Heat Causes FedEx Fiasco on Atlanta Greens

By Associated PressSeptember 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaLEMONT, Ill. -- Not having Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson at all the PGA TOUR Playoffs no longer seems like a big problem compared to the situation next week at East Lake, which doesn't have grass.
 
Record heat over the last month in Atlanta has caused so much damage to the greens at East Lake that PGA TOUR officials canceled the pro-am at the TOUR Championship and told players they would not be able to set foot on the greens until the first round Thursday.
 
It was an unprecedented move to essentially eliminate practice before one of the tour's showcase event, and it could spoil the finale of a FedEx Cup competition that so far has produced riveting golf.
 
'They don't need this to be an issue,' Geoff Ogilvy said. 'It's a shame.'
 
TOUR officials posted a two-page notice on everyone's locker Sunday morning at the BMW Championship, where the top 30 in the playoff standings will advance to East Lake for the TOUR Championship.
 
'All greens were impacted to varying degrees, and several greens are and will remain in poor conditions through the tournament,' it said.
 
Players will be allowed to hit tee shots on every hole but the par 3s, and second shots only on the par 5s, as long as they don't reach the green. The notice specifically said players and their caddies could not walk on the greens, putt on them or hit any shots to them.
 
The practice area will remain open.
 
The TOUR said Atlanta reported record temperatures of 90-plus degrees for 28 days, including 10 straight days at 100 degrees or higher. The area also went without rain for 25 straight days, and the combination proved lethal to the greens.
 
'In two weeks, we went from very, very good to very, very bad,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA TOUR.
 
It likely would be one more layer of distractions for the FedExCup, which concludes with four straight tournaments through the TOUR Championship. Whoever has the most points wins a $10 million bonus, the largest single prize in sports.
 
The format has been criticized in recent weeks when all the top players didn't show. Woods skipped the first playoff event in New York, and Mickelson decided to stay home from the BMW Championship. There also has been grumbling about the $10 million prize being deferred compensation.
 
The golf has been some of the best of the year, with Steve Stricker winning in New York and Mickelson going head-to-head with Woods for three days when he won outside Boston.
 
It culminates at East Lake with the TOUR Championship, where even the ever-optimistic TOUR is painting an ugly picture.
 
Players began hearing about potential problems at East Lake days ago, and most were stunned to find out they won't be able to play the course until Thursday.
 
'I've never heard of anything like that before,' Woods said. 'Certainly in my years on tour and my years in amateur golf and junior golf, I've never heard of it being canceled with good weather. This will be interesting to see.'
 
Just because the pro-am has been called off doesn't mean the players can go home to catch their breath.
 
They are obligated to be at East Lake on Wednesday for what amounts to a substitute pro-am, in which players will take part in a Q&A, conduct clinics on the practice range and have lunch with their amateurs.
 
The tour's agronomy staff has been at East Lake the last three weeks trying to restore the greens, and with slight cooler weather in the forecast, officials hope the greens can at least be reasonable for the TOUR Championship.
 
'But the overall conditions of all the greens will not come close to normal expectations,' the tour notice said.
 
Ogilvy found it a coincidence that the East Lake greens were in such bad shape because 'that's the best part about that course.'
 
Other players felt as though the tour should have abandoned East Lake when they realized there was a problem, moving the tournament to another course in the Atlanta area. Hughes said they would have had only three weeks to find another course to hold the tournament, which he said was not enough time. Plus, he said officials remained hopeful they could fix the East Lake greens.
 
Some players who make the 30-man field, such as Woody Austin and Hunter Mahan, have never played a tournament at East Lake. Boo Weekley said he has been there about 10 times and tried to qualify for the U.S. Open one year at East Lake.
 
'It's part of golf, man,' Weekley said. 'You can't help the weather.'
 
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”