Golf Buzz

March 17, 2014 - 12:26am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Charley Hull at the Lalla Meryem Cup
Getty Images
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
Getty Images
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
Getty Images
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."

 

 

Jared Brentz
Jared Brentz is a fast-rising star in the rapidly growing ParaLong Drive competition, a long-driving contest for amputees.
 
From a young age, the Brentz twins, Bryce and Jared, were destined to be athletes, though their stories and paths were very different. Their story is one which has been known locally around their hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., for years, but with both of them settling into their careers at 25, their story is getting more and more popular.
 
Bryce Brentz was born completely healthy. He was a star athlete throughout high school and college and is now fighting for a spot on the Boston Red Sox roster for the 2014 season.
 
Jared was born with arthrogryposis and club feet. Doctors told him it was because his feet got stuck under his mother's rib cage but Jared said in a story published on knoxnews.com last July, the real reason was because, "Bryce took up all the room [in the womb]." At the age of 12, Jared chose to have both of his feet amputated, despite his parent's apprehension. Jared also said he knew he'd be fine when the doctors told him, "We can give you the tools to live the life you want to go live. You just have to be the one to go and do it."
 
Since then, nothing has stopped Jared from being the athlete his brother Bryce knew he could be.
 
Jared couldn't play football, but he was a golfer and wrestler at South-Doyle High School, where he and his brother we both star athletes. Since graduating in 2007, there hadn't been much competition for Jared. Besides being a popular call for local scramble golf tournaments due to his prodigious length off the tee, he was relegated to hitting balls at the driving range. Even doing that got to be troublesome, but not for the reasons one might expect for a double-foot amputee.
 
MORE: Couple sinks two aces in same round | Best hole-in-one videos | Animals attack golf balls 
 
As Jared recounted in his interview with knoxnews.com, “I really have to go out of my way to find a driving range where I’m not hitting into traffic or fairways somewhere. Luckily for me, there’s a golf course, Nashboro Village, that actually let me come out there late in the evening and tee off from the first tee."
 
Recently, he found the perfect outlet for his competitive nature and raw power. While his brother Bryce is one of the top-prospects in the Red Sox farm system, Jared is a rising star in a branch of golf that is getting more and more popular, and more and more important, every day.
 
ParaLong Drive competition is growing rapidly, being used as a tool in rehab while helping amputees and wounded warriors return to a sense of normalcy. The first National Amputee Long Drive Competition was held last year and wouldn't you know it, Jared won -- both the overall and multiple amputee division titles, with a monster 367-yard bomb.
 
Jared's success has led to equipment sponsors. This year, Jared will be teaming up with Krank golf, the unquestionable "authority in distance hitting."
 
Bryce continues to be motivated by his younger brother (by eight minutes) and his tenacity. He said in an interview with the Boston Globe, "“It would motivate anybody. My brother would give anything to have two normal feet. How can I get upset about striking out? For him to be that strong and such a good athlete, that drives me. He inspires me.”
 
The ParaLong Drive competition is growing in popularity and, with golf making its return to the Olympics in the 2016 games in Rio, there is a movement to bring the ParaLong Drive to the the Paralympics. The next Amputee Long Drive Championship will take place May 8-9 in Mesquite, Nev.
 
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen calmly hands his wedge back to his caddie Saturday after sinking a 54-foot birdie on No. 16.

When you're hot, you're hot.

VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP: Follow the third round with our leaderboard

Retief Goosen missed just four greens in regulation Saturday on his way to a blistering 7-under 64 at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. And when he somehow did happen to come up a bit short on No. 16, look what happens on the very next shot:

 

 

Goosen made up 62 positions and was tied for second place before the second-round leaders even finished their breakfasts.

WRONG WAY TO BREAK 90: John Daly has a day to forget Friday at Innisbrook