Is a harder Blue Monster a better Blue Monster?

By Rex HoggardMarch 4, 2014, 10:25 pm

DORAL, Fla. – In a counterintuitive development that is unique to golf, somewhere along the line “harder” became synonymous with “better.”

Those who build golf courses and run tournaments will tell you that the development of oversized club heads and nuclear infused golf balls begat longer and more difficult courses, not vice versa, and perhaps that’s true – to a point.

Where that logic becomes twisted is at PGA Tour stops like this week at Doral, where Donald Trump is set to unveil a bigger, meaner Blue Monster at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Under the guiding hand of Gil Hanse, an understated and inspired choice considering The Don’s propensity for the grandiose, the iconic South Florida layout has been given a complete nip/tuck.

“It’s definitely a different Doral,” said Justin Rose, who won the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship. “It is an entirely new golf course.”

“We are playing a brand new golf course,” figured Jason Day, winner of the last World Golf Championship two weeks ago at Dove Mountain.

But as the new paint dried and players started taking closer looks at the redesign, one common theme has emerged. “It’s going to be tougher, I can tell you that,” Billy Horschel said.


Video: Closer look at the redesigned Blue Monster

WGC-Cadillac Championship: Articles, videos and photos


On paper, the new Doral is only about 150 yards longer than the old version, but the added real estate is only a part of the larger picture at The Donald’s new and improved Doral.

If Raymond Floyd’s infamous redesign of the Blue Monster in 1996 turned the layout into a sandbox, Hanse seemed intent to create a pond this time around. The 15th hole, for example, has been transformed into virtually an island green, while the expansion of the practice tee has made Nos. 8, 9 and 10 the epitome of target golf.

So, the question remains. Does harder equal better?

“I’ll tell you after the week,” Day smiled.

Perhaps Doral needed a makeover. Over the last half decade the Blue Monster has ranked squarely in the middle of the pack in difficulty on Tour (from a high of 39th in 2009 to 31st last year). And with Trump the status quo just won’t do.

“I would say that we're trying to get the Blue Monster sort of back to living up to its name,” said Rose, who walked nine holes with Hanse during a practice round last year at Doral to talk about the changes. “To me, the golf course, the Blue Monster, really only relates to the 18th hole in my opinion before.”

But then there was no cry to make Doral’s 18th hole harder. The par 4 ranked as the sixth toughest among all non-major holes last year on Tour and was the second hardest overall in 2012. Yet Trump & Co. had no problem adding a few new touches to the closer, including additional yardage and a collection of palm trees down the left.

“It’s a 300-yard carry over the water now (at No. 18),” said Day, who arrived at Doral last Friday to prepare. “That’s not including the wind. They have added mounds to the right there with a lot more trees . . . you really have to kind of hit a good shot down 18.”

As part of the redesign, officials said they planned to tone down some of the not-so-subtle slopes on the greens, but according to multiple players that’s not necessarily the case and Rose referred to the new putting surfaces as “busy.”

That combined with normally hard greens after a redesign and the inevitable South Florida winds seem likely to produce the toughest scoring conditions since the World Golf Championship moved to Doral in 2007.

Which returned most players to one of the most fundamental questions facing golf, is a harder course necessarily a better course?

“Not always, no,” Rose allowed. “Augusta (National), for example, you have a lot of slope in those greens and if you hit the right shot, the ball feeds close and if you miss your spot you’re left with a really tough two-putt or an impossible up and down. . . . I’m hoping that will be what this course dose.”

For this week’s event, Rose said he threw out his old Doral yardage books. Let’s hope officials didn’t throw out common sense with the redesign.

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.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.