Top Newsmakers No 9 Grooves

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2010, 10:30 pm

Top 10 NewsmakersAaron Baddeley was on the clock and utterly out of ideas. It was a simple enough question and his silence was as condemning as any testimony or statistic.

In the waning days of the 2010 PGA Tour season asked dozens of players if the new rule regarding grooves in irons altered the way they played a single hole this season?

“Nope . . . not that I can think of. Not even once,” Baddeley finally admitted after a long pause.

For all the hyperbole, all the headaches, all the histrionics, the new rule – adopted by the PGA Tour as a condition of play for the first time in 2010 – was a non-story. Much ado about nothing, or at the least nothing much. That is, of course, if the players and the statistics are to be believed.

Consider the most telling indicators, fairways hit and proximity to the hole – two key stats that should have been impacted the most in theory by the groove rule. The Tour’s proximity to the hole average (35 feet, 1 inch) was the lowest it’s been since 2002 and as a group the fraternity brothers hit about the same number of fairways (63.51 percent) as they did in 2009 (62.91) and 2008 (63.16).

For the remainder of the year, is counting down the Top 10 Newsmakers of 2010. For a list of the complete top 10 and the scheduled release dates, click here.

Associate editor Jon Levy also takes a look at who the grooves' rule really affected: mini-tour players, manufacturers and amateurs.
The same could be said for greens in regulation. The Tour average (66.26 percent) was the highest it’s been in 10 years, and proximity from the rough around the green (within 30 yards) was the lowest it’s been (42 feet, 8 inches) since the circuit started keeping that stat in 2002.

In theory the new rule was supposed to make hitting fairways more important and greens more difficult, particularly from the rough, but on this, ShotLink doesn’t lie.

“We made more about it at the start of the year than it turned out to be,” Ernie Els said. “The ball is still stopping.”

The new grooves debate seemed to reach a curious crescendo earlier this year at Torrey Pines when Phil Mickelson announced he planned to put a set of non-conforming but legal Ping wedges in play at his season opener. The move was criticized by some players, including Scott McCarron who likened it to “cheating.” The Tour adjusted the policy that allowed the Ping wedges to be played and the new rule faded into the background largely because of how quickly players adjusted to the new grooves.

More so than any other statistic, the circuit’s scoring average (71.15) suggested, as many thought, that the best players would figure it out. Only 2009 and 2008 (71.04 and 71.07, respectively) had lower scoring averages in the last decade.

“How many 59s have there been this year? You tell me how much harder it is,” Greg Owen said.

Before the season began some suggested players would try harder to find the short grass, but when asked if the bombers still bomb away with abandon, Heath Slocum didn’t hesitate, “Oh yeah,”

“I don’t believe there is any correlation between total driving (a combination of fairways hit and driving distance) and the money list,” Joe Durant said. “Total driving is a thing of the past.”

Just four of the last 11 winners of the total driving category finished inside the top 125 in earnings to keep their Tour cards and just two – Charles Howell III in 2002 and Tiger Woods in 2000 – finished in the top 10 in earnings.

That’s not to say a single season is a complete statistical snapshot and some attribute this year’s low scoring to more user-friendly course setups.

“It looked like they tried to knock down some of the fairways to bring some rough to promote the flyer more,” Slocum said.

Although Tour officials confirmed that they have changed their philosophy away from the traditional “chip out” rough, they contend the move has been ongoing the last few seasons.

“We kind of got away from the chip-out rough. We didn’t like that. We wanted to encourage them to strike the ball toward the green,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions. “We came to the conclusion that it’s much more difficult for a guy to play out of shorter rough as opposed to chip-out rough.”

Russell also contends that 2010, as a rule, was wetter than previous seasons, an agronomic reality that lends itself to softer, easier conditions.

“The whole overriding thing is you have to have firm greens. At Quail Hollow we had that,” Russell said. “When it’s soft there’s not much you can do anywhere. Firm and fast is the key. Grooves aren’t going to make a difference when it’s soft.”

But soft conditions and generously cut rough only partially explain why a rule that was designed to make scoring more difficult was actually credited with simplifying things by many players.

Flyer lies, a thing of the past with older, more aggressive grooves, returned in 2010 with alarming uniformity. Now, instead of guessing if a ball will come out “hot,” players are virtually assured a flyer from the rough and can adjust accordingly.

“If anything it’s made it easier because it’s predictable. I actually prefer it,” Baddeley said without even a hint of pause before quickly offering numerous examples.

Asked, again, if he recalled hitting less club in an attempt to avoid the rough in 2010? Baddeley goes silent. As the Tour and U.S. Golf Association have learned, for this there is no easy answer.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.