Players Fans Brave Elements

By Associated PressAugust 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- Smack in the middle of red barn and silo country, bordered by farmland as flat as a painter's canvas, Pete Dye bulldozed a former army base and toxic waste dump into the closest thing to the Auld Sod that the New World has to offer.
With rolling hills and long fescue and pot bunkers more typical of the British Isles, Dye created Whistling Straits in 1998 and made it a course deserving of a major championship. But what really brought links-style golf to Wisconsin this week was something Dye couldn't truck in: winds whipping off the water, a light rain that makes the grasses slick, air just cold enough to create doubt in their golfers' grips.
'We keep looking to see if we can see Ireland across the water,' Davis Love III said Wednesday, a day before the start of the PGA Championship. 'You just feel like you're playing in Scotland.'
Not quite.
Signposts like the one that says 'Turnberry, 3653 miles' remind visitors that they are farther from Cruden Bay (3,711 miles) than Green Bay (59). The waters on Lake Michigan are calm, and are protected by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter stationed about a mile offshore.
Turn from the water and there is America's Dairyland in all its splendor: Cue the cows and tractors. But look at the 17th hole, a 223-yard par 3 running cliffside along the lake, and it is enough to make Darren Clarke homesick for Northern Ireland.
'If you try and remember all of the most difficult holes of all of the courses at home, put them all together,' he said, 'I think you'll have this one here.'
Even on the loveliest of summer days, when a gentle lake breeze blows and the sun keeps the grass dry, Whistling Straits is a difficult course - perhaps the toughest and definitely the longest ever to host a major on U.S. soil. But temperatures in the low 50s and the potential for crosswinds on a linear layout promise to make this week difficult for golfers and fans alike.
'It's all weather,' said Jerry Kelly, a Madison native who is one of the few pros to have played Whistling Straits before this week's tournament. 'This place, if it's calm, I think 15 under could win. If it blows, I think even par could do pretty darned well.'
It's not just the competitors who have to worry about the hilly, 7,514-yard track. Although fans attending the tournament will have plenty of room to roam and scenic vantage points to watch the competition, they will do so with effort.
A pebbly path strewn with hay weaves through the course, but to get closer to the golfers - and appreciate the misery they will face - fans can trudge up and down the hills, through the long wet grass and an occasional bunker that straddles the ropes, amoeba-like.
To walk around the course on Wednesday was to witness several slips and one man, half-intentionally, dropping to his bottom to slide down a hill for a better view of the 18th fairway.
'You've got to be careful,' said Jill Stimach, who came up for the day from Waukesha with her husband only to have her umbrella upended by winds of 10 to 20 mph. 'It's not for everybody, that's for sure.'
How about playing it?
'It would be a little tough for me,' she said.
'I think it's going to be a little tough for them, too,' her husband, Dale, said with a nod toward the golfers.
Stands selling ice cream and frozen lemonade on Wednesday were doing little business. 'Evacuation vehicles' stood by in case of lightning; with the four-mile layout, it's even more important at Whistling Straits to get the players from the farthest reaches of the course quickly.
'We picked the worst weather day,' Jill Stimach said.
'You don't know what it's going to be like tomorrow,' Dale said.
Compared to tailgating at a Green Bay Packers game in December, though, this day near the beach was a day at the beach.
'We're pretty hearty in Wisconsin,' Jill said. 'We can handle it.'
Dye built Whistling Straits on an assignment from bathroom fixture magnate Herb Kohler with the goal of making it challenging for the pros but still playable for the weekend duffer. The course's success, he said, convinced him that a little piece of Ireland wasn't out of place here at all.
'You don't have to worry about the golfers of Wisconsin,' he said. 'They have been climbing these hills for five years and they are going to climb all over the place.
'They don't know if it's raining or snowing. They play out here and they keep coming back.'
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
  • Getty Images

    Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

    Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

    Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

    “It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

    No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

    Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

    On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

    “Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

    “Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

    A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

    “But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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    Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

    It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Purse: $6 million

    Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

    Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

    Notables in the field

    Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Henrik Stenson

    • Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

    • Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

    Sergio Garcia

    • Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

    • Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

    Webb Simpson

    • Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

    • 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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    Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

    Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

    Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

    Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    "I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

    But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

    After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

    "What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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    McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

    For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

    The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

    McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    "I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

    By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

    But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

    Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.