Hooks & Cuts: Well-knowns to steady drones

By Rich LernerJune 8, 2012, 3:44 pm

Here is the latest version of Hooks and Cuts as we’re on our way to The Olympic Club for what proves to be an exciting U.S. Open:

• The grouping of Tiger, Phil and Bubba is a strong counter-programming play against a potential LeBron-DWade-Kevin Durant NBA Finals.

• Colleague Steve Burkowski covered the Casey Martin qualifier. He said you couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t divine intervention. On the eighth hole Martin couldn’t find his ball in the trees and was about to give up the search and head back to the tee to hit another. As he was set to drive away, he saw his ball on the other side of the cart. He played out to the fairway, then holed his chip for birdie.

• One of Olympic’s better amateur players said he wouldn’t be surprised to see 5 over win the U.S Open, it’s that tough. There are several holes that are really par 4 1/2, a par 3 1/2 and a par 5 1/2.

• Tiger’s cut 3 wood should be a lethal and potentially winning weapon.

• Johnny Miller is the most famous Olympic product, but the burger dog they serve isn’t far behind.

• Phil Mickelson generally rises to the Tiger occasion.

• The Olympic Club’s opening six-hole stretch is absolutely brutal. Two over through that gauntlet won’t lose anything to the field.

• Suddenly, Tiger’s not so shaky. Suddenly, Rory and Rickie seem like kids again, not yet fully prepared to meet what may be coming.

• With so many trees removed since 1998, Olympic’s now a windy golf course, adding to the degree of difficulty.

• Luke Donald’s a beautiful player, but he’s an underwhelming No. 1, as No. 1s go.

• Olympic’s a very good setup for a steady drone like Jason Dufner.

• If Riviera’s U.S. Open legacy is tied to Ben Hogan, Olympic’s past belongs to the anonymous plodder. Who lost at Olympic is much more easily recalled than who won. In case you forgot, Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan, Billy Casper came from seven down with nine to play to gut Arnold Palmer, Scott Simpson clipped Tom Watson and Lee Janzen won at the expense of Payne Stewart.

• We tend to get excited when Dallas Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo tries to qualify for a U.S. Open. Well, former 49ers’ quarterback John Brodie qualified twice, in 1959 and 1981. The year he won the NFL MVP (1970) he also won the Crosby, alongside Bob Rosburg. And in 1991, he became the first athlete from another sport to win on the Champions Tour. I met Brodie in San Francisco last month for a story that will air on Golf Channel next week. His speech is impaired as a result of a stroke 12 years ago, but he’s in good spirits.

• If Pebble Beach is a heart stopper, Olympic is a heart breaker. 

• Olympic’s not public but neither is it prohibitive. It’s a modest $10,000 to join plus $250 a month in dues. 

• Not everything breaks toward Lake Merced, especially since they replaced the poa greens with bent.

• If you’re going, take an afternoon to tee it up at the roguish nine-hole gem about five miles from Olympic called Gleneagles. We’re airing a story on the course that sits on top of a public housing unit. Every day there’s a $20 buy-in skins game with an assortment of drifters and drinkers, high binders and high rollers, stoners and sticks. It’s an excellent layout, designed by Alistair Mackenzie protégé Jack Fleming, and there’s a good pub scene to finish off your day. Or start it.

• In the decade between 1959 and 1969, Bay Area golfers combined to win the slam. Bob Rosburg took the ’59 PGA, Ken Venturi the ’64 U.S. Open, Tony Lema the ’64 Open and George Archer the ’69 Masters. Accessibility and affordability helped. Back then they could play the city munis like Lincoln Park for $2.50 a month.

• If Congressional last year felt like any other low scoring Tour event, Olympic will feel like the U.S. Open as we’ve known it. U.S. Opens at their best put a premium on breaking par, and, especially at Olympic, breaking spirits.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.