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What’s in a Blade of Grass?

Oakmont is the only course the USGA needs to tame down to hold the US Open, why is its renown putting surfaces so difficult? The answer is the grass, perennial poa annua.

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Some thoughts and musing concerning this years U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. Oakmont has fascinated me since I first since I was first exposed to it during the 1962 U.S. Open won by Jack Nicklaus. A course designed by its founder H.C. Fownes with the intent that, "A shot poorly played should be a shot irrevocably lost," boggles one such as I, possessor of minor golfing talents at best.

Sam Snead once said he tried to mark his ball on Oakmonts greens but the coin slid off.

Lee Trevino has said that Oakmont is the only course they could hold a U.S. Open without any notice, but they would have to slow the greens down first. He also said every time he two putted he knew he was passing someone on the leaderboard.

Rocco Mediate calls them almost impossible.

The greens make Oakmont what it is, a course designed to make grown men cry. I’ve read where the members delight in punishing themselves regularly on these most amazing greens. Not only are they fast, the members play an annual tournament where they roll 15 on the stimp meter, but they are smooth and full of crazy tilts and slopes. For this Open they will indeed be slowed to 13-13.5, a number I cannot fathom as the quickest greens I’ve played were at about 11. That was crazy quick in my book, so having them at 15 on purpose suggests the need for some serious medication, if not institutionalization.

What makes these greens able to sustain the combined speed and remarkable smoothness is the grass. Not the normal bent grass  you find in the north or midwest, these greens are actually made up of a weed, perennial poa anna. This hardy grass is much more rigid and resistant to summer heat than annual poa anna like that found at last years U.S. Open veue, Winged Foot Golf Club. Annual poa is also much bumpier and uneven especially in humidity. So here they have this weed that they have nurtured and tended for years resulting in a marvelous yet diabolical surface on which players must attempt to get their golf ball into the hole. Imagine being driven to drink by a weed. Thank goodness it can’t be seeded anywhere else to be cultivated.

What we have here for the U.S. Open and USGA tournament committee is a course that is so difficult they actually have to back off rather than toughen it up for the national championship. Given what has happened in past US Opens, particularly the massacre at Shinnecock in 2004, one would think the USGA can tame down a course successfully without too much difficulty. I’m envious of the members, what must it be like to play daily on a course that is too tough for a U.S. Open? I’d sure like to find out.

Look for the guys who can hit the ball in play off the tee, play precision irons so they can avoid some of the crazier tilts on the greens, and putt on super fast surfaces. Gee, that sounds like a recipe for every tournament winner. OK so let’s throw in a bushel of patience because this course will bite everyone multiple times during the event. I like Jim Furyk or Joe Durant for those reasons. Regardless, this will be some serious fun to watch. Just don’t expect another 63 like Johnny Miller shot Sunday to clinch the 1973 U.S. Open, the stars align only once an eon for an event that grand.

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Morning 9: LPGA, LET partnership? | Ryder Cup ticket fiasco | Alfredsson: Senior women’s golf dynamo

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 17, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. “True partnership”
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on an exciting development for women’s golf…
  • “The LPGA and Ladies European Tour have renewed talks that could lead to “a true partnership” between the two organizations.”
  • “LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti sent a letter to LET players this week informing them of the discussions. She told players that a dialogue was “in full swing” to create a “50-50 joint venture” between the tours.”
  • “LPGA and LET officials said in a joint statement Wednesday that while it’s too early to publicly discuss specifics, they are working to complete terms of a new agreement in time to present it to LET players at their annual meeting on Nov. 26 in Spain.”

Full piece.

2. Alfredsson!
AP report on the emerging dynamo in women’s senior golf with the 2019 double…
  • “Helen Alfredsson added the Senior LPGA Championship to her U.S. Senior Women’s Open title, rallying Wednesday at cold and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two major championships of the season.”
  • “Three strokes behind Juli Inkster entering the day, Alfredsson closed with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. The 54-year-old Swede was the only player to break par on the final day at the Pete Dye Course and, at 2-under 214, the only one under par for the week.”

Full piece.

3. And on Jeju Island…
AP report…An was on!
  • “In the first event of a three-tournament PGA TOUR swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An was the first-round leader in his home country at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES with an 8-under 64. Joaquin Niemann sits a stroke behind in second.”
  • “Jason Day’s attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead and in solo third after the opening round.”

Full piece.

4. Ticket fiasco
Oh boy. JR Radcliffe at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, syndicated in Golfweek…”Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “The Ryder Cup website did indicate: “Due to high demand, having an access code does not guarantee you a chance to buy tickets. Available inventory may vary depending on when you’re able to access the sale.”
5. “Better options”
ESPN’s Bob Harig suggests Lefty doesn’t think he’s getting picked for captain Woods’ squads…”Mickelson said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect an at-large pick from U.S. Presidents Cup team captain Tiger Woods and that he does not believe he is deserving.”
  • “There are much better options of players that have played consistently at a high level that deserve to be on the team,” Mickelson, 49, said in South Korea at the CJ Cup, a PGA Tour event he is playing for the first time. “Even if I were to win, I have not done enough to warrant a pick.
  • “I’m not asking for one. I don’t expect one. I think there are a lot of better options for the U.S. side.”
6. 58 penalty strokes!
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers on a wildly penal occurrence…”Lee Ann Walker was assessed 58 penalty strokes after it was discovered she had violated Rule 10.2b several times over the course of the first two rounds at the senior major being played at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. Implemented earlier this year, the rule prohibits caddies from lining up golfers on putting greens, among other spots on the course. And as Walker found out, there is no limit to the amount of penalty strokes a player can incur for breaking it.”
  • “In a statement released by the Senior LPGA Championship Rules Committee, the harsh decision came after Walker notified a rules official during the second round on Tuesday that she had been violating the rule. Obviously, Walker didn’t realize this until it was pointed out to her by a fellow caddie on her fifth hole. Walker then went through her round so far as well as the first round on Monday to determine just how many times she broke the rule. Considering the total, she was obviously being lined up by her caddie on most putts.”

Full piece.

7. BK vs. Rory
Our Gianni Magliocco…”The 29-year-old, who was speaking to the AFP ahead of this week’s CJ Cup, has been on the PGA Tour since 2015 and has won four major’s in that period, while McIlroy’s last success at a major championship came back in 2014.”
  • “I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry.”
  • “The world number one then further reiterated his lack of belief that there is currently a serious rivalry in golf and laid out his intentions to remain at the top of the sport for the foreseeable future.”
  • “I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m number one in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. You know if the fans do (call it a rivalry), then that’s on them and it could be fun. Look I love Rory he’s a great player and he’s fun to watch, but it’s just hard to believe there’s a rivalry in golf. I just don’t see it.”

Full piece.

8. Meanwhile, at Q-School…
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell with the report on the action in Florida…”Germany’s going for a wire-to-wire victory at the LPGA’s second stage of Q-School.”
  • “Esther Henseleit grabbed a share of the second-round lead with a 5-under 67 Tuesday at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla., a day after fellow countrywoman Olivia Cowan took the first-round lead.”
  • “At 9-under overall, Henseleit is tied at the top with China’s Yan Liu (67), one shot ahead of Cowan (72), Thailand’s Prima Thammaraks (68) and American amateur Sierra Brooks, whose 66 equaled the low round of the day.”

Full piece.

9. LPGA Shanghai update
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”Nasa Hataoka should be getting more worldwide attention.
With two Japan LPGA Tour major championship victories in her homeland over the last month, she arrived for the start of this week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai on fire.”
  • “And she didn’t cool off in Thursday’s first round.”
  • “A 5-under-par 67 at Qizhong Garden Golf Club gave Hataoka a share of the lead with South Korea’s Amy Yang.”

Full piece.

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Marcel Siem disqualifies himself at the Open de France after believing preferred lies were in place

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Marcel Siem disqualified himself from the Open de France after racking up several penalty strokes during Thursday’s opening round.

The 2012 champion was under the impression that preferred lies were in place during the first round, which was not the case, and the German amassed a total of 10 penalty strokes after moving his ball in the fairway five times.

With his European Tour card in danger, Siem was in need of a good week in France, but as he explained on his Facebook page after exiting the event, his attention will now turn to Q-School in November.

Siem was nine holes into the event when he decided to disqualify himself.

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Golfer given 58 penalty strokes at the Senior LPGA Championship after being unaware of one rule change

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Lee Ann Walker was assessed 58 penalty strokes at the Senior LPGA Championship on Tuesday after violating Rule 10.2b multiple times during her first two rounds at the event.

The rule prohibits caddies from lining up their golfers, and Walker was notified of her misdemeanour during her second round after a playing partner’s caddie informed her that the act is prohibited.

After displaying an incredible memory of her first round at the Pete Dye Course, 42 strokes were then added to Walker’s opening-round score which ended up being a total of 127, while 16 strokes were added to her round two total which resulted in a round of 90.

Speaking to Doug Ferguson of Associated Press, Walker explained how she was unaware of the new rule change which prevents caddies from lining up golfers on the green and other areas of the course.

“When I played my first round, my caddie lined me up and I did not reset. I did not realize I was violating any rules. What can you do at that point? It was my fault for not knowing the rules. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. Big lesson learned.”

Ironically, the former LPGA player was not disqualified from the event thanks to another rule change which previously would have seen Walker DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Despite the enormous amount of penalty strokes, Walker stated how she was happy to see out the tournament and left the event at French Lick Resort in a positive mood.

“Because it was a DQ and I wasn’t injured – I wasn’t going to withdraw with an injury – that was my score, and everyone gets to see it. I’m glad I went. I got to see a lot of great friends, it was a great golf course, great event. Everything was great except for my penalties.”

Without the penalties, Walker would have missed the cut by one stroke.

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