Questions From Colonial
Why is only one player among the Big 4 here this week?
My gosh ' this place has great history and it also tests every part of your game. Kenny Perry hit the media center Thursday and said he thinks other players are missing the boat. Perry won here in 2003 and currently leads the PGA Tour in Total Driving and Greens in Regulation. And while I know that those two statistics really help around this ball-strikers course ' his length seems proof enough that theres something for everyone here.
Is the shorter golf course really a thing of the past on the PGA Tour?
Doesnt seem like it. Roughly 7000 yards and a par 70, Colonial Country Club is playing fast and firm this week. And while Patrick Sheehan made a run at 59 on Thursday, Colonial is just as apt to punish someone whos just a step off. Insert my good buddy Steve Flesch ' the defending champion birdied the first hole and then boarded the bogey train and couldnt get off. The man whod posted 8 straight rounds of 69 or better here finished with 79 on Thursday. His scoring average at Colonial was better than Ben Hogans. And Hogan won five times. Go figure. This place is no gimme.
Do we just like to see how far guys hit it?
Sure ' we love length. Kenny Perry hit driver and 6-iron into the 1st hole which is a par-5. And Perry joined many in hitting driver and sand wedge into the finishing par-4 18th. I must admit that I dont like a finishing hole that requires just a wedge in to win the tournament ' but it does provide for some drama. Colonial is all about working the ball. Thats a good thing. Left to right, right to left. And you really need to hit the shots around the greens. The beauty of Colonial is that you dont have to hit it high and land it soft. You can run it up, around and down. I love it. The wind can make a big difference too. Rough here isnt ankle deep and it doesnt need to be. I say ' more courses like Colonial.
Can a blind man win?
Kenny Perry walked into the media center on Thursday after a round of 65 and talked about how he couldnt see very well. I cant see the balls land on the greens, Perry said. He was talking about how a LASIK surgery in 1998 didnt quite work and how hed had it done again in 1999. Perry said hes struggling with reading the greens and plays much better when its sunny. A doctor told him hed have trouble passing a drivers test right now and hes set to visit another next week before going to Memphis where hell ' gulp ' where a pair of glasses at the FedEx St. Jude Classic next week. Is this crazy or what? We joked on the Sprint Post Game that hell have no trouble getting ahead of himself this weekend because he cant possibly look at the leaderboards ' he cant read them anyway!
If Ted Purdy wins again ' is that a good thing?
I say yes. Nobodys won the Nelson and then the Colonial in back-to-back weeks. Purdy is right in the thick of it again this week after winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship for his first PGA Tour title. Purdy came on the Sprint Pre Game on Wednesday where he talked about having set goals to make the Presidents Cup team at the beginning of the season. More power to him for big thinking. Teds a guy we can relate to. The PGA Tour should definitely have room for the Purdys and the Petrovics.
Speaking of those guys ' whos next to capture our attention?
Ill give you some names to watch for over the coming weeks who arent in the Top 20 in the World Golf Ranking. Watch out for Billy Mayfair. Hes back and doesnt appear far from finding himself in the hunt come late Sunday. Watch for Lucas Glover and D.J. Trahan. I love the poise these two youngsters show. On Thursday here I was watching play at the 10th tee. Glover, who is 39th in money ($808,273), was waiting as rookie D.A. Points was preparing to hit. A man walks by the tee talking on his cell phone. Glover stops the proceedings and tells the man to turn it off or put it on vibrate. After shaking his head, Glover watches Points hit, then steps up with an iron at the par-4 and wasting no time at all (and wearing no glove) promptly rrrrrrrrips one right-to-left into the middle of the fairway. This guy can play. And nothing seems to disrupt his rhythm.
What do we make of Sean OHair?
A lot, actually. By now you know the story. O Hair turned professional at 17 under the watchful eye and tough standards of his father who turned his professional attention and career into making one for his son. Now theres a lawsuit pending as the father wants paybacks for all the work he put into his sons career. Sean finished second at the Nelson last week and this week looks at the money list where hes now A.) assured of keeping his card for next year and, B.) one spot ahead of Davis Love III at 32nd. Rooting for OHair is easy. Ripping his father for treating his son as a family investment is easy. But before we do ' lets consider Seans plight. Imagine being him and hearing people lay into your father. You might agree but it certainly doesnt making things any easier. O Hair has plenty of game to make it big. I hope he stays the course and I hope dear ol Dad realizes that kids should be kids and no parent should look at their child as their future nest egg. Support is one thing, control is another.
Can a caddie turn a mans game bad?
Ask Steve Flesch. Last year I hauled his bag on pro-am day here and he went on to win. So this year we figured wed keep things the same in hopes of a chance to repeat. Flesch shot 79 on Thursday and said the disappointment of not having a chance to successfully defend was tough to take. He feels terrible ' I dont feel so great either. All I know is that he said I was definitely employable. Even still ' last year he bogeyed the first two holes in the pro-am. This year he birdied the first two. Maybe that was it.
I wish Flesch was going to have the chance come Sunday. But right now ' it seems like Kenny Perrys the man to beat. One thing I know for sure ' theres nothing wrong with ol Colonial Country Club. Were set for a shoot-out and some of the other big names ought to consider taking part.
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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.
Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.
Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.
“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”
Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.
It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.
Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.
“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”
Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.
“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”
Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.
1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.
Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.
Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.
Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.
Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.
Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.
The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.
Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.
The swing loaded with speed.
The on-course charisma.
The big shot in the big moment.
The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.
Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.
Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."
And did he?
“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”
Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.
One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.
“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.
“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”
Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.
On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.
It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.
“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”
The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.
“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.
That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.
“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”
The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.
“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”
Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener
The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.
Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.
According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.
"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"
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News got out last week that I was dealing with an oblique injury the past two tournaments...it was confirmed yesterday, via MRI, that I have a partial tear in my right oblique...my team and I feel like it’s best not to play next week in the Northern Trust...I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!
Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.
Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.