Woods plays 13 holes at Merion

By Doug FergusonJune 9, 2013, 11:37 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – Merion Golf Club opened the gates Sunday to fans who wanted to buy U.S. Open merchandise. Some of them got a free glimpse of Tiger Woods.

But not for long.

Woods played 13 holes under hazy sunshine, far different conditions from what he saw two weeks ago in the wind and rain that made the shortest U.S. Open course in nine years feel much longer. He was among a scattering of players who spent a lazy afternoon getting to know a golf course that last held a major championship 32 years ago.

But while no one in the field played in that 1981 U.S. Open that David Graham won with a flawless final round, Kevin Chappell is among those getting reacquainted.

Chappell played four competitive rounds in 2005 during the U.S. Amateur, the litmus test for the USGA to make sure Merion was still current with the modern game. He lost in the third round that year, and while the surroundings look different with the grandstands and hospitality areas, one thing hasn't changed.

''It's a Tour event on steroids,'' Chappell said.

Merion is 6,996 yards on the scorecard, making it the first major championship under 7,000 yards since Shinnecock Hills (also 6,996 yards) for the 2004 U.S. Open. But the yardage can be deceiving. One of the par 5s is 628 yards, and Geoff Ogilvy figured there would be dozens of players who struggle to reach the green in three shots, much less get home in two. Another par 5 has been shifted to the right, bringing out of bounds close to the edge of the fairway.

It has a par 3 of only 115 yards – the other par 3s all are over 240 yards.

And perhaps the biggest change from most recent U.S. Opens is the rough. It's long and thick.

''The rough is longer than we've seen,'' said Ogilvy, who had never seen Merion until arriving this weekend. ''You can't make grass grow in four days, but you can cut. Although I don't think they will.''

USGA executive director Mike Davis was making the rounds Sunday afternoon, checking on a course that received about 3 1/2 inches of rain Friday, so much that the creek near the par-4 11th green was starting to creep over the rock wall. It was back to normal Sunday, though the forecast is suspect for a big part of week.

Chappell played 18 holes with former Masters champion Zach Johnson and Tim Clark, and he couldn't help but notice how many of the fairways have shifted to move closer to the trouble. Then, he clarified what he meant by ''trouble.''

''Closer to the boundary stakes,'' he said.

Some of the fans leaned against the railing by the road on the left side of the 15th hole, so close to the fairway that they could have a personal conversation with Hunter Mahan, and even applaud his short iron to about 12 feet.

Merion has a lot of meat early in the round, particularly the opening six holes. What follows is a seven-hole stretch of par 3s and par 4s, the longest at 403 yards, which is short by today's standards. It's where the birdies are to be made, assuming the ball is placed in the correct part of the fairway. And then comes the strong finish.

Mahan opted for a driver off the 15th hole – it's about 290 yards to cover the bunkers dotting the right side, so he picked out a tall fir tree just left of them. It was an aggressive play, and that's what Chappell expects to see from several players. But not all of them.

''There will be a big discrepancy in play,'' Chappell said. ''You can challenge some of these holes if you want to.''

The winning score at Merion has improved each of the previous four U.S. Opens. Olin Dutra won at 293 in 1934, followed by Ben Hogan at 287 in 1950, Lee Trevino at 280 in 1971 and Graham at 273 in 1981.

Chappell can see something along the lines of 10 under par if the week gets enough rain to make the greens soft. Yes, Merion can hold its own against the best in the world.

''There's too many wedges,'' he said, referring to the middle stretch of the golf course.

Ogilvy was walking up the 12th fairway when he pointed to the thick grass framing the landing areas and said, ''There won't be any scoring records this week.''

There was rain early in the week at Olympia Fields in 2003, which softened the course. Vijay Singh shot 63 in the second round. Jim Furyk was at 10-under 200 to set the 54-hole record at the time, and despite bogeys on the last two holes, his 272 tied what was then the U.S. Open record. It was soft at Congressional in 2011 when Rory McIlroy set the new standard, finishing on 16-under 268.

''I think there will be low rounds, but I don't think the total will be low,'' Ogilvy said.

There's no telling what this week will bring at Merion, though Ogilvy figured it would start from the tee.

''It takes a lot of practice to work out some of these lines,'' he said. ''On 10 of the holes (minus the par 3s), you've got to be comfortable. There's no specific clue where to hit it. You have to know it. Off the tee, it's quite awkward. Someone who drives it the best this week will fare quite well – not the straightest, but the best.''

Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker played Merion in the 1989 U.S. Amateur. Chappell, defending U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and New Orleans winner Billy Horschel were among those at the 2005 U.S. Amateur, while Morgan Hoffmann and Rickie Fowler played Merion in the 2009 Walker Cup.

The biggest difference? Except for one qualifying round at the U.S. Amateur, that was match play. The worst anyone could do was to lose a hole. Starting Thursday, they have to count every stroke on every hole.

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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x