Cut Line Crime and Punishment
Ryd-ing high. Following two years of contentious press conferences, snide remarks and general ickiness the powers that be seemed intent on making the 2012 Ryder Cup fun for the entire family with this week’s announcements that Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III will captain their respective squads.
A member of Love’s camp told “Cut Line” after the announcement that this “Captain America” intends to “have fun and he’s going to make sure the players have fun.”
Ollie and DL3 are on the “G rated” side of say, John Calipari and neither will light up the press center. “Cut Line” already misses Monty, but they will bring out the best in the players, and the matches.
Old habits. OK, so Tiger Woods’ Wednesday commitment to the Farmers Insurance Open was hardly worth a double take and two days before the deadline is not exactly what some consider an early warning, but it’s a start and will certainly help tournament officials market the event.
According to Farmers Insurance tournament director Tom Wilson ticket sales were already up 15 percent over last year on “rumors” that Woods would return to Torrey Pines for the first time since 2008, and Team Tiger had dropped as many hints as they could.
“(Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg) gave me as much of a heads up as possible,” Wilson said. “We had an idea, so it’s been nice.”
For the record, Woods would not have been the centerpiece of the event’s marketing campaign even if he would have committed two months ago. That honor, as always, goes to the defending champion – someone named Ben Crane.
Tweet of the Week. @PaulAzinger “Davis and Ollie will be terrific captains. Won’t be the usual finger pointing at captains. Press will have to blame players.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Sawgrass saga. How is it that everybody has staked out the high ground in the ongoing Lee Westwood v. Players Championship spat and yet the debate still feels petty and political?
Lee Westwood, the game’s current No. 1, can play whatever schedule he wishes, and if that means skipping the so-called “fifth major” to be better prepared for the established Grand Slams then play away.
The PGA Tour, however, has an obligation to its members and would be ill advised to change its rules, again, to better accommodate non-members. The circuit scrambled late last year to exempt The Players from the 10-tournament maximum for non-members, a not-so-veiled move to keep Westwood and Rory McIlroy in The Players fold.
Still, if everyone is right how come this feels so wrong?
Worlds apart. Greg Norman isn’t going to like this. Ditto for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, but professional golf is inching its way toward a global tour.
That is, of course, unless Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., would rather bury its collective head in the Palm Springs sand. Three of the top four players in the world and all four major champions from 2010 are playing on the European Tour this week and the crowded calendar is starting to produce casualties.
This year’s Presidents Cup will be played the same week as the South African Open, a scheduling anomaly that will force the game’s top South Africans to choose between a team event and their national championship. And this is not an isolated incident.
A world tour is coming, just don’t tell Norman.
Crime and punishment? Elliot Saltman, the Challenge Tour player accused of incorrectly marking his ball on at least five different occasions during an event last year, was banned from European Tour play for three months, which, considering the gravity of the accusations, is not exactly the death penalty.
Saltman originally acknowledged his mistakes at the Russian Challenge Cup, where two players paired with the Scot refused to sign his scorecard after the round. He later recanted his admission and was in Abu Dhabi to challenge the ruling.
Five separate violations is not accidental behavior and three months for such a blatant breach seems a tad light. Judge Judy would have come down harder than that. Shame on Saltman. Shame on the European Tour.
RIP common sense. Another viewer, another phone call, another baffling disqualification. But this time it isn’t about Padraig Harrington, who was bounced from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after a viewer called in a violation from Thursday’s play, or even the viewer with far too much free time.
No, the problem is the convoluted Rules of Golf, which completely ignore intent and common sense.
Just take it from Jack Nicklaus, who told Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” crew earlier this week, “Probably the whole book of the Rules of Golf should be changed. If you try to figure it out, it should be common sense, yet common sense never seems to prevail.”
Holding out Hope. There will be plenty of indignant ink and even more eye rolling at this week’s Bob Hope Classic, which has become a perennial second fiddle to the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi stop.
But know this about the once-storied event, many of its problems are self inflicted.
The tournament’s ill-advised move to the Classic Club lingers among the rank and file, the five-round pro-am format is the professional golf equivalent of liver and onions and the ousting of George Lopez as tournament host in 2008 was simply baffling.
The Hope may deserve better, but so do the players and fans.
Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look
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
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.
Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course
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.”
Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race
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
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:
1. Tyrrell Hatton
2. Justin Rose
3. Jon Rahm
4. Ross Fisher
5. Matthew Fitzpatrick
1. Rory McIlroy
2. Tommy Fleetwood
3. Sergio Garcia
4. Alex Noren
5. Ian Poulter