Notes Toughest Holes Courses on the PGA TOUR
Here's something for the clubhouse mantle: It had the toughest hole on the PGA TOUR this year.
Even including major venues like Augusta National and Winged Foot, the toughest scoring hole in 2006 was the 426-yard fifth hole at Poppy Hills, which was nearly a half-stroke over par at 4.492.
The rest of the top 50 is not much of a surprise.
The U.S. Open was the toughest of the four majors -- Geoff Ogilvy won at 5-over 285 -- and it was reflected in the list. Winged Foot had six of the hardest holes among the top 20, and 10 holes ranked among the top 50. The first and 18th holes at Winged Foot were tied for third at 4.471, ranked one spot behind the 505-yard 11th hole at Augusta National (4.474).
Oddly enough, the Masters didn't have another hole in the top 50.
Royal Liverpool had two holes among the top 50 (No. 12 was ranked 33rd and No. 14 was 39th). The PGA Championship was a pushover this year on rain-softened greens, so it was no surprise that Medinah had only one hole in the top 50 -- No. 16 came was ranked 40th.
That fifth major -- The Players Championship -- had only one hole in the top 50. The 18th hole at Sawgrass was ranked No. 5.
Among regular PGA TOUR events, the South Course at Torrey Pines (Buick Invitational) had five holes in the top 50, with the 477-yard 12th hole the highest ranked at No. 9. Torrey Pines has been expanded to 7,568 yards and will host the U.S. Open in 2008. The Country Club at Mirasol (Honda Classic) had four of the hardest holes among the top 50.
And as an example of how weather dictates everything in golf, consider the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Ernie Els set the PGA TOUR record in the '03 Mercedes Championships by winning at 31-under par. This year, with slick greens that were even faster because of the blustery conditions, the Plantation Course had two holes ranked among the top 10 -- the 380-yard third hole was at No. 7 and the 218-yard second hole came in at No. 10.
The day Tiger Woods collected his PGA TOUR player of the year award for the eighth time, Paul Casey won his first award as European Tour golfer of the year.
Casey won three times on the European Tour, including the HSBC World Match Play Championship, and he finished second to Padraig Harrington in the Order of Merit by about $47,000. He also went unbeaten in four matches at the Ryder Cup (2-0-2), making a hole-in-one on the 14th hole to close a foursomes victory.
The award was voted on by a panel comprised of the Association of Golf Writers, television, radio and European Tour officials.
'To win three times during the 2006 season and play a part in Europe's record-breaking third successive Ryder Cup victory before finishing runner-up to Padraig in the Order of Merit was extremely satisfying,' Casey said.
Tiger Woods had a swoosh on his hat, his shirt and his shoes when he signed with Nike upon turning pro in 1996. Ten years later, the only golf-related item he has that isn't Nike is his putter.
Woods renewed this endorsement deal with Nike this summer. Terms were not disclosed, although the last two deals were for five years, and his latest contract paid him more than $125 million.
'It's very interesting because we were not really in the golf business,' Woods said about his relationship with Nike has evolved. 'Now we are a leader in the golf industry. We didn't have any hard goods at all, and now we have clubs and balls. I'm going from basically a person who is just happy to be a part of the Nike company to now helping out as much as I possibly can.'
WORLD CUP IDEA
The World Cup goes to China next year, and no telling how many stars from the United States, Australia and South Africa will continue to skip the team event. Clearly, it carries more prestige in some European countries like England and Ireland.
Padraig Harrington has an idea to resurrect the tournament -- make it like a real World Cup.
'I personally would go with probably every four years,' the Irishman said last week in Barbados. 'If it was every four years, then how often does a player stay in the top two in his country for that length of period? So, it would mean that over a person's career, they would look for the opportunity to play in the World Cup every year, because it may only happen for most guys a couple of times at most.'
The Americans take most of the abuse when it comes to absentees. Tiger Woods stopped playing after 2001 when the PGA TOUR briefly changed its criteria that forced him to take the next highest-ranked player (it would have been Phil Mickelson in 2002).
Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have not played for South Africa since 2001; this was the first time Colin Montgomerie played for Scotland; and Adam Scott has not played for Australia since 2002.
U.S. Amateur champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland is among 22 players from Great Britain and Ireland to start preparing for the Walker Cup match to be played next year at Royal County Down in Ireland. ... Tiger Woods is playing a tournament on the U.S. mainland for the first time since Sept. 4. ... The Skins Game will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year by moving to Indian Wells. It will be held on the new Celebrity Course at the Indian Wells Golf Course for the next three years. ... Rich Beem has a new endorsement deal with Tommy Bahama, marketing one of three new lines called 'TB18.' ... The Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge has signed on for another six years, sanctioned by the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour through 2012. One of the more popular silly-season events, it has raised more than $23 million in 15 years for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Bernhard Langer earned $612,672 in 26 starts this year on the PGA and European tours. He earned $900,000 the last two weeks by winning the Father-Son Challenge and the World Cup.
'It means I had a good year. But it also means I had some bad years before that.' -- Steve Stricker, on being voted PGA TOUR comeback player of the year.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.”
Woods does everything but win
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.
Sure, after taking the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.
“Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”
But here’s where we take a deep breath.
Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.
Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.
The scenario was improbable.
At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.
Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.
This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.
One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.
But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?
“Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.
Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.
Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.
Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.
Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.
Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.
Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.
“For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”
So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”
But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.
“It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”
Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.
“Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing the Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”
Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.
“She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”
But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.
Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.
“To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”
His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.
Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:
LOVE THE HATERS.
After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?
Molinari hopes to inspire others as Rocca inspired him
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Francesco Molinari was 12 years old when Costantino Rocca came within a playoff of becoming Italy’s first major champion at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews.
He remembers being inspired by Rocca’s play and motivated by the notion that he could one day be the player who would bring home his country’s first Grand Slam title. As he reflected on that moment late Sunday at Carnoustie it sunk in what his victory at The Open might mean.
“To achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who closed with a final-round 69 for a two-stroke victory. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the claret jug.”
Molinari had already made plenty of headlines this year back home in Italy with victories at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and the Quicken Loans National earlier this month on the PGA Tour.
A major is sure to intensify that attention. How much attention, however, may be contingent on Sunday’s finish at the German Grand Prix.
“It depends on if Ferrari won today. If they won, they'll probably get the headlines,” Molinari laughed. “But, no, obviously, it would be massive news. It was big news. The last round already was big news in Italy.”
Molinari won’t have any competition for the front page on Monday; Ferrari didn’t win the German Grand Prix.
Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.
Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.
Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.
“A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”
Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.
“It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”