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The misguided pursuit of perfection

By Phil BlackmarOctober 28, 2017, 9:00 pm

Riding to the course at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, a very talented young player was asked about the tournament last week in Korea. Following several superlatives he shared that the fairways, because they were a little thin on top and soft underneath, made consistent contact and controlling wedges and short irons difficult. That made me think of the time I was in New York for the tournament at Westchester C.C. when Phil Mickelson complained about the hole location on the third green because it was cut too close to the ridge that separated the top half from the lower half of the green. Then the question popped into my head: What’s more important to a Tour player, a score or the scoreboard?

It seems a simple question, but is it? Tour players expect “proper” conditions each week, which has the net effect of making it easier to shoot a good score. While they may argue with that point, you cannot argue with better conditions making for better scoring. But with better conditions are players missing out on opportunities to separate from the rest of the field?

Mickelson’s concerns at Westchester were valid if the hole was cut so close to the edge of the drop-off that a reasonable putt from above the hole would roll to the front of the green. But, on the other hand, if you have one of the best short games on Tour and are known for an unworldly touch, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to have such hole locations? Wouldn’t this expose the weaknesses of other players relative to you therefore providing you an advantage? Is this an opportunity lost?

Similarly, if lies in the fairways are a little tough, a player who learns to control a wedge or short iron from that type of lie has an advantage over others who cannot. In fact, this used to be the case with the old stamped grooves. But, players on Tour demand the fairways be in great condition. Could this also be an opportunity lost?

How about the greens? Fast, rolled and perfectly conditioned greens are the norm on Tour. When is it easier to make a 4-foot putt, on a fast, smooth surface where you simply start the ball on line and it will go in or a slower surface that requires getting the ball on top of the grass with a good roll to hold a consistent line? There are not many things that drive a player nuts more than missing short putts. Good luck getting players to want slower greens to make short putts more difficult. Is this an opportunity lost?

Ask any of the field staff at a Tour event about bunkers and they will roll their eyes. Tour bunkers are tamped down to prevent plugged lies and have a very specific amount of sand because too much is too soft and too little exposes the bottom of the bunker. The sand also has to have been in place long enough to allow it to settle and it is expertly raked each morning. If bunker play was more difficult, the player who masters those conditions has an advantage. The same can be said of the good iron player who can play away from bunkers. Is this an opportunity lost?

The U.S. Open has experimented with the long par 3,  but you’re not likely to see any 250-plus-yard par 3's on Tour; the players don’t like them. Yet, look to Binghampton Country Club, designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1921, which includes a 240-yard par 3. What do you imagine the average driving distance on Tour was in the early 1900s? In 1980 it was 265. Such a hole today would need to play 300 yards to be equivalent. Would this be a hard par 3? Yes. If you are a straight driver of the ball or have a good short game would you have an advantage? Yes. Is this an opportunity lost?

Deep rough on Tour has been replaced by “flier” type rough on nearly all venues. You can bet your last dollar that if the rough were to reach a height that would require players to “wedge out,” there would be lots of screaming. The average rank for driving accuracy of the top 15 FedExCup point winners last year was 100th. Is this an opportunity lost for accurate drivers?

You can go on to include the replacement of skill sets by technology but I’m saving that for another blog. Players want to shoot good scores and they want to be rewarded for good shots. They also don’t want to be unfairly penalized for a poor shot, for which you can’t blame them. But, by demanding certain conditions of play are they missing out on opportunities to separate themselves from the pack of other players? What do you think?

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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”