New grooves making a differnce on PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonJanuary 18, 2010, 9:52 pm

2007 Sony Open

HONOLULU – The small crowd far down the eighth fairway could see John Daly, just not where his golf ball was headed.

Daly is hard to miss these days, even from more than 300 yards away – not because he has lost 100 pounds, rather the colorful prints he wears, some that look like a gum ball machine.

On this day at the Sony Open, the gallery was curious to see whether players would go at the green more than 450 yards away with a stiff wind at their backs. Daly’s tee shot sailed over the trees and just through the fairway. Next was Bubba Watson, even longer off the tee, and his drive stopped in the short grass about 70 yards short of the green.

So much for that notion of playing it safe this year.

While one hole – especially those two players – is not the best sampling of strategy on the PGA Tour, two weeks into the new year did little to support the theory that players will give up distance for accuracy because of V-shaped grooves now required in irons.

What followed was worth noting.

Daly is using 20-year-old Ping wedges that still have square grooves (legal through a loophole), and he couldn’t figure out how to play toward the pin. He chose a low trajectory and wound up 40 feet short. Watson played a higher trajectory and still came up 25 feet short.

Clearly, there will be some adjustments to make this year.

In an effort to put a greater premium on accuracy, golf’s governing bodies served up the most significant rollback in technology by banning box-shaped grooves that generate greater spin.

Will that make golf harder?

Not necessarily.

Geoff Ogilvy defended his title at Kapalua with a 22-under 280, two strokes higher than last year, and that can be attributed to the strong Kona wind that makes the course slightly tougher.

Ryan Palmer won the Sony Open on Sunday at 15-under 265, the same winning score Zach Johnson had last year.

Whether scores will suffer will not be noticeable until more tournaments are played on different grasses in a variety of conditions. The new grooves at least appear to make the game different.

The best example came at the decisive par-5 18th hole in the final round at Waialae, when Palmer and Robert Allenby were tied for the lead, both in the rough right of the fairway.

Palmer had 226 yards to the hole for his second shot, thought about a 6-iron, then changed to a 5 because the ball was sitting up in the grass and he didn’t think it would jump off the club. He guessed wrong, and the ball came up 50 feet short.

“It obviously didn’t jump out like I thought it would,” Palmer said. “It caught a little bit high on the club face.”

Next up was Allenby, who was in about the same spot the day before when he hit a 4-iron. This time, he opted for a 5 from 218 yards and it came out hot, running through the back of the green and against a TV tower. With a nasty lie, he opted to pop up a wedge and did well to leave himself a 10-foot putt up the hill, which he missed and lost by one shot.

“I had the same yardage as yesterday, and I hit one club less and it went further,” Allenby said. “And that’s the beauty of the grooves today. It has changed the game of golf, which I think is for the better. I think it’s great, because now we have to all of a sudden manufacture our way around the golf course.

“Before, it would have come out soft, and we know that,” he said. “Today, you don’t know where it’s going to go.”

It has hurt some players.

Pat Perez was amazed at some of the fliers he got out of the rough, hitting one 7-iron from 210 yards that was “all grooves.” He prepared for those shots. What stumped him was chipping around the green with new grooves in his wedges.

“I can’t chip,” he said, which was evident on the 13th hole Saturday when he came up 6 feet short on a standard chip and took bogey. “I’ve tried them all – a bump, a flop. I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Steve Stricker believes it already has cost him a few shots, including one at Kapalua on the ninth hole when he was expecting the ball to check up after one bounce, and instead it released.

On the 10th hole Thursday at Waialae, what was supposed to be a low trajectory with a sand wedge climbed into the blue sky.

“It climbed right up the face, went up and went down,” said Stricker, who still managed to make birdie because he can still putt. “I’ve tried different techniques. It’s not the normal trajectory I’m used to seeing. I look down on the club face and I’ve got a grass stain in the middle. It really is a guessing game now.”

New grooves aren’t necessarily bad.

Vijay Singh had a shot from the left rough on the 16th hole in which he ordinarily might have been blocked by a tree. With more shallow grooves, he was able to get the ball higher and over the tree with a wedge.

That’s the kind of situation to which Ogilvy was referring at Kapalua when he said, “We lost a bit, but we gained somewhere else.”

The next lab test comes this week at the Bob Hope Classic, which typically doesn’t feature much rough. Then it’s onto Torrey Pines, Riviera and Pebble Beach, with grass that is longer, thinner and typically more damp.

More learning awaits.

“The skill is to try to land it where you need to,” Allenby said. “But there is a lot more luck involved now.”

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”