Top Newsmakers No 9 Grooves

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2010, 10:30 pm

Top 10 NewsmakersAaron Baddeley was on the clock and utterly out of ideas. It was a simple enough question and his silence was as condemning as any testimony or statistic.

In the waning days of the 2010 PGA Tour season asked dozens of players if the new rule regarding grooves in irons altered the way they played a single hole this season?

“Nope . . . not that I can think of. Not even once,” Baddeley finally admitted after a long pause.

For all the hyperbole, all the headaches, all the histrionics, the new rule – adopted by the PGA Tour as a condition of play for the first time in 2010 – was a non-story. Much ado about nothing, or at the least nothing much. That is, of course, if the players and the statistics are to be believed.

Consider the most telling indicators, fairways hit and proximity to the hole – two key stats that should have been impacted the most in theory by the groove rule. The Tour’s proximity to the hole average (35 feet, 1 inch) was the lowest it’s been since 2002 and as a group the fraternity brothers hit about the same number of fairways (63.51 percent) as they did in 2009 (62.91) and 2008 (63.16).

For the remainder of the year, is counting down the Top 10 Newsmakers of 2010. For a list of the complete top 10 and the scheduled release dates, click here.

Associate editor Jon Levy also takes a look at who the grooves' rule really affected: mini-tour players, manufacturers and amateurs.
The same could be said for greens in regulation. The Tour average (66.26 percent) was the highest it’s been in 10 years, and proximity from the rough around the green (within 30 yards) was the lowest it’s been (42 feet, 8 inches) since the circuit started keeping that stat in 2002.

In theory the new rule was supposed to make hitting fairways more important and greens more difficult, particularly from the rough, but on this, ShotLink doesn’t lie.

“We made more about it at the start of the year than it turned out to be,” Ernie Els said. “The ball is still stopping.”

The new grooves debate seemed to reach a curious crescendo earlier this year at Torrey Pines when Phil Mickelson announced he planned to put a set of non-conforming but legal Ping wedges in play at his season opener. The move was criticized by some players, including Scott McCarron who likened it to “cheating.” The Tour adjusted the policy that allowed the Ping wedges to be played and the new rule faded into the background largely because of how quickly players adjusted to the new grooves.

More so than any other statistic, the circuit’s scoring average (71.15) suggested, as many thought, that the best players would figure it out. Only 2009 and 2008 (71.04 and 71.07, respectively) had lower scoring averages in the last decade.

“How many 59s have there been this year? You tell me how much harder it is,” Greg Owen said.

Before the season began some suggested players would try harder to find the short grass, but when asked if the bombers still bomb away with abandon, Heath Slocum didn’t hesitate, “Oh yeah,”

“I don’t believe there is any correlation between total driving (a combination of fairways hit and driving distance) and the money list,” Joe Durant said. “Total driving is a thing of the past.”

Just four of the last 11 winners of the total driving category finished inside the top 125 in earnings to keep their Tour cards and just two – Charles Howell III in 2002 and Tiger Woods in 2000 – finished in the top 10 in earnings.

That’s not to say a single season is a complete statistical snapshot and some attribute this year’s low scoring to more user-friendly course setups.

“It looked like they tried to knock down some of the fairways to bring some rough to promote the flyer more,” Slocum said.

Although Tour officials confirmed that they have changed their philosophy away from the traditional “chip out” rough, they contend the move has been ongoing the last few seasons.

“We kind of got away from the chip-out rough. We didn’t like that. We wanted to encourage them to strike the ball toward the green,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions. “We came to the conclusion that it’s much more difficult for a guy to play out of shorter rough as opposed to chip-out rough.”

Russell also contends that 2010, as a rule, was wetter than previous seasons, an agronomic reality that lends itself to softer, easier conditions.

“The whole overriding thing is you have to have firm greens. At Quail Hollow we had that,” Russell said. “When it’s soft there’s not much you can do anywhere. Firm and fast is the key. Grooves aren’t going to make a difference when it’s soft.”

But soft conditions and generously cut rough only partially explain why a rule that was designed to make scoring more difficult was actually credited with simplifying things by many players.

Flyer lies, a thing of the past with older, more aggressive grooves, returned in 2010 with alarming uniformity. Now, instead of guessing if a ball will come out “hot,” players are virtually assured a flyer from the rough and can adjust accordingly.

“If anything it’s made it easier because it’s predictable. I actually prefer it,” Baddeley said without even a hint of pause before quickly offering numerous examples.

Asked, again, if he recalled hitting less club in an attempt to avoid the rough in 2010? Baddeley goes silent. As the Tour and U.S. Golf Association have learned, for this there is no easy answer.
Getty Images

Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:40 pm

A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.

Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.

Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.

"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...

"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.

Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.

As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.

"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."

For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.

Getty Images

Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:19 pm

Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.

Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.

After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.

"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.

And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.

"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.

"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."

Getty Images

Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

Getty Images

Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below: