Classic courses just a Tour fairytale

By Rex HoggardJuly 27, 2011, 5:03 pm

It’s a twist on the old “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” fairytale with one glaring exception – nothing feels just right. Not when the high wire between meandering old and high-flying new is as treacherous as an unplayable lie.

In 1914, the architectural dynamic duo of Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor cut the venerable Old White Course into the West Virginia countryside. In 1960, Arthur Vernon Macan dug Shaughnessy out of the rugged Pacific Northwest mountains. Both are wonderful layouts, neither deserves to host a PGA Tour event.

In short, the Old White is too soft, Shaughnessy is too hard and the middle ground that could bridge the gap is dominated by the big-hitting, bomb-and-gouge likes of the modern professional.

This is not a new concept just a newsy one, with Shaughnessy’s smack down of the world’s best at last week’s Canadian Open and Stuart Appleby’s closing 59 at the 2010 Greenbrier Classic still prominent talking points.

Last year, the Old White ranked 42nd out of 52 courses in scoring average (68.536), a birdie bonanza that was capped off by Appleby’s sub-60. While the par-70 Shaughnessy ranks as this season’s third-toughest track with a 72.521 average and was fittingly won, on the first extra hole, with a bogey.

Some will say the two storied layouts were victims of poor setups, but the questionable setups were simply a symptom. The ailment is a modern game that has relegated many of the classics to museum-piece status.

The Greenbrier, which briefly hosted a PGA Tour event in the late 1950s, returned to the fold last year, but soft conditions and a cautious setup resulted in the Bob Hope Classic – Eastern Flight. At Shaughnessy, officials played defense, pinching fairways to the size of shoe boxes and growing more grass than the Cali Cartel.

There was, critics will say, nothing wrong with Shaughnessy that a few extra lawnmowers couldn’t fix, and officials are optimistic that the Old White, with new greens and an additional 243 yards, is ready for Round 2.

“First, there's not going to be any 59s shot,” said Tom Watson, the Greenbrier’s pro emeritus since 2005. “The greens are a lot firmer. The ball is not going to stop. . . . It's like playing the links greens where they really are hard and they release.”

Perhaps, but the fine line officials must toe at these classic venues is such that it’s becoming more and more difficult to get things, well … just right.

Too easy, and Appleby is making four trips around the “Old White Flag” with just a single bogey. Too hard, and native son Mike Weir is seeking medical attention after losing his golf ball, and maybe his season, in the shin-high rough.

Some scoff at the marketing manhandling that clumsily attached the “TPC” suffix to the Old White name. Maybe it’s the TPC network that should be offended. Some of the Tour’s signature Mc-layouts are soulless and unimaginative, but they are big ball parks that were built to keep 300-yard drives in play – no set-up tricks or fertilizer required.

There are some classics that remain relevant without the aid of an extreme nip/tuck. A recently completed renovation at Pinehurst No. 2 actually turned back the clock some 40 years and most agree Merion Golf Club, at a wee 6,500 yards or so, will hold its own when the U.S. Open returns to the Philadelphia gem in 2013. But they are the exception to a disturbing rule.

The game’s policymakers say distance gains have ebbed, but Tour statistics suggest the long continue to get longer.

The current Tour average is 289 yards, the longest average ever, and there are 15 players who are currently averaging drives over 300 yards, the most since 2007. By comparison the driving average in 2001 was 278 yards and just a single player (John Daly) was averaging drives over 300 yards. A decade before that, the average was 260 yards and not single player was in the 300-yard neighborhood.

Dialing back the equipment Tour types use isn’t the only answer, but it’s a start. Manufacturers have resisted the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf for years. Who would want to buy the same golf ball Rory McIlroy uses if the one you can pick out of the 2-for-1 bin at Wal-Mart goes farther?

Never mind that bifurcation already exists, albeit for just a few more years, with professionals and top amateurs not allowed to use the same aggressive groves that Joe 18-Handicap can in his Friday four-ball. Never mind that bifurcation has existed for years in baseball, with professionals wielding wooden bats while collegians and amateurs enjoy the pop of metal bats.

There are other factors behind the distance gains in recent years. Golf courses are conditioned much better today than they were just 20 years ago, and the Tour has not one but two travelling fitness trailers, but trying to keep any player not named Tim Herron out of the gym at this point is a non-starter.

Officials can slow down fairways, but a long-term solution is going to require that the powers that be speed up equipment rollbacks. The world’s best will still be at the top heap, they just won’t be launching moon balls from Vancouver to West Virginia. And maybe the likes of Shaughnessy and the Old White will be just right, again. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate fairytale?

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Maguire's storied Duke career comes to an end

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 8:39 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – After losing in the quarterfinals here at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Duke coach Dan Brooks gathered his team and walked back toward the 18th hole. He wanted to get away and deliver a parting speech to senior Leona Maguire, one of the most important players in program history.

“I feel like I didn’t say enough, and I feel like I didn’t say it right,” he said afterward. “I guess that’s inevitable when dealing with a player who has meant so much.”

Maguire’s heralded Duke career came to an end Tuesday when she and her teammates dropped their quarterfinal match to Southern Cal, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2. Maguire did her part, winning, 1 up, against USC’s Jennifer Chang, but it still wasn’t enough.

Maguire will go down as one of the best players not just in Duke’s storied history, but all time in college golf. She’s a two-time Player of the Year. She finished with the best scoring average (70.93) in Division I women’s golf history. She had a record 32 competitive rounds in the 60s. She spent 135 weeks at the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings, another record.

The 23-year-old from Ireland is the rare collegian who turned down guaranteed LPGA status to return to school to earn her degree and try to win a NCAA title with twin sister Lisa, the team’s No. 5 player. Ultimately, they never reached the championship match.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said softly outside the clubhouse. “The experiences, the memories, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Maguire said that she’s turning pro soon and has a full schedule upcoming. She’ll play the ShopRite LPGA Classic and then try to capitalize on her full status on the developmental Symetra circuit.

Asked about her potential at the next level, Brooks said that Maguire can be a future Hall of Famer.

“She’s the hardest worker and the smartest player I’ve ever coached,” he said. “I’m really going to miss her.”

Geoff Ogilvy and family at the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play. Getty Images

Notes: Ogilvy moving family to Australia

By Doug FergusonMay 22, 2018, 6:55 pm

Geoff Ogilvy's immediate future involves fewer golf tournament and longer flights.

Ogilvy has been contemplating in the last few years moving back home to Australia, and after discussing it with his Texas-born wife, Juli, they plan to return to Melbourne shortly after Christmas.

Their daughter, Phoebe, turns 12 in October and will be starting the seventh grade in Australia. They have two sons, Jasper (10) and Harvey (8). The Ogilvys figured that waiting much longer to decide where to live would make it tougher on the children.

''We just talked about it, for lots of reasons, and we kept making pros and cons. Juli was strong on it,'' Ogilvy said. ''We're excited. I'm at the point where I'm not going to play 27 times a year. It's going to be brutal to play from there. But you've got to choose life.''

Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and he counts three World Golf Championships among his eight PGA Tour victories. He also has won the Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship and has reached No. 3 in the world.

His last victory was in 2014, and Ogilvy has slipped to No. 416 in the world.

He has been dividing some of his time with a golf course design business with projects that include Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Texas, (including a ''Little Nine'' course that opened last year), a renovation in China and a 36-hole course called Peninsula Kingwood in Melbourne.

Ogilvy, who grew up at Victoria Golf Club, still has a home on the 14th hole of the West Course at Royal Melbourne. If he didn't move back home, Ogilvy figured he would be spending six months in Melbourne and six months in Scottsdale, Arizona.

''It's a feeling more than anything,'' he said. ''Scottsdale is dreamy. We live a great existence. I know what I'm getting there. If we didn't move back, we'd be a six-and-six family. The kids get out of school, and they're bounced back and forth. It's not good for continuity.''

As for golf?

Ogilvy narrowly kept his full PGA Tour card last year and this season has been a struggle. He hasn't sorted out what kind of schedule he would keep, understanding it would involve long trips from Sydney to Dallas.

The immediate goal would be to play a heavy fall schedule and miss most of the West Coast swing to get acclimated to the move.

''And then we'll start working it out,'' he said.


US OPEN QUALIFYING: The U.S. Open likes to consider its championship the most democratic of the majors, and it has it just about right again this year. With the addition of 23 players who became exempt by being in the top 60 in the world ranking, 77 players in the 156-man field are exempt from qualifying. That number could go up slightly with another cutoff for the top 60 the Sunday before U.S. Open week.

The U.S. Open is the only American major that does not offer automatic exemptions to PGA Tour winners. Five such winners from this season still face qualifying, including Patton Kizzire, who has won twice (OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Sony Open). The others are Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr., Andrew Landry and Aaron Wise.

Kizzire is at No. 63 in the world, followed by Wise (66) and Landry (69). All have three weeks to crack the top 60.

Until 2011, the U.S. Open offered exemptions to multiple PGA Tour winners since the previous Open. It leans heavily on the world ranking, as do the other majors. It also awards recent major champions and top finishers from the previous U.S. Open, along with the Tour Championship field from the previous year, to reward a consistently strong season.

''All of the tours around the world have bought into the official world golf ranking rankings,'' said Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and open championships. ''And this provides just the right place for us to be with exemptions. We don't have to get into the weighting of one tour over another, this championship versus that event, a week-to-week event. We focus on the official world golf rankings and it seems to get us the right players for our championship.''



FICKLE GAME: Careers can change quickly in golf. No one can attest to that as well as Michael Arnaud.

The 36-year-old Arnaud had never finished better than a tie for fifth in his 49 starts on the Web.com Tour, and that was three years ago. His career earnings were just over $130,000. He had only made it into one previous event this year, and he wasn't in the field at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina last week until Kent Bulle withdrew on the eve of the event.

Arnaud tied the course record with a 60 in the second round. He closed with a 63 and won by five shots.

He won $126,000 and moved to No. 13 on the money list, giving him a reasonable chance to reach the PGA Tour if he finishes the season in the top 25.

''A lot of people kept pushing me when I wanted to step away from it,'' Arnaud said. ''My wife was one of those that told me to take the chance and go. Low and behold it really paid off.''


SHINNECOCK SAVANT: Rory McIlroy is excited to get back to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open, a course he already has played a few times.

Equally excited is his manager, Sean O'Flaherty, who knows the course on New York's Long Island better than McIlroy.

O'Flaherty spent two summers as a caddie at Shinnecock Hills.

He went to college at Trinity in Dublin, had friends in the Hamptons and came over during the summer months in 2002 and 2003 to work as a caddie.

''I got to know a lot of members,'' O'Flaherty said. ''I can't wait. To me, it's the best course in the world.''


DIVOTS: Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic on Feb. 25 at No. 4 in the world. No one from the top 10 in the world has won a PGA Tour event since then, a stretch of 12 tournaments. ... Guy Kinnings is leaving IMG after nearly 30 years to become the deputy CEO and Ryder Cup director of the European Tour. He will report directly to European Tour chief Keith Pelley. ... The LPGA tour will play in China during its fall Asia swing at the Buick LPGA Shanghai at Qizhong Garden Golf Club. The tournament will be Oct. 18-21, one week before the men play the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai. ... Alice Chen of Furman has been selected for the Dinah Shore Trophy, awarded to top college women who excel in golf, academics and work off the golf course. ... The Irish Open is going to Lahinch Golf Club in 2019, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley serving as the tournament host.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Kuchar, Peter Uihlein and Jhonattan Vegas are the only players to compete in all five Texas events on the PGA Tour this year.


FINAL WORD: ''The sum of his shots seems to add up to slightly less than the sum of the shots from another guy.'' - Geoff Ogilvy on Jordan Spieth.

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Arizona's run continues, knocks off top seed to reach semis

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 6:35 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – The No. 1 seed in match play has still never won the women’s NCAA Championship.

That dubious distinction continued Tuesday at Karsten Creek when Arizona knocked out top-seeded UCLA on the final hole of the final match.

With the matches tied at 2 apiece, the anchor match between Arizona junior Bianca Pagdanganan and UCLA freshman Patty Tavatanakit was tied on the 18th hole, a par 5 that’s reachable in two shots by many.

Tavatanakit was just short of the green in two and Pagdanganan, the Wildcats’ hero from Monday when she made eagle on the last hole to give her team a shot at match play, blasted her second shot onto the green. Tavatanakit failed to get up and down – missing a 4-footer for birdie – and Pagdanganan two-putted for birdie to give Arizona the victory.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage


“We’re lucky to be in match play,” Arizona coach Laura Ianello said. “Let’s ride the highs. Why not?”

Arizona will now face Stanford in the semifinals. The Cardinal, the 2015 champion and 2016 runner up, has qualified for match play in each of the past four seasons. They beat Northwestern, 3-2, in the quarterfinals to advance.

USC will face Alabama in the other semifinal, meaning three Pac-12 teams have advanced to the Final Four. The Crimson Tide had an easy go of it in their quarterfinal match against Kent State, winning 4-1. The decisive victory gave Alabama extra rest for its afternoon match.

USC beat Duke, 3-1-1, in the other quarterfinal, pitting teams that have combined to win nine NCAA titles in the past 20 years. But neither team has had much success in the past four years since the championship turned to match play. Not only has neither team won, neither has even reached the championship match.

Duke’s Leona Maguire won the first match and the second match was halved, but USC swept the last three matches with Gabriela Ruffels, Alyaa Abdulghany and Amelia Garvey all winning to propel the Trojans into the semifinals.

Alabama (2) vs. USC (3)

2:30PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (A) vs. Jennifer Chang (USC)

2:40PM ET: Kristen Gillman (A) vs. Amelia Garvey (USC)

2:50PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (A) vs. Allisen Corpuz (USC)

3:00PM ET: Lakareber Abe (A) vs. Alyaa Abdulghany (USC)

3:10PM ET: Angelica Moresco (A) Gabriela Ruffels (USC)


Stanford (5) vs. Arizona (8)

3:20PM ET: Emily Wang (S) vs. Gigi Stoll (A)

3:30PM ET: Shannon Aubert (S) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (A)

3:40PM ET: Mika Liu (S) vs. Haley Moore (A)

3:50PM ET: Albane Valenzuela (S) vs. Sandra Nordaas (A)

4:00PM ET: Andrea Lee (S) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (A)

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 5:50 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals were contested Tuesday morning with semifinals in the afternoon. The finals are being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

Tuesday
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals (Click here to watch live)

Wednesday
4-8PM: Match-play finals