Chambers Bay to get experiments in run-up to 2015 U.S. Open

By Associated PressJuly 8, 2011, 3:32 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – When Chambers Bay was awarded the 2015 U.S. Open just months after opening there was no blueprint for how the course would react to championship conditions.

Thanks to the experience of hosting the U.S. Amateur last year and, more importantly, time, Chambers Bay will undergo small experiments the next four years in preparation for the major championship.

The first happened over the last nine months with the growth of substantial rough, the kind of gnarly mess the U.S. Golf Association hopes will swallow wayward shots when the Open comes to the Pacific Northwest for the first time.

Trying changes ahead of time is not unique. But many courses in the USGA rotation have held past U.S. Opens or even PGA Tour events where they can see how the course reacts.

Chambers Bay is the oddity.

It’ll be the youngest U.S. Open course since Hazeltine was just eight years old when it hosted its first Open in 1970.

Chamber Bay’s unique fescue grass, large footprint and placement on the shores of Puget Sound make up the setting the USGA had been hoping to find to finally bring its national championship to the Pacific Northwest.

And it’s not alone. Two years after Chambers Bay hosts the Open, the USGA is taking the Open to Erin Hills in Wisconsin, another new links-style course. Erin Hills will host this year’s U.S. Amateur.

“Most times we’re going to Shinnecock or Oakmont or Pebble Beach,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “Going to new courses, one of the reasons we schedule it the way we did was we wanted to see how the courses played. At Chambers Bay, it was incredibly valuable.”

When Chambers Bay hosted the U.S. Amateur last year, the challenge for Davis, Chambers Bay general manager Matt Allen and their staffs was simply seeing if the course could exhibit and withstand the conditions the USGA really wanted: a dry, hard fast track that mirrored the look of the links courses of the British Isles.

It worked, even if Davis acknowledged after the Amateur that they had dried out the course too much during stroke play. The course was choked of water for three weeks before the Amateur – sans the Pacific Northwest’s natural sprinkler – and when the tournament was done, it took only three or four weeks for the course to regain some green lushness.

“It tells us frankly in the long run we can maintain the golf course drier and leaner as normal practice, which conserves on water and fertilizer,” Allen said. “And the firmer and faster it plays day in and day out, the better. That’s how it was designed and the ball goes farther and everybody is happy.”

Proving the golf course could maintain and survive that stress gives Davis and his staff the chance to tinker here and there, and make substantial changes elsewhere as the ’15 Open draws closer.

Testing how thick the rough could get was the first experiment and likely the most important. When Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his team designed the course, they did so with hosting a U.S. Open-type event in mind, but not intending on the course having any rough in a true links style. The rough that was added before the Amateur was short and not very punishing.

Because fescue grows at a slower rate than the other grasses used on most American courses, Allen’s staff was told to stop cutting the rough last fall so USGA officials could get an idea of where the rough might be in June – around the time of year when the Open will be played.

The result was nearly 6 inches of tangled mess that was punishing every day hackers so much course officials finally had to ask if they could cut the rough back because pace of play was grinding to a halt as players searched for balls on the already difficult course.

“We know that basically two years of growth from fairway height we got it to where we wanted,” Allen said.

Now that the way the rough grows is known, Allen’s crew will turn to more structural changes.

The biggest and yet-to-be-determined change will likely come on the seventh green, an uphill par 4 with a massive false front on the green. The problem during the Amateur was shots finding the middle-to-back of the green would roll off large mounds and, because of the fast conditions, tumble back to the front of the green, catching the false face and rolling 60 yards back down the fairway. Allen said the solution is still being worked out, but much of the green complex would need change.

“It’s going to get changed and it’ll be an improvement not only for the Open, but it’ll be an improvement the other 51 weeks,” Davis said.

Most of the other changes have to do with the shaping of specific holes. Some of it will be done with the addition of tees, others by removing rough from one side of the fairway and bringing it in on the other. The reshaping of some holes will bring more hazards into play and remove potential bail out areas. The final piece of work is all related to the Open itself with the addition of paths and walkways and the flattening of some of the dunes to make the course safer for spectators.

Many of the changes will take place over the next year to give the slow-growing fescue plenty of time to mature before 2015. By the spring of 2013, everyday players who visit the course will see the basic framework the best players in the world will face two years later.

“That’s really the goal. It takes the fescue a while to get it really right,” Davis said.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

 

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.