Notes Tough to Hit Greens at Shinnecock

By Associated PressJune 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- It's not easy keeping the ball on the slick, sloping greens at Shinnecock Hills.
Tom Byrum learned the hard way during a practice round.
At No. 13, with a stiff wind blowing in his face, Byrum hit five shots from about 110 yards - two from the rough, three more from the middle of the fairway.
Only one was on the green when Byrum walked up - clinging to the front left edge. Two balls came up short, another rolled off the back, the other slid off the right side.
It was the same situation at the par-3 17th, where the wind was blowing from the left as groups approached the 179-yard hole.
The foursome of Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, Kevin Sutherland and Chris Smith each hit two balls toward the green.
Of the eight shots, one hit the green and bounced over. The other seven didn't even come that close.
'Is it time to go home yet?' Smith said.
According to Phil Mickelson, that's not even the toughest par-3 on the course. His vote goes to famous No. 7, known as 'Redan.'
'I think the percentage of players who hit that green in regulation will be less than 20 percent,' he said. 'With that being the case, if you play it 2 over for the four rounds, that would be a pretty good score.'
Sergio Garcia put it a different way after watching Ernie Els strike a 4-iron about 6 feet right of the flag - and wind up in the left bunker.
'If you hit 17 greens, you should get 100 percent for greens in regulation,' Garcia said, 'because it's almost impossible to hit that green.'
Sergio Garcia was heckled mercilessly during the last U.S. Open on Long Island.
Still, he never considered staying away from this one.
Coming off a win at the Buick Classic, Garcia is among a lengthy list of favorites at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, where the Open begins Thursday.
Two years ago at Bethpage Black, Garcia was targeted by rowdy fans who counted his incessant waggles and made wisecracks about then-girlfriend Martina Hingis.
'I never had a doubt about coming back to New York,' he said. 'I just think it was a minority of the whole crowd. I felt like a lot of people were behind me. There was just this little group that was a little bit louder than the rest, and you could hear them more. But I felt like they were still very good to me.'
Garcia had no complaints after a practice round Tuesday.
'New York has been great to me,' he said. 'Everybody was congratulating me. It was nice to see. And I'm sure they're going to be great all week long.'
Jim Furyk has no illusions about defending his U.S. Open championship. After five months off from tournament golf, he's just happy to be playing.
Furyk surprised everyone by showing up at Shinnecock Hills on Monday, with every intention of playing. If his surgically repaired wrist doesn't give him any trouble before then, he plans to tee it up Thursday morning in the traditional pairing with the British Open and U.S. Amateur winners.
'My game is a little rusty, it's not in shape,' Furyk said. 'I'm going to have to hang in there and do the best I can.'
Furyk's best last year at Olympia Fields was better than anyone else. He tied the Open record of 272 and won by three shots over Stephen Leaney for his first major championship title.
But until last week he thought he'd be watching the Open on television. He had surgery March 22 to repair torn cartilage in his left wrist, and said then he wouldn't be playing in the Open.
Furyk said he began practicing recently and played a few rounds with his wrist feeling good. He checked with his surgeon, who gave him the OK to compete.
'The therapy right now is basically the golf,' he said. 'I put enough pressure on it and doing enough out there that it's getting stronger for the golf.'
Furyk said he is realistic about his chances at perhaps the toughest course anyone will play on the PGA Tour this year.
'I'm throwing myself into the fire this week, coming to the U.S. Open and not playing for as long as I have and playing a difficult golf course set up this tough,' he said. 'It's going to be a tough week, I'm going to have to grind it out.'
Camilo Villegas and Oscar Alvarez are the first players from Colombia to play in the U.S. Open. For Villegas, it's even more exciting - this is his first tournament as a pro.
'It's pretty special,' Villegas said. 'The first time a Colombian plays in an Open and it's two of us. It's my first tournament as a professional, and the entire country is following us.'
Both Villegas and Alvarez played college golf in the United States - Villegas at Florida and Alvarez at BYU.
Both also made it into the Open through qualifying, though Alvarez had to win a playoff after shooting 77 in his second qualifying round.
First-time major winners have captured six in a row, beginning with Rich Beem at the 2002 PGA Championship. He was followed by Mike Weir ('03 Masters), Jim Furyk (U.S. Open), Ben Curtis (British Open), Shaun Micheel (PGA) and Phil Mickelson ('04 Masters). ... Tiger Woods wrote in his name for the first tee time of Wednesday's practice round. If anyone had thoughts of joining him, someone else scribbled underneath, 'Don't even think about it!' ... There's been plenty of parity on the PGA Tour. Vijay Singh has won three times. Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia are two-time winners. Fifteen others have one victory apiece.
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    Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

    By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

    He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

    Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

    “I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

    The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

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    To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

    Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

    “If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

    “So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

    To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

    Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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    Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

    By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

    With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

    Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

    The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

    According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

    There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

    There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

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    All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

    By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

    The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

    The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

    Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.

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    “I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

    Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

    “When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

    “Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”

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    First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

    By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

    If only because of the atmosphere.

    The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

    “It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

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    “It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

    Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

    “The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

    “It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”