Much Ado About Grooves

By Jon LevyDecember 13, 2010, 7:44 pm

‘These guys are too good.’

That should have been the PGA Tour’s tagline this year in response to the U.S. Golf Association’s 2010 crackdown on the state of the game, its effort to get away from the ‘bomb-and-gouge’ style so many of today’s top players demonstrate by altering the legality of grooves.

In the end, however, there was plenty of smoke, but never a fire.

Ask different people and you’ll get different answers. Ask the USGA and it will likely stand by its decision to disallow clubs with square grooves.

But the facts prove advances in equipment over the years have allowed top players to drive it past the trouble on golf courses and spin the ball better out of the rough, thus dulling the need to hit fairways to score well.

We know the game is steeped in tradition – tradition that seems to buck the notion of allowing for too much change. So it's not surprising that golf’s governing bodies issued a callback to reform how much a player can and should be able to spin the golf ball.

But targeting the groove specifications on clubs as the culprit, and as a first point from which to jump – considering some have deemed the USGA’s testing on the matter as inconclusive – was a shock to many when the August 2008 announcement touched upon this particularly groovy subject

And it’s basically driven the golf industry into a tailspin since.

“How's the change going to affect the game?”

“Who's going to benefit from the new grooves?”

“Who's going to suffer?”

The media had a field day.

Now here we are, a year later, looking back at the first season of how the new regime played out.

Did it work? Were golfers forced to lay back off the tee and play more conservatively to hit fairways? Was it worth all of the effort to steamroll the change?

No, no and, well ... you decide.’s Rex Hoggard wrote an article on how little of an effect the change ultimately had on the PGA Tour – showing how the change even helped PGA Tour players this year, considering the soft, benign conditions that yielded some of the Tour’s lowest scores in years. Even the media let the issue go a few months into the season because Tour players were still playing the same type of game, and still taking it deep.

So it wasn’t really a big deal for the players – once they got used to the new grooves, that is – because, after all, those guys are good.

“The truth is, that players are good enough that it doesn’t really matter what you give them – it doesn’t take them that long to adapt,” said Jason Schultz, a former PGA Tour player and winner on the Nationwide Tour. “I’ve basically forgotten about it. The only time you will ever really notice a difference is when the greens are real firm and fast. Other than that, you can’t really tell.”

Who has been lost in this issue – who has really been affected – are the club manufacturers and the mini-tours and their players.

Let's not forget the golfing public, either, which has also been given a countown by the USGA, allowing current non-conforming clubs to be used until 2024, but only conforming equipment to be accepted and sold at retailers after Jan. 1, 2011. Many like playing new sticks from time to time, which means hurry up and get into your local retailer before the ball drops to get those clubs that spin, because once they're gone, they're gone. Conspiracy theorists could argue that actually helps the manufacturers considering it has been an excellent platform from which to advertise (read: 'the year of the wedge,' etc.).

Regardless, manufacturers have been scrambling around like Santa's helpers two days before Christmas since the August '08 announcement to make things happen –  first to get the conforming clubs into their professionals' hands, and then to prepare for the aforementioned 2011 sanction.

They'll survive, though. They always do.

The developmental circuits and their players are the redheaded stepchild in this discussion – they’re around whether you like it or not, but no one really pays attention to their actions, nor really wants to.

It’s this factor that's been the most interesting offspring of the groove change, because the mini-tour world was forced to go out on a limb and decide what version of golf they were going to play in 2010.

Adhere to the change and follow the tours for which they hope to prepare their players or wait to help players struggling to get conforming clubs and, in essence, play a different game?

“We were definitely faced with a difficult decision last year,” says Ryan Pray, executive director of Arizona’s Gateway Pro Tour. “We tried our best to get a good hold on how the club companies were handling it and how much availability our players had to getting the new equipment before we decided to go in one direction or another.

“We normally try to follow the PGA Tour's policies as best we can, but, ultimately, we delayed the change in our policy until the spring because a number of our players were having difficulty in getting the conforming clubs before then.'

“Some companies got out in front of the situation better than others,' explains Pray, 'which gave us no choice but to cater to a lot of our players who couldn't get the new equipment and hold off for a while before the change.”

The Gateway Pro Tour decided to follow the USGA’s bill in full (affecting clubs of 25 degrees of loft), as did the eGolf professional tour, but the Hooters Tour waited until August to make their policy change, requiring conforming clubs of just 46 degrees of loft or greater to be used in their events.

Plenty of research had gone into the USGA's decision, relating to the timing, effect on the industry, etc., before they made it law. And there’s no question they instituted the new policy thinking and hoping the game would be dialed back to its strategical roots – putting an emphasis on hitting fairways and accuracy.

But the stats prove it didn’t work. Or, at least, it hasn’t yet.

Which begs the question – what’s next? No grooves? Scaling back old school to the gutta percha? 

Unless the next generation of player makes the Bubba Watsons and Dustin Johnsons of today look like Corey Pavin and Fred Funk driving a whiffle ball into into a hurricane, there's no more need for change, because it's Joe and Jane Mini-tour right now – and more importantly the whole of the golfing public – stuck paying the price.

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.

Sunghyun Park (left) and Minchel Choi (right). Getty Images

Choi, Park qualify for Carnoustie from Korean Open

By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 2:54 pm

Two players - Minchel Choi and Sanghyun Park - qualified for next month's Open Championship at Carnoustie via the Open Qualifying Series on Sunday.

Choi (69) held off Park (66) to win the Korean Open by two shots.

This was the Qualifying Series debut for the Korean Open, whiched awarded Open Championship exemptions to the tournament's top two finishers inside the top eight and ties who were not already qualified.

Choi, the 532nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, punched his ticket in his first professional win.

Park, the 146th in the world, is a six-time Korean Tour champion who has already won twice this season. 

Both players will be making their first ever major starts.

“I am absolutely honored to be playing in The Open and I wanted to win this championship to give me [that] opportunity," Choi said. "I cannot believe that I have won today. I am so happy and excited."

“It is a great honor to have qualified for The Open and make my first appearance in the championship," Park added. "I’ve watched The Open on television every single year and I can’t really believe that I have qualified, it is amazing."

The Open Qualifying Series continues next week at the Open de France, where as many as three exemptions will be awarded to the three leading players inside the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified.

The 147th Open will be held at Carnoustie from July 19-22.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.