Decisions Decisions

By Rex HoggardMay 18, 2011, 11:20 pm
In fading light last Sunday Scott Gneiser rocked against the weight of his man David Toms’ staff bag and took the weight of the world, or so it seemed, onto his tired shoulders.

“Sixteen . . . I wish I would have talked him into laying up,” sighed Gneiser, a caddie-yard legend and Toms’ bagman for the better part of 12 years and 11 of his dozen Tour victories.

David Toms
David Toms reacts to his missed putt on the first playoff hole at The Players. (Getty Images)
Monday morning caddying is a dangerous business, and maybe the entire affair played out in surround-sound raucousness on TPC Sawgrass’ 16th hole, was still too fresh for Gneiser. Objectivity is a rare commodity following a playoff loss.

These are the facts: with a one-stroke lead and a swing that hit more fairways than anyone else at The Players Championship, Toms narrowly missed the fairway at the par-5 16th hole on Sunday but arrived at his golf ball with his mind already made up, or so it seemed.

“We got to the ball and he asked, ‘What do you think of 2-iron (hybrid)?’ and I liked it with a one-shot lead. He just hit it against the bottom of the club and it ran into the water,” Gneiser said of Toms’ approach shot from 249 yards.

Toms made bogey, eventual champion K.J. Choi signed for a par, and as Gneiser assessed the outcome it was impossible for his mind to not race back a decade, “We’ve laid up before to win a golf tournament.”

The “golf tournament” Gneiser was referring to was the 2001 PGA Championship which Toms won on the 72nd hole with a driver, two wedge shots and a 12-footer for par – maybe the gutsiest finish to any major championship in recent history (non-2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines division).

At the time Toms had a similar decision, a 5-wood from 220 yards from a hanging lie in the rough to a baked-out green that was never designed for such a shot; or a wedge to a comfortable yardage (88 yards) and a clutch one-putt for victory.

“I might still be playing that hole if I would have gone for the green,” Toms said at the time. “There was nothing good that could happen.”

Therein lies the fine line between a good decision that is hailed as brilliant and a bad choice that is immediately labeled a bone-headed move.

The same guy that bounced his U.S. Open chances off a tree, garbage can and corporate tent at the 2006 U.S. Open made Masters magic with a 6-iron off the pine straw adjacent the 13th fairway last year. Those who wish to distinguish between the Winged Foot version of Phil Mickelson and last year’s Masters edition do so at their own risk. The DNA is the same, only the outcome is different.

In this, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the difference between a sound and a silly shot is more often than not dictated by the outcome.

In retrospect, it’s not entirely inaccurate to say that Jean Van de Velde was simply unlucky, not sloppy, at the 1999 Open Championship when his shot at the claret jug was washed away by the rising tide in a Carnoustie’s burn.

The bounce, bad or otherwise, is certainly a crucial element at any event, and of everything that transpired on that surreal summer day in ’99 the only thing the Frenchman seems guilty of is hitting driver off Carnoustie’s 18th tee. Yet Sergio Garica tried to play it safe off the same 18th tee in his duel with Padraig Harrington at the ’07 Open Championship and we all know how that turned out.

“I got ahead of myself on 16 in regulation,” said Toms, who three-putted the first playoff hole on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass. “Seeing K.J. had to lay up already I probably should have laid up and hit a wedge up there and made par at the worst, but I felt like I could get it on the green and take maybe a two-shot lead there and put a lot of pressure on him. So that was the mindset, and I just hit a bad shot.”

Hindsight can be a dangerous judge and jury. A week earlier Lucas Glover spoke about the dangers of trying to protect a lead on a PGA Tour Sunday. In short, neither Glover nor his “beard” thought it was a good idea to play prevent defense coming down the stretch and Toms’ idea that a two-shot lead with the Staduim’s demanding 17th and 18th holes looming certainly passes the sniff test.

Maybe the only thing Toms was ultimately guilty of is forgetting who he was – a fairways-and-greens guy who wears down his opponents – not a bomb-and-gorge sort who overpowers the field.

As a subject to dissection and second-guess, however, Toms’ bold decision at the 16th hole is simply a non-story, with all respect to Gneiser. Ultimately, Toms’ choice was above reproach, just not his execution.
Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
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Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

“The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

“Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

“It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.


Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

“I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

“Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

“He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

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Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

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Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.


Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.