Bunkers making players bonkers at Atlanta Athletic Club

By Doug FergusonAugust 13, 2011, 7:21 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The longest par 70 in major championship history. Water on half of the holes.

There was plenty of evidence that Atlanta Athletic Club would be a strong test for the PGA Championship, and it has proven to be just that through the opening two rounds. But perhaps the biggest challenge is something not many players considered before they arrived.

The bunkers.

Not just where they are located, but the sand that fills them.

“The sand is very heavy,” D.A. Points said. “The sand is very powdery, so your ball rolls into it; it does not sit on the top of the sand. It sits a sixth of the golf ball down. It’s almost better if you can somehow hit a shot into a place where somebody has already raked.”

Rickie Fowler was 3 under in the third round Saturday when he caught a bunker short and left of the eighth green. His next shot was a shocker, sailing some 40 yards over the green, behind a row of bushes, almost on part of the fourth tee. He wound up with triple bogey, erasing the three birdies he had made.

Tiger Woods had a soft lie and an awkward stance in the bunker on No. 11 in the second round. He blasted out, turned his head away when sand flew into his eyes, and was able to see again just in time to take in his ball racing across the green and into the water.

“Bunker play wouldn’t really be a strength at the best of times,” Graeme McDowell said after missing the cut. “But out of these traps, they are just unplayable.”

Scott Verplank managed just fine with some of the lies he had Friday, saving par all four times he was in the sand around the green. From the fairway on the 14th, however, he poked it out to the fairway some 100 yards short of the green and had to scramble for bogey.

Perhaps most telling was one of the purest shots of the tournament.

Paul Casey was in a bunker just right of the 18th fairway - the same bunker where moments earlier, Woods put a 4-iron into the water. When he saw his ball, he realized he had received a good break. Why? Because it was in a spot that had been raked.

Needing par to make the cut, he hit 4-iron to 18 feet and two-putted to make it to the weekend.

“It was a spot that had a lot of action,” Casey said. “The caddies had raked it and I had a good lie. This sand is lumpy, clumpy, whatever the word is. And it’s incredibly light. So the weight of the ball sits down. You can’t get at the back of the ball. That’s why you’re seeing either low shots or chunks. There’s no in between.”

In a way, it’s like links golf - avoid bunkers at all costs because it can be a half-shot penalty.

Casey has no problem with that. Bunkers are supposed to be hazards and players aren’t supposed to hit into them. Too many times on too many courses, players have tried to put it in the sand for an easier shot.

But on this course, there are plenty of other defenses, whether it’s water guarding the greens or the contours on fast greens, making it difficult for anyone on the wrong side of the hole.

“Bunkers are hazards, but it has to be in balance with the rest of the course,” he said. “These are making guys look silly. And it’s killing creativity and shotmaking.”

Casey could relate to Fowler’s plight in the sand Saturday. Earlier in the day, he hit into the water, then the bunker, and sailed well over the green and made an 8. Fowler at least escaped with a triple bogey.

Points was one shot out of the lead going into the weekend, which he attributed to keeping the ball in the fairway. That normally means a player is happy to avoid the rough. In this case, throw in the bunker.

“If it’s a fairway bunker shot, it’s no fun,” Points said. “And if it’s a greenside bunker shot, it’s hard to get much spin on it and the ball just comes out real heavy.

“It’s a hard sand to judge.”

There have been endless examples of how difficult the bunkers are playing. Rory McIlroy on the third hole Friday had a shot on the upslope, strange in that it wasn’t plugged. It took him two shots to get out. Woods hit a tee shot on No. 18 in the first round that buried in the slope and left him no chance but to go sideways, and he did well to get to the edge of the fairway.

For Casey, the most telling moment came Friday.

He was playing with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker. All three hit similar tee shots that landed in the same bunker.

“Jimenez had a good lie and hit it close,” Casey said. “Mine came out thin and right, hit some trees and went over by the gallery. Stricker chunked his 30 yards. So you had three tour players in the same bunker not within 100 yards of each other.”

Casey is out of the tournament. He barely made the cut, and that quadruple-bogey 8 sent him to a 78. His only concern is whether the bunkers will make a difference to someone down the stretch Sunday, with the final major of the year on the line.

“I just hope it doesn’t cost someone coming in,” he said.

A bunker getting a lot of attention on the final hole of the PGA Championship? Now that sounds familiar. Dustin Johnson was in one on the last hole at Whistling Straits last year, except he didn’t know he was in a bunker.

In Atlanta, there’s no mistaking them.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.


Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players


The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.