Notes: East Lake's last produces few gasps

By Doug FergusonSeptember 21, 2011, 10:02 pm

ATLANTA — The first year of The Tour Championship at East Lake offered great promise for dramatic theater on the par-3 18th. Hal Sutton saved par from a deep bunker to get into a playoff, then hit a 4-wood to 6 feet for a birdie to beat Vijay Singh.

That was in 1998.

And that was the last time a player won with a birdie on the closing hole at East Lake.

That's no surprise. The par 3 is 235 yards and plays slightly uphill, guarded by deep bunkers to the right. The green has a false front. Most players would be happy with par. Jim Furyk last year had a one-shot lead, found the right bunker and got up-and-down to capture the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

But it's not conducive to excitement.

In fact, most players would say it's harder to make a birdie 2 than a double-bogey 5.

'I've had some putts at 2,' Geoff Ogilvy said. 'But it's mostly 3s and 4s.'

Matt Kuchar, who played East Lake when he was at Georgia Tech, called it an 'interesting' hole, but maybe not a hole where anything can happen, such as the closing holes at the previous three playoff venues — a reachable par 4 at Plainfield, a par 5 at TPC Boston where Chris Stroud made eagle to advance, and even the long par 4 at Cog Hill with water hugging the left side of the green and bunkers right.

'It's fun when you have a finishing hole and you can make a birdie, make a bogey, where stuff can happen,' Kuchar said. 'It seems like you pretty much see pars and bogeys on the last hole. You don't see many 2s. And you see even less 5s.'

Dustin Johnson, who has to hit a 4-iron from the back of the 18th tee, was playing a practice round Tuesday when he wondered how the end of the Tour Championship might be different if officials switched the nine holes. The ninth at East Lake is a par 5 that can be reached in two with a big, and straight, tee shot.

'You've got guys who can reach the green, making eagles, or to come from one or two back to tie or win,' Johnson said. 'I think that definitely makes for a little more excitement.'

East Lake is among the few courses that finish with a par 3. Another one is at The Greenbrier, which was a wedge or a 9-iron. Scott Stallings made a birdie in regulation and in a playoff to win. It was exciting.

Then again, most people are used to the par-3 finish at East Lake.

'It's kind of become a signature hole, and I guess a birdie there would certainly look pretty cool,' Kuchar said. 'To finish with a 2 there is kind of a heroic effort.'

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: For the first time in three years, no one from outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup at the start of the playoffs reached the Tour Championship.

Kevin Streelman made it to East Lake last year after starting at No. 102. The year before, Heath Slocum was at No. 124 when he won the opening playoff event at The Barclays and assured himself a spot in the Tour Championship.

The highest seed at East Lake this year is Geoff Ogilvy, who started at No. 79.

Only seven players who started in the top 30 got bumped after three playoff events, the highest being Martin Laird at No. 17. He tied for 58th at The Barclays, tied for 74th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for 12th at the BMW Championship. He fell to No. 31.

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel skipped the opening event, and it cost him. He wound up at No. 32. He hoped to follow Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, who won the FedEx Cup after not playing the first event. But they started much higher — Woods was No. 1 in 2007, while Furyk was No. 3 last year.

The others who fell out of the top 30 this year were Rory Sabbatini, D.A. Points, Rickie Fowler, Spencer Levin and Tommy Gainey. For Fowler, it was the second straight year he started the playoffs inside the top 30 and failed to get to the Tour Championship.

THE PARTY'S OVER: Matt Kuchar was the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup last year and never had a chance. He attributes that to missing too many fairways, although his wife came up with another plan for this year.

They won't be doing as much entertaining.

Kuchar used to live in Atlanta, had just sold his house and stayed with friends as he prepared to move to Sea Island. The trouble was having so many friends in town who wanted to catch up over dinner.

This year, don't bother calling.

'My wife has made me limit the off-course activities — getting together with friends, dinners, those sort of things, which has been tough to say 'no' to friends,' Kuchar said. 'This year, we're going to try to stay a lot more quiet. I love Atlanta, and I love being here. I've got so many great friends. But my wife said, 'You really owe it to yourself to make this as much of a regular tournament as you can, and to not just feel like you're entertaining all week.''

He was to attend a dinner hosted by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem on Wednesday night, 'and then I'm going to stay pretty quiet for the rest of the week.'

CHUBBY'S STABLE: Chubby Chandler's magnificent stable of golfers has one less star.

At the end of a weekly blog on his website, Ernie Els said he is leaving International Sports Management because he is living in South Florida and wants to consolidate his management to a new office.

Chandler's clients include major champions Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel, along with Lee Westwood, who was No. 1 in the world this year. Els joined him at London-based ISM in 2004.

'I feel like it's the right time to make this move,' Els said. 'After so many years based in the U.K. and traveling the world golf circuit since turning pro, it is nice to consolidate our activities in one place.'

Els thanked Chandler and the ISM team for their seven years together and said he was proud to be associated with 'one of the most talented stables in world golf.'

He did not say who would handle his management.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.