Dirty Little Secret

By Rex HoggardJune 10, 2010, 1:12 am

On Tuesday Washington Naitonals’ prospect-tuned-promise keeper Stephen Strasburg accomplished a rare professional sports double, exceeding the hype with his 7-inning, 2-run, 14-strikeout performance and doing so in a brisk 2 hours, 19 minutes.

Strasburg’s gem was perfection condensed, reversing a trend in Major League Baseball of drawn-out games that last four hours, or more. If only golf could be so unfortunate.

On Sunday at Muirfield Village Rickie Fowler, one of the PGA Tour’s fastest players, teed off at 12:45 p.m. (ET) and didn’t putt out for the silver medal until almost 6 p.m., and – all things considered – it wasn’t a terribly sluggish day by Tour standards, and that’s a shame.

Players like Fowler, and Lucas Glover and Joe Ogilvie before him, arrive on Tour with every tool to succeed, including an accelerator. Clemson coach Larry Penley once said that when Glover, who played golf for Clemson, and Ogilvie, a Duke grad, were paired together at college events it was an oddity when there weren’t two golf balls in the air at the same time.

But, like Glover and Ogilvie before him, Fowler will learn to slow down. He must if he is going to survive on the Snail Tour, and that’s a shame.

The pace of play on Tour is glacial and instead of addressing the problem officials lob stop-gap solutions at the symptoms.

Fields are cut in the fall and spring because, they say, it’s impossible to get 156 players around in limited sunlight. A few years back officials initiated a secondary cut on Saturday because anything more than 78 players is unmanageable.

In response to slow play, the Tour’s solutions only seem to facilitate a more languid pace. On Sunday, before Fowler and eventual champion Justin Rose even teed off, Jack Nicklaus innocently seemed to stumble onto the root of the problem.

In 1962, Jack Nicklaus was on his way to his second consecutive victory at the Portland Open Invitational when Tour official Joe Black walked into the scoring trailer. “Add two (strokes) to your card,” Black told the young phenom.

Nicklaus won the Portland event, and more importantly he learned a valuable lesson.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Nicklaus recalled. “They wouldn’t give you a slow-play penalty if you weren’t slow.”

When informed that Dillard Pruitt was the last Tour player to incur a one-stroke penalty for slow play at the 1992 Byron Nelson Classic Nicklaus’ reaction was equally telling.

“Really?” he asked, silent for a moment as he considered the grim statistic.

The current Tour policy regarding slow play is as convoluted as it is archaic. The first time a player is given a bad time there is no penalty, if it happens twice in a round he is assessed a one-shot penalty and a third time is worth two strokes. If a player is given two bad times in a single season they are fined $5,000 and a third and subsequent offenses cost $10,000 per.

Now there are plenty of fines, rumor is habitually slow players put aside a few grand just to budget for the inevitable, but it’s much easier to write a check than it is to “add two,” as Black would say.

“(A stroke penalty is) absolutely more impactful,” Nicklaus said.

The Golden Bear, who was penalized twice for slow play in his Hall of Fame career, in ’62 in Portland and again in ’65 in Houston, would know. Nicklaus’ run-in with Black was more than just a random encounter. It was an integral chapter in the development of the game’s great player.

“I always took my time and was meticulous over the shot, so I had to figure out how am I going to make up that time? Either walking (faster) or in my preparation,” Nicklaus said. “Joe told me not to change the way you play your shot, that’s you.”

In the name of historical accuracy it must be pointed out that Nicklaus became the game’s greatest player, but not the fastest. Some, in fact, only half jokingly say he invented slow play, or at least the modern version of it. But the essence of Nicklaus’ story became clear as Sunday’s threesomes inched their way around Muirfield Village.

Early enough in Nicklaus’ development, 1962 was his rookie year, Black took the time to teach him a lesson, likely a touchy endeavor considering just two years earlier the Golden Bear finished runner-up at the U.S. Open as an amateur.

“Joe (Black) said you have to be ready to play when it’s your turn,” Nicklaus remembered. “When I first started, like a lot of kids, I would sit there and watch everybody else play and then when it was my turn to play then I’d start getting my yardage.”

It’s a lesson nearly four decades old that seemed apropos on Sunday as Ricky Barnes, among the Tour’s more-deliberate types, stalked his 10-footer for birdie from every conceivable angle on the 14th hole.

Barnes missed the putt, for what it’s worth, and many of today’s younger players seem to be missing the point. There is no need for a Tour full of Fowlers and Glovers, but Black’s definition of “ready golf” should be as much a standard of play as fixing divots and signing scorecards.

“The pace that I played when I started there’s a ton of them that play at that pace right now. It’s pretty slow, of course they are also playing a course that’s 7,500 yards long compared to 6,700 yards when I played,” Nicklaus said. “(But) play could be faster.”

And with that Nicklaus entertained another 20 minutes of questions from the gathered scribes. It was, after all, a Tour Sunday so he had plenty of time. And that’s a shame.

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Kupcho wins NCAA title; final eight teams set

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 1:55 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – On one of the more nerve-racking days of the college golf season two important honors were up for grabs at Karsten Creek – the individual title, and the top eight teams attempting to qualify for match play.

Here’s the lowdown of what happened Monday at the women’s NCAA Championship:

Individual leaderboard: Kupcho, Wake Forest (-8); Andrea Lee, Stanford (-6); Bianca Pagdanganan, Arizona (-6); Cheyenne Knight, Alabama (-5); Morgane Metraux, Florida State (-4); Jaclyn Lee, Ohio State (-3).

Team leaderboard: UCLA (+9), Alabama (+9), USC (+16), Northwestern (+21), Stanford (+28), Duke (+30), Kent State (+32), Arizona (+33).

What it means: Let’s start with the individual race. Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho was absolutely devastated a year ago when she made triple bogey on the 17th hole of the final round and lost the individual title by a shot. She was bound not to let that happen again and this year she made five birdies on the last eight holes to win by two shots. Kupcho is the first player with three consecutive top-six finishes at the NCAA Championship since Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst (2007-09).

The team race took an unexpected turn at the end of the day when Arizona junior Bianca Pangdaganan made eagle on the last hole to vault the Wildcats into an eighth-place tie, meaning they would enter a playoff with Baylor for the final spot in the match play portion of the championship.

The Wildcats got a reprieve because they played terribly for most of the day and dropped from third place to 10th at one point. In the playoff, Arizona ultimately defeated Baylor in an anticlimactic finish.

Best of the rest: Stanford played horribly the first round. So bad that it almost seemed like the Cardinal shot itself out of the championship. But they played steady over the next three days and ended with the fifth seed. This is the fourth year in a row that Stanford has advanced to match play.

Round of the day: USC shot a 5-under total on Monday, the best round of the day by six shots. They landed as the third seed and will play Duke in the quarterfinals.

Stanford sophomore Andrea Lee shot a 7-under 65, the best score of the day by three shots. Lee made seven birdies and no bogeys and vaulted up the leaderboard 11 spots to end in a tie for sixth place.

Biggest disappointment: Arkansas, the second-ranked team in the country, missed qualifying for match play by one shot. The Razorbacks shot a 20-over 308 in Round 1 and played only slightly better with a 300 in the second round. Consecutive 1-over-par 289 scores were a good try, but results in a huge miss for a team expected to contend for the team title.

Here are Tuesday morning's quarterfinal matchups:

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.”