Low Down Dirty Shame

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2010, 6:41 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Has golf ever felt more dirty than it did with the sun sinking over Whistling Straits Sunday near the end of the PGA Championship?

I mean literally dirty. Because the PGA Championship was decided in the dirt Sunday at Whistling Straits.

OK, technically, it was decided in the sand, but if you were among the more than 100,000 fans who walked over and around the hillocks and bunkers on this course, you know it’s hard to tell where the dirt begins and the sand ends. There are, after all, more than 1,000 bunkers sprawling through the wispy fescue grasses there.

If you are Dustin Johnson, it probably all seems like manure now.

Dustin Johnson
Rules official David Price talks to Dustin Johnson. (Getty Images)

Because the end of this PGA Championship stunk.

It’s fitting that Johnson marched to the locker room to take a shower before coming out to speak with media after one of golf’s quirky rules cost him a shot at the championship. While Johnson cleaned up nicely, the sport’s going to have a hard time washing out the stain this leaves. Because as accustomed as we’ve become to golf’s mysteriously complex rules affecting outcomes, this was different.

This was a local rules decision that rings as a loco rule now. That’s loco, as in crazier than a golf course allowing thousands of fans to sit in and walk through “bunkers” that are IN play.

Johnson was penalized two shots at the 72nd hole of the championship for grounding his club in a bunker that he didn’t know was a bunker.

And who could blame him for not knowing? Dozens of people were sitting in that “bunker” before his ball came to rest among them.

After finding his ball on the hillside and blowing his approach left of the 18th green, Johnson missed a 6-foot putt for par that he thought could have won him his first major championship. Victory would have been a sweet remedy for the pain he felt blowing the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open last June. His final-round 82 at Pebble Beach would be remembered differently with a victory at Whistling Straits. And, still, even after missing his putt for par Sunday, Johnson believed his bogey had earned him a spot in a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Johnson, 25, believed he still had his shot at redemption until rules official David Price stopped him as he left the green to explain that he might face a penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.

“Somebody that saw it on TV called in,” Price said after Johnson marched into the scoring office. “Hopefully, he didn’t do it.”

The scene was crazy outside the old stone clubhouse. CBS roving reporter Peter Kostis scrambled through some bushes to peer into the window to get a glimpse of Johnson and the rules officials as they reviewed the footage. A CBS cameraman was squeezed up to the window, too, beaming the images around the world. Dozens of reporters were jammed together behind Kostis trying to see what he was seeing.

And as all of this was unfolding, thousands of fans jammed along the 18th hole were chanting: “Let him play! . . . Let him play!”

Johnson, of course, wouldn’t get to play.

“I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down,” Johnson said later. “I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker. Obviously I know the Rules of Golf, and I can't ground my club in a bunker.”

This may be the most heart-wrenching application of golf’s rules since Roberto De Vicenzo lost the Masters because he signed for an incorrect scorecard.

Stumbling out of the scoring area at Augusta National in 1968, De Vicenzo uttered the famous line: “What a stupid I am.”

Johnson could have uttered a variation of that line. He could have said: “How stupid is golf?”

There will be debate about this, because players were clearly informed that all the sandy waste areas on the course were considered bunkers.

“We made it the No. 1 item on our local rules sheet, simply to explain that all of the bunkers that were designed and built as sand bunkers on this golf course would be played that way,” Mark Wilson, the co-chairman of the PGA rules committee, said. “And that might mean that many areas outside the ropes might contain many footprints, heel prints, or even tire tracks from golf cars or other vehicles.'

Wilson said a notice was also posted in the locker room cautioning players that all the sandy areas were bunkers.

“This is a unique course with unique characteristics and I think the dilemma is that it's even harder to say some of these are not bunkers and some of them are, because then how do you define those?” Wilson said. “And then a player would be essentially treading on thin ice almost every time he entered a sandy area, wondering where he was. And with 1,200 of them, there's no way to confirm with each player exactly where he lays.”

Wilson was eloquent in his explanation of the difficulty that would occur in trying to distinguish what is and isn’t a bunker on this course, but the fact of that matter is that the PGA was as confused as Johnson was when they first brought the major here in 2004. Originally, the PGA intended to differentiate between the bunkers inside the ropes and outside the ropes. The PGA considered treating those bunkers outside the ropes like waste areas. But officials changed their minds shortly before the championship.

“I don't know, if it was up to me, I wouldn't have thought I was in the bunker, but it's not up to me,” Johnson said.

That’s the whole point, though. If players can’t even tell they’re in a bunker, something’s wrong. If fans are walking and sitting in them, how can they be bunkers?

There is plenty of blame to go around for the unsatisfying ending. Johnson gets his share for admitting he did not read the local rule. For many, he loses their sympathy saying that. You wonder, though, even if he did, would he have known he was in a bunker.

Still, in a cruel way, it was fitting that this championship season should end with a deep discussion of dirt. It started that way with Tiger Woods the biggest story at the Masters and tabloids slinging dirt into the game’s biggest storyline.

This major championship starts the way it ended. It leaves you with the feeling you need a bath. 

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley S. KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”

 

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Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 7:12 pm

Aaron Wise received plenty of perks with his title Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the victory also brought with it a healthy bump in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The 21-year-old notched his maiden win at Trinity Forest in impressive fashion, holding off Marc Leishman in near-darkness. After starting the week at No. 46 in the points race for Paris, Wise is now all the way up to 12th with the top eight players after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically for the team.

Jimmy Walker moved from 18th to 15th with a top-10 finish in Dallas, while an idle Tiger Woods dropped one position to No. 32.

Here's a look at the updated standings, as the top 11 names remained in order this week:

1. Patrick Reed

2. Justin Thomas

3. Dustin Johnson

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Bubba Watson

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Brooks Koepka

8. Phil Mickelson

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Matt Kuchar

11. Brian Harman

12. Aaron Wise

It was also a quiet week on the European side of the race, where the top four from both the European Points and World Points list in August will join a roster rounded out by four selections from captain Thomas Bjorn.

Here's a look at the latest European standings:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Jon Rahm

4. Ross Fisher

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Rory McIlroy

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Alex Noren

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5. Ian Poulter