No 6 Players Shinne-cooked on Sunday

By Mercer BaggsDecember 23, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 6.
It was to be for better, not worse. But it was for worse. For far, far worse. And it all went to hell in a golf bucket in just one day.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and the United States Golf Association joined hands to enter into a week-long commitment in the middle of June to host the U.S. Open.
They seemed like the perfect couple, seeing as the two had twice before entered into this agreement over the past two decades, with glowing success.
Early in the week, things again appeared to be going quite lovely. In fact, Wednesday was a big ole lovefest between the players and the links-style course and the organization running things.
I don't think you're going to talk to many people in this field that have anything bad to say about the golf course. It's a fantastic course. It's in unbelievable condition, said defending U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk.
It feels like England out here, said two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. It's such a great layout. It's great to be back.
The course looks fabulous, said reigning Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Im very pleased with the way the course sets up.
This is going to be a fantastic tournament with the golf course the way it is, the way it's set up. I mean, it's one of the best setups I've ever seen, said two-time winner Tiger Woods.
For the first three days of the tournament, the reviews were still pretty much the same; though, players could see a storm brewing in Saturdays sugar skies.
Prior to the final round, the field seemed primarily troubled with one hole ' the 189-yard, par-3 seventh. It was a hole that ran from front-to-back and was designed to be played into the wind ' not a crosswind, which was what the players were dealing with. Its landing area was also quite unreceptive.
Now, every hole seemed a concern. The wind was to blow a little harder on Sunday, and the greens were already desert dry. And, with third-round leader Retief Goosen five strokes below their precious par, the USGA had no intentions of going out of their way to give the players a bit of a break.
It's going to be interesting to see what's out for us tomorrow, Goosen said.
Interesting like sleeping-in-a-haunted-house interesting.
J.J. Henry and Kevin Stadler were the first group out on Sunday. Henry, who shot 86 in Round 3, played his first six holes in 5 over. Then came the seventh. After hitting his tee shot into the left greenside bunker, Henry left himself 15 feet for par. He missed the par save ' and the green. His putt rolled off the severely baked-out surface and back into the left bunker. He went through the same routine and eventually two-putted for a triple-bogey 6.
Stadler, too, made a 6 on the hole, when his short par putt also ran off the green.
After the second twosome came through, and still no one had made better than bogey, the USGA decided to syringe the green ' a fancy way of saying that they sprinkled a little water onto the putting surface in between some of the groups.
The seventh wasnt the only farcical ' or syringed ' hole on Sunday. And there were more tales of golfing horror in the wake of Henry and Stadler.
Tom Kite, a veteran of 33 Opens and the 1992 winner at Pebble Beach, made four double bogeys and a triple bogey in a stretch of seven holes.
I cant remember doing that when I was 6 years old, he said after his 84.
Joakim Haeggman twice putted his ball off the 10th green on his way to a quintuple-bogey 9 and a round of 83. Billy Mayfair made a bogey putt at 18 to break 90 by a stroke. Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia both shot 80. No one broke par.
Overall, 28 players in a weekend field of 66 failed to break 80 on this Shinne-cooked Sunday. The field scoring average was 78.73. Robert Allenbys even-par 70 was the low round of the day.
It was the highest final-round scoring average at an Open since 1972 at Pebble Beach, when the field combined for a 78.80 average.
But that Sunday, the winds, upwards of 35 mph, were much stronger than the ones experienced this time at Shinnecock.
The winds may have been a contributing factor, but when players walked ' or staggered ' off the course, they groused about the greens, and the fact that the USGA did very little to keep them true ' or even alive.
Ive never seen greens like this, said Furyk, who had a 79.
Any sane person can be the judge of how the greens played and realize that it's a little ridiculous, said Jeff Maggert, who shot 72.
(The USGA) lost control of the golf course, Woods said after his 76.
This is not the superintendents fault. Its the USGAs fault, and it is every year, said Jerry Kelly, who shot 81. Theyre ruining the game. The organization is not respecting the game; theyre not respecting this golf course.
If they were smart, theyd realize they look really stupid.
Walter Driver, the chairman of the USGA championship committee, pleaded his organizations case after the carnage concluded.
We start setting courses up for championships four and five years in advance, said Driver, and you cannot change an Open course setup in 12 hours. It's not possible.
So we went from having lots of compliments for what we did for three days, and then the wind blew harder and in a different direction than we anticipated, and you simply can't go redo the greens in 12 hours.
Driver even invoked the words of former USGA president Sandy Tatum, saying: We werent trying to humiliate the best players in the world; we were trying to identify them.
Asked if he thought the course presented a stern, but fair challenge on Sunday, runner-up Mickelson said:
I hit some of the best shots, I putted better than I probably ever have putted, and I still couldnt shoot par. So you tell me.
Related Links:
  • 2004 Year in Review
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    Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

    Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

    Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

    “It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

    No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

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    On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

    “Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

    “Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

    A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

    “But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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    Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

    Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

    Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

    Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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    "I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

    But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

    After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

    "What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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    McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

    For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

    The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

    McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

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    "I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

    By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

    But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

    Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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    Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

    The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

    While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

    It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

    There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

    Vogel started the year with only conditional Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a tournament.

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    "The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

    Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

    While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.