Notes USGA Bending Rules Strickers Windfall
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.
STAT OF THE WEEK
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.
M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead
LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.
Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.
Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.
Marina Alex was second after a 68.
So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.
Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.
Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.
Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36
SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.
He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.
''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''
Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.
They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).
Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.
Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.
Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.
It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.
Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.
The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.
Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.
''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''
The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.
''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.
The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.
Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut
It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.
Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.
When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:
Won't be needing this. pic.twitter.com/xbe9abvCjn— Skratch (@Skratch) April 20, 2018
It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.
Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.
Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.
Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2
RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.
Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.
''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''
On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.
''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.
Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.
''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''
Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.
''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''
Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.
First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.