Golf Buzz

March 17, 2014 - 2:29pm
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John Holmes
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Jason Day
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Jason Day is sitting out yet again this week as his sore left thumb continues to heal.
Jason Day has withdrawn from this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational because his injured left thumb is still too sore to play.
 
The 26-year-old Australian hurt it during the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which he went on to win – the victory was the biggest of his career and vaulted him up to a career-high No. 4 in the world. He skipped the Honda Classic and had planned to play at the Cadillac Championship at Doral, but it was still problematic.
 
Day had an MRI in Miami on the Wednesday of the Cadillac Championship that was negative, but the doctor prescribed rest.
 
 
"My left thumb was bothering me at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the pain continued here this week," Day said in a statement at the time. "My plan is to rest for a couple of weeks."
 
He then skipped last week's Valspar Championship, and now is out again. He hasn't announced any plans to play again, but obviously the fast-approaching Masters is his biggest concern at this point.
 
Day is one of the favorites heading to Augusta National, which he says is his favorite spot on earth and where he often plays well. He was the runner-up there in 2011 and finished two shots out of the Adam Scott-Angel Cabrera playoff last year.
 
March 17, 2014 - 1:14pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Bobby Jones
PGA of America Archive
Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur golfer who ever lived, would have been 112 years old today.

Legendary amateur golfer Robert Tyre Jones Jr. ("Bobby" Jones), born March 17, 1902, would have turned 112 years old today.

Jones "retired" from the game he played only part time -- focusing on his law profession -- in 1930 at age 28. That was the same year that Jones won the "Grand Slam," which at the time consisted of the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur. He remains the only player to win all four major championships in the same calendar year.

All told, Jones played in just 31 major championships. He finished among the top 10 of those on 27 occasions, including a remarkable 13 victories.

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Here's a breakdown of Jones's major championship wins:

U.S. Open: 1923, 1926, 1929, 1930
British Open: 1926, 1927, 1930
U.S. Amateur: 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930
British Amateur: 1930

In 1933, Jones co-found and helped design Augusta National Golf Club and also co-found the Masters Tournament, contested for the first time in 1934. He came out of retirement only to play in the Masters. Jones was a 12-time Masters participant, but never finished better than a tie for 13th in the tournament's inaugural year.

It's often said that golf is a game for ladies and gentlemen. There may be no better situation that exemplifies that than one involving Jones at the 1925 U.S. Open.

During the first round of that Open at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, Jones famously called a penalty on himself after his golf club touched grass close to his golf ball, causing it to move slightly. Jones was the only person who could see the infraction. While a USGA official and Jones's playing partner, Walter Hagen, tried to talk Jones out of taking the penalty, he insisted he violated Rule 18 -- moving a ball at rest after address. Instead of a 76, Jones signed for a 77.

Praised for calling the penalty on himself afterward, Jones responded by saying: "You might as well praise me for not robbing banks."

That penalty proved costly. Instead of winning the tournament by one stroke in regulation, Jones found himself in a 36-hole playoff, which he lost to Scottish pro Willie Macfarlane.

Much like it's been well-documented that Jack Nicklaus was the childhood idol of Tiger Woods, Jones filled that role for Nicklaus.

In 1960, a then 20-year-old Nicklaus said, "Jones is the greatest golfer who ever lived and probably ever will live. That's my goal. Bobby Jones. It's the only goal."

After watching Nicklaus win the Masters for the second time in 1965 (the fourth of the Golden Bear's record 18 major championships), Jones said: "Nicklaus played a game with which I am not familiar."

Talk about a compliment.

Jones passed away on December 18, 1971, at the age of 69.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

March 16, 2014 - 11:26pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Charley Hull at the Lalla Meryem Cup
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Charley Hull got a lift after winning the Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour at age 17.
With all due respect to Sunday's other winners, the potentially most significant victory of the weekend came courtesy of 17-year-old Charley Hull at the Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour. Hull, who will turn 18 this coming Thursday, is probably best known here in the United States as the youngster who demolished Paula Creamer in singles at the 2013 Solheim Cup and then asked her for an autograph.
 
She is fun and fearless, outgoing and relentless, and with this big step is now a legitimate candidate for the "next big thing" in women's golf. And with any luck, we'll soon be seeing a lot more of her here in the United States.
 
Hull was born in Kettering, England, took up the game at the age of 5 and quickly became a dominant junior player, winning the UK National Ladies Championship at age 9. In 2012, she made the cut in five pro tournaments including the Kraft Nabisco Championship, reached No. 3 in the world amateur ranking, and was a key player on the victorious Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team. She then turned pro at 16, and played her way on the 2013 Ladies European Tour.
 
In her first LET season, she became the rookie of the year and, at 17, the youngest player in Soheim Cup history as Europe won the cup on American soil for the first time. She played her first LET event exactly a year ago at the 2013 Lalla Meryem Cup, and her runner-up result there was the first of five straight second-place finishes. She went on to rack up 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts – and now she has a victory.
 
 
She earned that first pro trophy on Sunday by closing with a career-low 9-under 62 to tie French veteran Gwladys Nocera after the regulation 72 holes. Hull, who began the final round five shots behind Nocera, returned to the 190-yard, par-3 18th hole for the sudden-death playoff, hit her tee shot to four feet and sank her birdie putt for the win.
 
Hull's victory isn't likely to materially change her plans to play her way onto LPGA Tour via sponsor exemptions this season – she already is spending her winters in Florida. She can accept as many as six exemptions into regular LPGA Tour events, and can try to qualify for other tournaments such as the U.S. Women's Open as she pursues a global schedule.
 
With Hull joining the teenaged winners' club alongside her fellow rising stars including Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko, the future of the women's pro game looks extremely bright. The only shame is that we don't get to see all the young talent emerging from all corners of the globe in action nearly often enough.
 
ONE FINAL NOTE: Each year, the LET plays its Lalla Meryem Cup event in Agadir, Morocco, the same week that the European Tour plays its Hassan II Trophy there. The events – both of which get a big boost from the Moroccan government – are played simultaneously but on different courses, and the winners get together to celebrate their victories. It's a fascinating concept, and I'd love to see the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour find a suitable city and give it a try sometime.
 
While you're pondering that, check out Charley's post-victory interview:
 
 
John Senden
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John Senden took the lead outright Sunday with a 60-foot chip-in birdie on the 16th hole.

The 475-yard, par-4 No. 16 at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course is named "Moccasin" -- and it had a nasty bite all weekend, scoring as the hardest hole on the course.

VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP: John Senden wins by one, snaps eight-year winless drought

So when John Senden's second shot Sunday landed short of the green and in the rough, some 22 yards from hole, just getting up and down from that spot would have been a very good feat.

Except Senden went one step further.

 

 

That chip-in birdie gave the 42-year-old Australian the outright lead, and with a clutch birdie putt on the following hole, Senden had enough of a cushion to hold off a furious rally by Kevin Na to win the Valspar Championship and snap an eight-year winless drought. The victory also earns Senden an invitation to the Masters.

Certainly the shot of the day.

 

Tom Watson
Tom Watson takes an unorthodox chipping stance during Friday's Toshiba Classic.

OK. So it's not as epic as his chip on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach to win the 1982 U.S. Open, or any of the shots he hit to win five Open Championships and two Masters. 

But you have to admit once you've seen the video, Tom Watson's shot on the 8th hole during Friday's Toshiba Classic at the Newport Beach Country Club was pretty awesome. Being Ryder Cup captain certainly has its privileges, including showing the kids that you can still play the game.

TOSHIBA CLASSIC: Bernhard Langer leads by two, Tom Watson shoots 63

Here's the setup. Watson's approach lands within inches of a palm tree. He has no way to make a normal swing, so -- in the words of Maxwell Smart -- he uses the "old backwards, one-handed, no-look swinging wedge off the flagstick trick."

CAPTAIN WATSON'S BLOG: 2014 Ryder Cup lineup "still very unsettled"

 

 

Unfortunately, you can't see where the ball eventually winds up. But from the reaction of the spectators, it must have been very close. Watson tapped in for a "routine" par. And a pretty good story to tell in the clubhouse, especially after shooting better than his age the next day.

This year's PGA Tour slogan is "these guys are good." Watson is proof that some of these guys have always been great.

HOW SLOW IS TOO SLOW?: Kevin Na, Robert Garrigus find themselves on the clock at Valspar

Kevin Na
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Kevin Na confers with a tour official while surveying his situation on the 13th hole Saturday.

Kevin Na and Robert Garrigus were both assessed a "bad time" during Saturday's third round of the Valspar Championship, which once again brought up the whole debate over slow play in championship golf.

In case you're wondering, the United States Golf Association has a "pace of play policy" in which officials can assess a "bad time" to a player in a group which is out of position, if the player makes no effort to help his group get back in position.

Got that?

It all has to do with playing "within the alloted amount of time," and not getting "out of position," under the definitions used by the USGA and the PGA Tour. For example, the USGA policy uses four hours and 35 minutes per round as its cut-off time for threesomes and 3:58 per round for twosomes.

In Saturday's case, once Na and Garrigus fell as much as two holes behind the twosome playing in front of them, they were put on the clock.

VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP: Robert Garrigus shoots third-round 70, leads by one stroke

Na received a bad time on the 13th tee and Garrigus, known as one of the fastest players on tour, ran afoul of the stopwatch when he wound up in the rough on the 14th hole and walked up to the green to explore his options.

Even though Na and Garrigus played the round in just under four hours -- and were not assessed further warnings or penalties -- they had a tournament official with a watch and a clipboard following them for much of the round, which can't be a pleasant feeling -- not when you're trying to concentrate on the task at hand.

Slow play has been an issue for some time. For example, 14-year-old Chinese phenom Guan Tianlang was nailed with a one-stroke penalty in the second round of last year's Masters for slow play. A one-stroke penalty may have cost Ross Fisher a victory in the 2012 ISPS Handa Wales Open. And Azahara Munoz of Spain defeated Morgan Pressel 2 and 1 in the semifinals of the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship after a slow-play penalty against Pressel on the 12th hole turned the match.

Here's how the PGA Tour defines its slow play policy:

"Under the guidelines for Rule 6-7, a player is permitted 40 seconds to play a stroke. This 40-second time limit includes the first to play from the teeing ground, from the fairway and from around and on the putting green.

"The PGA Tour rules for pace of play includes the 40-second time limit, but also allows an extra 20 seconds (for a total of 60 seconds) under the following circumstances:

-- The first player to play a stroke on a par-3 hole
-- The first player to play a second stroke on a par-4 or par-5 hole
-- The first player to play a third stroke on a par-5 hole
-- The first player to play around the putting green
-- The first player to play on a putting green

"Under both sets of guidelines, the timing of a stroke on the putting green begins after a player has been allowed a reasonable amount of time to mark, lift, clean and replace his ball, repair his ball mark and other ball marks on his line of putt and remove loose impediments on his line of putt."