Notes Furrowed Bunkers Annika Update
The latest discussion centers on the consistency and the raking of the bunkers. Jack Nicklaus, in the June issue of Golf Digest, says the USGA is missing an opportunity at Oakmont by not furrowing the sand there to increase the difficulty of an already ferocious test.
Nicklaus ordered up gap-toothed bunker rakes for his Memorial Tournament last year, and the move was met with a collective howl from the players (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
Nicklaus also told Golf Digest that he will furrow the bunkers again at this years Memorial, which begins May 31. But, he said, the rakes will produce furrows that are less severe.
Meanwhile, USGA course set-up guy Mike Davis told me the USGA considered furrowing the bunkers at Oakmont where there is a history of that kind of conditioning.
Instead, the USGA came down on the side of a softer sand that causes player headaches of a different kind. Its harder to nip the ball (out of soft sand), Davis said. Were not afraid of the player getting an occasional fried egg.
And he wasnt talking about the concession stands.
Still no official word yet on whether Annika Sorenstam or Michelle Wie will be playing in the Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika that begins in South Carolina at the end of the month. But the news, at least from the Sorenstam camp, is encouraging. Both Wie (hand) and Sorenstam (neck and back) have been sidelined by injuries for much of the year.
Sorenstam spokesman Mike McGee reports that Annika has been off painkillers since last week and the discomfort hasnt returned. Which we think is great, McGee said.
Among Sorenstams daily therapy exercises is one where she utilizes a device that stretches her neck while she lies on her back. The object is to take stress on her vertebrae.
Sorenstam has been chipping and putting every day and, most recently, began hitting 25-50 100-yard shots off a tee. This, too, is without pain; although, McGee says, shes still hesitant to go down and dig the ball out of the dirt.
Shes hoping to play the Ginn Tribute, McGee says, but we still have no idea or true time frame.
Sorenstam is still experiencing tingling in here right thumb and soreness in her rotator cuff and arm area.
Wie has committed to play in Sorenstams event but is still waiting for the green light from her hand specialist to play in the Ginn Tribute.
Both players are acutely aware that the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola and the U.S. Womens Open fill two of the next three slots on the LPGA schedule in the weeks after the Ginn Tribute.
GRASS IS GREENER:
The success of the playing surface of the greens at THE PLAYERS last week did not go unnoticed by golf officials elsewhere.
Ken Mangum, the Director of Golf Courses and Grounds at the Atlanta Athletic Club, reports that he is considering changing grasses for his greens between now and the 2011 PGA Championship.
So we can have some firmness that makes the course play different than the soft August bentgrass, Mangum informed me.
Mangum also said a decision has been made to upgrade the grave site Friday of golf great Bobby Jones. It needed some work, Mangum said, and we are going to install new sod and a flag with the four Grand Slam trophies on it.
Jones is buried in Atlantas historic Oakland Cemetery, which also contains the tomb of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind.
SEVE AT 50:
Hard to believe Seve Ballesteros is 50. The golf images from his youth are so indelibly etched.
Life is like a dream, Ballesteros said earlier this week in Alabama where he will make his Champions Tour debut. You go to bed and you wake up with age. I dont know if thats a good translation, but we say that in Spain.
In one way it looks like its been many, many years. And on the other hand it looks like it was just yesterday when I joined the TOUR, you know? Time goes by very quickly for everybody. For everybody.
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Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.
His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.
“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.
“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”
Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.
It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.
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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.
Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.
But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.
“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”
Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”
After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.
In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.
No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.
Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.
“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”
And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.
Let it go.
Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.
“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”
It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.
During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.
Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.
“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.
McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.
It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.
“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”
The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.
Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.
The only thing left to do?
Let it go.