A tough day at Royal Melbourne

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2011, 7:31 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Fourball is supposed to be fun, but this felt more like a forced march.

Officials at the Presidents Cup raced players out onto Royal Melbourne about two hours earlier than originally planned on Friday because of an approaching storm and straight into grinding gridlock.

Winds that whipped to 35 mph and greens dialed up to 14 on the Stimpmeter added up to rounds that stretched to nearly six hours. But the only number that mattered to U.S. captain Fred Couples was 7-5, America’s advantage through two days of play at Royal Melbourne after a 3-3 draw on Friday.

That the away team held serve in the sand-belt wind tunnel was a best-case scenario for Captain America. That they did it without a point from Tiger Woods is all at once concerning and comforting for Couples.

“It was not much fun out there, I'm sure, for any of them,” he said.

Not that Woods played poorly, particularly on a day that International captain Greg Norman called “on a scale of 1 to 10 this was an 11.” Paired with Dustin Johnson the man who went undefeated in the 2009 Presidents Cup dropped a 1-up match to Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day that, at least to Woods, may have felt like a split decision.

For the day Woods was even par with two birdies including a twisting 25-footer at the fourth hole, his first of the week for his first lead of these matches. That advantage, however, lasted only three more holes in a seesaw match that was ultimately decided by Baddeley’s clutch putting.

Match by match: Day 2 fourball recaps

“We are extremely proud of the way Aaron Baddeley bounced back from yesterday,” said Norman in reference to Baddeley’s Day 1 foursome halve after leading 2 up with two holes to play.

“I know he was kind of gut-wrenched a little bit by what happened on the 18th, but to see what he did, holing that 3 ½-footer for a win on the last hole did him a world of good, did the team a world of good.”

Baddeley, who missed a short putt on the 17th on Thursday, rolled in birdie putts of 9 feet at the 11th hole, 4 feet at the 15th hole and 3 ½ feet at the last to secure a crucial point and give the Australian galleries something to cheer.

For the better part of two days the Melbourne masses have been largely quiet, so much so one tournament official wishfully suggested, “We need the Internationals to do well.”

Some have said these matches, a lopsided affair with the Americans winning six of the first eight editions, need an International victory or risk slipping into irrelevancy. All they really need is parity, a Sunday shootout that goes to the grittiest regardless of final outcome. For two days Norman’s multicultural crew have at least left open the possibility.

Baddeley and Day were welcomed to the 18th green by chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Ow, Ow, Ow,” and Geoff Ogilvy’s chip-in from a sand-belt sinkhole at the fifth rattled the eucalyptus.

There is no accounting for competitive capriciousness – a truth that was painfully evident for all regardless of flag or ball flight on Day 2 – but with 22 matches still to play the hole Norman’s crew dug themselves into on Thursday suddenly doesn’t seem as daunting.

Not that anyone struck quickly on Friday. Day 2 at Royal Melbourne was slow. Slow like this Presidents Cup felt more like Pebble Beach, complete with “Crosby Weather.” Glaciers melt faster than this, the combination of conditions and a crusty golf course.

It took the Woods-Johnson fourball two hours and 58 minutes to play nine holes and things only got harder from there.

“It’s just tough out there. Both teams didn’t make a lot of birdies,” Woods said. “You’re just trying to hit greens today. That was quite an accomplishment and even then you had to play wind on putts, even uphill putts.”

It was a harsh truth that at least partially explains the languid pace of play. On the seventh hole Woods and Johnson loitered on the far side of the green silent as Baddeley, one of the game’s best putters, studied an 18-inch par putt. Under normal circumstances that could be interpreted as gamesmanship. On Friday it was just the game.

The two least-spoken words at Royal Melbourne on Day 2 were “that’s good.” Well that, and “Tiger wins.” The captain’s pick is the only member of Couples’ crew who hasn’t won at least a half-point, yet that didn’t stop the captain from sending him out in Saturday morning’s five foursome matches. Instead, Nick Watney and Steve Stricker, who has been slowed by a neck injury since the Tour Championship and was expected to miss at least one session, will sit for the U.S.

“There are not many times where (Woods) doesn't win a point through a couple of rounds,” Couples said. “He played very well today. Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley threw it all at them, and they won 1 up. . . . I think Steve Stricker can't go five rounds; I wouldn't do that to him. So we went back with Tiger and Dustin tomorrow, and we are hoping that they come out and play well and get a point.”

It’s a testament to American golf that the U.S. is a 2-point conversion clear without any production from Woods. That the Americans did it in conditions that weren’t fit for a wombat was enough to bring a smile to Couples’ face on a day when there wasn’t much for anyone to smile about.

Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Friday 3PM-midnight and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.

BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.

BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.

BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.