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

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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.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x