PGA feeling major effect of crowded schedule

By Will GrayJuly 27, 2016, 5:56 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Welcome to the traffic-jam portion of golf’s strangest ever schedule.

After months of adjusting routines and estimating burnout, players have reached the crucible of two major championships sardined into a three-week span.

The PGA Championship is, of course, a major, both in the eyes of the players and based on the signage that reminds you of that fact every few hundred yards at Baltusrol Golf Club. One player will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday, and it could very well be a life-changing win that will be revered and remembered long after the cramped nature of this summer slate is forgotten.

This week’s field is also the strongest on record for any tournament, at least according to Official World Golf Ranking calculators that date back to 1986, with 97 of the top 100 players in the world.

Despite those credentials, though, it’s easy to feel like this tournament has a very minor spot on the calendar, wedged in between the daunting pillars of The Open and the Olympics.

After all, defending champion and world No. 1 Jason Day hadn’t even seen the course before his Wednesday practice round. While players plan scouting trips to Augusta National and the U.S. Open venue each spring, this week they’re largely flying blind and hoping to find their footing with a quick loop or two around Baltusrol before things get started.

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The PGA Championship is the highest-profile victim of a patchwork 2016 calendar, as event dates have been jostled to accommodate a detour to Rio. Annually a mainstay in mid-August, the season’s final major is now in the sweltering conditions of late July, marking the first time since 1968 that two majors have been held in the same calendar month.

To be fair, this awkward spot in the schedule is not entirely the fault of the PGA of America. It stuck its flag in Baltusrol as a host back in 2008, a year before golf was voted back into the Olympics.

The pile-up that occurred as a result is one in which they had a hand but hardly control, as every governing body involved decided that they could simply shoehorn the Olympics into an already-packed schedule without significant sacrifices or consequences.

Uh, not quite.

“When you have to put an extra week in the middle of the schedule, where that week has to be there, it’s difficult,” said Sergio Garcia. “It’s difficult to kind of rest, or really get in a rhythm of playing. So it’s not ideal, I would say, at least for me.”

Garcia’s views are shared by a number of top players, some of who began altering their schedule months ago to accommodate this torrid stretch. The common sentiment appears to be that, while there’s still a coveted trophy at stake, a better alternative would have included at least one more week off between the third and fourth majors.

“I wish it wasn’t as condensed, especially going Open Championship straight in,” said Rory McIlroy. “I’d like to see the PGA just stay where it is in the middle of August, but if that can’t happen, we’re just going to work around it.”

For their part, the PGA of America has a sunny view of the situation: a compressed schedule does nothing to take away from the prestige of this event, and – as echoed by several players – the quick turnaround could actually benefit those who were playing well at Royal Troon just a few days ago.

“When we thought about it, we knew it was going to be different. We knew the schedule was going to be condensed,” said PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua. “I think it’s worked well. It’s been a stress on the entire golf world, but for good reason.”

The sport as a whole may be shouldering the stress, but only one major championship had to find a new spot in the schedule this year. As Jordan Spieth pointed out, the Olympics are not exactly going to change dates to accommodate the spacing of golf’s majors.

To that end, Bevacqua added that his organization plans to do a thorough analysis of the unique elements surrounding the staging of this year’s tournament. The PGA Championship will be at TPC Harding Park outside San Francisco in 2020, when the Olympics head to Tokyo, and Bevacqua said the PGA is “considering all options” for a possible spot on the calendar.

“I would say it’s on the table in terms of should the date of the PGA Championship move in an Olympic year. We need to analyze that,” Bevacqua said. “We’re going to have to jostle the schedule a little bit. I think everybody is aware of that. We have no conclusions, we have made no decisions, but yes, it’s absolutely on our radar screen.”

In the interim, a championship will be contested this week, despite the fact that Henrik Stenson has barely had a chance to sip from the claret jug he lifted 10 days ago.

It’s a major, sure, and also the shining example of what a major headache this year’s schedule has become.

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.