Hooks & Cuts: Cypress, Pebble and legends

By Rich LernerFebruary 6, 2014, 4:05 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Legends abound on the Monterey Peninsula. From Pebble to Cypress to tales of old, here are some some Hooks & Cuts hovering around the Pacific.

• John Daly is paired with Kid Rock this week.  Rock’s put out a few songs that fit JD to a tee: “Rebel Soul,” “Devil Without a Cause,” and “Wasting Time.”

• If the weather gets nasty, I like Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady over Peyton Manning. 

• Old shtick never gets old if it’s good shtick.  This is good and old: Jack Lemmon putting for 10 on the final hole asks his caddie which way the putt breaks and the looper says, “Who cares?”

• You know you’re playing at a really cool spot when the caddie says to you, “This was Hogan’s favorite shot on the golf course.”  The course was Cypress Point and the shot was the second to 12, a 6-iron from 155 with the Pacific wind pushing back.

• Promising young pro Justin Thomas had a nice Wednesday.  His Alabama Crimson Tide landed the No. 1 recruiting class in college football, and he played Pebble for the first time in his life. 

• Davis Love III, asked to name a couple of celebrities with swing action he liked through the years, gave me Orel Hershiser and Indy racer Danny Sullivan.

• Jim Furyk loves football and described the Denver Broncos’ super bust this way: “To have such a great year end this way is like leading the Masters for 71 holes only to lose on the last. It’s an empty feeling.”

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• David Gill, a 3-handicap member at Tehema near Pebble, won the pro-am with Skip Kendall in 2000.  Asked to describe the accomplishment, he said, “It’s the holy grail.” Does he remember any specific shots?  “I hit my second shot on No. 8 to 9 feet and made birdie.” You never forget that stuff, do you?

• Playing partner Joe Don Rooney of the band Rascal Flats is writing a new song about my experience at Cypress’ fabled par-3 16th, 238 yards over the ocean (pictured above). It’s called, “I’m not man enough.”  I wrecked a nice round with two snipes that are washing up in Tahiti right about now.

• Furyk’s fondness for Pebble goes beyond the golf.  He and Tabitha were engaged in Carmel in 2000.

• Tip of the Hogan cap to four great college coaches inducted into the Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame on Tuesday night at Spanish Bay: Steve Desimone from powerhouse Cal; Mark Gale, who saw Juli Inkster, Pat Hurst and Patty Sheehan come through the San Jose State women’s program; Wally Goodwin, who looked after Tiger Woods and Notah Begay at Stanford; and, his successor, Conrad Ray, Tiger’s former teammate.

• A bogey at Pebble’s tiny seventh takes some of your soul. It robs you of your manhood.  But the focus shouldn’t be the score.  At No. 7, it’s just you and the Lord and the game you’re blessed to play.

• Desimone’s seen a lot in his 35 years at Cal. He said it was plain to see 20 years ago that Tiger and Phil Mickelson, as collegians, were both lead-pipe cinches for all-time greatness.  I asked him if he’s had that feeling about any recent players. “(Jordan) Spieth has superstar written all over him,” he responded. “He’s long, he putts and he’s fearless.”

• Lost in conversation walking off the 17th, I looked up as we arrived at the 18th tee at Pebble. My knees just about buckled.

• From one of Pebble’s owners, Dick Ferris: “People ask me what it’s like to own Pebble and I always tell them that we’re just stewards of a national treasure.”

• Beyond Spieth, Desimone pointed to Alabama’s Cory Whitsitt, Justin Thomas and Bobby Wyatt as “can’t-miss kids,” along with Patrick Rodgers of Stanford.  And naturally he’s high on his own charges: Michael Weaver, Max Homa, Michael Kim and Brandon Hagy.

• Stories come at you like Pacific waves this week.  The artist and historian Jim Fitzpatrick related a good one. The late Ken Venturi caddied at Cypress as a kid, sitting on the bench behind 16 tee at day’s end waiting for his pop to pick him up after he’d sold netting to the fishermen down at Monterey’s wharf. The old-time bag men took care of the kid, fed him fried chicken. Kenny always vowed that someday he’d win the U.S. Open and then return to treat the caddies. Sure enough, after the courageous victory at Congressional, Kenny showed up one day and popped open the trunk of his Cadillac. Inside was Kentucky Fried Chicken and champagne. Kenny and the caddies celebrated.

• Heady Joe Ogilvie says Pebble’s 14th is the hardest par 5 in golf, that if you played just the 14th 72 times in a stroke-play event, into a 10-mile-per-hour wind, the winning score would be 10 over.

• Desimone reminisced about Cypress’ beloved pro Jim Langley, who passed away last year at 75.  Langley not only played golf at Cal, but basketball as well. He was part of the 1959 team that beat Oscar Robertson and Cincinnati in the semis and then Jerry West and West Virginia in the final on the way to winning the NCAA title.

• The celebrity field is not light on legends with Wayne Gretzky, Brady and Manning at the top of the list. But the best of them all may well be surfing giant Kelly Slater. The 11-time world champion flew to Pebble late Wednesday after earlier that day winning the Volcom Pipe Pro in Hawaii at almost 42 years of age. Slater’s also a 3-handicap.

• Geoff Ogilvy, as reasonable and thoughtful as any Tour pro I know, said he felt like some of the fans in Scottsdale were getting a little too rambunctious, at times even a bit ugly. He thinks the tenor’s changed in the last couple of years, and not for the better.

• Eighty-five years ago on the Monterey Peninsula, a talented woman and a Nebraska caddie unknowingly had a hand in the creation of Augusta National. The woman was Marion Hollins, the 1921 U.S. Women's Amateur champion who brought in Alister MacKenzie to design Cypress Point and Pasatiempo, two courses she helped to develop. The caddie was Johnny Goodman, who upset Bobby Jones in the first round of the 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. With time on his hands after his defeat, Jones explored the other golfing treasures on the peninsula and was subsequently introduced to MacKenzie by Hollins. Impressed with what he saw, Jones hired MacKenzie. The rest is history.

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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

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“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

“Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

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Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

“He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1
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Hot Seat: The driver is burning Tiger

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

The men’s first major championship of the year is two weeks away, the women’s just a week away.

Here’s our Hot Seat lineup with the approach of the Masters and the ANA Inspiration in mind:

Smoking carbon composites – Tiger Woods

Woods is the betting favorite to win the Masters in most sportsbooks, and while his game is coming together quickly, he won’t be the experts’ pick without getting his driver under control.

The driver looks like the last piece Woods needs to once more become the favorite wherever he goes.

Right now, though, there’s an open wound that needs to be cauterized before he heads to Augusta National.

That double-cross Woods blew into someone’s backyard along the 16th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came from a reservoir of uncertainty that his driver continues to create. 

Woods has come a long way with his driver. When he pulls it out of the bag, it isn’t like he’s ripping a bandage off anymore, not the way it was three and four years ago. Still, he doesn’t pull that club with the same relish Rory McIlroy does, or Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for that matter. Physically and psychologically, they’ve got an advantage on him until he does. 

Woods did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, so he’s got extra time to address his biggest shortcoming.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver,” Golf Channel’s Notah Begay said earlier this week. “Tiger has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

Dustin Johnson at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

Smoldering Tex Mex Tango – Dustin Johnson

The world No. 1 is playing just fine enough since his victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at year’s start. He’s just been overshadowed by the brilliance of a lot of fellow stars.

With McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas all winning in the last month, with Woods stepping up his game, Johnson has been quietly toiling toward the Masters.

Johnson has won 10 times since Woods' last victory, and yet Woods is the 8-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.

Johnson, McIlroy and Thomas are listed at 10-to-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook.

It doesn’t rankle Johnson.

“It’s fine with me,” he said Tuesday. “He’s playing pretty well.”

Even as the defending champ this week at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Johnson isn’t center stage, not with McIlroy marching into town off his dominant finish at the API.

Flying relatively under the radar might seem like a comfortable position for a world No. 1, but he won’t stay atop the world rankings for long flying under the radar.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Rolex Ranking Roast – Shanshan Feng

The women’s Rolex world No. 1 enters the week at the Kia Classic trying to hold off a strong field with the ANA Inspiration looming next week.

The top seven players in the world rankings, and 11 of the top 12, are at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

Feng has quietly reigned atop the world rankings for 19 consecutive weeks, holding off bids to overtake her by No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 3 So Yeon Ryu and No. 4 Sung Hyun Park.

They’ve all been close enough in world ranking average this year to take the top spot, but Feng isn’t backing down. She’s winless so far this this year, but she has finished fifth or better in two of her three starts.