Congressional feels like an Open test

By Rex HoggardJune 29, 2012, 12:01 am

BETHESDA, Md. – It’s been three years and what feels like a lifetime since Tiger Woods roamed the grounds of Congressional Country Club in a competitive manner.

Back then he was dominant and dour and the Blue Course was a spongy shell of what it would become. Way back then Woods opened with a 27-putt 64 on his way to a 13-under-par total and a victory.

The only thing similar between Woods’ opening-round 72 on Thursday just outside the Beltway and that ’09 masterpiece was the nagging thought that both cards were the worst he could have possibly signed for.

Changing times, I guess.

In 2010 the AT&T National moved north to Philadelphia for a two-year hiatus and Woods missed last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional with injury, so if he sounded a tad shell-shocked when he paused for a media Q&A after his round it seemed understandable.

“A little retribution for last year,” he smiled, referring to last year’s record scoring during the Open. “And I wasn’t even there last year.”

The golf course the U.S. Golf Association wanted last June arrived a year too late for this week’s AT&T National, complete with hard and fast fairways, bouncy greens and unforgiving rough.

Just 22 players managed under-par rounds on a hot and humid day and there were four rounds in the 80s, the same amount as on Day 1 at last year’s U.S. Open.

Of course, Congressional’s Black & Blue layout is not the only thing that has changed since Woods rolled to victory here in the summer of 2009. The new version of Woods, although much improved since returning from the DL, no longer turns over-par rounds into tournament savers.

The scrambling efforts that once bridged the gap between jaw-dropping performances continue to be elusive. Blue-collar cards that once gave Woods and his faithful hope are few and far between. Instead, when his swing goes sideways his score normally follows, like it did on Saturday at the U.S. Open when he struggled to a 75 to virtually end his title chances.

Thursday’s effort at Congressional could have been much worse, and given the day’s scoring average his 72 was probably closer to par than it looked. He connected on just 7 of 14 fairways and hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation. Missing, however, is that magical short game that once defied the percentages.

In practical terms on Thursday that added up to 28 putts and an 0-for-2 effort from Congressional’s greenside bunkers. He said it was an issue with the bounce on his 60-degree wedge, but it felt more like a bounce-back thing.

“Today was actually pretty good,” said Woods, who is tied for 30th. “The only thing, I just had a couple bad bunker shots. But otherwise it was actually pretty good. I had to get up and down quite a bit today.”

It is worth noting that when Woods was done talking with the media on Thursday he bolted to the chipping green to work with swing coach Sean Foley.

Given Congressional’s juiced-up condition, a “pretty good” short game won’t cut it this week. The Blue’s rough – which is thicker and, Woods pointed out, not graduated like it was at last year’s Open – is where title dreams go to die.

“Pretty good” may work in Hartford and Dallas, but not Washington, D.C.’s Faux Open – a reality that likely drove Woods into the afternoon haze to clip the short grass one chip shot at a time.

The marquee may read “AT&T National,” but this week’s stop is every bit the Open venue as The Olympic Club.

“We've played three U.S. Opens so far this year. We had Bay Hill, obviously Olympic and now one here,” Woods said. “A couple shots today, ball is bouncing as high as flags. It's an adjustment we have to make.”

Thursday’s 72 wasn’t about a wayward swing so much as it was a wanting short game and, at least from 30,000 feet, it has appeared that way for some time. As much as his critics cut apart Woods’ new action, it’s the 12-foot birdie putts that he leaves 6 inches short, like he did at No. 13 in Round 1, that now define the middle ground between good rounds and something that is memorable.

Unlike Congressional, which was manhandled into something mean by architect Rees Jones and the USGA in the years leading up to last year’s Open, the difference between the 2009 Tiger who won the AT&T and today’s version is subtle. It’s a distance measured by inches, like it was on the 13th hole, and, ultimately, the ground Woods still must cover to regain that greatness.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

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.