Foursomes the answer to slow play?

By Rex HoggardNovember 12, 2014, 9:25 pm

Consider it Gleneagles’ silver lining, the unintended consequence of another boat race and another baffling loss.

No, not the PGA of America’s Ryder Cup task force; the relative impact of the vaunted “Group of 11” won’t be known for years. But the byproduct of another U.S. loss at September’s matches may be a realignment of America’s golf priorities.

Consider that this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team failed to win a full point in foursomes, or alternate-shot, play, and the swoon was hardly a statistical abnormality.

The Continent has owned the U.S. side in foursome play the last two decades, outscoring the red, white and bruised, 46-24-10 over the last 10 matches.

By comparison, over roughly the same period the U.S. Presidents Cup team has outscored the International side, 59 1/2 to 33 1/2.

For PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who behind the blue blazer is a pragmatist at his core, the sliding scale of American team play defies definition.

“It’s funny how these things are. The U.S. in recent years has been winning the Presidents Cup because of their strength in foursomes and yet they’ve been getting killed in the Ryder Cup in foursomes,” Finchem said late last month at the McGladrey Classic. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

For Finchem, who said he was not asked to be a member of the PGA’s task force and that he didn’t expect to be included in the proceedings, the scrutiny that has followed the U.S. team’s loss and inevitable microanalysis misses the 400-pound foursome elephant in the American team room.

“You can’t play foursomes down 7-1 and think you are going to win the cup,” he said. “It’s like climbing a mountain.”

Yet where others see a glaring liability with few, if any solutions, Finchem views America’s foursome misfortunes as a unique opportunity.

Not only has the post-Gleneagles handwringing provided an open format to address the U.S. team’s glaring blind spot in team play, but perhaps a chance to address arguably the game’s greatest obstacle – slow play.

“Maybe practice more foursomes. We don’t play enough foursomes golf,” Finchem said. “One of the byproducts of this is if foursome golf could develop some traction in the U.S.”

Finchem points out a foursome round can take half as much time as a stroke-play round and although it is a staple throughout the United Kingdom it is rarely played on this side of the transatlantic divide.

This week at the USGA’s Pace of Play Symposium the association will unveil a flagstick-mounted device to help golf courses measure pace of play, and the Tour strengthened its own pace-of-play policy for this season.

To Finchem, however, the endless quest to make the game faster – even at the highest levels where it took more than five hours last week to play a round at the WGC-HSBC Champions … in threesomes – is akin to making molehills out of mountains.

“If you go to Augusta or Pine Valley or Cypress Point and you’re playing with some single-digit handicaps how long does it take you to play? Four hours,” he answered. “If it’s 4:15 (hours) or 4:20, you’re going to worry about shaving 10 minutes off [a round]? It’s not a driving factor. Everybody talks about playing faster; that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Instead of picking apart the problem, which many observers say is public enemy No. 1 when it comes to growing the game, in piecemeal fashion Finchem sees a broader, more profound, option in the form of increased foursomes play.

The commish seemed open to the idea of adding some sort of foursomes component to select Tour stops, or perhaps even an event that was played entirely using an alternate-shot format.

“Maybe. We’re strapped for weeks, but maybe an exhibition-type thing we could do tournament weeks with a side thing that would include foursomes,” he said. “A special Monday pro-am or something like that. There are things you can do and I think that should be an area where we can focus.”

For Finchem, the pragmatist, the wrath of the 2014 Ryder Cup goes well beyond the use of “pods” and how future captains or teams may be picked. The loss presents an opportunity to address one of the U.S. team’s glaring weaknesses, and if along the way American golf’s greatest challenge is impacted all the better.

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Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

“I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

“I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

“A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

“My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

“I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

“As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.