A New Look for Seasons Last Major

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipThe PGA Championship is known as Glorys Last Shot, but this major will be a first.
No one has ever played a competitive round at Whistling Straits, the course built along the shores of Lake Michigan. The links-styled course is the longest in major championship history at 7,514 yards, with three par 4s at least 500 yards and the shortest par 5 measuring 569 yards.
There are more than 1,000 bunkers, so much sand that its hard to tell when one bunker ends and the other starts.
By the sound of some early reviews of Whistling Straits, players might be whistling past the graveyard.
Defending champion Shaun Micheel shot 77 with no birdies the first time he played the Pete Dye design on a windy afternoon in June, then said the cut could be 10 to 12 over par. He later amended his prediction.
If the wind comes up at all, and they play the golf course the way it did when I played, it really felt like double digits over par could win the golf tournament, Micheel said.
Loren Roberts called it the hardest course he has ever played. Former PGA champion Rich Beem heard the fairways were long and tight, but didnt believe the scouting report.
I just figured theres just no way, he said. But when we played it, it was awful.
Indeed, curiosity is at an all-time high for the final major of the year'and so is the hysteria.
Ive heard so many different opinions, Tiger Woods said before going up to Wisconsin for his first look at Whistling Straits. Ive heard its too tight in the landing areas, and Ive heard other guys say its a fair test with plenty of room. Some guys say you can roll the ball up to the greens, others say you have to carry it to get to the right spot.
Thats the thing, he said. We dont know.
About the only thing anyone expects is another strong performance by Phil Mickelson, who transformed himself from the guy who couldnt win a major into the lefty who does everything right.
If not for missing a couple of short par putts at Shinnecock and Troon, Mickelson could be going for the Grand Slam. Instead, he has gone 1-2-3 in the majors, starting with his breakthrough win at the Masters, and now has a chance to become the first player to finish in the top 3 in all four professional majors in the same year.
Ernie Els gets one last chance to erase a season of major heartache. While he is closer than ever to replacing Woods at No. 1 in the world ranking, all that matters to the Big Easy is winning majors. And all he has this year are three close calls, including runner-up finishes to Mickelson at the Masters and Todd Hamilton in a playoff at the British Open.
Ive come this close, so obviously Im doing something right, Els said. Something is good in my game. Its just not quite there at the end.
At stake for the Americans is the last hope of making the Ryder Cup team. Because the points are double at a major, 34 players have a mathematical chance of getting into the top 10.
Most of the attention is on John Daly (No. 20), the only two-time major winner to have never played in the Ryder Cup, and Jay Haas (No. 14), at age 50 trying to become the oldest American to qualify for the team.
The other focus at Whistling Straits is whether Woods can end a drought that has reached nine majors since he last hoisted a trophy. Woods has twice gone entire years without winning a major (1998 and 2003), but this is the first time he has not seriously contended on the back nine on Sunday.
His only victory this year is the Match Play Championship in February. He is $2.3 million behind Mickelson on the money list. He is assured of being No. 1 in the world for the 331st week when he arrives at the PGA, which will tie the record set by Greg Norman, although Els will have another chance to surpass him.
But Woods outlook on his season could change in four days.
Any time you win a major, its going to be a great year, Woods said.
Vijay Singh could only go to No. 1 if he wins and Woods misses the cut. The big Fijian already has four victories this year'twice as many as anyone else'but he is 0-for-19 in the majors since winning the 2000 Masters.
When Tiger was winning every other one, we said, Look, this is unusual; you guys dont understand, Davis Love III said. Its going to go back to normal sometime when we get a streak of different guys winning.
That certainly has been the case. Ten players have won the last 10 majors dating to Woods last major victory at the 02 U.S. Open. And the PGA Championship is a good place for that trend to continue, since 13 of the last 16 winners had never won a major.
Woods can still go another three majors without winning before he matches the dry spell Jack Nicklaus endured at about the same point in his career. And while Woods has been stuck on eight majors in pursuit of Nicklaus record 18, he still thinks he can get there.
Im still right on pace'actually, ahead of his pace, Woods said. It wasnt going to happen overnight. It wasnt going to happen in my 20s. For Jack, it took him 23 years to accomplish that. So its going to take a long time.
It seems like Woods has been part of the golf landscape forever, although this is only his eighth full year playing the majors. In some respects, he comes full circle at the PGA Championship, returning to Wisconsin for the first time since he made his professional debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996.
Whistling Straits was still two years away from opening at the time. The PGA of America is not afraid to try something new, jumping at a chance to go to Whistling Straits when the U.S. Open hesitated.
But whether it was Crooked Stick or Oak Tree, Sahalee or Valhalla, its courses have always been user-friendly. The last time a score of 280 or higher won the PGA Championship was in 1990, the longest stretch of any major.
That could be about to change.
This is the third consecutive major played on a links-style course, preceded by Shinnecock Hills at the U.S. Open and the true links, Royal Troon, at the British Open.
Whistling Straits figures to be so much different than the other two.
Theres a few more penal areas where you just cannot hit the ball, Love said after his practice round on Monday.
What could help the players is that Shinnecock Hills has become a battle cry for how not to set up a golf course. The USGA refused to water the greens, which all but died during the final round and led to 28 players in the 80s and the best score at even par.
But at more than 7,500 yards and with the potential for big wind, Whistling Straits could get silly.
Then again, no one knows.
The last major won with a score over par was the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, which Paul Lawrie won in a playoff after finishing at 6-over 290.
Carnoustie is regarded as the toughest links in golf, a big course with tiny fairways and waist-high fescue, made even more punishing by the whipping wind off the Firth of Tay.
By the end of next week, that could all sound very familiar.
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    Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

    By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

    WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

    It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

    Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

    ''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

    The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

    It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

    ''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

    ''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

    A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

    Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

    The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

    ''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

    Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

    ''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

    ''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

    Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

    Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

    ''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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    Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

    By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

    SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

    Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

    ''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

    Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

    The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

    Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

    Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

    ''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

    Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

    Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

    Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

    Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

    The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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    Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

    By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

    HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

    Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

    Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

    Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

    He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

    His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

    Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

    The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

    His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

    McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

    He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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    Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

    By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

    Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

    It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

    The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

    The week was more than nostalgic. 

    It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

    In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

    “I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

    Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

    “It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

    Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

    Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

    The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

    “It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

    Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

    “Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

    She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

    “Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

    At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

    With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

    This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

    “A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

    Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

    “It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

    In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.