For the USGA, brown is the new beautiful

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2014, 4:40 pm

The text message arrived just as eventual champion Martin Kaymer was making the turn on Sunday at the U.S. Open: “What is wrong with that course? Is it supposed to look like that?”

While that opinion on Pinehurst No. 2’s conditioning and aesthetic value was a common theme in social media circles last week, the sourcing of Sunday’s scathing review was a bit surprising.

Your scribe’s mother-in-law has had a regular Friday morning round since we can remember, and she is something of a bandit on the course thanks to a travelling handicap. And, it seems like much of the American golf populace, she likes her golf courses green and gorgeous.

The U.S. Golf Association always knew its new “brown is the new green” initiative would be a hard sale to a generation of golfers conditioned to think that every course should look like Augusta National, but not even consensus builder Mike Davis could have envisioned the armchair pushback that the retrofit No. 2 caused.

“What we really are after is a couple of things. One is just less water used on golf courses, firmer conditions,” the USGA executive director explained late Sunday.

“That doesn't mean we're looking for brown golf courses. Some golf courses with some type of grasses, if they get brown they are going to die. The other thing is just trying for less manicured golf courses when you get off the fairway, so the concept of the maintenance down the middle is to literally reduce some of the costs and so on.”

That kind of altruism, however, didn’t seem to register with many who depend on 140 characters to make their point.

Perhaps the most disappointing, and loudest, voice of discontent came from Donald Trump, who for better or worse has became a major player in golf with his connection to Doral (site of an annual WGC event) and the news earlier this year that two of his courses – Trump National-Bedminster and Trump National-Washington, D.C. – will host the 2022 PGA Championship and 2017 Senior PGA.

“The only reason I am critical of the Pinehurst look is because I’m a lover of golf, and that look on TV hurts golf badly,” Trump tweeted Monday, followed by a second tweet Wednesday, “I was right. TV ratings for (the) U.S. Open are way down from last year. People don’t want to look at a burned out, ugly course.”

“The Don” seems to have missed the point.

Davis & Co. are not “Chicken Little” types. Perhaps the sky isn’t falling at one of Trump’s opulent clubs, but sustainability and affordability are two of the biggest challenges facing the game right now.

As Davis pointed out, the dry and dusty look isn’t for everyone, particularly at northern courses that must use grasses that can’t sustain the parched conditions like Pinehurst. Nor did the USGA expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon.

“By having the national championship of the United States at a golf course like this, I don't think you ever change public perception overnight, but over time if we go places where we show there are options and there are sustainability issues, it helps move that perception somewhat,” said Dan Burton, chairman of the USGA’s championship committee.

The dust bowl that Pinehurst turned out to be was never going to be everyone’s brand of vodka, particularly those who grew up watching replays of the ’99 and '05 Opens on the No. 2 course.

Trading 35 acres of Bermuda grass rough for sprawling natural areas dotted with wiregrass was always going to be a gamble, the architectural equivalent of putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

But the playability of the parched turf was beyond question. Ben Cranshaw and Bill Coore’s handiwork was almost universally applauded by players, which is always the ultimate litmus test for an architect, if not the viewing public.

Trump and his army of Monday morning quarterbacks should also prepare themselves for this new normal.

Unless North Carolina’s sand hills endure a monsoon the next few days, it will be more of the same for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open and next year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay – a links-like layout in Tacoma, Washington that had a similarly brown and bouncy look when it hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

And don’t forget next month’s Open Championship at Hoylake, which is still referred to as Royal Yellow Brick Road in some circles following the great Dust Open of 2006.

“I would contend and many other people would contend that it makes for more interesting golf when you do that,” Davis explained to a group of largely deaf ears.

If last week’s fallout was any indication, it will take some time to change the public’s perception of what a golf course should look like. But know this – brown, at least for some national championships, is here to stay. Just don’t tell our mother-in-law.

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.