Celebrating the Clambake

By Rex HoggardNovember 5, 2009, 2:15 am

The 2010 PGA Tour schedule was released on Tuesday. It was unveiled a little later than normal, and was a little lighter than status quo, but all things considered not a bad lineup in a Bear market.

Among the highlights is a new date for the Turning Stone Resort Championship, the belle of the Fall Series ball which will be played opposite the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Not sure the event will get a better field, but it will assuredly get better weather.

There also appears to be a general architectural upgrade, with new ballparks at the Texas Open (TPC San Antonio), AT&T National (Aronimink), Canadian Open (St. George’s) and The Barclays (Ridgewood), which are all improvements, or in the case of Aronimink no-less than a lateral move, over where the events were played in 2009.

There is one tournament, however, that should be fighting the urge to celebrate Christmas in November. Although the date (Feb. 11-14), sponsor (AT&T) and general location (Monterey Peninsula) remain the same, Bing Crosby’s old “Clambake” may be the most anticipated early-season event not named the Masters.

After years of wanting fields and Crosby weather, the National Pro-Am began its upgrade earlier this summer when it dumped oft-maligned Poppy Hills from its rota in favor of Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course in what we can only assume was the first “cash for clunkers” exchange in golf.

The Pro-Am was already going to serve as a U.S. Open prelude for players who have avoided the Monterey Peninsula like a 6-10 split in recent years.

Although the seaside gem has changed little in the decade since Tiger Woods lapped a stunned field by more than two touchdowns (15 strokes) for his first national bottle cap, Ollie Nutt, president and CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, believes subtle tinkering will be enough to woo the curious star back to an event that has pulled more of Hollywood’s top players than those off the World Golf Ranking in recent playings.

Specifically, there will be three new teeing grounds at Nos. 9, 10 and 13 that will “put driver back into their hands,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s top setup man.

Stillwater Cove will also be pulled closer to the action, with fairway adjustments at Nos. 6 (which was shifted 20 yards to the right and toward the scenic cove), 8, 9 and 10, which will feature a wider fairway for the Open than it does for resort play.

“Pebble is an awesome test because we can make it firm and fast (in June), you have the wind and you have some of the smallest greens we play,” said Davis, who plans to be among the masses drawn to next year’s “Clambake” with an eye toward June.

Of course the elephant on the “Crosby” tee sheet has always been Woods, who has played the event six times since 1997 but not since 2002 citing long rounds and bad weather, to say nothing of bumpy greens.

Officials also helped their cause when they announced this week a reduction in field size for next year’s event from 180 to156. Nutt also says the Shore Course will favor faster play, particularly among high-handicapped amateurs.

“It’s something we had been looking at for some time,” said Nutt, who will lose revenue from 24 pro-am partners with the move ($14,500 per amateur). “That takes two groups off each nine. If you got behind on a tee the group coming around the turn would have to wait. This should help that.”

Woods’ history should also help. In 2000, the year he shattered Old Tom Morris’ record for margin of victory at a major, he prefaced that masterpiece with a back-nine 31 on Sunday and a two-stroke victory at the Pro-Am. The world No. 1 may not be superstitious, but that’s hard history to ignore.

Yet even without the engine that turns the Tour wheel, Nutt knows 2010 is an opportunity.

“We have to show them that they need to come back in 2011,” he said. “The schedule works in our favor, the new venue, the field size, it’s all things that help us.”

Nutt has already noticed an uptick in interest, if not among the circuit’s elite than at least from the Tour’s high-profile core. Sergio Garcia, Zach Johnson and Chad Campbell – a group that has a collective total of four starts at the Pro-Am – all recently indicated interest and during a recruiting trip to last month’s Presidents Cup Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa said he wanted to play.

Baby steps to be sure but steps in the right direction, and a reason other than Bill Murray’s shenanigans to tune in next February.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.