Players Concerned Over Honda Course

By Associated PressMarch 10, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The Honda Classic moves around almost as much as major championships, with the Sunrise Course at Mirasol the fifth location in the last 10 years.
 
And only at majors do players fret so much about a golf course before the tournament even starts.
 
'I think at the end of the week, you're going to see a lot more guys spent than guys having fun,' Fred Couples said Wednesday.
 
During a practice round, defending champion Justin Leonard hit his tee shot about 10 feet to the right of the flag. It landed safely, trickled to the right, then disappeared. A few seconds later, and about 15 yards away, the ball emerged from behind a mound and continued rolling.
 
Jeff Sluman hit a 4-iron from 183 yards into the wind to a front pin on the par-3 eighth. It landed 20 feet to the right, even with the pin, but not for long. It went down a steep slope into the rough. He hit what he thought was a good chip, only to see the ball roll slowly past the hole and keep going, some 30 feet off the green.
 
'It's hard,' Couples said. 'I wouldn't know where to start. It's in fantastic shape. It's just very, very hard. It doesn't matter what the wind does. It's hard to put any spin on a ball when you've got to hit it in one certain area, and if you don't, it just rolls ... am I saying anything different than anyone else?'
 
Most guys aren't saying anything at all, perhaps not wanting to find a letter from the PGA Tour in their locker informing them of a fine for disparaging comments.
 
'Are we off the record?' was a popular refrain leading up to Thursday's opening round at Mirasol.
 
Leonard was among the more diplomatic about the Tom Fazio design when he said that 'a couple of the greens are a little severe, but everybody is going to have to get through those holes.'
 
What did he mean by severe?
 
'Well, I think (No.) 3 is pretty severe for a 245-yard par 3,' he said. 'The right side of the green just goes up and down. It looks like something I skied down a couple of months ago.'
 
Still, everyone will be playing the same 7,468-yard course. And everyone will be chasing the $900,000 prize.
 
'It will be interesting to see the comments over the course of the week,' Davis Love III said. 'I think the lower your score, the better your comments will be, as usual.'
 
The Honda Classic, which gets under way on Thursday, has had trouble finding a permanent home in recent years.
 
It was played on the TPC at Eagle Trace near Fort Lauderdale in 1996 for the ninth and final time. That location was notable for the year Kenny Knox shot 80 in the third round and still won the tournament.
 
With so many water hazards, and so much wind in south Florida this time of the year, Greg Norman once referred to Eagle Trace as 'carnival golf.'
 
It switched to the TPC at Heron Bay for the next six years, and the course was so bland the players couldn't remember the holes.
 
The tournament moved to Mirasol last year and was played on the adjacent Sunset course, which was deemed too easy for a PGA Tour event.
 
Leonard won at 24 under par, and the next dozen guys behind him were at 20 under or better.
 
The next stop is the Sunrise course, for at least the next three years (with an option through 2010).
 
The intrigue about this Honda Classic is that no one has every played the Sunrise course in tournament conditions, and yet everyone seems to know what to expect.
 
'I watched last year and they were in the 20-unders,' Couples said. 'This would be one way of stopping that, to build a course like this. I think 75, if they put the pins in spots, is going to be a mediocre score.'
 
Because of the shaved slopes around the greens that spill into deep collection areas, there have been some comparisons to Pinehurst No. 2.
 
The grass is so tightly mown beyond the green that it's difficult to hit a flop shot with a sand wedge up the mounds. Instead, several players were using fairway metals to putt, or chipping with a 6- or 7-iron.
 
'It looks like someone tried to make it look like Pinehurst, and overdid it,' Brad Faxon said.
 
Pinehurst, where the late Payne Stewart won the '99 U.S. Open, was a Donald Ross creation with his vintage turtleback greens. The greens at Mirasol look like the back of a humpback whale.
 
The ninth green is the most peculiar, stretching some 50 yards diagonally, with large slopes front and back. The green has so many contours it looks like the fairways at Royal St. Georges.
 
'If we went and played Pinehurst next week, it would be a piece of cake,' Couples said.
 
The Honda Classic might resemble a major in one other aspect -- it's going to require a lot of patience when bad things happen to good shots.
 
'I kind of like this,' Faxon said. 'Because it's going to get a lot of guys (upset). And it's a $5 million purse.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - The Honda Classic
  • Full Coverage - The Honda Classic
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Randall's Rant: Woods' message to young rivals: Bring it on!

    By Randall MellAugust 13, 2018, 11:24 pm

    Bring it on!

    OK, I’m not fluent in body language, and maybe that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods was communicating with his exuberant fist pump after closing out a 64 Sunday at the PGA Championship, but there was so much hope in the excitement he let loose with his closing birdie.

    Hope beyond what was still going on behind him at Bellerive.

    Hope in what lies ahead.

    Bring it on!

    You know Woods wanted Brooks Koepka to hear his legion roar, to let Koepka know he better not stumble back there behind him. You know he also wanted Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and all today’s stars to hear all those roars, to let them know he’s finally fit for a fight again.

    Bring it on!

    Yes, Koepka refused to flinch, and Woods ultimately finished second, but that rollicking last fist pump told you what Sunday’s finish meant to Woods.

    He’s going to win again.

    That’s the confidence won closing the way he did, celebrating at the 72nd hole in a way we’ve only ever seen him do on his way to hoisting a trophy.

    Because that’s where he is headed again.

    He can and will win again.

    Bring it on!

    That’s the thrilling promise Sunday brought to all of golf.

    Koepka wasn’t about to get out of Woods’ way, in the fashion the players of another era seemed to do when weekend roars preceded a Woods stampede. Koepka did today’s players a favor sending his own message. He was a rock. He didn’t flinch and didn’t fold in the wake of all those deafening Tiger roars.


    PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


    If Koepka flinches Sunday, it sends the wrong message to all these other young guys. It gives them all pause. It makes them all wonder if Tiger’s aura really does come with some unfair advantage, with a one- or two-shot advantage in his ability to ride the noisy chaos to heights they can’t. We heard more than one young star complain this spring about the boisterous crowds that followed Woods.

    These young guys don’t need that in their heads.

    So Koepka didn’t back down, and Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, Spieth, Day, Fowler and Rahm aren’t likely to, either.

    That’s the great fun Woods’ comeback brings. The battles all these young guys say they want with the legend are real possibilities now, with all those Tiger birdies and Tiger roars confirming Sunday that he is ready to begin giving them what they want.

    “I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger,” Jordan Spieth said during The Open last month. “Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true, just to have the opportunity.”

    The wonder in Sunday’s finish is that Woods was so good spraying his driver all over the place early in the round. Back in the day, he would have said he shot that 64 with his “B” game. You won’t hear him say things like that now, but the beauty in the round was knowing how he may have turned a 70 into a 64. It was in knowing how much better he still might get on these old legs.

    It’s a shame we have to wait eight months for the Masters to see if his run of T-6 at The Open and 2nd at the PGA Championship continues on a majestic trajectory, because the message I heard in his last fist pump is still ringing in my ears.

    Bring it on!

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    Eight Men, Four Women Advance to "Tennessee Big Shots," Airing Monday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. ET Live on Golf Channel

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2018, 7:25 pm

    Airing Live on Golf Channel, Fourth Televised Event of 2018 is Final Tour Stop Prior to Season-Culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship

    Field Boasts Six of Top-10 in World Led by No. 1 Justin James, Three-Time 2018 Winner Will Hogue; & Two-time World Champion Phillis Meti

    The World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season continues tonight with the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital, airing live at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The live telecast will showcase the eight men and four women having advanced from preliminary rounds where they’ll compete in single-elimination matches until respective champions are crowned. The Open (Men’s) Division field will feature six of the top-nine competitors in the World Long Drive rankings, including No. 1 Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) along with Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), who has accumulated three wins to-date in 2018. The Women’s Division will feature two-time world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) and Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.,) who won the Clash in the Canyon earlier this year. Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.,) also is returning from injury in her first competition of 2018 in what will be a de-facto “home game,” while LPGA Tour player Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) is the fourth semifinalist, competing in her first-ever WLDA competition.

    “We’ve finally reached the home stretch of the season,” said Jonathan Coachman, play-by-play host for World Long Drive Association events on Golf Channel. “With the World Championship only weeks away, the competitors understand the need to be on their game. I’ve always said that champions show up anytime, anywhere, for anything. They better have that mind-set, beginning with tonight’s Tennessee Big Shots.

     

    OPEN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL MATCHES (Seeded by world ranking):

    (1) Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. (25) Wes Patterson (St Louis, Mo.)

    (5) Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. (8) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.)

    (4) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (9) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

    (2) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (24) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

     

    WOMEN’S DIVISION SEMIFINAL MATCHES:

    Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.) vs. Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand)

    Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.) vs. Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.)

     

    Being staged from Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport, Tenn., the inaugural event – in partnership with Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital – is the fourth WLDA event of 2018 scheduled to air live on Golf Channel. Tennessee Big Shots is being contested in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. The eventalso marks the penultimate WLDA competition of the year, with the season-culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

    COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Tennessee Big Shots will air on Golf Channel from 6-8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 13, with Golf Central previewing the event from 5-6 p.m. ET. Encore showings of the competition are scheduled to air on Golf Channel following the live telecast, from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET and 12:30-2:30 a.m. ET.

    The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. An overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) will display the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

    BROADCAST TEAM: Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play alongside Art Sellinger, World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91). Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

    DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Tennessee Big Shots by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

    Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Tennessee Big Shots leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

     

    2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

    DATE

    EVENT

    LOCATION

    WINNER(S) / DEFENDING CHAMP

    March 15-17

    East Coast Classic

    West Columbia, S.C.

    Justin Moose

    April 21-24

    Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

    Mesquite, Nev.

    Alexis Belton, Will Hogue

    May 11-15

    Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

    Maricopa, Ariz.

    Phillis Meti, Will Hogue

    June 4-5

    Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

    Atlantic City, N.J.

    Sandra Carlborg, Mark Costello

    June 21-23

    Bluff City Shootout

    Memphis, Tenn.

    Will Hogue

    July 6-8

    Bash For Cash

    Port Rowan, Ont., Canada

    Ryan Steenberg

    August 2-4

    WinStar Midwest Slam

    Thackerville, Okla.

    Kyle Berkshire

    August 12-13

    Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

    Kingsport, Tenn.

    (New Event)

    September 1-5

    Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

    Thackerville, Okla.

    Sandra Carlborg, Justin James

    Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events throughout 2018 are staged through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, along with an all-encompassing international qualifier for the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

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    Making Ryder Cup picks: Furyk begins his toughest task

    By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2018, 6:41 pm

    ST. LOUIS – By the time Brooks Koepka teed off for the final round of the PGA Championship, Jim Furyk was already back at his rental house and settled in to watch what would be an eventful final round.

    Furyk's day was just getting started.

    Although he’d been up since dawn and had already put in a full day at Bellerive with a 7:56 a.m. tee time, Sunday began a process the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has prepared for and anticipated for two years.

    “I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week,” Furyk conceded on Sunday following a closing 71 at Bellerive. “At times I found myself with my mind wandering. The afternoon tee times I’m sitting around in the morning and my mind starts wandering and I start looking at stats and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. There’s a million things going on.”

    The American captain is officially on the clock. The final round of the year’s final major was the deadline to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup team, and Furyk now begins the process of narrowing the list of potential captain’s picks.

    Davis Love III, who took two turns in the captain’s chair, will tell you this is the toughest part of the gig. Forget about pairings and course setup and vice captains - getting the picks right is what separates a good captain from a great one.

    “I saw him around this week kind of frazzled like I was; they are pulling him everywhere,” Love said. “Now it’s a tough couple of weeks. At dinner the other night we were talking about what we were going to do [regarding picks] and I was like, ‘Well, you have to wait for [Sunday] and you’ll get a better idea.”

    On that front, the wait is over. The top eight players on the U.S. point list are now locked in and Furyk and his vice captains – Love, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods – can begin the artful process of creating a list of possible picks based on a wide variety of criteria.


    PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


    The automatic qualifiers are Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, who held on to the final spot thanks to his tie for 19th at the PGA.

    “For some guys we’re going to look at the body of work for a year, for some players we’re going to look at a hot player right now, some guys we’re going to look at pairings and how they fit into the team we have right now,” Furyk said.

    Furyk will make three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3 following the Dell Technologies Championship and his final selection a week later after the BMW Championship.

    The short list of possible picks would include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau, Nos. 9 through 15, respectively, on the final point list.

    Schauffele and Finau had something of a playing interview at Bellerive when they were paired with Furyk for Rounds 1 and 2.

    “Tony made a pile of birdies, he’s explosive as far as firepower and how far he hits it but I was impressed with his putting, to be honest with you. I knew he could hit it far and kind of knew how he played, but he really played well,” said Furyk, who also played with Finau on Saturday at the PGA.

    Mickelson will be a particularly interesting option for Furyk. For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, which began in 1995, Lefty failed to qualify for the U.S. side and the de facto team room front man would be tough to pass over.

    “His game has been in a good position all year, he’s putted great, I think Jason Day is the only player with better putting stats this year,” said Furyk, who met with Mickelson after he missed the cut in St. Louis. “He’s working on a couple of things in his game right now that we talked about.”

    Woods also creates some interesting scenarios. His runner-up finish at the PGA vaulted him from 20th to 11th on the final point list and essentially assured what many believed to be a foregone conclusion. Woods will be among Furyk’s captain’s picks, the only real question when it comes to the 14-time major champion is whether he can play and drive a vice captain’s cart.

    “He’s on that list we’ve talked about and I think we still need to hash that out,” Furyk said. “Is it possible [to do both jobs]? Sure, we just need to decide if that’s best for the team.”

    If Woods and Mickelson have already been penciled in as picks, which many believe they have, that essentially leaves a half dozen players vying for the final two spots.

    An 11th-hour charge over the next three weeks could certainly sway Furyk, and he’s made it clear that Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches outside of Paris, favors a certain type of game, think a fairways-and-greens type like Kisner or even Brian Harman, who finished 17th on the point list.

    “I’ve taken a look at the golf course and what I think will really work,” Furyk said.

    There’s also an undercurrent of interest in Furyk going young with his picks to give a player like DeChambeau or Schauffele a chance to experience the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup “road game,” but Furyk didn’t seem as interested in developing future talent as he is in winning.

    “Our goals for long term are important and young blood is a good thing, but I would never sacrifice this team or 2018 for 2022,” he said. “The goal is still to go to Europe and try to retain the cup. That said, having a mix of veteran and young players is a good thing.”

    If Furyk sounds a little vague when it comes to his potential picks it should be no real surprise. Getting the picks right is the most demanding part of any captain’s job and he’s just getting started.

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    Lowry calls out official over drop ruling at PGA

    By Will GrayAugust 13, 2018, 6:00 pm

    Despite the fact that Shane Lowry matched his best worldwide finish of the year at the PGA Championship, the Irishman didn't mince words over a frustrating ruling that played out late in the final round.

    Lowry was 10 under and four shots behind Brooks Koepka when he stepped to the 16th tee, but he sailed his tee shot on the par-3 well right and behind a TV camera tower. What ensued was a lengthy delay as Lowry consulted with rules officials over whether he was entitled to a free drop and where he might take relief.

    According to Lowry, the two officials failed to render a final decision and left it up to the player as to how to proceed. He eventually opted to play the ball from its original position next to the tower, pitching it into some rough in front of him and eventually making bogey. He also bogeyed the 17th, turning a possible top-5 finish into a tie for 12th.

    "I think the referee didn't have the balls to make a decision there, and if he did I would have had an easier shot," Lowry told the Irish Times. "If you put (European Tour official) John Paramor or any of the good referees out there, and he would have given me full relief. But he wasn't giving me full relief, he was telling me to drop it in a tree basically."

    Lowry's discussion with officials dragged on to the point that his playing competitor, Justin Thomas, opted to play out of turn with a pitch shot of his own. He also went on to make a bogey, but after the round told reporters that he didn't blame Lowry for how the situation played out.

    "It had nothing to do with Shane. The rules officials were having a hard time coming up with a ruling," Thomas said. "They were kind of looking at each other and saying, 'Well, what do we do?' And Shane's like, 'Look, just tell me if I get a drop or not.' And I'm a quick player, and that's why I went."

    Lowry's title chances were gone long before the rules fiasco, but his poor close had other ramifications. The 31-year-old's three-year exemption on the PGA Tour for winning the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational expires after this week's Wyndham Championship, and the T-12 finish at Bellerive only moved Lowry from No. 156 to No. 139 in the season-long points race with the top 125 retaining full cards for the 2019 season.