Hazeltine long but doesnt discount short hitter

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipKerry Haigh is a measured man by passport. Born in Doncaster, England, taught the ways of the ancient game as an accomplished junior who competed against the likes of Nick Faldo, Haigh is not prone to hyperbole.
So when he was asked his thoughts on Hazeltine National, site of this weeks PGA Championship, the PGA of Americas top setup man did not gush nor apologize: Its always been a long golf course, he said simply.
Long indeed. One of the longest tracks in major championship history at 7,674 yards received a B-12 shot of even more real estate when Open Doctor Rees Jones wedged what essentially is an additional par 4 (319 yards) into the layout for this years PGA.
Tiger Woods practices at Hazeltine Monday
Tiger Woods practices Monday at Hazeltine National. (Getty Images).
With three par 5s that will measure over 600 yards and a par 3, the unlucky 13th, that can be played at 248 yards, Hazeltine National has the required documentation to easily qualify as a big hitters ball park.
That, however, is where the knee-jerk classifications end.
While the card may scream bombers paradise history suggests the monster nestled amid the Minnesota farm country is a position golf course in bomb-and-gouge clothing.
Rich Beem, who would never be confused for one of the circuits long-hitting types, won the last major played at Hazeltine, the 2002 PGA, and Luke Donald, one of the Tours best fairways and greens players, took individual gold when the course hosted the 1999 NCAA Championship.
Its a typical Midwest course, Donald said. Lot of long irons out there, but its all right there in front of you.
If player anecdotes are any indication, Midwest must mean something approaching mundane. Hazeltine National lacks the visual cache and history of a Bethpage Black or Turnberry, site of the seasons other major championships, but narrows the quality gap with a no-nonsense layout that rewards solid play.
Asked his lasting impressions of the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, one longtime Tour caddie of a top 10 Tour player mulled his answer for five minutes before admitting, I dont have any.
Moments, more so than memorable views, seem to stand out at Hazeltine National, like the towering 3-iron Tiger Woods holed during the delayed second round at the layouts par-4 16th in 2002.
That shot Tiger hit out of that bunker, it was one of the greatest shots of all time, said David Toms, who was paired with Woods at the 02 PGA. I thought hed hit something out just short of the green and he just nails it.
Beems impromptu victory shuffle on the 18th green is also a lasting image, but when the golf world gathers this week for Glorys Last Shot the signature logo should be a mileage marker considering the distance players will travel to claim the Wanamaker Trophy.
Among the biggest changes the club has made since 02 was an additional 43 yards added to the par-4 12th and 44 yards to the 13th, which will likely play from the tips (248 yards) and the forward tees (about 204 yards) during the championship.
The 18th has also been stretched to 475 yards and the tee has been moved back and into a small valley which will make the closing tee shot more demanding.
But all the additional real estate is window dressing to the great equalizer ' Mother Nature.
Thanks to nearly two months of no rain, Hazeltine National has a longer list of possible contenders than the yardage on the scorecard may suggest.
If you can get some roll and the golf course plays fast there are lot of guys who can compete, said Toms, the 2001 PGA champion and among the Tours shorter hitters. But if its soft that will eliminate half the field.
Haigh, ever the pragmatist, agrees that the weather, more so than his setup philosophy, will dictate the outcome, but the Englishman offers, at his measured best, some cautionary advice: There are lots of scoring opportunities but also plenty of trouble to be had as well.
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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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    Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.