USGA's pin-setting strikes a nerve with players

By Ryan LavnerJune 15, 2014, 1:40 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – For the first time this week, players saw Pinehurt No. 2.  

Martin Kaymer rapped his 50-footer up the hill on the sixth hole Saturday, but the ball took a peek at the cup and sped by, down the slope, ultimately finishing 15 feet off the green. The fans by the green responded accordingly – Woahhhh-OHH-ohhh! – as if they were riding a roller coaster on a terrifying downhill plunge, hands held high.  

A day earlier, Kaymer wondered aloud how the USGA would set up the course for the third round here at the U.S. Open. Leading by six, with only one bogey through 36 holes, he hoped for the most difficult conditions possible – that way, he said, it’d be harder for his pursuers to play catch-up.  

Well, he said with a smile Saturday night, “The USGA listened, unfortunately.”

With a birdie on the last, Kaymer posted a 2-over 72 – nearly two shots better than the field average (73.82) – on a day in which the penal setup drew the ire of some players.  

There were only two rounds in the 60s Saturday. There were four rounds in the 80s, including an 88. There also was a 79, posted by Brendon Todd, who was playing in the final group.  

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Fourteen holes yielded single-digit birdies. The field of 67 could muster one only birdie on both Nos. 2 and 6, par-4 holes that played in excess of 500 yards and featured back hole locations, on the top of a slope, mere paces from hell. Todd putted off the green on 2. Kaymer, of course, did the same on 6.  

Todd, who took 36 putts, described the hole locations as “very aggressively set.”

“It was a little bit of a revenge day,” he said.  

Kenny Perry, who shot 74 Saturday and is playing in his 13th Open, took it a step further: “It was a golf course of 18 of the toughest pins I’ve ever seen.”

The unsettling part is that players expect those hole locations because, well, it’s the U.S. Open and apparently that’s what’s supposed to happen. Holes teetering on the edge of unfair is just part of the gig. Over the years the Open has become as much a physical examination as a mental one, to stay in it, to not get rattled.  

The irony, of course, is that Pinehurst doesn’t need to be tricked up, with its domed, turtleback greens – already running at 12 1/2 on the Stimpmeter – as menacing as anything you’ll ever see.

But on Saturday, “I think they used the hardest pins they could possibly use on almost every hole,” Jordan Spieth (72) said.  

Said Matt Kuchar (71): “In practice rounds you guess where you think the pins will be and you kind of say, ‘Well, that’s too severe; they won’t put them there.’ And sure enough, that’s where the pin is. It seems to be year after year, and you should know better by now.”

So maybe Kevin Na should have known better too, but he was cruising along, only four shots back, when he hit what he thought was a brilliant shot into the par-4 14th. Heck, he even twirled his club. His ball landed short of the flag and skipped to about 15 feet right of the cup, seemingly an ideal birdie position, but then it kept going, and going, and going … and eventually it was 20 yards off the green.  

“No WAY!” he yelled from the middle of the fairway.  

Naturally, it only got worse up by the green. Attempting to drive his chip into the bank between him and the hole, Na instead caught the ball a little too cleanly and skulled it over the other side of the green. His next shot? Flubbed.

“Oh, Kevin,” he groaned, and the ensuing double bogey led to a closing 39 and, now, an eight-shot deficit.  

Which makes you wonder what type of setup we’ll see for the final round Sunday, with Kaymer leading by five shots and no rain in the forecast.  

“I think they’ve got to know that we’re teetering on the edge,” Kuchar said, “and they don’t want to have another Shinnecock (in 2004) all over again. It’s close. I think the guys understand that, and I think it could easily become that again.”

As for the leader? Oh, he wants it tough, as tough as possible. Again.  

“It would be nice if they made it difficult, because then it’s all about ball-striking,” Kaymer said. “I enjoy playing those courses a lot more than just a putting competition.”

And then he smiled, knowing what a baked-out, on-the-edge setup would potentially mean.  

“But it’d also be nice to have some kind of a chance every once in a while,” he said.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.