Its Not About Fair

By Associated PressJune 22, 2004, 4:00 pm
Something strange happened the day after the U.S. Open.
A black round cap about the size of a hockey puck mysteriously rose from the ground and started spraying water over Shinnecock Hills. In the golf industry, they call this a sprinkler.
Then a couple of players searched and found ' eureka! ' a pitch mark that needed to be repaired.
In other words, Shinnecock Hills returned to being a golf course, one of the finest in the country.
No one was sure what to call the links-styled course ' or the competition it held ' during a final round that identified the best players, humiliated the rest and set a U.S. Open record for complaints.
There is no denying the U.S. Golf Association, which treats par as its most precious commodity, went over the edge to make sure the toughest test in golf lived up to its reputation.
By continuing to double-cut the greens ' they were so dead, its a wonder there was any grass left to mow ' and refusing to water them until certain holes became unplayable, the U.S. Open more closely resembled a demolition derby than a national championship.
Good shots are not staying in fairways. Good shots are not staying on greens, Tom Kite said. Youve got the best players in the world. If they cant shoot under par, then its got to be out of control.
Robert Allenby had the best round at even-par 70.
Five players shot 79 and still moved up the leaderboard.
The 28 players who failed to break 80 included Ernie Els, the No. 2 player in the world.
Its not the first time theyve done this, and it wont be the last, Mark Calcavecchia said of the USGA, shortly after grinding out a 75. On that note, I need a beer.
But for all the silliness Sunday, the lasting image is U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and runner-up Phil Mickelson playing a game unfamiliar to many others.
They were the only guys to beat par for the tournament.
They played the kind of golf that wins the U.S. Open.
Its not about whether the golf course is fair. Its about shooting the lowest score.
Tee shots dont stay in the fairway? Mickelson only missed two of the last eight fairways. He played with such control that he used a variety of shots to keep the ball on the green and below the cup, giving himself a chance at birdie. His run of three birdies in four holes to briefly take the lead was sensational stuff.
After closing with 71, Lefty was asked if it was a fair test.
I dont know what to say. I felt like I played some of the best golf of my life, he said. I hit some of the best shots, I putted better than I probably ever have putted. And I still couldnt shoot par. So you tell me.
Then again, he would have shot 69 if not for that three-putt double bogey on the 17th that perhaps cost him the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Goosen showed incredible resiliency, if not poise. Almost as impressive as Mickelsons birdie run was the Goose saving par on No. 13, saving bogey on No. 14, and answering Mickelson with a birdie of his own on the 16th to regain a share of the lead. He took only 24 putts in the final round, and had no three-putts for the tournament.
The way the course is set up, its important to save pars, Goosen said. I kept telling myself, Keep playing for pars and you can win this event. And it turned out that way.
Sure, it was tough.
One could argue that this is not how golf is meant to be played ' away from the flag, at times away from the green.
But it cannot be called unfair because everyone played the same course.
The last time a major championship came under this much scrutiny was the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, already regarded as the toughest links in the world before a combination of high rough, narrow fairways and vicious wind made it even worse.
The winning score was 6-over 290. The winner was a guy named Paul Lawrie.
Davis Love III sniffed that Carnoustie got the champion it deserved, and he was right. Lawrie shot 67 in the final round and birdied the last two holes of the playoff with a 3-iron in 12 feet and a 4-iron in 3 feet. The guy who played the best golf won. (Jean Van de Velde played even better until his brain malfunctioned on the 72nd hole).
Instead of celebrating great play, the U.S. Open turned into a protest from players who were led to believe that this major would change its personality overnight.
It is not the greatest test in golf, only the toughest.
Everyone should know that by now.
I come to the U.S. Open expecting nothing to be fair, two-time champion Lee Janzen once said.
Els took such a beating that he bolted from Shinnecock without saying a word after making four double bogeys, more than he had made all season. The 80 was his highest score ever in the U.S. Open.
People will ask whether the USGA went too far in the setup of the golf course, Els wrote Tuesday on his Web site. Personally, I think the course was fair. Severe, but fair.
Its a shame that we even need to have this debate, because Shinnecock is a wonderful course.
Ultimately, it identified the best player.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

“On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

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Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

“It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

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But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

“He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”