Notes USGA Bending Rules Strickers Windfall

By Associated PressJune 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
The U.S. Open at Winged Foot featured graduated rough and white circles.
Most of the attention was on a mowing pattern that punished a player depending on how far he missed the fairway. The first cut of primary rough was 3 1/2 inches, then 20 feet away was a second cut of primary rough that was 5 1/2 inches.
The more subtle experiment was more than 50 drop zones, seven of which were around the 18th green.
For the first time, the USGA set up drop zones -- marked by white circles in deep, gnarly rough -- around every green as a way to save time whenever a player's shot was blocked by a temporary immovable object (TIO), such as a grandstand, TV tower or leaderboard. It also will be done at the U.S. Women's Open next week at Newport Country Club, and the U.S. Senior Open at Prairie Dunes.
'This is a test, and we're going to assess it,' USGA executive director David Fay said Sunday morning at Winged Foot. 'So far, I have to tell you, we're very happy with it.'
Fay said it can take as many as 10 minutes for a player to get relief from a TIO by the time he figures out where to drop and the marshals can get the gallery out of the way. The idea was to create mandatory drop zones without changing the nature of the shot.
Of course, there were exceptions.
Stewart Cink blocked his approach well to the right on the fourth hole during the third round. He was close to a boundary fence, and while he still had a swing, the leaderboard was in his line of sight to the hole. Because of the drop zones, Cink was able to move his ball about 35 yards closer to the hole.
That seems to break a fundamental tenet in golf -- advancing the ball without every hitting it.
He still had a miserable lie, but he no longer had trees that affected his shot.
'It was a good break,' Cink said. 'I told Peter (Hedlom), 'I'm getting a drop and I'm going to be 30 yards closer.' And he understood. Sometimes the rules are going to hurt you. And sometimes they help.'
Fay has been talking about drop zones for a number of years, and the USGA decided to give it a try.
'The reason we did it was for efficiency,' Fay said. 'You can start from the premise that just about every green is surrounded by a temporary immovable obstruction, whether it's a grandstand or a leaderboard. Time spent doing a TIO drop is time you don't get back.'
Cink at No. 4, and Kenneth Ferrie on the sixth hole Saturday, were examples of players who got a break by going to the drop area. That's one reason the USGA painted seven circles around the 18th green, to limit the possibilities of a player getting an enormous advantage with the U.S. Open on the line.
As for those who do get a break? Fay noted that without drop zones, players who get relief might not be closer to the hole, but the nature of the shot has been altered by being allowed to approach the green at a better angle.
'What is more important? The angle of the shot or the distance? That's open to interpretation,' he said. 'Will a player get an occasional good break? Yes. Will he get an occasional not-so-good break because that (original) lie had been trampled down? That's the trade-off. This slow game has, over the years, gotten slower. In my judgment, part of it was dealing with these things called -- which is part of big-time golf -- temporary immovable obstructions.'
Perhaps the biggest example came on the ninth hole Friday morning, when Tiger Woods was in the trees to the right. He played a sweeping hook over a corporate tent and toward the grandstand, knowing there was a drop area to the right of the green. His ball went into the bleachers and he dropped in the right circle.
From there, of course, Woods chipped over the green and had to scramble for bogey.
Steve Stricker started the season without a PGA TOUR card, trying to get in tournaments through sponsors' exemptions and those that had room for past winners.
Two weeks changed everything.
Stricker chose a U.S. Open sectional qualifier that offered only two spots in a 33-man field, and won to get a ticket to Winged Foot. Then he played his best golf of the year, and while a 73 in the final round left in a tie for sixth, he won enough money to bring his season earnings to $735,119, which assures him of getting his card for 2007.
There were a few other consolation prizes. Finishing among the top 15 and ties means he won't have to go through qualifying next year, and being among the top eight gave Stricker a spot in the field at the Masters, where he hasn't played since 2002.
Others can look forward to the same.
Jeff Sluman and Kenneth Ferrie also tied for sixth, meaning they will get into the Masters and the U.S. Open next year. Among those exempt from U.S. Open qualifying is Ryudi Imada for the second straight year. Imada closed with a 71 last year at Pinehurst No. 2 to finish in a tie for 15th.
David Duval finished one shot out of the top 15 at Winged Foot, and might have to qualify next year for the first time since 1995.
Tom Kite and Jay Haas were never considered rivals in the last three decades, but it appears one is unfolding now that they are on the Champions Tour -- even though this battle is taking place on the PGA TOUR.
Haas went 1-up when he qualified for the U.S. Open, making him the only player to compete in majors at Winged Foot in four decades -- the '74 U.S. Open (as an amateur), the '84 U.S. Open, the '97 PGA Championship and the '06 U.S. Open. Kite failed to advance out of sectional qualifying in Texas.
And when Haas made the cut at Winged Foot, he broke the PGA TOUR -- previously shared with Kite -- by making his 591st career cut.
'I've been good in spots and consistent,' he said. 'I've been healthy -- I think that's a big part of it. My health has kept me in there for a long time. But I guess I just hate missing cuts. I hate going to a tournament and not being able to play on the weekend.'
When he matched Kite's record at the Memorial, Haas said he would be surprised if Kite returned to the PGA TOUR.
'The game is on,' Haas said with a laugh.
Sure enough, Kite received a sponsor's exemption and will play this week at the Booz Allen Classic.
No one has had a bogey-free round at the U.S. Open since Arron Oberholser in the second round last year at Pinehurst. ... NBC Sports paid the rights fee to broadcast the U.S. Open, which presumably gave chairman Dick Ebersol the right to walk down the middle of the fairway behind the final group in the third round. ... Only six Americans finished in the top 20 at the U.S. Open. ... Ogilvy's victory continued one peculiar trend at Winged Foot. Of its six major champions, Davis Love III at 33 was the oldest winner.
Geoff Ogilvy was never under par at any point in the U.S. Open.
'No one ever gave him the luck I got today.' -- Geoff Ogilvy of Australia, on countryman Greg Norman's losses in the major championships.
Getty Images

Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

Getty Images

Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Getty Images

After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray

On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

Getty Images

In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”