US Open without Rose raises questions
No one can appreciate that like Justin Rose.
He shot a bogey-free 66 in tough conditions at Muirfield Village for his first victory on American soil, beating the strongest field so far this year among regular PGA Tour events and getting endless plaudits from tournament host Jack Nicklaus. He moved up to No. 33 in the world. The next day, Rose couldn’t finish among the top 15 at a U.S. Open qualifier to lock up a tee time at Pebble Beach.
Few things about the U.S. Open are ever fair.
The humor in all this came from his wife, Kate, who couldn’t help but notice that Rose most likely will be exempt for the U.S. Open next year through either world rankings or money lists. He just can’t play in the one that starts next week.
“How screwed up is that?” said Ben Curtis after he qualified at the Columbus sectional. “How do you not get the 30th-ranked player in the world? It just blows my mind.”
But it shouldn’t.
This is not to be mistaken with the PGA Championship, which strives through unwritten rules to get as many of the top 100 players in the world. The U.S. Open is supposed to be the toughest test in golf, not have the toughest field in golf.
“I keep saying this until I’m blue in the face,” David Fay said Tuesday as he drove to the Curtis Cup. “It’s not the best field in golf. It never pretended to be. It’s the most democratic championship. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have special exemptions. But if you can keep half the field open to qualifiers … that’s why we have 9,000 entries.”
That’s what major championship golf used to be all about.
The most famous example might be Ben Hogan winning the Masters and U.S. Open in 1953, then having to qualify for the British Open in the summer before he could win the claret jug at Carnoustie. Two of the last five U.S. Open champions – Michael Campbell in 2005 and Lucas Glover last year – earned a spot through qualifying.
Still, this one doesn’t pass the smell test.
Kenny Perry won the Memorial two years ago and didn’t play the U.S. Open because he didn’t want to. Perry never liked Torrey Pines, and he sure didn’t like the idea of a 36-hole qualifier at age 48. In that case, no one felt terribly outraged.
This case has the attention of the USGA. Fay said he expects USGA officials to review its U.S. criteria after the champion is crowned at Pebble Beach, although he offered no promises what they would do, if anything.
“Anytime we don’t sit down and try to learn, then we’re nuts,” he said. “We’ll definitely be exploring that.”
But it’s not the simple. It’s not always that equitable.
The reason the USGA’s cutoff for top 50 in the world is a month before the U.S. Open is to figure out how many spots should be allocated for 13 sectional qualifying sites across the country. For the U.S. Open, college kids should have every right as a PGA Tour player.
Even so, it’s easy to make an exception for the Memorial, which typically has one of the best fields in golf on one of the top courses, is run by the greatest name in golf (Jack Nicklaus) and is played just two weeks before the U.S. Open.
The USGA can alter its criteria to find a spot for the Memorial champion without causing any problems. Remember, Bo Van Pelt and Bill Haas were among the players who could have been exempt from qualifying had they won because it would have been their second victory since the last U.S. Open.
The Masters saves room for PGA Tour winners until the very last week, although it never has a full field. It rarely has 100 players. The British Open takes the leading player not already eligible from among the top 10 at the two PGA Tour and European Tour events before the British Open.
It can be done.
Considering what Nicklaus means to the game and the prestige with which he runs the Memorial – not to mention that he is a four-time U.S. Open champion – the USGA should offer an exemption to the Memorial winner.
Either way, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for Rose, or even 21-year-old Rickie Fowler, who was runner-up at Muirfield Village and missed qualifying by six shots. They had their chances to qualify all year. The U.S. Open takes the top 30 from the PGA Tour money list, the top 15 from the European Tour money list. It takes the leading two players not already eligible from this year’s money list. It takes the top 50 in the world ranking.
Rose had ample chance to avoid going through qualifying. Maybe he can do better next year. There were 15 spots available in his sectional, and one of them went to an amateur. The other went to Hugo Leon of Chile, whose career consists of one Nationwide Tour event and one PGA Tour event, not including Q-School, where he tied for 108th.
“That’s the way it is. Everyone knows the rules,” Stuart Appleby said, referring to Rose’s failures. “But if you keep playing good golf like that, you certainly won’t be missing out on many majors.”
Just not this one.
Cops called in bizarre ending to Florida Mid-Am
In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.
Left unreported was what allegedly happened.
According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.
Both in his statement to police and in a subsequent phone interview afterward, Golden, 33, said that the alleged incident stemmed from a rules dispute on the ninth hole during the championship match. As he surveyed his putt, Golden asked Dull whether the cup was damaged or if there was loose debris around the edge.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hibbs reportedly told Golden. “If you’re going to make it, you’re going around it.”
With tensions already running high because of what he perceived as breaches of etiquette by his opponents, Golden informed the rules official in the group that he believed Hibbs’ statement constituted advice. The penalty was a loss of hole, giving Golden a 2-up lead at the turn.
At that point, Hibbs told police, he recused himself and returned to the clubhouse. Dull and Golden continued their match, heading to the 17th hole all square when they were pulled off the course because of inclement weather.
Golden told police that he headed to the parking lot at 2:45 p.m. to retrieve some dry clothes from his car when Hibbs “approached him, apologized, then punched him on the left side of the face,” causing him to fall to the ground.
“I had a moment where I was happy to see him, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to apologize,’” Golden said last week in a phone interview. “By the time he finished I was being punched.”
Asked why he believed Hibbs would strike him, Golden said: “It was from the earlier ruling, 100 percent. He had anger toward me because I called him out on a ruling.”
In a statement given to police, Hibbs, 36, said that he had “been in the clubhouse the entire time and did not batter [Golden], nor was he in the parking lot.” Hibbs, who caddies with Dull at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida, did not return a message seeking comment.
Police wrote in the report that there were no witnesses to the alleged attack, nor was there any surveillance video from the parking lot. While observing Golden the officer noted “no swelling or abrasions to the face,” but there was “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip.” Hibbs’ hands and knuckles showed “no scrapes or abrasions.”
Golden, however, said that there were three bloodstains on his shirt and punctures inside his mouth that proved he’d been struck. He also described himself afterward as “dizzy” and seeing “weird shades of colors,” and that the area between his wrist and thumb was “very sensitive” from catching his fall. Still feeling woozy, he met with his doctor the day after the alleged incident and also underwent a CT scan on Friday.
“I was extremely shaken up,” he said. “I had concussion symptoms.”
Golden declined to press charges – he said later that he wasn’t given the option, because of a lack of physical evidence – and refused medical attention.
Reached by phone last week, Dull said that he had no knowledge of the alleged attack and was only made aware once the police arrived. He said he had waited out the delay in a storm shelter.
“It was shocking,” he said. “[Hibbs] said to me, ‘I didn’t touch the guy.’”
Once the police left, it was up to the FSGA to determine how to proceed.
With the course now playable after a two-hour delay, under the Rules of Golf, the players were expected back on the 17th hole.
Golden asked Dull whether he would concede the match.
“I said that I wasn’t going to concede,” Dull said. “Why would I concede the match when I was sitting in the shelter, and when I come back someone is accused of being hit?”
So Golden then decided to concede, handing the Mid-Am title to Dull, the reigning FSGA Amateur Player of the Year.
“I just wanted to get home,” Golden explained later.
Asked last week for more details about the final result, Jeff Magaditsch, the organization’s director of tournament operations, said in an email that Golden “expressed concern about a wrist issue” and that “not much additional information is available.”
A day later, once the details of the police report became available, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that Golden “didn’t want to play anymore.”
“Regrettably, the golf course was very playable and Jeff understood that he needed to resume the match,” he said. “I think he was just ready to go.”
When asked to comment on the alleged attack, Demick said that the police “found absolutely no evidence of an assault.”
Last week Golden, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and is now a tennis pro at Palencia in St. Augustine, appealed the FSGA’s decision, writing in a letter that tournament officials shouldn’t have accepted his concession.
Dull said that he was “annoyed by the whole incident.”
“I think it taints the entire championship,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. No golf tournament should end that way.”
Delayed start for Nelson might mean Monday finish
DALLAS – Inclement weather pushed back final-round tee times at the AT&T Byron Nelson by more than four hours, increasing the likelihood of a Monday finish in the tournament’s debut at Trinity Forest Golf Club.
With the field already scheduled to play in threesomes off split tees, the opening tee times for the day got pushed back from 9:23 a.m. CT to 1:23 p.m. because of steady rain in the area. The delay means that the final group won’t start their round until 3:35 p.m. local time.
With sunset in the Dallas area scheduled for 8:23 p.m., the leaders will likely have just under five hours to complete their rounds or face returning to the course Monday morning. Threesomes have been used for each of the first three days, and in part because of the intricacies of the new layout rounds have routinely approached 5 hours and 30 minutes in duration.
Should play spill over into Monday, those playing next week’s event will face one of the Tour’s shortest commutes, with Fort Worth Invitational host Colonial Country Club less than an hour away.
Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise share the 54-hole lead at 17 under, four shots clear of the field. They’ll be joined in the final trio by Australia’s Matt Jones, who is tied for third with Kevin Na.
Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest
Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.
During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.
Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.
Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson
DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.
With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.
But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.
That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.
Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.
There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.
If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.
“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”
While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).
While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.
“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”
But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.
While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”
Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.
But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.
Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.
“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”
An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.
For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.
“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”