Standing water in bunkers problem for players

By Doug FergusonJuly 20, 2012, 11:03 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Keegan Bradley thought the closest water hazard at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was the Irish Sea about a mile away.

He found one Friday on the 15th hole.

Any other day, this would be called a pot bunker. But after a summer of endless rain in England that pushed the water table to its limit, it only took about a half-inch of rain overnight to fill the bottom of bunkers and turn dozens of them into small ponds at the British Open.

''I had no choice but to play it,'' Bradley said.

He wasn't alone.

Phil Mickelson had to take relief from a bunker just short of the first green. Rory McIlroy's ball was submerged.

''I guess you just have to treat them as if they've got stakes around them,'' said Geoff Ogilvy, who hit into a few pot bunkers in the fairway that were relatively dry. ''You probably should treat them like that, anyway, because they're pretty much a one-shot penalty, anyway.''

Bunkers are considered hazards, so Bradley's only other options were to take a drop from casual water no closer to the hole – this would have taken him to the back edge of the sand and hit a shot with his feet outside the bunker – or take full relief on the grass short of the bunker with a one-shot penalty.

He felt as though his best chance was to blast away at half-submerged ball. It was reminiscent of Bill Haas last year at the Tour Championship, when he hit a shot out of the water on the second playoff hole at East Lake to 3 feet for an unlikely par and went on to win the $10 million FedEx Cup. That moment was not lost on Bradley's caddie, Steve Hale, who handed him a sand wedge and said, ''Just do what Bill Haas did.''

Bradley didn't hit it that close, though it was a far tougher shot and he did well to splash it out to about 20 feet to escape with a bogey.

Two holes later, it was McIlroy's turn. His ball was under water, but instead of taking a penalty stroke and dropping it in the fairway short of the bunker, he went to the back of the trap. Trouble is, when he made the shoulder-high drop, it plugged slightly on the down slope.

''I was hoping it wouldn't plug and maybe have a chance to get it on the green,'' McIlroy said. ''But when it dropped, it plugged, and I just had to play it out sideways.''

McIlroy's undoing came from another bunker short of the par-3 ninth green, when he took two to get out and made double bogey. He wound up with a 75, likely ending his hopes of winning the claret jug.

Ogilvy said the worst of the bunkers was along the closing stretch, which is the closest to sea levels. Tom Watson, playing in his 35th British Open, knows these links courses better than anyone else in the field. Lytham always has been a little different.

''I don't see this piece of property being 40 feet of sand, like some of the other links courses and links land that we play on,'' Watson said. ''You see a lot of mud out in the compounds over there. So it's not as sandy as other courses, therefore it doesn't drain very well in certain places. It doesn't surprise me. Some bunkers are fine. They drained some of the bunkers, and some of the bunkers they didn't.''

Lytham is renowned for its bunkers – all 206 of them. It also has a history of weather. Remember, Seve Ballesteros won the British Open here in 1988 on a Monday because rain left so much water on the course that the final round was postponed.

Crews were using squeegees Friday morning just to allow spectators to walk, instead of swim, onto the grounds. Players still had to tiptoe around puddles in the fairways. Otherwise, the course was in reasonable condition, courtesy of the links soil that drains well.

Lytham, like the rest of England, has had its fill of rain, however. And there was nothing that could be done with the bunkers. Bradley estimates 90 percent of the traps had water in them, most of them around the greens.

''I hit it in a lot of bunkers today, and I only saw water once – on the first hole,'' Mickelson said. ''And I tried to look at every bunker and see what they looked like.''

The Open is not the only major with bunkers as water hazards, though it's rare. Golf course workers often can siphon out the water and rake up the sand to make it playable. But these aren't ordinary bunkers. They're deep with steep walls, much like a miniature swimming pool.

''A few of those bunkers there are kind of a little bit of a question mark,'' Graeme McDowell said. ''But we're lucky that we're playing. The golf course is on the edge of unplayable.''

He felt some of the bunkers should have been declared as ''ground under repair,'' which would have allowed for free relief.

''I saw one in particular left of the 16th green,'' he said. ''If you hit it in there, there's nowhere to drop and there's a foot of water. That's not golf. It's not fair.''

In the U.S. Women's Open at Newport Country Club in 2006, one of the bunkers filled with water was declared out of play. That wasn't the case at Royal Lytham. Then again, the bunkers are supposed to be hazards.

These certainly were.

''A lot of bunkers out there are pretty much out of play,'' Branden Grace of South Africa said. ''That was the main goal for myself today, to stay out of them.''

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

Hailed as a hero to some and as golf royalty to others, Peter Thomson, a five-time winner of The Open and the only player in the 20th century to win the championship for three straight years, died Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members, Golf Australia said.

The first Australian to win The Open, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by American Tom Watson.

The Australian's wins came in 1954, '55, '56, again in 1958 and lastly in 1965 against a field that included Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Only Harry Vardon, with six titles between 1896 and 1914, won more.

Thomson also tied for fourth at the 1956 U.S. Open and placed fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played the PGA Championship.

In 1998, he captained the International side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Asked by The Associated Press in 2011 how he'd like to be remembered, Thomson replied: ''A guy who always said what he thought.''

Veteran Australian golfer Karrie Webb was among the first to tweet her condolences, saying she was ''saddened to hear of the passing of our Aussie legend and true gentleman of the game .... so honored to have been able to call Peter my friend. RIP Peter.''

Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Thomson was ''a champion in every sense of the word, both on the course and in life.''

''Many know him as a five-time champion golfer of the year or as a three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International team.'' Finchem added. ''But he was also a great friend, father, grandfather and husband. He was golfing royalty, and our sport is a better one because of his presence.''



Former golfer and now broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, called Thomson his ''hero'' - ''Peter - my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence and valuable guidance over the years.''

From Britain, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers praised Thomson's plans for the game's future.

''Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going, which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf,'' Slumbers said. ''He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of The Open.''

Born in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Brunswick on Aug. 23, 1929, Thomson was a promising cricketer. He scored an unbeaten 150 runs for the Carlton club against a men's side as a 15-year-old.

But golf became his passion, and he turned professional in 1947.

He won the national championships of 10 countries, including the New Zealand Open nine times and Australian Open three times. He first played on the PGA Tour in the U.S. in 1953 and 1954, finishing 44th and 25th on the money list, respectively. He won the Texas International in 1956.

Thomson won nine times on the Senior PGA tour in the U.S. in 1985, topping the money list. His last tournament victory came at the 1988 British PGA Seniors Championship, the same year he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Overall, he won 26 European Tour events, 34 times on the Australasian PGA tour and 11 on the seniors tour in the U.S, as well as once in Japan.

In later years, Thomson wrote articles for many publications and daily newspapers, was club professional at Royal Melbourne and designed more than 100 golf courses. In the 2011 Presidents Cup program, Thomson provided an insightful hole-by-hole analysis of the composite course at Royal Melbourne.

Thomson was always reluctant to compare his wins with anyone else's.

''All records are qualified in that they were made at a certain time in history,'' Thomson told golf historian and author Brendan Moloney for a story on his 80th birthday.

''The circumstances change so much, and so do the players' attitudes. In golf, only in the last 30 years or so has there been a professional attitude to playing for money. The professionals in the USA and Britain and anywhere else all had club jobs as a backstop to their income.

''When they did play and make records, you have to understand that they were taking time off from the pro shop,'' he said. ''So the records that were set were pretty remarkable.''

Thomson always had stories to tell, and told them well. With a full head of hair and a lineless face that belied his age, the Australian wasn't afraid to let everyone know his feelings on any subject.

That was true as far back as 1966. As president of the Australian PGA, Thomson was indignant that Arnold Palmer's prize for winning the Australian Open was only $1,600, out of a total purse of $6,000, one of the smallest in golf.

''Golf Stars Play for Peanuts,'' blared the headline of a story he wrote. ''Never before has such a field of top golfers played for what $6,000 is worth today. Canada offers 19 times that. I know 19 other countries who give more.''

But he was always happy on the golf course.

''I've had a very joyful life, playing a game that I loved to play for the sheer pleasure of it,'' Thomson said. ''I don't think I did a real day's work in the whole of my life.''

Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years and worked behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf, and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.