Notes Sawgrass Back in Business Couples OK
There were a few subtle alterations along the way, and in a refreshing change, it wasn't only about length.
The home of The Players Championship now measures 7,215, an increase of a mere 117 yards over six holes. The two largest gains were an additional 23 yards on No. 11 to make it 558 yards, and 31 yards on the opening hole to make it 423 yards, which is still a 3-wood and short iron for most pros. There also is a new tee on the par-3 eighth that allows it to play as long as 237 yards.
The most noticeable change are the three bunkers to the right of the seventh fairway in the landing area, which provide a better frame and essentially create at least a half-shot penalty.
Also, trees were planted left of the par-5 ninth fairway and to the right of the par-4 sixth fairway. And in case anyone was wondering, no one filled in that big pond surrounding the 17th green.
The island green remains the signature hole at Sawgrass, but not necessarily the most breathtaking view.
While it won't be finished for another six months, the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, with a Mediterranean Revival design, looms spectacularly behind the 18th green. It adds distinction to the PGA TOUR's home course, becoming part of the landscape in much the same way as clubhouses at Riviera, Shinnecock Hills and Augusta National (back when you could see the clubhouse from the 18th tee at Augusta).
Fans will notice the amphitheater behind the first tee has been removed, allowing for a view of and from the clubhouse.
The course officially opened to the public Monday, and while it was in good shape, parts of the ninth fairway (about 180 yards from the tee) were slow to recover. There were chunks of turf missing, along with long strips of dirt that had not grown in, almost as if a varmint had been digging a trench.
'Do you know what animal did this?' a TOUR official asked with a smile. 'Vijay Singh.'
PGA TOUR players used the ninth fairway as the range while the practice facility was being rebuilt.
Fred Couples says the blood clot discovered in his arm is gone and he feels fine.
Couples withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational in August and was having his back worked on when his specialist, Tom Boers, recommended he go to the hospital. Extensive tests eventually revealed a clot between his wrist and elbow.
Couples, 47, treated it with medicine and said, 'I feel great,' although it was a scare.
'I've had a couple of small things done with my back that I was in a room, but I've never been in a hospital, and I didn't really enjoy it,' he said. 'And then when I was talking to the doctor, I had a few things going on with the back of my head ... which I laughed about until he sat down with me and told me what could have happened.'
Couples' mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1994, and his father died of leukemia in 1997.
'I've seen stuff they've been through,' he said. 'I would rather wait quite a few years before anything like that happens.'
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was among a record six Australians to win on the PGA TOUR this year, and it's safe to say the Aussies are swelling with pride.
Ogilvy and Robert Allenby noted that Americans are starting to take notice of the Aussie success, with Allenby suggesting Americans have struggled because they don't have to work for what they get.
'We have to work pretty hard to get results, whereas a lot of them over there are looking for handouts, and that is why they don't become the players that they should become,' Allenby told reporters at the Australian Open. 'We'll go anywhere to play. We learn to travel at a young age and they don't. Everything is handed to them on a plate.
'We have to work our (tails) off to become the best golfers in the world.'
Ogilvy, who won his first major when Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie took double bogey on the 18th hole at Winged Foot, said the Americans are in 'a bit of a flap' over the state of their game, especially with no young players on the horizon.
'All of a sudden, there are 20-something of us on tour and we got another five more guys qualifying from the Nationwide Tour, so they are starting to wonder what we are doing,' Ogilvy said. 'In reality, we shouldn't be able to do it when they have 300 million people to our 20 million. It annoys them a bit, not because we are foreigners, but because they are not winning.'
Now that the wound is open, it's time to pour some salt.
'And,' Ogilvy added, 'they lost the Ryder Cup again this year.'
The second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying school gets under way this week on six courses, which some consider to be the most pressure of all. Those who fail to advance have no chance for status on either the PGA TOUR or Nationwide Tour.
Among those who made it out of the first stage was Ty Tryon, who first made it through all three stages in 2001 and would be graduating college this year if he had not turned pro.
Several notable players failed to advance through the first stage. One was Kevin Hall, who has been deaf since age 2. He shot 77 in the final round in Lakeland, Fla., and missed making the cut by three shots.
The horror story belonged to Aaron Barber, who played with Annika Sorenstam and Dean Wilson in the first two rounds of the '03 Colonial. Barber was only four shots out of the lead going into the final round in North Carolina when he finished with a double bogey, quadruple bogey and quadruple bogey to shoot 83 and miss by one shot.
The LPGA Championship has raised its purse to $2 million for 2007, an increase of $200,000. ... The Champions Tour is bracing for a strong rookie class that includes Mark O'Meara, Bernhard Langer and John Cook. But it is missing two of the biggest stars of that era -- Greg Norman and Nick Faldo -- both of whom have said they do not expect to play more than a few events. Faldo is consumed with television work. Norman has said he will only play the Senior British Open. ... Americans are Nos. 1-2-3 in the world ranking (Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson), but don't have another player until Davis Love III at No. 16.
STAT OF THE WEEK
John Daly played six more PGA TOUR events than Tiger Woods, but four fewer rounds.
'Because he's a player that always wins, I didn't know whether I should congratulate him on finishing second.' -- Yang Yong-eun, after winning the HSBC Champions by two shots over Tiger Woods.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.
Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.
There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.
Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.
“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.
In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.
“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.
“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”