Injured wrist nothing new to Allenby
With two sore wrists and a lack of practice time, Allenby could almost celebrate finishing at 3-over par 74 in his first round at the U.S. Open.
He realizes it could have been a lot worse.
On Sunday, when many golfers in the 156-player field were already in place at Pebble Beach, Allenby was out on a fishing boat with his kids back home in Jupiter, Fla.
While maneuvering their 60-footer through an inlet at the end of the day, the vessel ran ashore and Allenby “squashed” his left wrist into the steering wheel upon impact.
“I have a nearly broken wrist,” he said after his round Thursday, that left wrist still heavily taped as he came off the course. “I hurt all the tendons. I haven’t been able to hit balls or anything.”
He’s in pain when he holds his putter. He cut his Tuesday practice round short after seven holes because the wrist was “killing me.” On Wednesday, he only walked the back nine.
On a day when the greens were fast and the wind brisk, Allenby was thrilled to stay out of the thick rough for most of his round with Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy – and find ways to deal with the bunkers and short stuff.
“It was relaxing,” Allenby said. “None of us really played our best. I guess I have a little bit of an excuse. … Thank goodness there’s not a lot of rough out here. The greens are tricky.”
Last week at Memphis, the 38-year-old Australian withdrew after just nine holes in his opening round Thursday because of tonsillitis.
“They wanted to pull my tonsils out,” he said. “I was sick the week before that. I haven’t seen this golf course in 11 years, so I did manage myself around there pretty well.”
He played through the Sony Open the second week of the season on a sprained right ankle that turned the bottom of his right foot purple.
This isn’t new for Allenby. He has dealt with his share of hard luck along the way.
This is the same guy whose 1996 season on the European Tour was cut short that October after a traffic accident in Spain in which he sustained a broken sternum and facial injuries.
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “I’m just happy to get out there and play. When you approach it with an attitude like that, that’s probably why I only shot 3 over and not 10 over.”
TRIPLE-DOUBLE: John Rollins was lost for words, so he offered some sarcasm.
“Good finish,” he quipped.
Rollins was tied for the lead at 2 under heading into the 17th on Thursday. Then he finished with a triple-bogey followed by a double-bogey, hardly the kind of triple-double to be proud of. Rollins just hopes he can recover and start Friday morning on fresh greens playing the way he did in his initial 16 holes.
“It’s a U.S. Open. You miss something or you mismanage your game, you’re going to pay the price,” Rollins said. “If I get it going again, hopefully I’ll be able to hang on and get myself back in position. I’m by no means out of the golf tournament but at the same time, standing on the 17th tee 2 under you’re feeling like you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting in there with a good score. To walk off 18 3 over is disappointing.”
Nothing went right down the stretch, starting with that terrible 17th. Rollins has been working to better control his emotions when things don’t go his way, so he didn’t let any frustration show.
“I made a debacle of that hole,” he said of 17. “I’m steaming inside. I played 16 really good holes. I had just two slip-ups. Unfortunately they were big ones.”
THE TIDES TURN: U.S. Open first-timer Hugo Leon learned in a hurry how fast things can change in a major, especially at unpredictable Pebble Beach.
Just when things seemed to be going his way, the tides turned for the cheerful Chilean during a particularly tough stretch of the front nine at this spectacular oceanside course – Nos. 7-10. Not only do seagulls squeak loudly above and sometimes land right in the path of play, the winds are constantly changing. Mistakes must be at a minimum to succeed here.
Leon birdied the par-5, 523-yard sixth to go to 1 under only to score back-to-back bogeys on his next two holes.
On No. 8, Leon landed his tee shot over a steep cliff into the left bunker and one of five sand traps surrounding the green. He wound up with a 2-over 73 for the day.
“Andale, andale, Hugo!” one man cheered as Leon lofted a chip out of that trap at the eighth, then the golfer acknowledged the gallery with a wave of his right hand.
The 25-year-old Leon hollered “get down!” to his tee shot at No. 7. He bit his right fingernails as he checked out the rocky view some 75 feet below him at the eighth tee.
Leon and fellow Open rookie Ty Tryon regularly chatted as they walked down the fairways – and even rooted each other on.
“That a way, Ty, good save,” Leon said after one shot.
Amateur Andrew Putnam, the other member of the threesome, had his own problems. He hit a drive off No. 6 that took one bounce and went over the cliff to the right to the low tide below. He took a drop there, then hit twice on his second shot on 8 after the first sailed over another bluff.
STAYING WELL: Jeffrey Poplarski is working his eighth U.S. Open on the “Wellness Team.” That’s a fancy, fit-for-golf, way to sum up all the medical professionals on hand to help the players.
Chiropractors, personal trainers, acupuncturists, physical and massage therapists. There are 95 assorted health care providers in two onsite wellness centers treating the 156 players and their caddies and the 6,000 volunteers at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
One popular treatment so far this week has been in the hyperbaric chamber, where players are spending up to an hour in an enclosed pressure vessel that provides oxygen in a high-pressure environment to help speed healing and recovery.
“It’s getting a little attention,” Poplarski, a chiropractor, said of the chamber. “They’re going in for an hour. It revitalizes the tissue.”
With the cool and sometimes downright chilly conditions, Poplarski also is receiving inquiries from players who want to make sure they can get and stay loose on the course while dealing with any minor injuries.
Poplarski handed out some heat patches for one player to wear on his troublesome back during Thursday’s round.
“The cooler it is the harder it is if you have an ailment to deal with it,” he said during a brief stop with colleague and fitness professional Marlene Simonson as they took a cart onto the course.
BARNES BOUNCES BACK: Ricky Barnes was already unraveling early in his round when his pitch shot from behind a greenside bunker on the 15th came flying out and landed 10 feet above the hole. Barnes stared angrily at the rough, looking ready to take a few chunks out of the tangled grass before missing his par putt for a third bogey in five holes.
But Barnes rebounded from his early mistakes. He fell to 4 over after bogeying No. 1 – his 10th hole – then rallied with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5 and an eagle on the uphill par-5 sixth. Barnes bogeyed the difficult eighth but finished at 1-over 72.
Last year, Barnes finally lived up to some of his potential and led the Open after three rounds at Bethpage, before stumbling with a final-round 76 and finishing in a tie for second place.
HE’S UNDER: K.J. Choi finished 1 under in his opening round Thursday – the only time he can remember being under par to start a U.S. Open. And this is the South Korean’s 10th time playing the national championship.
He overcame a bogey on No. 1 followed by a double bogey on 2. He later had two more bogeys.
“Even par every day,” Choi said of his mindset this week at Pebble Beach.
Paired with Mike Weir and Tim Clark, Choi tried to recover after the early trouble.
“I started out with bogey and double bogey, which wasn’t good, but as the holes went by I tried to find my rhythm again,” he said. “I didn’t give up. So eventually I found my swing, my shots got better, putting went better, I was able to finish the day with 1 under so, I’m happy about that. I think if I just keep it up at this pace for the next three days I’ll have a good finish. “
Choi, a pro since 1994, turned 40 last month.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this story.
McIlroy pleased with opening 67 at BMW PGA
While a short miss on the final green denied him a share of the clubhouse lead, Rory McIlroy had plenty of reason to smile after opening the BMW PGA Championship with a 5-under 67.
McIlroy won the European Tour's flagship event in memorable fashion in 2014, erasing a seven-shot deficit on the final day. But the West Course at Wentworth has otherwise been a house of horrors for the Ulsterman, as he missed the cut in his three other appearances since 2012 and has played the course in a combined 10 over in his eight career appearances.
This marks his first return to the event since 2015, and he's now one shot off the early pace after a round that at times offered glimpses of his commanding form from recent years.
"I think I did everything pretty well," McIlroy said. "I drove the ball much better, put the ball in play off the tee a lot more than I've done the last couple weeks, so that's been really good. I thought I gave myself a lot of chances, and I took most of them."
McIlroy started slowly, and a bogey on No. 9 after a poor approach from the middle of the fairway meant he made the turn in just 1 under. But he got that dropped shot back on the next hole, then added birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 to climb up the leaderboard. He appeared poised to add at least one more tally, but was unable to birdie either of the two closing par-5s at Wentworth including a miss from inside 4 feet on No. 18.
"A little frustrated that I couldn't get a birdie or two out of the last couple holes, but overall a really good start," he said.
Making his first start since a missed cut at The Players Championship, McIlroy sits one shot behind Darren Fichardt, Dean Burmester and Lucas Bjerregaard with hopes for "more of the same" from his game over the weekend on a course that has often had his number.
"If I can hit the ball like I did today over the next three days, I think I'll be right there," McIlroy said.
NCAA Women's takeaways: Heartwarming for Haley
STILLWATER, Okla. – Before Karsten Creek is officially handed over to the men, here are some parting thoughts from the NCAA Women’s Championship, which saw Arizona defeat Alabama in an extra-holes thriller:
• A team of destiny, maybe not, but there was an unmistakable sense from speaking to other coaches that they wanted no part of Arizona after Bianca Pagdanganan buried that 30-footer for eagle on the final hole of stroke play. The Wildcats played with an edge, and without fear, after barely sneaking into the match-play field – and that’s a dangerous combination for opposing teams.
• It was heartwarming to watch Arizona’s Haley Moore sink the clinching putt, a 4-footer for birdie that gave the Wildcats their third NCAA title (and first since 2000). She’s had an interesting career, from making the cut at the ANA Inspiration at 16 years old to dealing with some less-than-welcoming teammates in Tucson. Her coaches refer to her as a “gentle giant,” but her wild swings in emotion on the course are difficult to manage; she so desperately wants to play well for her team that she puts undue pressure on herself to perform. That’s why Wednesday’s result was so important. “It gives them a little extra belief in themselves that they didn’t have before,” Arizona coach Laura Ianello said.
• That Alabama’s Lakareber Abe even pushed the anchor match into extras was somewhat of a surprise. She missed a 5-footer on 16 that would have given her a 1-up lead with two holes to play, and she also hit a pair of shanks (or semi-shanks) on both Nos. 13 and 17 that would have destroyed most players’ confidence. Instead, she stepped up on the par-5 18th and hit the second-most impressive shot of the championship, a roasted 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and sudden-death playoff.
• The pace of play at the NCAA Championship was, in a word, dreadful. Yes, the final day of stroke-play qualifying is the most intense day of the season, and it’s staged on the most difficult course they’ll play all year. But rounds can’t take six hours to complete, nor should the championship match go for 4 hours and 45 minutes in regulation. (They had time for maybe two more playoff holes before sunset.) In most cases, there was way too much over-coaching, and it’s something that needs to be addressed by the NCAA.
• The curse of the medalist continues. UCLA extended a run of misery for the top seeds after stroke play, as the Bruins made it 0-for-13 for both the men and women. If there’s any team that can snap the streak, winning both the stroke- and match-play portions, it’s Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are the prohibitive favorites at nationals this week, and not just because they’re playing on their home turf. Don’t be surprised if they take the stroke-play portion by as many as 20 strokes, which will only ratchet up the pressure in match play.
• In one of the tightest races in recent memory, your trusty correspondent voted for Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho for the Annika Award, given to the top player in the country. Kupcho didn’t have the most wins – that was Arkansas’ Maria Fassi, with six. She didn’t have the most consistency, either – that was UCLA’s Lilia Vu, who didn’t finish outside the top 6 in the regular season. But Kupcho earned my vote for one simple reason: No player went into this season with the specter of having blown an NCAA title a year ago. In 2017, Kupcho had a two-shot lead heading into the 71st hole and made triple bogey to lose by one. All she did this year was rip off three wins in her last four starts – including regionals, where she set a school scoring record and sank the clinching birdie to push Wake into nationals, and then went wire-to-wire at Karsten Creek.
• Depending on your rooting interests, Arizona either won a thriller … or top-ranked ’Bama lost it in gut-wrenching fashion. The 18th green afterward is always a surreal scene: One team chanting and dancing and crying, while a few feet away the other five players are absolutely devastated. The trophy presentations are difficult to watch, with the five losing players and two coaches enduring a 20-minute ceremony. While Arizona whooped it up beside them, the Tide stood silently, holding their NCAA runner-up trophies, politely clapping and generally looking as though they’d rather be anywhere in the world but there.
• UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit and Arizona’s Pagnanganan were the two most impressive players this observer watched last week in Oklahoma. The sound coming off their clubfaces was just different. They look like not just future LPGA winners, but possibly major champions.
• Alabama junior Cheyenne Knight is turning pro, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Sure, she was a first-team All-American once again, but she also was the third-best player on her squad this season (and it wasn’t particularly close). It leaves a hole in the middle of coach Mic Potter’s lineup, and the void could grow even wider with standout Lauren Stephenson (fresh off recording the lowest single-season scoring average in NCAA Division I history, 69.5) expected to enter the LPGA’s new qualifying series in the fall. It could be the Kristen Gillman Show in 2018-19, and she’s ready.
• Duke senior Leona Maguire capped her remarkable college career with a quarterfinal exit in match play. She leaves as one of the best players not just in Duke history but in all of college golf, a two-time Player of the Year and the owner (at least for now) of the lowest scoring average in NCAA history. The only thing she didn’t do? Win a NCAA title, either with her team or as an individual, despite staying in school all four years. She’ll be an intriguing player to watch at the pro level, because Duke coach Dan Brooks believes she can be a future Hall of Famer.
• If you’re still griping that match play doesn’t crown the best team all season … well … just stop. The nonstop drama of Arizona-Alabama is exactly why the NCAA switched to head-to-head match play. It’s not going anywhere.
Bifurcate to make game easier for amateurs
In January of 2017, Golf Digest ran a story about the average driving distance of amateurs. If you missed the article (click here to read it), the numbers may surprise you. It conveniently breaks down the results, both by handicap and by age, to provide a more detailed view of what golf is really like for the majority of players.
I recently ran across the post again and couldn’t help myself; hence this article. The average driving distance on the PGA Tour is around 295 yards, with the leader in the 320-plus range. Per the article, low handicap players top the list at 250 yards, while the 10-19 handicapper – average player – drives it around 215. That’s a big difference.
Bifurcation, the hotbed topic which ignites division among golfers at a level nearly on par with our nation’s current political weather, keeps banging at my door. Frank Nobilo recently said something to the effect that “the average player has never been further removed from the professional game.” I agree.
The most common argument against splitting the rules is that golf is one game – where amateurs and professionals, alike, play the same game. But, do they really?
The “regular” tees on many courses today have been stretched to around 6,500 yards, while the PGA Tour average is over 7,400. Most courses keep greens soft and running around 10 on a stimpmeter (I know, you’re course prides itself on 14’s) while the average on Tour is 12 1/2. Even with the Tour’s comparative lack of rough, it’s still deeper and more penal than most courses opt for, day in and day out.
Tour players also compete under the watchful eye of a staff keen on strict adherence to the rules, while a large percentage of average players are unfamiliar with many of the rules (Me, too; they keep changing). One other thing: Tour players have to count every shot they hit, finish every hole and there are no gimmes nor mulligans.
Add the distance pros hit the ball and it’s easy to see they play a different game. If you disagree, take the time to play a “Tour” course from the tournament tees right after a competition and see what you can shoot.
Putting that argument aside, it occurred to me that I’ve been looking at this from the wrong angle. My reasons for bifurcation have had more to do with protecting my view of the integrity of the game rather than what would be best for the average player.
The guys on the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour (LPGA and PGA Tour Champions, too) can really, really play. Last week, I watched a 36-year-old unknown player who had never won on either tour shoot 27 (with a bogey on the front-nine, par 35) in route to a 60. Then he came back two days later with a 28 on the same nine. He won on the Web.com Tour.
Science has unlocked many of the mysteries of the game. Club and ball technology have prompted a benefit for athleticism like never before. Biomechanics, video, launch monitors and force plates have combined to create a huge pool of players with very good swings. Did I mention that they can really play?
However, taking advantage of all this technology requires hours in the gym every day, hours on the range every day, hours on the course every day, and hours in the laboratory on a consistent basis. How many amateur players have the time and money to do all this? That’s right, not most. That’s why the median 10-19 handicap player averages 215 off the tee. They just don’t receive nearly as much benefit from today’s technological advancements as does the touring pro.
So, instead of penalizing the professional player for working hard and taking advantage of all that is available today, my argument has shifted to wanting bifurcation in order to make the game easier, less costly and quicker for the average player.
My idea for the average player begins with distance; the game is too darn long. Think about it: If a player gives up 80 yards off the tee and 45 yards on a 7-iron (180-135), it makes sense that this player should play from 7,400 – ((80 X 14) + (45 X 14) + (4 X 50)) = 5,450 yards to relate to the tour game. Even for the player who averages 250 off the tee and 160 with a 7-iron, the same reasoning yields a 6,400-yard course, give or take a little. But I’m not stopping there, equipment rules need to be relaxed as well.
For instance, the allowable trampoline effect for amateurs should be increased with a focus to fit slower club-head speeds. The limit on the size of the club head needs to be removed and larger grooves for more control and spin should be allowed. Ball limits should be relaxed so the player with lower club-head speed gets more benefit from new ball technologies.
Courses also need to quit watering so much, which would yield a more natural look as opposed to playing in the botanical gardens. This will allow the ball to run out more, effectively shorten the course and open up more options for how to play a shot or hole. Running the ball up on a green or down a fairway needs to return to the game. Rough needs to be eliminated; it’s supposed to be a game rewarding angles not just penalizing off the mark shots. It would also be great to see tree branches trimmed up, when possible, to allow for windows of opportunity and artistry instead of simply creating pitch-out masters.
There will always be the faction that consider themselves purists, which is great. Let major amateur championships stick to the stricter set of rules.
Wait, you could even go as far as to make it a different game altogether and give it a different name, flog for example. That way you don’t need different sets of rules for the same game; each game can have its own set of rules. Tennis is seeing a shift to include pickle ball, maybe golf embraces flog. You could go to the flog course instead of the golf course.
You could even have the USFA, United States Flogging Association, established for the advancement and preservation of flogging, tasked with protecting the game’s original vision of a fun, cheap game which plays quick and embraces imagination and artistry. I think you would be surprised how much you would like flog.
Anyone care to go flogging Saturday?
LPGA Korean event gets sponsor, new venue
BMW Group Korea will be the title sponsor of the LPGA’s new South Korean event scheduled for next year.
The event will be played at LPGA International Busan in the port city of Busan in October of 2019. It’s the first LPGA golf facility to be opened outside the United States, with the golf course scheduled to be ready for play in the summer of next year. The LPGA announced in a news conference in Busan in March that the course would host a new event with the title sponsor to be named at a later date.
BMW Group Korea will give South Korea two LPGA events in the fall Asian swing. The KEB Hana Bank Championship is played in Incheon in October.
The Busan event will feature a $2 million purse with a first-place check of $300,000.
Formerly Asiad Country Club, LPGA International Busan is a renovation being managed by Rees Jones. The golf facility’s opening will mark the first of several projects the LPGA plans in the region, including the opening of an LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Center and the establishment of an LPGA regional qualifying school.