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News & Tours

A little putting advice from the Boss of the Moss

As he was wrapping up his news conference after winning the Boeing Classic Sunday outside Seattle, Loren Roberts was asked if he had any tips on putting for the average golfer. Roberts, whose victory was his third of 2009 and 11th in his Champions Tour career, offered what he often has stressed about the craft he is so good at: concentrate on speed, not line.

During pro-ams, Roberts--who had 73 putts in 54 holes at the Boeing to beat Mark O'Meara by one shot--said he usually sees amateurs sometimes woefully short or long, but seldom that far off-line. "The whole thing about putting is controlling your speed," Roberts said. "Don't even worry about making it."

When fellow tour pros are struggling on the greens, Roberts said, it usually is because "everybody tries to be so firm with the left hand that they don't get the shaft swinging. Invariably, they don't have any wrist break on the backstroke. You've got to have a little swing in the shaft. On the backstroke, if you can get the butt end of the grip pointed at your belt buckle, you're going to have some swing and some natural 'hit.' If you get too dead-handed, you're not going to have any control."

From 2006-2008 on the Champions Tour, Roberts was ranked first, first and third in putting average. This year: He's No. 2.

-- Bill Fields

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News & Tours

Another reason to revamp the Solheim Cup

On a tour short on showcase events, it would seem a given that for one of them, the prestigious Solheim Cup, the LPGA would find a way to include a bloc of players that is integral to the future of women's golf.

Six South Koreans have won seven LPGA events this year, including the Safeway Classic on Sunday, when rookie Mi-Jung Hur beat Suzann Pettersen and Michele Redman in a playoff.

The Solheim Cup introduced us to several players who don't play on the LPGA and introduced us to none of the Koreans who do, including these 2009 winners: Jiyai Shin, Ji-Yung Oh, In-Kyung Kim, Eunjung Yi, Eun-Hee Ji and Hur.

Wouldn't it better for the future of the LPGA were they provided Solheim Cup exposure, to better acquaint U.S. fans with them?

For those arguing on behalf of the status quo, meanwhile, take note: Foreign players, including eight Asians, have won the last 10 LPGA events.

On those rare occasions when the spotlight finds women's golf, better to shine the light on the game's best and brightest.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Wines and whines on the PGA Tour

It was announced on Monday that Beringer Vineyards has signed on to become "the Official Wine of the PGA Tour," distinguishing it from the unofficial whine of the PGA Tour -- that every new golf course it plays is an abomination. Or so it sometimes seems, when listening to the players.

OK, so Liberty National Golf Club's greens were tougher to read than Latin. The course still produced an entertaining show featuring some of the best players in the world and one notable interloper, winner Heath Slocum.

It's interesting to note that Slocum embraced the course and its nuances (see Sam Weinman's column on the matter here), while so many around him spent the week bemoaning the assorted swales and bumps that rejected imprecision.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

As An learned, making history can be grueling

TULSA, OKLA.--They only engrave your name on the Havemeyer Trophy, not the number of  birdies or bogeys you made during the 36-hole final match. That should allow Byeong-Hun An, the 2009 U.S. Amateur champion, to rest a little easier should he be nervous about how his victory yesterday at Southern Hills GC will be remembered.

Truth be told, history is far more likely to recall what the 17-year-old South Korean import accomplished--becoming the youngest winner of the USGA's oldest event yesterday--than how he accomplished it. Shooting the equivalent of nine over par with the usual match-play concessions will fade with time, particularly when you consider the convincing 7-and-5 final score.

The saving grace for An was the fact his opponent, Clemson fifth-year senior Ben Martin, struggled even more with his game on Sunday, hitting just nine of 24 fairways and only 12 of 31 greens while shooting 15 over on the day.

"As tough as this golf course is, you've got to be hitting quality shots," Martin said. "I was just kind of out there searching for something and never found it, especially in that second 18."

To say their collective play during the championship match was ragged would be an understatement. An and Martin made just five birdies between them, offset by 23 bogeys and three double bogeys. Amazingly, on just three of the 31 holes did both players safely hit their drives in the fairway and approach shots on the green.

"We were both exhausted after all the rounds, and then you have to play 36 holes today," said An. "Obviously that makes people tired. I think that's why we both made a lot of mistakes on the course today."

Indeed, it was obvious that, after six grueling days of competition on a golf course that tested both the physical and mental aspects of their games, the last two men standing simply couldn't stand for very much longer. (And to think what it might have been like that the 95-degree heat at the start of the week lingered through the weekend, instead of the low 80s that arrived for the weekend.)

"It was as much mental fatigue as anything," said Martin's father/caddie, Jim. "He was indecisive about club selection. He'd pull something out and then put it back in. That hadn't happened to him all week."

Sure Martin would have loved to have won, but the consolation prizes for having reached the finals--spots in next year's Masters and U.S. Open--are sure to soothe a bruised ego.

As for An, he'll be making his way to Augusta National and Pebble Beach, too, as well as taking a trip to St. Andrews for the British Open. Two months later, he expects to arrive on campus at Cal-Berkley, where he has verbally committed to play golf for the Bears after graduating from high school next spring. Unlike the previous holder of the "youngest Amateur champion" label, Danny Lee, An says he has no intention of turning professional any time soon.

In his immediate future, An actually has another tournament to play. After spending a few days back home in Bradenton, Fla., catching up on the first week of school that he missed, An will drive to Jacksonville and play in the AJGA Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass Sept. 3-6.

"I’ll enjoy this moment right now, but starting next week, ... I’ll go back to the same mentality I had a few days ago before I played this tournament,” An said. “I’ll try to ignore [the expectations]. I’ve still got a long career to go. It’s not done.”

On the contrary, it's only just begun.



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Courses & Travel

Twittering From Kohler

Twitter_2.jpgI'm still messing around with the latest electronic form of mass communication. In this case Twitter is the mode of streaming babble and the term "mass communication" may be overstating things a bit. I'm still working my way up to 100 followers. I'm no Stewart Cink, who has 796,402 followers. And I'm no Eliza Dushku, my latest crush and the Q&A subject for the November issue. Dushku has 72,316 followers. But I'm thinking, to the hardcore course fan, it may make sense for me to use Twitter for weeks like the one I'll be starting today.

I land in Milwaukee in a few hours and I'll be going directly to Erin Hills. Then I'm checking in at the American Club for a few days of dream-trip golf in Kohler, Wisc. My itinerary includes two rounds at the Straits courses, the Irish course, a portion of Blackwolf Run, the Bull and the Bog.

If you care to read my initial thoughts on all of the above, go to: http://twitter.com/. You create a name and then ask to follow: wheresmattyg

I best be taking off if I'm going to catch my flight.

--Matty G.

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News & Tours

Furyk: We're both boneheads

Jim Furyk had to take four penalty strokes for playing the first two holes in Saturday's round at the Barclays with 15 clubs in his bag, a miscue that ultimately cost him $131,250. Fortunately, it hasn't cost his caddie Mike Cowan, better known as Fluff, his job.

"We've been through too much together for a long, long time," Furyk told the Associated Press. "He's been on my bag for over 10 years. He does what he does. He shows up on time. He's a good person and he's a good caddie. The last thing I want anyone to do is blame it on Mike. The fact that we both made the error is what surprises me. That's the shocker. I can see one person being a bonehead for 30 minutes, but two people is disappointing."

The mistake occurred because Furyk had been working with a 60-degree with extra bounce, but decided to go with his 60-degree wedge with lower bounce. Because of Saturday's rain, Cowan had the rain hood covering the clubs in Furyk's bag, and neither noticed the extra wedge.

Good for Furyk for sharing blame and not passing it off on a reliable caddie with whom he has worked so well over the last decade. Suffice it to say, not every golfer would have done the same.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Tringale, Uihlein final two U.S. Walker Cup picks

TULSA, OKLA.--U.S. Walker Cup captain Buddy Marucci has his final two players as Cameron Tringale and Peter Uihlein have been selected to round out the 10-player American roster that will be playing at Merion GC Sept. 12-13.

Tringale, a first-team All-American who graduated last spring from Georgia Tech, and Uihlein, a sophomore at Oklahoma State, both made the match play portion of this week's U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills. Tringale lost in the third round to David Lingmerth, while Uihlein advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Charlie Holland.

Tringale was a qualifier for the U.S. Open this past summer at Bethpage. "It's a huge satisfaction," he said Sunday. "I've worked for this two years, designed my life around achieving this goal, and it's pretty special. It's definitely worth the sacrifices and hard work. I thought I had a good chance, but you never really know. I was thrilled when I got the call."

Uihlein had top-15 finishes this summer at the Sunnehanna Amateur, Northeast Amateur, Southern Amateur and Porter Cup.

Tim Jackson and U.S. Amateur runner-up Ben Martin are the alternates for the team.

U.S. WALKER CUP TEAM
Bud Cauley, 19, Jacksonville, Fla.
Rickie Fowler, 20, Murrieta, Calif.
Brendan Gielow, 21, Muskegon, Mich.
Brian Harman, 22, Savannah, Ga.
Morgan Hoffmann, 19, Saddle Brook, N.J.
Adam Mitchell, 22, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Nathan Smith, 30, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Cameron Tringale, 21, Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Peter Uihlein, 20, Orlando
Drew Weaver, 22, High Point, N.C.
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News & Tours

An takes lead after morning 18 despite ragged play

TULSA, OKLA.--I'm not sure just how time Ben Martin and Byeong-Hun An will actually spend  eating lunch after completing the morning 18 holes of the U.S. Amateur's championship match. My guess is both will make it quick so as to log some extra time on the range before resuming play at 1 p.m. CDT, An holding a 3-up lead.

Suffice it to say, Southern Hills CC got the best of both finalists through the first half of play Sunday. The two made a combined four birdies offset by 10 bogeys and three double bogeys in  breezy but comfortable playing conditions.

An, a 17-year-old native of South Korea trying to become the youngest winner of the Amateur title, finished with the equivalent of five over par score (including normal concessions); Martin, a fifth-year senior at Clemson, was seven over. Martin's luck was so off that even when he hit a good shot, it turned out bad. On the par-3 14th, Martin's tee ball struck the flag stick, only to bounce into the front right bunker.

The morning portion of the match proved to be a see-saw affair as only four of the 18 holes were halved (one of them, the par-3 197-yard sixth, was split with matching double bogeys).

Still, while both players held the lead at one point, neither extended it beyond a 1-up advantage until An made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th and got up and down for par from behind the green on the 17th to stretch to 3 up.

An hit 11 fairways but just nine greens while Martin hit only five fairways and nine greens.

Aside from what's at stake for the players themselves, there are other golfers who are watching the outcome closely. If Martin wins, he will secure one of the final two spots on the U.S. Walker Cup team that will play in two weeks at Merion GC--leaving just one spot for a handful of hopefuls that include Northeast Amateur champion Dan Woltman, collegiate All-American Mike Van Sickle, Peter Uihlein, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the Amateur this week, and Tim Jackson, medalist at Southern Hills. Should An win, however, both spots for the team will available for the USGA International Team Selection Committee to choose.

*****

USGA course set-up guru Mike Davis has famously brought the drivable par 4 into fashion at the U.S. Open, so should it be any surprise that he's had fun with the short par-4 17th here at Southern Hills?

For the morning 18 of the championship match, Davis placed the tee 290 yards from the hole, enticing Martin to go for it with a driver after An had laid up in the fairway with an iron. Martin's ball hit the green but bounded down the shaved back slope. He then proceeded to flub his second shot en route to a bogey 5. An's approach shot from the fairway also bounced over the green but he managed to get up and down for par to extend his lead to 3 up.

For the afternoon 18, if breeze continues to blow from the north (downwind) Davis said he may push the tees back to the 306-yard teeing ground.
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News & Tours

'A slow player tightens noose around his own neck'

European Tour officials continue to carry the banner on behalf of speeding up play around the world, for which Eirik Tage Johansen is the latest posted boy. Johansen was hit with a slow-play fine for the second week running, this time in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

He was fined £500 for slow play at the KLM Open the previous week. At Gleneagles, the fine was £4,000. Mark Garrod, golf correspondent for the Press Association, wrote this:

"He took 19 seconds too long over a tee shot during his second round and because it was his second "bad time" of the year he was fined £4,000.

"'A slow player tightens the noose around his own neck,' said the Tour's senior referee Andy McFee. 'If he has another bad time it would be £6,000.'"

Better were the penalty to be strokes rather than money, but at least someone somewhere is wielding the prod in an attempt to alleviate the scourge of slow play. Recall that it was a European Tour official (John Paramor) who triggered a controversy by issuing a slow-play warning to Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

U.S. Amateur finalists have Masters on their mind

TULSA, OKLA.--One grew up 50 miles from Augusta National GC, the other roughly a half a world away. Still, both Ben Martin and Byeong-Hun "Ben" An have held the same goal for as long as they can remember: to one day compete in the Masters.

With semifinal victories Saturday at the 109th U.S. Amateur, both will get the chance to live their dream next April, the carrot for reaching the final of the USGA's oldest national championship.

"They started last night creeping into my mind, and I couldn't sleep," said An, a 17-year-old South Korea native who defeated Bhavik Patel, 3 and 2, at Southern Hills CC, when asked if he ever thought about playing at Augusta during his match. "By my dad kept telling me just to calm down."

"I don't think it's really sunk in yet that I'll be playing in Augusta," said Martin, a 22-year-old from Greenwood, S.C., who defeated the hottest player in the championship, Charlie Holland, beating the Texas senior 5 and 4.

Advancing to the U.S. Amateur finals also earned the two Bens an exemptions into next year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

In the An/Patel match, neither player held more than a 1-up advantage through the first 14 holes, the lead shifting back and forth through out the round. Patel, a sophomore at Fresno State, moved in front for the first time on the 11th with a par after An shanked his tee shot on the par-3 hole. But An regrouped, making a birdie on the 13th to square the match, then winning the next three holes to close out his opponent.

"I didn't think I played that well," said An, who has lived with his father in the Florida since 2005, attending the David Leadbetter Academy until 18 months ago. "We both made a lot of mistakes. My irons weren't that good but my up-and-downs were pretty good compared to yesterday."

Conversely, Martin, a fifth-year senior at Clemson, rebounded from a shaky performance in his quarterfinal match against David Lingmerth a day earlier, hitting his irons with far more precision as he jumped to a 2-up lead after three holes that stretched to a 4-up advantage through six and a 5-up margin at the turn.

"It was night and day," said Martin regarding the difference in his play, in part the result of a two-hour range session late Friday afternoon. "I was just out there hitting a few balls. Just trying to improve my swing. Nothing specific. Just getting some confidence out there and seeing the ball going where I wanted it to."

Martin also benefited from the fact Holland was struggling off the tee, unable to hit a fairway until the seventh hole. "My driver wasn't great [warming up before the round], and it stuck with me the rest of the day," Holland said. "I was all over the place, missing fairways and greens."

Last April, Martin was in attendance at the Masters, something he has had the luxury of doing every year since 1996. His grandmother owns two Masters badges when he hasn't been able to get tickets from family friends.

“I’ve played Augusta one time when [Clemson] team got to go there,” Martin said. “It was January and about 40 degrees so it really wasn’t too much fun.”

Martin also attended a second major championship this year, having qualified to compete at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. At one point during his first round, Martin was two under par and his name was up on the leader board. A friend snuck a photo of the moment, which Martin's family proudly displays. (Martin missed the cut at Bethpage.)

"I think having that experience at Bethpage has been a big help," said Martin, who twice has won All-ACC honors while playing for the Tigers. "I'm a little more comfortable with the crowds. There were a lot of fans out today, but it's nothing compared to the Open."

For An, though, Saturday's crowd of upwards of 1,000 spectators was the largest he's ever played in front of. While not having won any tournament since a junior event five years ago, An earned first-team AJGA All-American honors a year ago, tied for second at the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions in July and was a quarterfinalist at the Western Amateur earlier this month. He has made a verbal commitment to play at Cal-Berkley starting in the fall of 2011.

Suffice it to say, there is plenty more to play for Sunday at Southern Hills. The winner of the 36-hole final also will get an invitation to the British Open at St. Andrews. Should Martin win he will also grab one of the two remaining spots on the U.S. Walker Cup team roster. Should An prevail, he would become the youngest champion (17 years, 11 months, 13 days), breaking the mark Danny Lee set a year ago (18 years, 1 month) at Pinehurst No. 2.
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July 28, 2014

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