San Antonio Trip Dispatch: Golfing the ups and downs of the Texas Hill Country

By Brandon TuckerApril 8, 2013, 4:06 pm

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. -- What's a week on the 2013 PGA Tour schedule without a heavy downpour?

Thankfully, the heavy stuff came down in San Antonio mid-week, before first round action of the Valero Texas Open began. It caught me on Wednesday morning as I scurried off the front nine of the Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch. That morning, as I played through fairways lined with a mix of moo-ing cattle and new residences sprouting up, a UFO-shaped cloud began forming to the west of me and grew larger and darker before I found myself smack dab under it as I made it to the 9th tee, thankfully just a hole's drive from the clubhouse.

It was a rude welcoming to a destination usually known as a sunny and hospitable one. A mix of rain and hail pelted my car as I made my way towards refuge: the Hyatt Hill Country Resort. Shortly after, the sun came out and revealed cool, sunny conditions ideal for taking in as much golf as we could, both watching the Texas Open and playing our own games.

San Antonio's golf resorts: Hyatt Hill Country and Westin La Cantera

Hill Country Golf Club

If you drive the green of a par 4, but then the ensuing putt rolls off the surface, is it a Green-in-Regulation?

Embarrassingly, that was the question as I lied three on the fringe of the par-4 hole of the 6th hole of the Creeks nine, one of a handful of drivable short par 4s at the Hill Country Golf Club. Like the TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks course's exciting drivable par-4 17th, the Hill Country Golf Club has its share of exciting shorties to go with a classic, gently rolling and often shady collection of fairways  -- not to mention some tough greens if you catch yourself in the wrong spot. The Arthur Hills design rewards aggressive play often, though the Oaks nine's doglegs and mature oak trees require a good bit of savvy.

As you head northeast from the Hyatt Hill Country resort, the hills get larger and when you arrive at the Palmer Course at Westin La Cantera Resort, you're face-to-face with one of the Hill Country's most ambitious canvases for golf. In addition to these mighty hills, the Palmer Course has its own lavish, stone clubhouse complete with a bell tower, valet parking and delicious fare in the restaurant overlooking the 18th. The signature hole is considered the 4th, a mellow, low-lying par-3, whose bridge to the green is a memorial to Palmer's late wife Winnie. But this hole's flat nature is a rare aside on a layout full of holes that play both severely up and downhill. The expansive views from many of the greens, particularly on the backside, steal the show. 

The combined number of guest rooms at both the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Westin La Cantera don't quite add up to the 1,002 rooms at the JW Marriott and TPC San Antonio - and that's exactly the point. What the mighty JW Marriott showcases in sheer awe and scale, guests at these two properties relish in a smaller, quieter vibe. And while the TPC earns accolades as being among the toughest venues on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, the La Cantera and the Hyatt layouts dish up resort-style playability.

More golf in San Antonio

Tapatio Springs

Tapatio Springs in Boerne

While this particular trip to San Antonio was a brief one spent watching the Valero and playing golf at the resorts, here are a few other notable daily-fee courses in the area:

An A.W. Tillinghast-designed municipal course, Brackenridge Park Golf Course boasts history and convenience, especially if you're staying downtown (green fees: $40-70).

For eye-popping scenery, head to The Quarry Golf Club. After a traditional front nine, the back side plays through an old limestone quarry, complete with dramatic forced carries and elevated tee shots.

North of the city in Boerne, 27-hole Tapatio Springs Resort is short, but one of the area's more unique atmospheres, set in a remote valley walled with limestone cliffs. The course is part of a small resort and conference center that was recently purchased by George Strait, while Troon Golf assumed management duties (green fees:$30-60).

Near the TPC San Antonio and Westin La Cantera, Canyon Springs Golf Club is a top selection in the city's upper-middle tier of daily fees. It's resort-style ambiance features two live longhorns on display near the first tee plus a high waterfall behind No. 18 to go with a championship-caliber design over 7,000 yards (green fees: $60-90).

Canyon Springs

A proper Texas welcome at Canyon Springs Golf Club

Also, River Crossing Golf Club, north of town on Highway 281, features some of the best greens that I've played in the Hill Country. Semi-private, the green fees ($40-60) are a steal.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''