Players complain about conditions at Muirfield

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2013, 8:29 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – On the eve of the British Open, Peter Dawson sat behind the podium and proudly declared that this year’s setup at Muirfield was the best he has seen in his decade-plus tenure as the R&A’s chief executive.

“The course is just as we want it,” he boasted.

The fairways were firm and fast. The course was in immaculate condition. The rough inflicted the proper amount of punishment.  

And it took some of the world’s best players, oh, 24 hours to start kvetching about the setup.

Loudest among them was Phil Mickelson, which was surprising, given his recently acquired love and appreciation for links golf. But after his opening 2-under 69 – a score, remember, that left him just three shots off the lead – he had a message for the R&A.

“We’ve got to let go of our ego sometimes and just set the course up the way the best players can win,” he said. Later, he added: “Hopefully they’ll let go of their ego (Friday) and set it up reasonable, but you just never know.”


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Next came Ian Poulter, who tweeted out to his more than 1.5 million followers: “Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions. 8th hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill & clown face.”

Even Stewart Cink, a past Open champion, chimed in: “Muirfield greens really baking out in the sun. Overall the greens are the fastest I’ve seen in the Open.”

How quickly we have lost perspective. Mother Nature, after all, still retains a slight lead heading into the back nine of the season. So far this year there has been a wind delay, a fog delay, a snow delay, a derecho delay, and a boring ol’ severe-thunderstorm delay.

And now here we are, at the year’s third major, at arguably the best course in the Open rota, and more than a few players are complaining about conditions being too … dry? In July. In Scotland. Go figure.

Temperatures rose to about 80 degrees Thursday – “There’s a lot of red people out there,” Tiger Woods joked – and the fan was turned on most of the day, blowing a steady 20 mph, perhaps a bit more than expected. It was a lovely day, and turning to look back at the yellowed links, Padraig Harrington smiled and said: “It was perfect conditions for playing links golf.”

Keep in mind the two-time Open champ, who teed off at 1:01 p.m. local time, shot 73 in Round 1, including an inward 38. He used the putter 37 times, and thought that he “putted awesome.” He said it got “exponentially” tougher as the day wore on, as the shadows grew longer, as he fell further behind the early starters.

But unfair? Please.

“If you didn’t expect that going out there this week,” he said, “then shame on you.”

Harrington asked the reporter what time “those lads” teed off. In the morning, he was told.

Ha!” he replied. “They ought to see it now.”

One of the early starters, Zach Johnson, leads this 142nd British Open, at 5-under 66. Only four of the 14 players who are currently inside the top 10 teed off after 12:30 p.m.

Playing in one of the last groups of the day, Graeme McDowell (75) admitted that he was afraid to lean on his putter to mark his ball, lest it slid out from underneath him. “It’s literally like an ice rink around some holes,” he said.

But considering the kind of weather that can ravage an Open – remember the Round 3 massacre here in ’02? – Thursday’s conditions were far from unplayable. Mark O’Meara recalled past Opens when his driver barely traveled 200 yards, when it was so cold and rainy that he could barely hold onto the club, when it was so windy that his umbrella was rendered useless.

Sure, spectators popped umbrellas Thursday. But it was to shield themselves from the warm sun, not a steady rain.

The opening round here presented a different kind of challenge, no doubt. Six-irons flying more than 250 yards, wedge shots not holding the greens and the fescue around the cups developing a “glassy” hue.

“It’s not unfair,” said Graeme McDowell (75), “but if you don’t hit it in just the right spot you have no chance.”

Of course, all this chatter eventually made its way to Dawson, who steadfastly defended the R&A’s Round 1 setup.

“It’s far from unplayable,” he said, “but we do hear player comment and we’re not so insular as to ignore it.”

How the R&A reacts to it Friday, however, will significantly impact this championship.

What players want to see now is a fair, balanced draw. They want similarly difficult hole locations for Round 2. They want the same standard for the first two days, for the course to play true. No advantages. No dramatic watering overnight.

“It would be disappointing if (Friday) afternoon’s players didn’t see what we saw,” said another late-waver, Geoff Ogilvy (75). “It’s not that crazy. It’s just not what we’re used to on a links.”

Well, they better get used to it soon. Three more grueling days at Muirfield await.

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Stock Watch: Ko-Leadbetter feud getting juicy

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 12:40 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Moriya Jutanugarn (+9%): The older Jutanugarn couldn’t be more different than her free-wheeling, big-hitting, wide-smiling and more famous sister, but Mo has plenty of game, too. She held off a strong leaderboard on a historic course to win for the first time in 156 starts.

Andrew Landry (+7%): Nothing has come easily to this gritty, undersized Texan, so his breakthrough Tour victory perfectly encapsulated his career.

Alexander Levy (+6%): The happiest person watching the Trophee Hassan II? Thomas Bjorn, who has to be salivating at the prospect of having an in-form Frenchman teeing it up in a home Ryder Cup.

Joaquin Niemann (+5%): Any questions about how his skills would translate to the Tour level were erased with weekend 67s in his pro debut. The 19-year-old was the top-ranked amateur for 48 weeks, so results like these are just another reflection of how strong amateur golf is these days.

Kirk Triplett (+2%): Doesn’t matter how old you are – holing out from the bunker is a baller way to win.


FALLING

Shanshan Feng (-1%): Three top-5 finishes this season, and she still lost her No. 1 ranking to Inbee Park. It’s competitive out there.

Beau Hossler (-2%): It was another Sunday to forget, as his closing 79 sent him tumbling down the Valero board. He’s had a solid rookie season despite ranking 178th in final-round scoring average (72.9).

Sergio (-3%): Seems like this new dad could use some rest. Garcia made a 13 at the Masters, clapped back at jokesters on Twitter and then had a temper tantrum in San Antonio, hurling his driver into the wilderness en route to his second MC in a row. Oy.

TPC Louisiana (-4%): If this year’s field is any indication (10 of the top 14), the Zurich is close to a must-play for today’s stars. The only piece missing is a venue change, to Bayou Oaks at City Park, because another forgettable TPC away from downtown New Orleans excites exactly no one.

Lydia Ko-David Leadbetter feud (-6%): Unhappy with how he was portrayed in a recent magazine article regarding Ko’s struggles, Leadbetter is now firing back, citing Ko’s father and fatigue as the key issues in her year-long slump. This is getting juicy.

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Rosaforte Report: Koepka returns strong and energized

By Tim RosaforteApril 24, 2018, 12:29 pm

If his ball speed, bench press reps, and recent scores posted on his home clubs mean anything, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hasn’t lost much in the three months he didn’t touch a club.

Instructor Claude Harmon III monitored Koepka’s swing this past weekend at The Floridian on Trackman, posting for all to see on Twitter. Harmon described the numbers as, “pretty much like they always are.” For the overpowering Koepka, that means ball speeds cruising in the high-170s and low-180s. “I was absolutely blown away at how good it was,” Harmon said.

So was performance coach Joey Diovisalvi in his gym when Koepka ripped off 10 reps with 225 pounds on the bar, and another 17 reps at 135 pounds. “The guy’s a powerhouse,” Diovisalvi said. “He’s strong as an ox right now.”

If there’s a difference in Koepka, it’s an increased appreciation for the game after being away from competitive golf this long. Keep in mind that the 27-year-old was hoping to return for the Masters. He was never one to watch golf on TV. But he was “glued” to the flat screen, watching the final round at Augusta. To prove his attentiveness, Koepka went through a shot-by-shot replay of the back nine with Harmon.



“I’m so ready to play golf,” he told Harmon.

That opportunity begins Thursday, when Koepka buddies up with Marc Turnesa in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans for his first official round in 109 days. Koepka finished T-5 in last year’s two-man team competition with younger brother Chase, who is following his sibling’s footsteps by playing his way up the world rankings through the European Tour. The reigning U.S. Open champion would have repaired with his brother, but didn’t know until last Wednesday that the tendon injury to his wrist would respond to tournament stress. By all accounts, it will.

“I told him the first call I’d made was to (Ryder Cup captain) Jim Furyk to tell him you were going to be ready for Paris,” Harmon said. Based on his 3-1-0 record in his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in 2016, those are words Furyk was hoping to hear. Koepka dropped from first in the point standings after winning the National Open at Erin Hills last summer to seventh, so the Ryder Cup points on offer this week are added motivation.

There are, however, no world ranking points available at TPC Louisiana. The tradeoff of the two-man team event is that it represents a decompression chamber compared to 72 holes of stroke play at a regular Tour event.

But Koepka has said he feels like he can win right away and to do that he may need to carry Turnesa, who has played only one event on the PGA Tour this year, is ranked 1,929th in the world, and is pursuing a career in real estate.

Koepka called Turnesa last Wednesday, asking, “What are you doing next week? Do you want to go play New Orleans?”

The 40-year-old Turnesa, the last of the Turnesa family still somewhat involved in competitive golf, responded by saying, “I don’t know, I’ve got real estate going on. You know, I haven’t played any golf at all.” Koepka said, “Well, start practicing.”

Thinking about it further, Turnesa realized, “The reigning U.S. Open champion is asking me to play an event with him.”

So he called back Koepka, wanting to make sure he wasn’t returning too soon, that his health was the important thing. They were scheduled to fly into New Orleans via private jet on Tuesday.

“Amazing gesture,” Turnesa said. “I’m glad I committed, but he had to scroll pretty far down the alternate list to see my name.”

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Club apologizes for calling cops on black women members

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 11:07 pm

YORK, Pa. - A golf club in Pennsylvania has apologized for calling police on a group of black women after the co-owner and his father said they were playing too slowly and refused requests to leave the course.

“I felt we were discriminated against,” one of the women, Myneca Ojo, told the York Daily Record. “It was a horrific experience.”

Sandra Thompson and four friends met up Saturday to play a round of golf at the Grandview Golf Club, where they are all members, she told the newspaper.

At the second hole, a white man whose son co-owns the club came up to them twice to complain that they weren’t keeping up with the pace of play. Thompson, an attorney and the head of the York chapter of the NAACP, told the newspaper it was untrue.

On the same hole, another member of the group, Sandra Harrison, said she spoke with a Grandview golf pro, who said they were fine since they were keeping pace with the group ahead of them.

Despite that, the women skipped the third hole to avoid any other issues, she said.

It’s part of golf etiquette that slow-moving players let groups behind them play through if they are holding things up, and often golf courses have personnel who monitor the pace of play, letting golfers know when they are taking too long.

The five are part of a larger group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway. The group has been around for at least a decade, and all of its members are experienced players who have golfed all over the county and world, Thompson said. They’re very familiar with golf etiquette, she said.

After the ninth hole, where it is customary to take a break before continuing on the next nine holes, three of the group decided to leave because they were so shaken up by the earlier treatment, the women told the paper.

Thompson said the man from the second hole, identified as former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, his son, club co-owner Jordan Chronister and several other white, male employees approached the remaining two women and said they took too long of a break and they needed to leave the course.

The women argued they took an appropriate break, and that the men behind them were still on their beer break and not ready to tee off, as seen in a video Thompson gave the newspaper. The women were told that the police had been called, and so they waited.

Northern York County Regional Police arrived, conducted interviews and left without charging anyone.

“We were called there for an issue, the issue did not warrant any charges,” Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said. “All parties left and we left as well.”

A phone listing for Steve Chronister rang busy on Monday. He told the York Daily Record he didn’t have time to comment on Sunday.

Jordan Chronister’s wife and co-owner of the club, JJ Chronister, said Sunday she called the women personally to apologize.

“We sincerely apologize to the women for making them feel uncomfortable here at Grandview, that is not our intention in any way,” she told the newspaper. “We want all of our members to feel valued and that they can come out here and have a great time, play golf and enjoy the experience.”

She said she hopes to meet with them to discuss how the club can use what happened as a learning experience and do better in the future.

Thompson said she’s not sure a meeting is what needs to happen.

“There needs to be something more substantial to understand they don’t treat people in this manner,” she said.

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Randall's Rant: Augusta has the power to strengthen LPGA

By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 9:57 pm

Augusta National Golf Club is turning women’s golf upside down.

If you care about the LPGA, that should be your hope, anyway.

Your hope should be that the investment made in the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship announced at the Masters three weeks ago will eventually filter up the women’s ranks.

While the new amateur event comes with significant challenges for the women’s tour - with its first major (the ANA Inspiration) in a tough spot the same week as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur - there is LPGA seed money being planted in Georgia

There’s an investment that may grow the women’s game beyond fueling new interest among girls.

“I just hope corporations start recognizing the value of investing in the women’s game, the way Augusta National does,” two-time major champion Cristie Kerr said. “There are so many corporate sponsors in the men’s game who don’t invest a single dollar in the women’s game. Obviously, that’s their prerogative, but we have a lot of value as a tour.”

And there’s your hope.

Augusta National is a collection of power brokers, CEOs and leaders now invested in growing the women’s game.

They’re taking a special interest in watching these young female amateurs emerge, and it’s only natural to expect they’ll become emotionally invested in where these young players go.

And a lot of these young players will go on to the LPGA.

The LPGA is thriving under commissioner Mike Whan’s leadership, with Whan seeing opportunities where others didn’t. He saw Asian interest in the tour as an asset, not the liability so many thought a decade ago.

The LPGA had withered to 23 events in 2011 with $40 million in total prize money. This year, it's up to 34 events with a tour-record $68 million in prize money. Whan did that with a lot of Asian backing.

Of the 10 tour events the LPGA has staged so far this year, including this week’s tournament in San Francisco, nine have Asian-based title sponsors. Even the LPGA’s domestic events are thriving on Asian money. 



All six of the U.S. events staged so far this year have Asian-based title sponsors. You have to move into May and next week’s Volunteers of America Texas Classic before finding an American corporate title sponsor of an American LPGA event.

That starts changing with summer approaching, but overall there will be 17 Asian-based companies or organizations as title sponsors of LPGA events this year, with 14 American-based entities sponsoring or owning events.

Whan says that’s a good thing.

“The diversity of sponsorship on the LPGA makes us a stronger business,” Whan said. “Since I’ve been in office, we’ve worked through recessions in different parts of the world. None of those recessions were crippling to our overall schedule, because we have so many sponsors on board, from so many different places.”

Whan says American corporate interest is growing considerably, with more American marketing partners joining the LPGA this year. The next steps players would like to see are increased purses and endorsement opportunities for women.

The winning two-man team at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic this week will take home a combined $2,073,000. This week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship features a $1.5 million purse for the entire field.

“The income gap in golf is as much a concern to me as the corporate income gap is to working women,” 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis wrote in an essay earlier this year for the World Economic Forum.

U.S. Solheim Cup captain and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster started wearing a San Francisco Giants cap this year with no endorsement deals on her bag or shirt. She has become more outspoken about the lack of corporate support for all female golf pros.

“I'm going to say it right now, and I probably shouldn't say it, but I just don't understand how all these companies get away with supporting PGA Tour events and not supporting the LPGA,” Inkster said at the last Solheim Cup. “It makes me a little upset, because I think we've got a great product. We deserve our due.”

With Augusta National investing in young amateur women, it may only be a matter of time until corporate America significantly steps up support. The game’s greatest power brokers appear ready to grow with the young women they will begin investing in next year. That should be the hope for anyone who cares about the LPGA.