Frustration, delays par for the major courses in 2015

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2015, 8:56 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Remember when the biggest worries at a major championship were slick greens and thick rough?

Good times.

As players, fans, officials and media waited out a wind delay that stretched for more than 10 hours, one could be forgiven for pining for the days of old fashion, Grand Slam brutality.

Instead, this major championship season has been defined by variables. At Chambers Bay it was the nuanced intricacies of growing grass – or in the USGA’s case, killing the green stuff – while at this week’s Open Championship it has been an almost nonstop meteorological nightmare.

Torrential rains dampened Friday’s early action, turning the iconic Valley of Sin fronting the 18th green into the Loch of Sin and postponing play more than three hours.

When officials tried to get things back on track on Saturday, the proceedings were again sent sideways, literally, by winds that gusted to 40 mph, sending balls dancing across greens and players into a feeding frenzy.

“I wasn't going to play. I really wasn't,” said Brooks Keopka, who had his ball blown backwards not once but twice on the 11th green as play began.

For those who were sent out at 7 a.m. into the teeth of the gale to finish the second round it was cold and harsh and unforgiving.



A “wee breeze” as they say here in Scotland is part and parcel with the Open Championship. Let the rain lash and the winds howl and be done with it.

This, however, was something else. This was raw and unruly and eventually unplayable, although the R&A should add a stroke for slow play given how the entire affair unfolded.

When play was halted at 7:32 a.m. (BST), officials said it was because of a 15 percent increase in the wind, as if political polling was to blame. But 15 percent would not seem to be within the margin of error. Not at a major championship. Not at this major championship.

Your 36-hole front-runner Dustin Johnson bogeyed his first hole back early Saturday in the tempest, while Koepka was told to play on as his ball danced around the 11th green. He declined, the official walking with his group persisted and finally – after a lengthy wait, a second opinion, and a similar scenario on the 13th green with Louis Oosthuizen – officials relented and pulled the lads, however disorderly, off the windswept links.

“We shouldn’t have played,” sighed one caddie. “It was basically a two-shot penalty.”

Peter Dawson, who is making his final turn at the Open as the R&A’s chief executive, endured the slings and arrows of players and media alike in the wind’s aftermath.

“Every R&A official in player dining is getting yelled at. Lots of players pissed in here. #GaleForceWinds #StAndrews I love this place,” Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott tweeted.

Hours later, Dawson explained to the media that at 6:45 a.m., 15 minutes before play was scheduled to resume, the course – or more to the point the exposed 11th green – was deemed to be game ready.

“We spent a great deal of time out at the far end of the golf course,” Dawson said. “While it was very windy, we did not get one ball moving at that time of the morning right up to [6:45 a.m.], so we took the view that the course was playable, although difficult, and play began.”

Most players had no quarrel with the R&A’s decision to start the round, it was more an issue with how long it took them to pull the plug; but after the damage was done that all felt like semantics.

There will be a chorus of concern that perhaps St. Andrews, now the site of two wind delays in its last two men’s Opens, may be too exposed to the elements to remain in the championship rota.

Bollocks.

With apologies to Augusta National, the Home of Golf is the most enduring and endearing major championship venue in the game and if an occasional “hoolie” causes the random Monday finish, then so be it.

Others point to green speeds that have steadily risen, particularly at major championships, as the culprit. Had the Old Course been rolling at, say your average municipal course green speeds, Monday’s finish might have been avoided.

But this isn’t really about Stimpmeter readings or St. Andrews’ place in the major championship landscape. This is about golf being an outdoor sport that is subject to the whims of Mother Nature.

“I think what we've seen today is too strong a wind, not too fast greens to be honest with you,” Dawson explained.

While the R&A is certainly not without a degree of blame for how things have transpired this week, it seems to all be a part of the 2015 Grand Slam status quo, much like long rough and lightning fast putts used to define the majors.

What may be even more intriguing is that, given how things transpired the last time the PGA Championship was held at Whistling Straits (see Johnson, Dustin 2010), one can only imagine what’s in store for the last six rounds of this major championship season.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.