USGA skimping on intermediate rough at Merion

By Rex HoggardFebruary 14, 2013, 6:29 pm

Although it was largely overlooked, Tiger Woods alluded to an interesting change of direction by the U.S. Golf Association at his season-opening news conference last month in Abu Dhabi.

“I have never been to Merion,” Woods said of this year’s U.S. Open venue. “From what I hear, I don't think they are going to have the intermediate cut. I think they are just going to have rough and fairway, that's it.”

The intermediate cut, or graduated rough, has been a hallmark of USGA executive director Mike Davis since he began setting up courses for the national championship in 2006 at Winged Foot and the philosophy has been almost universally applauded by players and pundits.

So why change for Merion?

“Merion is not a golf course that jumps out for the graduated rough like others because of the premium of short holes,” USGA Championship Committee chair Tom O’Toole told “With short holes you have to play from the fairway and if you are not, there has to be a punishment. You’re not going to see the graduated rough on the short holes.”

Merion last hosted the U.S. Open in 1981 and played to 6,544 yards and a par of (36-34) 70. In 2009, the venerable East Course hosted the Walker Cup and had been “stretched” to 6,846 yards. O’Toole said for this year’s Open, the fifth played at the club, he expects the course “to play just under 7,000 yards.”

As a result O’Toole said he and Davis will likely have graduated rough at Nos. 5, 14 and 15, while shorter holes like the eighth, 10th and 11th will feature no transition from fairway to primary rough.

“We still think it can test these players,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole also addressed the dramatic makeover of Pinehurst No. 2 in the run up to next year’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played on the Donald Ross-designed gem in consecutive weeks.

For example, No. 2’s fourth and fifth holes played as a par 5 and par 4, respectively, at Pinehurst’s last U.S. Open in 2005. O’Toole said he and Davis will likely be “flipping” the par on those holes for next year’s championships.

“We will move the tee up on four with a more receptive green and build a new tee on No. 5, probably close to the property where the Golf Hall of Fame was,” O’Toole said.

Many of the changes at Pinehurst have been predicated on the redesign work of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, who began renovating No. 2 in 2010.

Crenshaw told that the tinkering will give the USGA a wide variance in tee boxes at the par-4 third and 13th holes and a new tee at the par-3 17th that is nearly a club further back from where it had previously played.

For Crenshaw it was all part of maintaining No. 2’s ability to test the game’s best players while keeping with Ross’ original design concepts.

“You have to go back in the architect’s mind and figure out what he was thinking. That was (Ross’) pet,” Crenshaw said. “It’s fascinating to study because it does test the best golfers in the world but it is also pleasurable for people to play. That’s a tough deal these days.”

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”