WGC-Match Play needs to abandon Dove Mountain

By Rex HoggardFebruary 20, 2013, 10:17 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – So this is why Phil Mickelson skips the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Sure, it’s a good time for Mickelson to get away with the family after a hectic West Coast, not to mention the potential one-and-done nature of the event. But as a wet heavy snow blanketed The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club just before lunch on Wednesday, Mickelson’s brilliance descended on Dove Mountain like a winter storm. There are numerous things you can’t do in the snow, and playing golf would be atop that list.

“It’s weird,” Charles Howell III shrugged, summing up the collective vibe at the year’s first World Golf Championship.

It’s sad, is what it is.


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Let this be where the conversation becomes serious: that it is time to leave Dove Mountain behind for greener, not to mention warmer, climes. For those who claim this view to be reactionary, we humbly submit the following exchange.

Reporter: “Have you seen anything like this?”

Tour weatherman: “Yeah, two years ago at Dove Mountain.”

In the hours before the 2011 final between Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer about an inch of snow blanketed this slice of desert heartland, and briefly during the final turn the competitors and thin gallery encountered flurries.

OK, any other time?

“It snowed here another time; when we were playing at Tucson National we had a snow problem. It was the Tucson Open,” recalled Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competition. “We were playing Tucson National, probably late '90s.”

Let the record show that not once while this event was played at La Costa Resort in Southern California, from 1999 to 2006, was a round impacted by snow. Torrential rains that flooded fairways and made holes unplayable, sure. But never snow.

Circumstantially, it should also be noted that in a 15-year career covering golf your scribe has been snowed on just three times while at an event. Two of those weather happenings occurred on this Arizona hill.

Wednesday’s white out, which arrived about an hour before the top-seeded players were to tee off and without a single match completed, was so surreal that it was actually the waiting that surprised players the most.

“I was surprised to hear the Tour say they wanted us to wait and see (if play would resume on Wednesday),” said defending champion Hunter Mahan, who was 4 up through nine holes against Matteo Manassero. “That was crazy.”

No, crazy is a 19-year Tour career that not once – not once – has featured a similar snow delay. In fact, Jim Furyk had to go all the way back to a 1984 high school tournament to remember the last time he’d played an event that had suffered a snow delay.

“There is a reason we don’t play in cold weather,” Furyk shrugged. “Follow the sun, isn’t that it?”

To be clear, Furyk, a player director on the Tour’s Policy Board, was not suggesting a change of venue for the Match Play, but his point is valid nonetheless.

And it’s not just unforgiving weather patterns that have plagued the WGC’s tenure atop Dove Mountain. Since 2007, when the Tour uprooted the Match Play from La Costa for the Tucson highlands, the galleries have been thin, the golf courses have been tolerated and the Sundays have been largely undistinguished.

It is time, as the great communicator Ronald Reagan once figured, the Tour votes with its feet and this was true long before Wednesday’s storm dumped 1 ½ inches of white stuff on the Jack Nicklaus design.

There is nothing wrong with the Match Play that a move to TPC Scottsdale couldn’t fix. Sure they have bad weather in Phoenix, but do you remember the delays or the gazillion fans surrounding the 16th hole?

Or, since the Tour seemed to misplace its globe when it conjured up the World Golf Championships – just one of the four WGCs are played outside the lower 48 – maybe it’s time to pull out the passports.

We hear Brazil is lovely this time of year.

If all this sounds like sour grapes frozen solid by Wednesday’s Nor’wester, consider one Tour member’s take this week when informed the press corps had a distaste for Dove Mountain. “So do the players,” he said.

Play will carry on Thursday, with officials planning to complete Round 1 and play catch up over the weekend. “I don't think we'll have any problem at all, if the weather remains nice, finishing Sunday on time,” Russell said.

And there seems to be no room for an immediate fix since the current Tour contract with Dove Mountain runs through the 2014 event, but if the seeds of serious discontent were not sown in Wednesday’s snow storm then they never will.

“Stay warm,” Steve Stricker’s caddie Jimmy Johnson told Henrik Stenson before the group teed off on Wednesday. Less than 15 minutes later the best Wednesday on Tour had been transformed into a winter wonderland.

Somewhere Phil Mickelson is smiling.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.