Floridas Fab Four

By Rex HoggardMarch 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)In 2007 PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem took his bat and his glove headed for summer, that is to say he shuffled the competitive landscape by moving the Players Championship out of the Florida Swing, and Augusta Nationals consuming shadow, to the drier confines of May.
The fifth major got its bouncy conditions and an unobstructed view, and the four-event lineup that remained in the Sunshine State received a scheduling nip/tuck that continues to take shape. The new and improved version of the Florida Swing is much more demanding than the warm and fuzzy version that used to welcome players from the West Coast.
Whereas before the extreme makeover players headed east in search of warmer climes and easier conditions, the Tour arrives in Florida with white knuckles firmly gripping clubs and an indifference to what has become a sliding scale of success.
Theyre all pretty hard, Dudley Hart reasoned last Saturday following Round 2 of the WGC-CA Championship. This (Doral) is pretty good, its a different mix in each tournament.
Which among Floridas Fab Four Tour venues is the toughest remains a matter of opinion. What is not in doubt is the increased difficulty of the overall swing.
Since 2007 when the Players moved to May and the Tampa, Fla.-area stop filled the void, the collective scoring average for the swing was 6 over par (2007) and 2.76 over par (2008). By comparison, the average in 2006, when the swing included the Players, Doral, Bay Hill and Honda Classic was 1.8 over par, .56 over in 05 and 1.28 over in 04.
During the post-Players-move years, TPC Sawgrass anchored the swing, both literally and in scoring average, followed in order by Bay Hill, the Honda Classic venues ' a haphazard collection of residential layouts ' and Doral.
The modern swing, however, is the Benjamin Button-version of the old lineup. The Honda Classic leads off the swing with PGA National, statistically and consensually the most demanding of the current four.
Its almost reversed a little bit, Hart said. We start out at the toughest and kind of work our way backwards. It used to be the easiest to the hardest, now its reversed.
PGA National was the toughest of the four in 2008 (71.82 stroke average and ninth toughest on Tour), which dovetails with most players opinions,
The Honda stepped up big time, you could hold a major there, said Ken Duke.
In 2007 Bay Hill statistically ranked the toughest on the swing ' seventh toughest on Tour, one spot ahead of PGA National ' but some subtleties in the rankings are lost to the creative accounting of course set-up. After the 2006 tournament, Bay Hill officials lopped two strokes off par, rewriting the scorecard from a par 72 to 70, and jumped from 19th toughest in 06 to seventh in 07.
Doral may claim to be a Monster, but in the new swing its widely considered the meekest of the bunch, ranking the easiest among the four the last two years.
Everybody talks about (Doral), but there are only two or three really tough holes, Ben Curtis said. No. 1 is more like a par 4 and 18 is more like a par 5. This is the easiest we play in Florida.
Its a far cry from the fearsome layout that regularly ranked among the circuits most demanding when it debuted in the 1960s and 70s but the game and the swing have in some ways outgrown Doral.
Doral was probably harder before guys started hitting it so far and there was more rough, Hart said. (Doral) is a bombers course. If you can carry it 280 yards off the tee its always an advantage.
For the CA Championship, one player likened the rough to what is found at most resorts, that is to say non-existent, but in Dorals defense a lingering drought in south Florida limited the growing period. Officials also did not overseed the Blue Monster with winter grasses this year, making the layout play unusually hard and fast, which only made the long-hitters longer.
Overseed always plays easier, said Hart, noting that this weeks layout at Innisbrook and next week at Bay Hill will both be overseeded. The greens are always softer compared to non-overseeded Bermudagrass, which is the hardest thing to play out of. You get so many more flyers out that stuff.
The agronomic combination led to one of the lowest scoring averages in years (70.91) and a 19-under 269 winning total. There was more red, than blue at Doral, a dramatic shift in the way things used to be, but then change seems to be the only constant for a Florida Swing in flux.

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    By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 12:02 am

    DALLAS – Despite the tournament debut of Trinity Forest Golf Club coming to a soggy conclusion, course co-designer Ben Crenshaw is pleased with how his handiwork stood up against the field at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

    Crenshaw was on property for much of the week, including Sunday when tee times were delayed by four hours as a line of storms passed through the area. While the tournament’s field lacked some star power outside of headliner Jordan Spieth, Crenshaw liked what he saw even though Mother Nature didn’t exactly cooperate.

    “We’re pleased. It’s off to a nice, quiet start, let’s say,” Crenshaw said. “The week started off very quiet with the wind. This course, we envision that you play it with a breeze. It sort of lends itself to a links style, playing firm and fast, and as you saw yesterday, when the wind got up the scores went up commensurately.”

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    That assessment was shared by Spieth, a Trinity Forest member who has become the tournament’s de facto host and spent much of his week surveying his fellow players for opinions about a layout that stands out among typical Tour stops.

    “A lot of guys said, ‘It’s grown on me day to day, I really enjoyed it as a change of pace, I had a lot of fun playing this golf course.’ Those were lines guys were using this week, and it shouldn’t be reported any differently,” Spieth said. “It was an overwhelmingly positive outlook from the players that played.”

    Crenshaw didn’t bristle as tournament leaders Aaron Wise and Marc Leishman eclipsed the mark of 20 under par, noting that he and co-designer Bill Coore simply hoped to offer a “different experience” from the usual layouts players face. With one edition in the books, he hopes that a largely positive reaction from those who made the journey will help bolster the field in 2019 and beyond.

    “To me, the guys who played here this week will go over to Fort Worth, and hopefully the field at Colonial that wasn’t here would ask questions of the people who were here,” Crenshaw said. “You hope that some good word spreads.”

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    WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Ariya Jutanugarn birdied the second hole of a playoff Sunday to win the Kingsmill Championship for the second time in three years.

    Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 66 to match Nasa Hataoka (67) and In Gee Chun (68) at 14-under 199.

    Jutanugarn and Hataoka both birdied the first extra hole, with Chun dropping out. Hataoka putted first on the second extra hole and missed badly before Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-footer for her eighth career victory. The 22-year-old Thai star's older sister, Moriya, won the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in Los Angeles in April for her first LPGA Tour victory

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    Jutanugarn started the day two shots behind Chun and had a two-shot lead before making bogey at the par-5 15th. Hataoka, playing with Chun in the final threesome, birdied No. 15 to join Jutanugarn at 14 under, and Chun made a long birdie putt on the par-3 17th to also get to 14 under.

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    Jimenez wins first Champions major at Tradition

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    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Miguel Angel Jimenez finally got to light up a victory cigar after winning a senior major championship.

    Jimenez won the Regions Tradition on Sunday for his first PGA Tour Champions major title, closing with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. He celebrated with a big embrace from fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, who hoisted him in the air.

    After a round of photos and speeches from local dignitaries, Jimenez finally got to break out the celebratory cigar.

    ''It's time to have a medal in my pocket and it's nice to be on the first major of the year,'' he said.

    Jimenez held or shared the lead after every round, taking a three-shot edge into the final round at Greystone Golf & Country Club. The Spaniard finished at 19-under 269 for his fifth PGA Tour Champions victory.

    ''It's been a wonderful week,'' he said. ''My game was amazing, really.''

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    Steve Stricker, Joe Durant and Gene Sauers tied for second.

    It was the third time Jimenez had entered the final round of a senior major with at least a share of the lead but the first one he has pulled out. He tied for third at the 2016 Senior British Open and for second at the 2016 U.S. Senior Open.

    Durant and Sauers finished with matching 69s, and Stricker shot 70.

    Jimenez birdied two of the final three holes including a closing putt for good measure.

    Jimenez entered the day at 17 under to tie Gil Morgan's 21-year-old Tradition record through 54 holes. He got off to a rough start with an errant tee shot into a tree-lined area on his way to a bogey, but he never lost his grip on the lead.

    Jimenez had three bogeys after making just one over the first three rounds, but easily held off his challengers late.

    His approach on No. 18 landed right in the center of the green after Stricker's shot sailed well right into the gallery. He had rebuilt a two-stroke lead with a nice birdie putt on No. 16 while Durant and Stricker each had a bogey among the final three holes to leave Jimenez with a more comfortable cushion.

    Stricker and Durant both had par on the final hole while Sauers also birdied to tie them. Durant had produced two eagles on No. 18 already in the tournament but couldn't put pressure on Jimenez with a third.

    Stricker's assessment of his own performance, including a bogey on No. 17, was that he ''made quite a few mistakes.''

    ''Just didn't take care of my ball, really,'' he said. ''I put it in some bad spots, didn't get it up and down when I had to a few times, missed a few putts. Yeah, just didn't have it really, didn't play that good, but still had a chance coming down to the end.''

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    Jimenez made a birdie putt on No. 16 one hole after falling into a tie with Stricker with a bogey. Durant faltered, too, with a bogey on No. 16.

    ''When (Stricker) made birdie and I make a bogey on the 15th, everything's going up again very tight,'' Jimenez said. ''It's time to hole a putt on 16, for me that makes all the difference.''

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