Whine tasting

By Jason SobelSeptember 14, 2011, 10:10 pm

LEMONT, Ill. – The biggest news to come out of Cog Hill Golf & Country Club on Wednesday was that Phil Mickelson once again voiced his displeasure with a Rees Jones-redesigned golf course.

Which is to say … there really wasn't any big news.

Lefty chomping Rees to pieces has become a tradition unlike any other, laying into layouts such as those at Torrey Pines and Atlanta Athletic Club.

So what, exactly, is Mickelson’s problem with this 2008 redesign, which will host its third edition of the BMW Championship this week?

“There's really no shot making here that's required. It doesn't really test our ability to maneuver the ball because the fronts of the greens are blocked and the only shot is to hit a high flop shot that stops,” he explained. “That's basic stuff. Chipping areas, shot value around the greens, penalties for certain misses – all that stuff wasn't really well thought out.”

And just in case you still weren’t sure which side of the fence Phil was on …

“I'd love to see like a Gil Hanse or a Crenshaw/Coore or Kyle Phillips or David Kidd or guys that really know what they're doing come in and create something special here, because I think that's what the [Jemsek] family and this facility deserve.”

Perhaps the biggest news in advance of this week’s event is that Mickelson’s fellow competitors have seen as much fault with Jones’ work as him, even those who don’t have a reputation as pot-stirrers.

“They need to get their money back, I guess,” Steve Stricker said. “It's too bad what happened here.”

“I'm not a huge fan of Rees Jones, either,” contended Luke Donald. “I'm not a big fan of the deep bunkers and the ridges in the greens. There's a few holes where there isn't a great deal of strategy.”

Meanwhile, Geoff Ogilvy snuck into this week’s field, then punctuated the achievement by proudly claiming, “I'm glad I'm here, I guess.”

These comments underscore a few of the bigger picture items that currently surround this tournament.

First and foremost, it ain’t comin’ back here. That’s hardly official, but with the event headed to Crooked Stick next year and Cherry Hills in 2014, there’s an excellent chance that even if it returns to the greater Chicago area, it won’t be at Cog Hill anymore.

How much can verbal assaults from Mickelson and others impact that type of decision? There’s no tangible scale for weighing the effect, but you can be certain of this much: It hurts a lot more than it helps.

Maybe it's just me, but one man complaining about how another man tells yet another man to move some dirt always seems a tad petty. I get it, though. Try explaining that dynamic to someone who doesn’t understand the game and they’ll accuse you of architectural insanity.

And therein lies the double-edged 1-iron. Complaints about courses from professionals date to the days of mashies and niblicks, as much a fiber of the game at the most elite level as oversized checks and missed cuts.

Now, though, with $10 million at stake for the FedEx Cup champion – and plenty left over for his brethren – while so many people struggle during the economic downturn, whining about anything can result in a backlash from those who aren’t fortunate enough to own Tour-ready swings and buttery smooth putting strokes. Then again, failure to offer an opinion brands a player as vanilla and vapid, unable to make a commitment while straddling both sides of the fence.

“If you don’t ever say, ‘This is wrong,’ or, ‘This is right,’ then nothing can ever be fixed,” D.A. Points said. “You’ll just continually have people think it must be OK, because nobody ever says anything negative about it.

“This is our job and this is what we do. It would be like if all of a sudden, the NBA had to play outside. If it was crappy weather, they’d probably all complain about it. If you changed their surface and made it worse, they’d go, ‘This stinks.’”

Of course, negativity can permeate the interview room and affect a player’s performance, too, which means we should keep a close eye on those who have been critical of Cog Hill already this week.

“If you give your opinion about it and it's a negative one, it's probably going to be taken as complaining,” Stricker intimated. “You can dislike something, but we all still have to play it, so you'd better not go out there with an attitude.”

The reality is, there’s a fine line between an opinion and a complaint. The latter often comes entrenched with an agenda and that may very well be the case in players offering up their analysis of this week’s host venue.

That doesn’t mean players take their spoils for granted and don’t understand the fortuity of their situations.

“There are obviously going to be courses that you like and don’t like,” Brendan Steele said. “I just filled out the PGA Tour survey. They wanted to know how you rate the tournaments and other stuff. I was like, ‘It’s the best tour in the world, we’re playing for a ton of money, I have nothing that I can possibly complain about.’ It’s way too good to say anything negative.”

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."