Colonial's fall from grace

By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2012, 9:05 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – Less than a chip shot from Colonial’s 18th green looms an oversized statue of Ben Hogan, a bronze testament to what makes the club special that glares stoically across the property as only the “Hawk” could.

As Wednesday’s pro-am at this year’s Colonial inched its way around the tree-lined layout one could only imagine what the often aloof Hogan would make of the field assembled for his invitational.

If half the stories about Hogan are true, his reaction to this year’s tee sheet would likely be curt and largely unprintable.

It’s not as though Colonial officials are reaching for the “eject” lever. Truth is they like the field and cozy Colonial’s spot on the Tour dance card.

With two of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and six of the top 10 on the current FedEx Cup points list some tournaments would give up a full house of sponsor exemptions for that kind of problem. But Colonial isn’t just some tournament.

Hogan’s Alley dates to 1941 and the list of past champions is a Hall of Fame roll call – Hogan (five times), Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Tommy Bolt, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson are all etched into the Wall of Champions adjacent the first tee.

But somewhere along the way the tournament that is tied directly to Hogan, who lived his life in search of perfection, has lurched into inexplicable mediocrity. A middle-of-the-pack stop wedged between the Masters, U.S. Open and a May Players Championship that, along with the creation of the World Golf Championships, likely expedited Colonial’s fall from grace.

For decades there has been an unwritten Tour hierarchy, headlined always by the majors but altered in recent years with the advent of the WGC events.

“It was always the majors and then these events, Colonial, Memorial, Bay Hill, the (Byron) Nelson,” said 2004 Colonial champion Steve Flesch. “But now the WGCs are in the second tier and these have slipped.”

In many ways the Legend’s Slam, at least the two Texas legs, have become victims of a global game and crowded schedule.

The invention of the WGCs in 1999 supplanted many tournaments on Tour, but particularly previously considered must-stop events in Dallas, Orlando, Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Worth. Nor did it help that when The Players made the move to May it created scheduling issues for both the Colonial and Nelson.

“The Nelson had a great date and a big-time feel to it when it was the week of The Players,” said Harrison Frazar, referring to the post-May Players era when the Nelson was held in late April and early May. “Sandwiched between The Players and the Memorial it’s just going to struggle.”

Frazar is more than just a curious Tour bystander when it comes to the Texas two-step. The Dallas native hasn’t missed a Nelson, as either a spectator or competitor, since 1995 and began attending that event in 1985.

“Both of these tournaments have a real special place in my heart,” he said.

As the current chairman of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council bound for a spot on next year’s Policy Board, Frazar also is in a unique position to enact change, but in this case there is no quick fix.

Because of heat concerns it would be impossible to move the Texas swing later in the year and there is little, or no, room earlier in the season.

“That’s the age-old question around here, ‘What do we do?’” Frazar asked. “For some reason the young guys don’t want the shotmaker’s courses anymore (like Colonial). They want the bomber’s courses. I think that’s part of it.

“It’s not that anybody thinks they are bad tournaments or puts them on their schedule as a place they don’t want to go. When they started laying it out and you have the lead up to Augusta, the lead up to The Players and the lead up to the (U.S.) Open these two spots are in a ‘no-man’s land.’”

The Nelson and Colonial flipped dates this season, with the Dallas stop following The Players which seemed to help the field at TPC Four Seasons Resort, but when asked if a similar swap next year or beyond would help the Colonial tournament director Michael Tothe balked.

“Our title sponsor is a hotel and likes the Memorial Day slot,” Tothe said. “And if you flipped the dates I think it would just confuse the players.”

Compounding the Texas two-step’s field issues is this week’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event that virtually guarantees that neither event will ever woo the Continent’s best to the heart of Texas.

That Mickelson, a Colonial winner in ’00 and ’08, hasn’t played the Fort Worth stop since 2010 and Tiger Woods has been AWOL since 1997 also doesn’t help the event’s curb appeal.

In short, this leg of the Legend’s Slam has a problem without a ready fix, a reality that wouldn’t sit well with Hogan, a man who overcame a nasty hook and near-fatal car crash with hard work. But this time there may not be any answers, no matter how hard you look for them in the dirt.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.