Talking slow play and deer-antler spray

By John HawkinsFebruary 4, 2013, 1:00 pm

Jeepers, now I know why a couple of my golf buddies vanish every October at the start of deer hunting season. Stupid me. I thought they drove to upstate New York so they could sit in a tree and drink beer all day. Which, come to think of it, might be harder than making a 6-footer with a $20 nassau on the line.

Pardon my lack of compassion, but the next time I see one of Bambi’s descendants laid out alongside the Merritt Parkway, I’m gonna pull over, yank off those antlers and stick them right in my golf game. If that doesn’t produce enough IGF-1 to help me shoot lower scores, I’ve already begun compiling a list of other things that grow really fast:

My 12-year-old daughter.

Last month’s credit-card bill.

My wife’s intolerance when I forget to put down the toilet seat.

Pinocchio’s nose.

My waistline.

You say none of those things could possibly contain even a trace of IGF-1? You’re probably right. Then again, I didn’t think a guy with a trace of cheating in his past could possibly vandalize his own legacy after 34 PGA Tour victories and three major titles, either.

ONE ADVANTAGE TO submitting this column every Monday is that I usually have a few days to ponder the game’s more sensitive news-related issues. Vijay Singh’s admission to using deer-antler spray, which violates PGA Tour policy, certainly qualifies from a journalistic standpoint, mainly because several relevant questions are likely to remain unanswered.

Pragmatically? This case is about as open-and-shut as it gets. “He put the PGA Tour brand in jeopardy, and that’s when I get militant,” said veteran pro Joe Ogilvie, a former member of the policy board and players advisory committee. “Not only did he break a rule, he broke a rule that has ramifications for all of us.”

It makes absolutely no difference whether Singh knew he was taking a banned substance. In golf, no two-stroke penalty is reduced to one shot if the infraction was deemed accidental. Given the Tour’s beyond-reproach public image, to which Ogilvie alluded, you would think Camp Ponte Vedra would issue a punitive measure in response to Singh’s confession.

Singh turns 50 on Feb. 22, and the timing of that birthday in itself should lead to an official suspension. You can’t let the guy jump onto the Champions Tour anytime soon and win his first two or three starts – the backlash would be loud and exceedingly negative. That said, I don’t think we’ll see any such sanction come down from headquarters.

Commissioner Tim Finchem has been given broad latitude when dealing with this type of situation. He can choose to do nothing, at which point the Tour’s unwillingness to publicize its verdicts only muddles the matter further. Like it or not, that’s how this particular organization handles its business.

Perhaps it’s in the best interests of everyone – and to the surprise of no one – that Singh withdrew from last week’s Phoenix Open with a back injury. editorial director Jay Coffin correctly predicted Singh’s WD on Twitter shortly before it happened.

But if suspicious minds can take us anywhere we let them, what Singh does or doesn’t do as a golfer from here onward isn’t as significant as what he already has accomplished.

The Tour’s drug-enforcement policy went into effect July 1, 2008. Less than three months later, Singh claimed the second annual FedEx Cup overall title with three victories in a five-week span at the end of the summer. Did he win those events with a little help from the antlers? Would he have been voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame if his usage of a banned substance had been discovered prior to his induction?

What we don’t know can’t hurt us, or so it has been said, but it sure can leave a mark on this fine game.

AH, SLOW PLAY. The bane of golf’s existence, the dirty little story that never goes away. I can’t remember it ever being worse than it was at Torrey Pines, especially while completing the final round Monday afternoon, when it took almost four hours to play 11 holes.

Eventually, they did finish. The reality? We’re just getting started. Slow play is likely to command center stage again over the next two weeks: at the notoriously paced AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, then at Riviera CC, where the afternoon draw hasn’t finished before dark on several occasions in recent years.

In my recent communication with Tour pros, two players have said that tournament officials won’t penalize the offenders, regardless of how bad things get. The current policy stipulates that a player is put on the clock only after a group is determined to be out of position. At that point, the first timed violation results in a warning, the second in a one-stroke sanction.

The last time that happened? Glen Day in 1995. Any player put on the clock 10 times over the course of a season is fined $20,000, but again, without any diligent enforcement, it’s all window dressing. All wasted breath.

“Over the last 15 years, the culture out here has changed,” said Ogilvie, one of the Tour’s more expedient players. “The thinking now is, I’ve got a couple of slow groups ahead of me – I’m gonna slow down so I don’t have to wait as much.”

While acknowledging the guilt-by-association factor to a certain extent – a Thursday group with two speedy golfers can easily fall behind if the third player is a tortoise – both the problem and its various solutions require an immediate and wholesale attitude adjustment.

As one veteran told me a couple of weeks ago, “a slow caddie can kill pace as much as anybody.” Perhaps, but we can all do the math. If two players each require an undue 45 seconds to finish every hole, a four-hour round creeps up to 4 ½. My three-step plan, which includes suggestions from the Tour pros themselves, represents an aggressive approach to a scourge that hasn’t been solved by passive measures.

Legalize the lasers. It makes no sense to continue prohibiting yardage devices at a time when golf’s televisual product is compromised by an unacceptable pace. Why not allow any resource that shortens the cumbersome process of determining any player’s distance to the hole? In this context, I don’t care how loudly my caddie friends disagree. The time has come.

Identify the culprits. Around this time last year, I proposed that the Tour begin posting a player’s average time per round – or better yet, the cumulative amount of time every player needs to complete a hole – along with the other primary statistics (fairways hit, greens in regulation, etc.). Nobody likes a slowpoke, but then, even most hardcore fans don’t know who they are. Let’s just say Ben Crane has company. And it ain’t fast company, either.

Subtract FedEx points. Let’s face it: fines don’t work. Some of the snails would probably be happy to fork over $20,000 at the end of the year if moving slowly means an extra $250,000 in earnings. You’re supposed to remain calm out there, and though some guys would find a brisk pace detrimental to their overall performance, there is plenty of middle ground for everyone to live comfortably.

If a tie for fifth earns you about 100 FedEx points in a regular event, the Tour would need to adopt a system where at least 25 points are subtracted after the initial warning. A second infraction that same week not only would cost you a stroke, but a minimum of 50 points. Some would say that’s too excessive. Others would say it’s not strong enough. In other words, a little conflict can lead to a lot of progress.

FROM THE LAND of meaningless bewilderment: Why does the Connecticut State Golf Association continue to email my handicap updates at the start of every month? If anyone should know that it’s 17 degrees and blowing like hell outside, it’s my friends at the CSGA. If their computer is worth its weight in wires, it should know that I haven’t played a round of golf since Dec. 8 – about five weeks after the CSGA’s own cut-off point for posting scores in the Northeast.

Seriously, these emails often land at like 3:15 a.m. Even I am usually asleep by then, so I’ve got a crazy idea. Let’s put the CSGA computer to bed. Wake it up on April 1. At that point, me and Mr. Deer Antlers will try to get my number down a little.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.