Then There Were Two: Alabama Vs. Arizona For NCAA Women's Title

 Alabama's Lauren Stephenson

Alabama's Lauren Stephenson

Led by a "Big 3" of seemingly unbeatable talent Alabama heads into Wednesday's NCAA women's final the overwhelming favorite, notes Golfweek's Brentley Romine. 

And while no one will ever call a Pac 12 school from Arizona an underdog in golf, the Arizona women hope to continue a string of upsets and all on very little sleep after escaping Monday night's bizarro playoff, writes Golfweek's Beth Ann Nichols

(Speaking of which, if you saw the shotgun playoff used and hope to never see it again, Lance Ringler's commentary will be very agreeable.)

Highlights for Alabama fans from the semifinal win over USC.

Highlights from Arizona's win over Stanford after having beaten UCLA earlier in the day.

The final day matches courtesy of GolfChannel.com.

The Wednesday schedule on Golf Channel:

Golf Central Pre Game           2-4 p.m.

Championship Match           4-8 p.m.

Golf Central                            8-9 p.m.

Minimalist Maintenance Is Not More Expensive, Contrary To Popular Opinion

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I've always been particularly fascinated at the idea of minimalist course designs costing more to maintain.

The concept is generally perpetrated by the tin siding-salesman masquerading as golf architects who sometimes plaid jackets and would just as soon be selling you a policy as they would be in designing interesting, affordable golf holes. They also don't really like the minimalist movement for a variety of reasons, from general point missing to just wanting to sell projects on goods and services they don't need.

Born out of this have been derogatory whisper campaigns about the perils of going minimalist, including the contradictory notion that bunkers maintained as rough hazards take more time and money to present than those edged weekly and raked daily. 

So as accustomed to this completely bizarre take as we subscribers to the movement have become, it was a bit disheartening to read Gary Van Sickle's MorningRead.com take suggesting AT&T Byron Nelson Classic host site Trinity Forest was an example of the kind of "high-maintenance, slow-play golf course" the game needs less of.

Had Van Sickle been there to hear Jordan Spieth mention whizzing around the course in two-hours--golf board aided--or seen the turf, I wonder if this take might have been different:

Golf needs low-maintenance, fast-play golf courses. Trinity Forest is a high-maintenance, slow-play golf course. Did you see some of those massive bunkers? An amateur could spend five minutes raking his or her way out of the trap.

Greens are the most expensive parts of a golf course to maintain, and Trinity Forest has gigantic greens. One double green is 35,000 square feet. Pebble Beach’s front-nine greens would almost fit in that corral.

It’s ironic that Trinity Forest seemed like a breath of fresh air with its different look and myriad challenges, but it is not an economically viable model for golf in most areas.

Actually, it is. 

Despite the deep pockets of the members, the maintenance approach is pretty restrained.

Reviewing my notes from an interview with superintendent Kasey Kauff, he noted Trinity's full staff for the course is a very normal 24, including assistants and technicians.

Fairways are cut twice a week while bunkers are raked at the same rate (with touch ups). The greens are mown just five days a week in peak season, once or twice a week in the winter. 

Thanks to the slow-growing zoysia and lean watering program, bunkers are rarely edged. Fertilization is at half the rate of a Bermuda grass golf course. Half. 

As for slow play, maintenance and design are not to blame for threesomes in a full field PGA Tour event not getting around in a timely manner. When today's players can reach all par-5s in two and at least one par-4 in one, that's a distance discussion and sometimes a green speed discussion. Trinity Forest's greens were at a modest 10.5 on the Stimpmeter.

Yes, Trinity Forest is a wealthy membership with a token First Tee facility and it took millions to convert a landfill into a course only a select few rich guys can join. Quibble with that stuff all day long if you must. But suggesting the design is an example of high-cost maintenance and slow play maintenance would not be accurate. 

Instagram Roundup: Warrior Open, Sandbelt's Peninsula, Pinecone At The Cradle, Trick Shot Gone Wrong

Former President George W. Bush hosted the Warrior Open at Trinity Forest following the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic. A nice photo gallery from the day (arrow on right of image to scroll through):

Ogilvy-Clayton-Cocking-Mead's rejuvenation of Peninsula is coming in nicely...

WIDTH @occmgolf

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Pinehurst claims the prize for coolest modern day beverage cart, the "Pinecone" at The Cradle:

Don't try this at home dads...

Ryder Cup: Westwood, McDowell, Donald And Harrington Officially Transition To Cart Driving Roles

I'm feeling old and oddly sentimental seeing Ryder Cup stalwarts Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald joining Robert Karlsson as transitioning to cart driving roles. (You can read their comments here about the new gigs.)

Captain Thomas Bjorn's five assistants have much Ryder Cup playing experience but very little time behind the wheel, with only a few months to learn the intricacies of maximum passenger loads, ear piece chatter management and the best French versions of "cart on your left".

Of course, perhaps they'll just go the Team America route and appoint drivers for the assistant cart drivers. 

Anyhow, let's hope we've maxed out the number of assistants at five...

USGA On 2004 At Shinnecock: "What basically happened then was a lack of water.”

 Lush rough at Shinnecock Hills less than a month from the U.S. Open.

Lush rough at Shinnecock Hills less than a month from the U.S. Open.

David Dusek reports from U.S. Open media day at Shinnecock Hills and the USGA made the first effort to put behind them the course setup boondoggle from the last Open.

Somewhere Tom Meeks and Walter Driver aren't liking these comments from current Executive Director Mike Davis, but the truth can be painful:

“It’s been 14 years, and it’s a different time, with different people,” Davis said. “When you set up a U.S. Open, it is golf’s ultimate test and is probably set up closer to the edge than any other event in golf. The difference between then and now is that we have a lot more technology and a lot more data. And frankly, what basically happened then was a lack of water.”

 

This probably won't bring great comfort to Phil Mickelson, who lost by two with a double at the virtually unplayable 7th hole.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

NCAA Women: And Then There Were Eight (After An Extra Two Hours Because Play Is Painfully Slow)

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I'm not sure anyone tuning in early on to the final stroke play day of the NCAA Women's Golf could have come away feeling good about what they saw.

--Six hour rounds. 

--Players pushing around grocery cart-sized trolleys with corporate-emblazoned umbrellas.

--Coaches interjecting mind-numbingly simple advice adding to the excruciating pace. 

--A lush, tree-choked, traditionally anti-septic Fazio design free of spectators that even friends and family passed on coming to see.

--The debut of a new episode of Driven delayed two hours. But boy those OU and OSU boys know how to board a private jet and leave the bag loading to a luggage handler! America!

Anyway, the entire affair in Stillwater felt like anything but a national championship, despite the fine effort by Golf Channel and the course maintenance team. And what a shame, as eventual individual winner Jennifer Kupcho is a phenomenal redemption story, pulling away to victory in front of her parents and excited teammates. 

As Ryan Lavner recounts for GolfChannel.com, Kupcho lost last year's individual title down the stretch and faced a water-lined hole this year to clinch the coveted individual title. This time, she was all clutch and the pride exuded by all made the long slog of a day all worth the payoff.

On the team side, Arizona defeated Baylor in the dark to secure the 8th and final spot in match play starting Tuesday.  This after Arizona junior Bianca Pagdanganan (T2 at 6-under par) eagled the 18th hole to force a playoff. The two-hole team playoff ended action two hours after Golf Channel was due to sign off.                                                                                                      

Team Match Play Quarterfinal Matchups starting at 10 am CT:

UCLA vs. Arizona

Alabama vs. Kent State

USC vs. Duke

Northwestern vs. Stanford

Highlights:

TigerJam: Bidder Pays $50,000 For Chance To Loop At Hero World Challenge

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The 20th (!) TigerJam last weekend raised big money and to introduce recent Earl Woods Scholar Desiree Sim, who is going into social work after graduating Skidmore College. So there was at least one person in Las Vegas last weekend doing something to make the world a better place!

While she was no doubt more impressive than the Elvis impersonator, I would love to know who the (undisclosed) live auction winner was of the chance to carry Tiger's bag:

The reception wrapped with a thrilling live auction, filled with luxury items such as an Advance Package Acura MDX SH and unforgettable golf experiences at Bluejack National, Diamante Cabo San Lucas and the 2018 Hero World Challenge which includes the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to caddie for Tiger Woods during his Pro-Am round at Albany, Bahamas raising $50,000 for TGR Foundation. Sugar Ray Leonard surprised the crowd as he joined Chris Harrison on stage to help auction off not one, but two packages for a one-of-a-kind experience to spend the day with the boxing legend.

Oh the questions that lucky looper must pose, or at least try to pose, right?

Maybe The Stinger Fan Club chair ponied up to ask the question we scribblers always come so close and yet so far from asking: why not more stingers? Either way, it's for a good cause.

British-Based Group Working On $20 Million Purse "World Golf Series"

Andrew Both of Reuters reports on the British-based World Golf Group now a year into planning stages for a bold 15-20-event, $20 million purse series featuring top players and blue-chip sponsors. 

The players who join would likely say goodbye to the PGA Tour, a healthy retirement plan and world ranking points that help get them in majors and maintain endorsement deals.

“Every player’s deal is centred around world ranking points,” leading British agent Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler, who is aware of the proposed World Golf Series, told Reuters. 

“This series will never get world ranking points, so it will cost people money in the end. I think there are a lot of obstacles to get over." 

As Both notes, the proposal sounds "eerily" similar to Greg Norman's 1990's idea for a world tour of elite players.

What I can't understand: what need does this fill? Between the WGC's and Rolex Series, are fans clamoring to see the world's best get together more for double the purse size? If the venues and locales were special, there might be some intrigue initially. But there still needs to be some other twist that captures our attention. 

Developing...

Wise: 21 Year Old Has Highest GIR Percentage Since 1997

Our eyes did not deceive us during Aaron Wise's debut win at Trinity Forest: he put on a ball-striking display for the ages.

Wise dominated in strokes gained off the tee and approaching the green:

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The size of Trinity Forest's greens and high field average (84%) does not diminish his Green-In-Regulation number given where the performance landed historically (which seems to have played a WGC in Mexico in 2006!*):

Runner-up Marc Leishman hit 77.78% of his greens. 

*Doral

 

 

Follow-Up On May Weather, PGA Championship Week

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While poking around and looking at weather in PGA Championship cities one year out from its new May playing, I found one part of the country without significant weather issues.

I can reveal it to you in a screen grab of my radar app today and say definitively that this is very typical for May.

FYI, the west coast hosts two PGA's in the next decade, too!

The west coast also delivers a prime time finish, meaning about another 1 million or so viewers.

On Sunday nights, too.

Shame we only have two on the schedule in 2020 and 2028. Next TV contract bidders budget accordingly!

 

 

 

 

Aaron Wise Makes Winning Look Easy In First AT&T Byron Nelson At Trinity Forest

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If you kept waiting for Aaron Wise to show signs of nerves you had a long day in the rain-delayed 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson Classic.

The former NCAA Individual and Team champion from Oregon posted a final round 65 to break the tournament record and build on a second place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship. 

Turns out the biggest obstacle to the day was listening to his mom reel off the perks of a win and what other finishes might mean. From Will Gray's GolfChannel.com story:

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise is only 21, something PGATour.com's Mike McAllister focused on in an excellent story from Saturday night heading into the finale.

Golfweek's David Dusek with what was in the winner's bag.

More ShotLink breakdowns are to come, but the big news for fans of minimalism will take heart in Wise dismantling the course with ball-striking prowess.

Marc Leishman hit some groovy shots around the greens and several players posted incredible scores, but the highlights are ultimately all about Wise and that swing!

From PGA Tour Entertainment:

Spieth On Trinity Forest's Debut, Possible Schedule Landing Spot

 No. 17 green, Trinity Forest

No. 17 green, Trinity Forest

Jordan Spieth's assessment of his home club Trinity Forest upon posting a -11, T21 effort suggests he saw some reporting of highly critical comments. Perhaps he's referring to Matt Kuchar longing for TPC Las Colinas?

Either way, all of his assessments are worth a read if you are into this kind of (architecture) thing. 

Q. Lot of questions about Trinity Forest going into this week. What do you think was accomplished in this tournament?

JORDAN SPIETH: I think -- I think it was a really positive outcome for the golf course and the tournament here and I say that partly because it really was but also because a year back when the caddy event was here and other players came and played it it wasn't playing the way it's intended to play. It was too new, wasn't ready yet and got some really bad reviews.

I think compared to the initial reviews what I heard this week, and I know it's been reported differently, I was talking to all the players, I asked a lot of guys, I didn't hear one bad thing said.

A lot of guys said, "It's grown on me day to day, I really enjoyed it as a change of pace, I had a lot of fun playing this golf course." Those were lines guys were using this week and shouldn't be reported any differently.

It was an overwhelmingly positive outlook from the players that played. I think as the greens continue to fill in and mature, they'll only be more consistent and the course gets better.

He was asked about next year and suggested the schedule landing spot is still up in the air:

Q. (Inaudible)
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it's going to -- it's a totally different schedule next year and this will be a completely -- I mean it could be a similar time, it could be a different time of the year within a month or two, and I think it will depend on what tournaments it's near.

Changing golf courses around a Players Championship, the Colonial, that's very popular, Muirfield, U.S. Open, this allows for a week off with the unknowns and it makes total sense for guys to skip.

I think having seen the coverage and listening to what I was talking about the other players saying, I mean if it becomes a week before a Major or at least in a better time in the schedule, then the field will drastically change. Otherwise it will get a little bit better.

It's a shame Dallas turns so miserably hot, but a post-U.S. Open playing in the last week of June or first week of July and serving as Open Championship preparation and Open Qualifying Series would be a great spot for Trinity Forest.

Winner's Roundup Instagram Style: Wise, Jutanagarn, Otaegui, Arnaud And Jimenez Hoist A Lovely Assortment Of Golf Trophies

Aaron Wise takes home the new crystal trophy for winning the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic debuting on the tournament's 50th anniversary. Even better the trophy creates fun facial distortions for those standing inconveniently behind the glass.

A moment he’ll never forget. #LiveUnderPar

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Ariya Jutanagarn returns to the winner's circle a month after her sister's victory, taking the LPGA's Kingsmill Championship and a fantastic salad-making bowl.

Adrian Otaegui earned a converted periscope for winning the European Tour's Belgian Knockout.

Michael Arnaud was the last player into the Web.com Tour's BMW Charity Pro-Am, reeled off two incredible stretches of golf and hoists...a steering wheel!

Miguel Angel Jimenez earned himself a Claret Jug knockoff found at an antique shop and given to the winner of the Regions Tradition.

Crenshaw Pleased With Trinity Forest Debut

A record winning score posted by a player posting some amazing ball-striking stats never hurts, but Ben Crenshaw declared his pleasure at Trinity Forest's AT&T Byron Nelson Classic debut.

From Will Gray's report for GolfChannel.com:

“We’re pleased. It’s off to a nice, quiet start, let’s say,” Crenshaw said. “The week started off very quiet with the wind. This course, we envision that you play it with a breeze. It sort of lends itself to a links style, playing firm and fast, and as you saw yesterday, when the wind got up the scores went up commensurately.”

The Crenshaw's with former President George W. Bush, who appeared in the broadcast booth during the final round. He hosts an event for wounded warriors Monday at Trinity Forest. 

Trinity Forest's First Final Round Set Up For Wise V. Leishman Duel

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The wind and some dryness helped get the ball running, Ben Crenshaw joined the booth, crowds turned out and CBS unveiled 21st century production values for their AT&T Byron Nelson third round broadcast. Voila, Trinity Forest finally came to life Saturday. 

Which reminds me folks, there's Sunday drinking challenge: every time Titleista Peter Kostis mentions the fairway roll--because we know it's the agronomy that makes ordinary slim guys carry the ball 310 yards with ease.

Anyway, those stellar airplane aerials and tracer technology helped show off a course set up for a match play scenario Sunday, with Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise four clear of the field. As Will Gray writes for GolfChannel.com, they are downplaying the match play vibe.

The field is hitting plenty of greens at Trinity Forest. And they're also three-putting their fair share according to ShotLink:

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Third round highlights from PGA Tour Entertainment:

Instagram: Rocco's Flinch, Tiger Drops The Mic, Jupiter Hills, McKeller On The Presses

A senior major is on the line Sunday and Rocco Mediate is seven back of Miguel Angel Jimenez. But what a photo...

Just be the ball. Be the ball.

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Tiger Jam in Las Vegas meant golf at Shadow Creek and Tiger showing off his newfound speed.

The exclusive Jupiter Hills is hosting the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and this image was captured a day before rain delayed round one qualifying. I was expecting a lot less Rees in the bunkering.

Signature hole 16th at Jupiter Hills Par 4 353 #usgafourball

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"U.S.G.A.’s Long Relationship With Shinnecock Indians Frays Ahead of U.S. Open"

Bill Pennington of the New York Times says negotiations aren't going well between the USGA and the 1,500 member tribe. A parking area rented for $100,000 in the past is not being used by the USGA this time around, but the Shinnecock logo most certainly will be.  

The USGA is offering to sell products made by tribe members.

The U.S.G.A. also wants to include the Shinnecock in the event’s opening ceremonies and during the trophy presentation at its conclusion. And the U.S.G.A. has suggested other ways that the tribe could generate income during the championship, such as inviting the Shinnecock to sell a locally made product in its massive and usually mobbed merchandise tent.

“We’ve had great success with locally made products in past years — they’re a fan favorite wherever we go,” Annis said.

Annis added that the Shinnecock had also asked to set up a tent and a display for a putting simulator manufactured by a tribal partner. The U.S.G.A. agreed to find a high-traffic place for the tent.

Bomb And Gouge Is Back And Stats Support The Tactic

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Thanks to reader JB for the Brian Costa's WSJ look at our old pal Bomb and Gouge, the method of attacking a golf course with all power, accuracy be damned. 

Talk of playing golf that way had subsided in recent years after the craze began a decade ago, but as we've seen in subtle ways and in blatant ones, the practice is validated by stats. 

“It’s still easier to hit from the fairway than it is to hit out of the rough,” said Tony Finau, who is driving the ball 317 yards while hitting just 52% of fairways. “But I would rather hit a pitching wedge out of the rough than a 6-iron from the fairway.”

Mark Broadie, a Columbia University business professor who pioneered modern statistical analysis in golf, said it’s not as if today’s bombers are wild. More power simply makes misses look bigger, he said, and his analysis has proven the added yardage to be more valuable than the accuracy lost. “Players are intuitively optimizing their score by making good tradeoffs there,” Broadie said.

 

Intuitively optimizing!

Or, just overpowering courses thanks to their improved diets and astute use of medicine balls.

Lahinch! 2019 Irish Open Headed To The Historic Links

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The race to secure the most exotic venues for European Tour events continues, as Lahinch was announced as the 2019 Irish Open site by host that year's host, Paul McGinley. Crossing fairways, a blind par-3, Old Tom, MacKenzie and goats, what's not to love?

Simon Lewis's Irish Examiner reports quotes Lahinch general manager Paddy Keane saying that McGinley was instrumental in the course landing the Irish Open.

“Paul’s introduction to Lahinch was caddying for his father (Mick) in the South of Ireland, he broke 80 for the first time on the Castle Course here. Then he came and played himself in the South and won it in 1991. That got him his place in the Walker Cup and that ultimately gave him the opportunity to turn pro.”

It was a return visit to Lahinch last year that Keane believes put the Old Course, whose architects since 1894 have included Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie, and Martin Hawtree, firmly in McGinley’s thoughts when he was asked to consider possible host venues for the Irish Open.

“He came back for our 125th-anniversary celebrations last year when we hosted a day for our past South of Ireland champions."

Jason Scott Deegan with the GolfAdvisor wrap up on all you need to know regarding a popular golf trip destination.

Ran Morrissett's GolflClubAtlas.com review from 2003.

It takes a while to get going but the wait is worth it to see the aerial flyovers in this 125th anniversary video.