Righting the wrong

By Rex HoggardJune 30, 2011, 10:54 pm

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Right scores, wrong course.

That’s what U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis must have been thinking as he watched the action unfold at Aronimink Golf Club – a measured slug-fest where par has not succumbed to the inflationary realities of the modern game and hitting fairways matters.

It’s a dramatic contrast to Congressional and this year’s U.S. Open – an event some say was an Open in name only.

Contrasting weather conditions, of course, dictate most of what transpired at Congressional – where Rory McIlroy mowed down century’s old scoring records, to say nothing of a stunned field – and on Thursday at Aronimink.

At Congressional hot and dry preceded a predictably wet week, the nuclear option for set-up types, while PGA Tour officials enjoyed the preferred opposite, rain in the weeks leading up to the AT&T National and cloudless sunshine this week.

On Tuesday defending AT&T National champion Justin Rose tweeted, “It could be more U.S. Open [than] the U.S. Open was,” and on Thursday the Englishman’s sage predictions played out perfectly.

The Round 1 scoring average at Aronimink was 71.499, 1.499 strokes over par; well ahead of Sunday’s average at TPC Pincushion . . . eh, make that Congressional (71.444 average, .444 over par).

Twenty-eight players posted sub-par scores on Thursday at the AT&T National, compared to 32 on Sunday at Congressional, a collection that included McIlroy’s silly 69 to complete his Open march.

“This course is set up like a U.S. Open,” said Joe Ogilvie, whose 3-under 67 wedged him into a tie for third place. “The fairways are a little bit wider, but it’s definitely playing very similar . . . except for this year’s U.S. Open.”

Tour officials got the weather the USGA was hoping for, but to hear the rank-and-file make the obvious comparisons on Thursday it’s impossible not to think that maybe AT&T National got the golf course the blue blazers wanted as well.

“This golf course is a lot firmer (than Congressional),” said Robert Garrigus, whose opening 68 is two strokes off the pace set by Adam Scott and Hunter Haas.

“The rough is thicker and the greens are firmer and I don’t think double digits (under par) is going to win this week. I think right around 10 under par will get it done this week.”

Garrigus, who tied for third at Congressional for co-low American honors, lets that statement linger in the air for a moment before adding, “We’re going to have fun at Olympic next year.”

The Olympic Club is scheduled to host next year’s national championship and caddie yard wisdom suggests that Davis and the USGA will want to prove that they haven’t gone soft when they set up the 2012 venue. But that’s a different column, and a much different golf course.

Similarly, Aronimink is being viewed much differently, perhaps even as a more worthy Grand Slam test, than Congressional. It’s a fact that likely explains why Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America’s top set-up man, was lurking about the Donald Ross gem on Thursday.

Aronimink hasn’t hosted a regular men’s major since the 1962 PGA Championship, and has been the site of just two USGA championships (’97 U.S. Junior and ’77 U.S. Amateur) in its 115-year history. The U.S. Open will be played at nearby Merion in 2013 so it doesn’t seem likely the USGA would come calling. But the PGA hasn’t held “Glory’s Last Shot” in the Philadelphia area since that ’62 championship.

Considering how Aronimink has held up to the modern game, not to mention the inevitable comparisons to Congressional, it might be time to weave the layout back into the Grand Slam fold.

AT&T National moves back down Interstate-95 to Washington, D.C., next year, leaving Philly fans golf-less, again. It’s a curious injustice considering the size of the market and the potential quality of a venue like Aronimink.

“Even if I wasn’t a member here it’s probably as good as it gets as far as what we play on Tour,” Sean O’Hair said. “It’s one of the top 5 courses we play all year.”

Tour officials got the conditions, and maybe even the course, the USGA wanted. Now it’s time for Aronimink to get the major it deserves.

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”