Nightmare Scenario

By Rex HoggardAugust 18, 2010, 10:31 pm

“If you need someone to blame throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.”

-Bono

In the hectic hours following Dustin Johnson’s major miscue at Whistling Straits, the media searched doggedly for a scapegoat while the PGA of America likely strained a rib muscle trying to find a fix for an utterly unfixable situation.

Neither party was successful.

The blame game started with David Price, the walking scorer with Johnson’s group on Sunday who was strangely absent from the proceedings considering the gravity of the situation and the looming possibility that one of Whistling Straits’ 1,200 or so bunkers would mar an otherwise memorable championship.

“You’ve got to say something to him,” said Jim Duncan, a veteran PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour rules official. “If I was a walking official I would have said on the first tee, guys please use caution and ask me.”

Not that Duncan has any interest in Monday morning officiating. Far from it, in fact he calls Price one of the best rules officials in the business. Duncan’s observation is more of a warning than a judgment.

Those who want to criticize Price or the PGA are oversimplifying, or worse overanalyzing.

dustin johnson whistling straits pga
Dustin Johnson hits what turned out to be his fourth shot on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
“Of course I would have said something,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competitions. “But a lot of times I would have been up trying to clear the crowds, you can’t always be there. It’s like a nightmare scenario. None of this is good for the Rules of Golf.”

Those who say the fix is simple – just make anything inside the ropes a hazard, as defined by the Rules of Golf, and everything outside a waste area – have not spent enough time studying the rule book.

“We did everything the PGA did (for the 2007 U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits),” said Davis, who met with his PGA counterpart Kerry Haigh before the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits and agreed that all 1,200 of Pete Dye’s pits should be played as hazards. “Every bunker was treated as a bunker, as it should be.”

The inside/outside the ropes delineation won’t work for numerous reasons. What if a rope line crosses through a bunker? Or if a rope is moved before a player gets to his golf ball? In Rules of Golf speak this would be considered a “broken arrow” option, unquantifiable and unworkable.

“You are opening a can of worms doing something other than what they did this year,” Duncan said.

Ultimately, it was Johnson who made the mistake, however innocently, and to his youthful credit he never tried to water that reality down. But that does little to assure this doesn’t happen in 2015 when the PGA Championship returns to the converted Wisconsin pasture.

The blame game may soothe our manic souls and calm a collective nausea, but is a blatant waste of energy. This is not a Dustin Johnson problem or a Rules of Golf problem or a PGA of America problem.

If you want to blame someone go after Pete Dye, the architectural sadist in grandfather’s clothing. He created the faux links land, with the blessing of golf Herb Kohler, and all those sandy blemishes on an otherwise enchanting seascape.

They have towering dunes on Ireland’s greatest golf courses, they just don’t dot them with ornamental and problem-causing bunkers. Nor do they pack them with 40,000 fans during a major championship.

But then even Dye gets a partial pass considering that Whistling Straits is not entirely unique in its propensity for sandy question marks. Duncan pointed out that Kiawah Island in South Carolina – site of the 2012 PGA and another Dye design, by the way – is canvassed with bunkers that are even less defined than those at Whistling Straits.

When we reached Davis on Wednesday he was preparing for next week’s U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., the site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

“We have an even more complicated issue with all the sand,” said Davis, who was watching Sunday’s PGA and nearly texted Haigh when he saw the infraction. “We have these sandy areas that just sort of transition to bunkers.”

There are, essentially, only two ways to be sure Johnson the proper noun doesn’t become Johnson a verb – as in he Johnson’ed his second shot and lost the tournament: Remove Whistling  Straits from the major rota, which would get our vote, or let grass grow over all those largely ornamental sand pits that simply welcome this kind of confusion.

“This is not a Rules of Golf issue, it is an issue that deals with the architecture of Whistling Straits,” Davis said. “It’s just a very unique golf course that when you put it under big tournament conditions it is a very demanding situation.”

On Sunday amid the muted celebration of Martin Kaymer’s celebration neither Kohler nor Dye had any interest in cleaning up the sandy clutter that led to heartbreak for Johnson and heartache for the PGA of America.

“It’s what should have happened,” Kohler said.

A few days before the PGA Championship we had a chance to speak with Kohler about the evolution of his lakeside gem and reflect on the ’04 championship. One comment, given Sunday’s drama, drove us back to the notebook.

“(Haigh’s) comfort level grew dramatically from the first day to the last day in 2004,” Kohler said.

We have to wonder, how comfortable is Haigh now?

Getty Images

Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

Getty Images

Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

Getty Images

Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”