rough as your U.S. Open mold, you might interpret malleable as sinful departure, maybe even sacrilege.

I love the idea that Davis has found a new course that allows a more thorough test of what players are made of, with so many options potentially frustrating more one-dimensional players.

Of course, there will be howling and even whining at this U.S. Open. That’s part of the soundtrack at the best championships the USGA has ever staged. Let’s just hope it’s sweet music this time, with the most reasonable players singing Erin Hills’ praises by week’s end. Either way, the soundtrack is going to define Davis, for better or worse.

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.