Winds Whipping Early at Whistling Straits

By Associated PressJuly 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
U.S. Senior OpenKOHLER, Wis. -- If Monday's practice rounds are any indication of things to come, Whistling Straits will live up to its name this week.
 
Players took on stiff winds as they prepared for the 2007 U.S. Senior Open, which opens on Thursday on the shores of Lake Michigan about an hour north of Milwaukee.
 
And if that lake breeze stays in place for the weekend, those lower-than-expected scores from the first few rounds of the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits could be gone with the wind.
 
'Without question,' said Loren Roberts, who finished five shots off the lead in the PGA at Whistling Straits three years ago. 'There is some room to hit it here, but when you get wind blowing today -- I'm guessing it's probably 15 (mph) today -- in off the lake, it makes the golf course really hard.'
 
The Pete Dye-designed course, built on land that was once an Army base, features a layout reminiscent of golf's Scottish roots. The rough is gnarly, the bunkers are deep and there's even a flock of Scottish Blackface sheep roaming the grounds. Some fans struggled with the course's lumpy terrain three years ago, tripping on the steep berms that line the fairways.
 
Perhaps most important, there aren't many trees to block the breeze and the course is perched on the often-windy bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan -- giving Whistling Straits its signature 'whistle.'
 
'This is such a unique setting,' Roberts said. 'We don't have anything like it anywhere else in the United States, at least (not that) we play on the Senior Tour.'
 
Wind was a major topic of discussion going into the PGA Championship three years ago, the first major tournament held at the course. The breezes blew as advertised in practice rounds but mellowed once the tournament started, leading to unexpectedly easy playing conditions.
 
But that was in August, and the Whistling Straits winds generally blow harder in July.
 
'You're going to have to strike the ball solidly,' Roberts said. 'Obviously, a little different time of year versus August, so I think we may have a little bit more wind out here. And the wind is what makes this golf course just really hard.'
 
Roberts said players have to be ready for anything.
 
'You don't know what you're going to get every day,' Roberts said. 'I'm just going to go out and try to hit a bunch of solid shots. And what happens today might not happen on Thursday.'
 
Jeff Coston, a teaching pro from Blaine, Wash., who made the cut at the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits, remembers having a tough time getting to the green on the 454-yard, par-4 eighth hole three years ago.
 
'I hit a driver and a 3-wood as good as I could and I couldn't get home because the wind was blowing so hard,' Coston said. 'So it's a serious course, and there's no let up with things like that.'
 
In addition to holding up or redirecting shots, Coston said high winds can dry out the course and make putting more difficult.
 
'Usually the wind narrows up the fairways, dries out the greens -- and puts hair on your chest,' Coston said.
 
Divots: Scott Hoch withdrew from the U.S. Senior Open on Monday because of a hand injury, adding his name to a growing list of recognizable faces who won't be at Whistling Straits this week. Earlier, two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Gary Player withdrew from the tournament because of back and hamstring injuries, along with 2002 Senior Open champion Don Pooley (unspecified injury), Raymond Floyd (back), Dana Quigley (unspecified) and Jim Colbert (knee). Their spots will be filled by alternates -- including former Major League Baseball pitcher Rick Rhoden, who will play in his third Senior Open.
 
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    Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 7:20 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.

    TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.

    He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.

    “Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”


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    Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.

    The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.

    “Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”

    Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.

    “Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”

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    Only putting is holding McIlroy back

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:48 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.

    McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.

    McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.


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    “I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”

    McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.

    “I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Toski lively, singing and ready to go home

    By Tim RosaforteJune 22, 2018, 6:41 pm

    Bob Toski sounded pretty good for a man near death last week. When we spoke on Friday, the 91-year-old teaching legend and former PGA Tour leading money winner was alive and feeling well. Especially when he was talking about giving lessons, swinging a golf club again, and going down to the piano bar at Arturo’s near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., to sing his favorite song, “Sentimental Journey."

    “It’s been quite a journey,” Toski said in total bliss. “But I’m going home tomorrow.”

    Going back 10 days, to June 12, Toski suffered a severe heart attack that had him on life support, in critical condition, at a hospital not far from the South Florida golf community where he’s pro emeritus at St. Andrews.

    He opened 15 minutes on the phone on Friday by asking how much he owed me for the publicity he got during the U.S. Open. Typical Toski. His heart may have skipped a beat, but he hadn’t.

    At no more than 120 pounds, still larger than life.


    Bob Toski from his hospital bed in South Florida


    “This is the mouse,” he said when asked to confirm it really was him on the phone. “The Mighty Mouse.”

    We were laughing now, but there was a moment one night during “Live From the U.S. Open” when I got a message from the Boca hospital which sounded grim (hospital staff used a defibrillator on him six times during his stay). That’s when one of the friends by his side texted me and said it would be just like “Tosk” to sit up straight and ask everybody what was going on.

    Essentially, that’s what happened. And now here he was on the phone, cracking off one-liners, talking about Brooks Koepka’s win at Shinnecock, giving his take on the USGA and course setup, asking how much I’d been playing, and giving his love to everybody at “The Channel.”

    He invited me down for a lesson at St. Andrews and dinner at Arturos. “In a month’s time,” he said, “I’ll be ready to go.”

    He sounded ready right now, singing a line from his favorite song, from his hospital bed in the happiest of voices, “Gotta set my heart at ease.”

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    Spieth fades with 3-over 73: 'It's just golf'

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:10 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – After finding nothing but positives for his first five trips around the course, Jordan Spieth finally suffered a setback at TPC River Highlands.

    Spieth won the Travelers Championship last year in his tournament debut, and he quickly bounced back from a missed cut at Shinnecock Hills by firing a 7-under 63 in the opening round this week to take a share of the lead. Out early during the second round with a chance to move even further into red figures amid calm conditions, he instead went the other way.

    Undone by a triple bogey on the par-5 13th hole, Spieth was 5 over for his first 14 holes and needed an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole for the second straight day simply to salvage a 3-over 73. The score knocked him back to 4 under for the week and six shots behind Brian Harman.

    Despite finding three fewer fairways, three fewer greens in regulation and taking five more putts than he did in the opening round, Spieth still put a positive spin on a lackluster result.


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    “I actually felt like I had better control of my golf swing than I did yesterday. I really struggled with my swing yesterday and I kind of got some good breaks,” Spieth said. “It’s just golf. It’s kind of like yesterday I got three or four shots extra out of the round, and today I lost three or four based on how I felt.”

    Spieth was happy with his opening-round effort, but even after finishing late in the day he still went straight to the driving range that lines the ninth fairway at TPC River Highlands – not exactly standard behavior after grabbing a share of the lead.

    “So it’s not like things are on,” he said. “Sometimes it can get disguised by rounds, but it’s not far off. It really is close.”

    Spieth has lamented a lack of quality chances to win this year, which he has previously described as being within six shots of the lead heading into the final round. He’ll have some work to do to meet that mark this weekend in defense of his title, as his round hit a snag on No. 13, his fourth hole of the morning, when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds and then hit his subsequent approach into the water.

    “For whatever reason, it’s a large fairway but it’s always just killed me,” Spieth said. “I don’t know what it is about the hole, but that hole I get on the tee and for whatever reason I struggle. … I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time there.”