Michelle Wie’s U.S. Open Chances Are Fading, But Not Totally Gone

wie-michelle-140628The defending U.S. Women’s Open champion launched a big tee shot off the 15th tee here Saturday and then practically staggered back to her bag.

If Michelle Wie’s defense of her Open title comes up short Sunday, and it looks like it might unless she shoots a low, low number, she will certainly know why. There’s a painful hip, which caused her to narrow her stance and alter her swing a month ago; a sore ankle that she’s wearing a large black brace on; and her putting.

Wie, the biggest name in women’s golf, lost at least three strokes on the greens Saturday, otherwise her presence on the leaderboard at Lancaster Country Club might be considerably more imposing. Instead, she posted her second straight 68 and finished at 208, 2-under par. She’s six strokes off the lead, held by Amy Yang.

Wie’s day may have been summarized by the way she played the 16th hole, a par-4. After a nice drive, she hit a mediocre iron shot, left her birdie putt four feet short and left her par putt three inches short with a tentative stroke.

That is not how you win a U.S. Open and Wie knows it all too well. She had three bogeys on the front nine. She may have squandered her chance today and left too much ground to make up. Then again, plenty can happen in 18 holes.

“I knew I had to post a low number today, which is a little frustrating,” Wie said. “Those bogeys are precious, you can’t make bogeys out here. I’m grateful that I have a chance so I’m going to try to do as much as I can with it.”

She is obviously hurting and limped noticeably throughout the round. Wie didn’t want to make a big deal of her ailments, although she did admit that she doesn’t take painkillers or pain relievers because she’s allergic to many of them.

“It was a long day, I’m glad to be done,” she said. “But it is what it is. I’ve kind of embraced it. I’ve played with the pain for a while. I know what to expect. I’m good to go for tomorrow.”

She said the pain has gotten worse as the week has gone on. Lancaster CC is a hilly layout and there are a couple of serious uphill and downhill stretches. Her hip and ankle are fine on the flat lies, she said, but Lancaster requires a number of uphill approach shots and Wie said that’s where she has an issue trying to finish a swing on her tender left side. “You saw it on 18,” said Wie, who flared her approach shot into a greenside bunker. She made a superb bunker shot for a tap-in par.

“Unfortunately, it does get a little bit worse each day,” she said. “I just kind of fight through it. My ankle, as well, has never been good. I’m very grateful that it hasn’t really hurt my backswing. I feel it on the way through. So I kind of pep myself up and go for it. I’m proud of myself today, I hung in there, for sure.”

It looked as if Wie might fall out of contention completely after she finished bogey-bogey on the front nine. Then she birdied the par-4 10th, par-3 12th and par-5 13th to temporarily move into third place.

She left an uphill birdie putt at the 14th hanging on the lip, just short. The glitch at the 16th dropped her one back, and she really needed to save par from the bunker at 18 just to stay within striking distance.

Wie seemed upbeat but looked fatigued after the round. No, she said, she was not going to do any practice after the round. She was going to rest.

“I’m just happy that I’m in a good spot,” she said. “I just want to see what I can do tomorrow.”

A few moments later, she limped off toward the parking lot.

courtesy of Gary Van Sickle (golf.com)

Sei Young Kim’s caddie disqualified from U.S. Women’s Open for taking cellphone photo

sy kimSei Young Kim is off to a rookie-of-the-year type season with two LPGA victories in 2015. But if the 22-year-old South Korean is going to win the U.S. Women’s Open this week at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club she’ll have to do it without her regular caddie.

Paul Fusco, a veteran looper who has also worked on the PGA Tour, took a cellphone photo of the hole locations and course set-up notes for the week, according to sources familiar with the situation, and when the breach was discovered by USGA officials he was banned from the tournament.

Related: Golf’s costliest rules mistakes

Sources say that Fusco was in the USGA Rules office — where he was not credentialed to be — taking the photos when an official walked in on him. The sources say there will be no penalty for Kim.

courtesy of Ron Sirak (golfdigest.com)

Four Ways Chambers Bay Can Get Another U.S. Open

us-open-chambers bay

Sad reality: if Cameron Smith wins the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay this column is moot. Etch Jordan Spieth’s name on the trophy, send a new golfing superstar headed to St. Andrews with a Grand Slam on his mind and highlight a finish for the ages. Voila! Legendary U.S. Open venue.

After a week of so many ups and downs, does Chambers Bay have a major championship life going forward? You bet.

But the place needs to address a few big ticket issues. And there is time. The USGA is committed or close to committing to U.S. Open venues through 2023, with likely trips to more classics in 2024-25.

– Embrace The Region. A vibrant sports town supported the event with exuberance. SeaTacians are not to blame for the lack of grandstand seating throughout the course or that the fake dunes were too fake to be used as stadium mounds. Bulldoze the multiple unnecessary “hummocks” blocking-views and commit to building more grandstands.

– Get There In More Style. Nearly all concerns about commuting to the course did not become an issue other than understandable complaints about the shuttle ride length. For all the talk of trains, figure out the how to deliver 5000 fans each day. And remind everyone that Seattle/Tacoma proved great hosts cities that welcomed visitors with open arms.

Related: The winners and losers from Chambers Bay

– Tweak The Course. Yes, the fescue burned and the course is absurdly extreme in places, but Chambers Bay also rewarded a nice mix of players with just enough reward for the driver to produce a satisfying championship. The weather was superb and the setting other-worldly. But the design has issues. Turn the eighth hole and upper ninth tee areas into a par-3 course below the clubhouse, place a new par-4 8th and 9th on the lower area occupied by corporate tents. Come tournament time, play the first and eighteenth as par-5s in the championship. Then remind everyone of that epic finish and sit tight, because Chambers Bay will be remembered even more fondly in two years when the U.S. Open heads to the severe, remote and massive Erin Hills.

– Solve The Grass Issue. With most of the turf having burned up during the Open, the fescues may not be able to handle the heat and strain of a U.S. Open. Poa Annua isn’t the answer either. How about some bent in the greens mix to help prevent the understandable player complaints? The USGA has a Green Section and no shortage of cash, maybe they can handle this part.

courtesy of Geoff Shackelford (golfdigest.com)

This disjointed U.S. Open has found a unifying figure in Jason Day

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This has been a silent U.S. Open. No more. Now this is Jason Day’s Open. For three days, with galleries spread thin over Chambers Bay’s massive layout, the world’s best golfers have worked in library quiet. Not now. Not after Jason Day made a 6-foot putt at the 18th Saturday.

From the thousands in the bleachers, there came a waterfall’s roar, thunderous and rolling and promising to never end. Those fans knew what they had seen. They had seen a wonder. Jason Day may win this Open tomorrow.

The day before, Day collapsed along the 18th fairway, rose and finished the round before being helped from the course, all but carried to the players’ locker room before leaving the grounds for medical treatment. For years he has dealt with episodes of disorienting vertigo that leave him weak and ill. The question Saturday was not so much how well he would play but whether he would play at all. Yet there he was, on the 18th green Saturday, with that little putt for his third birdie in four holes.

At four-under par for the tournament, Day goes to the Father’s Day round sharing the Open lead with Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Brendan Grace.

Did I call it a wonder? Yes, and his mentor/caddie, Colin Swatton, said it better: “It was up there with Tiger Woods playing with a broken leg at the U.S. Open,” which, you may remember, happened in 2008, the last time Woods won a major championship.

So, please, pardon me if I confess to bias, for tomorrow I will root that Jason Day, alone, survives the inevitable train wrecks that turn Open Sundays into such guilty pleasures. We do so love to see the gods brought low with the shaking horrors that strike us every time out. And this Open certainly was on its way to becoming an Open to love. Men four-putted. Gravity allowed balls to roll into deep, dark abysses. There was weeping, gnashing of teeth, and discombobulation. Good heavens, as if to portend a hellish Sunday, smoke rose Saturday from beyond the Lone Fir, suggesting either 1) a Tacoma factory fire, or 2) Ben Martin, a morning contender, setting fire to his worldly goods after committing both a triple bogey and a quadruple on his soul-killing way to an afternoon 86.

But then came Jason Day. He had walked Chambers Bay’s hills. He had walked in the heat of a cloudless day. He was three shots out of the lead at the first tee, and if you watched him there, you wondered if he could perform even the simplest act of professional golf — tee it up. Because vertigo is associated with inner ear problems, Day moved his head slowly and carefully, as if a normal descent to put a peg in the ground would set off the waves of dizziness and nausea that have struck him before.

After 14 holes, he was one-over-par for the day and no longer a name mentioned with the leaders Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Brendan Grace.

At the par-3 15th, with a tee in one hand and a club in the other, he bent from the waist — and paused, leaning on the club. He seemed to shake his head that time, as if to re-direct whatever demons danced in his head.

“He didn’t talk much all day,” his playing partner, Kevin Kisner, said, “and that’s not like him at all. I told him if he needed help, let me know. After the seventh hole, he said he was sorry about not talking but he felt terrible. He never said anything more after that.”

At the 15th, playing at 246 yards, he put his tee shot 15 feet away. Made the putt. Made another for birdie at the par-3 17th before coming to the 18th. As Day came off the 18th, he stopped briefly to talk to a reporter. “I didn’t feel that great coming out early,” he said, “and then I felt like — I felt pretty groggy on the front nine just from the drugs that I had in my system, then kind of flushed that out on the back nine.”

For only a moment, though: “But then it kind of came back — the vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and then I felt nauseous all day. I started shaking on the 16th tee box and then just tried to get it in, really. Just wanted to get it in.”

He had been there before, only the vertigo wasn’t as bad: “Last year I didn’t play the round after I had vertigo and this one was worse. I think the goal was just go through today and see how it goes.”

“Three birdies in the last four holes,” Kinser said. “He played unbelievable. Leading the tournament. Great. Now he can win it.”

Hope so.

courtesy of Dave Kindred (golfdigest.com)

Sergio Garcia wants everyone to know how bad Chambers Bay’s greens are

blog-sergio-garcia-greens-thThroughout his career, we’ve seen Sergio Garcia complain about everything from getting bad breaks to Augusta National. Yes, he’s actually whined about playing Augusta National.

So it should come as little surprise that Garcia has already found something wrong with Chambers Bay: its putting surfaces. Following an opening 70 at the U.S. Open, the Spaniard took to Twitter and didn’t hold back:

______________________________________________________________________

Sergio Garcia

@TheSergioGarcia

Happy with my Even par round today although it could’ve been a bit better by the way I played but this greens are as bad as the look on TV. I think a championship of the caliber of @usopengolf deserves better quality green surfaces that we have this week but maybe I’m wrong! If my problem is saying what everyone thinks but they don’t have the guts to say it, then I’m guilty of that for sure.

_______________________________________________________________________

As you can imagine, the reactions on Twitter were not favorable. “Win a major, then whine about it,” one person wrote. “Cry harder you baby,” said someone else. And our personal favorite, “Send the wambulance.”

Garcia will play in the afternoon Friday when the greens should be even bumpier. To be exact, his tee time is 2:17 p.m. local in case somebody is coordinating that wambulance.

courtesy of Alex Myers (golfdigest.com)

 

Navigating Chambers Bay in practice a real headache

18th hole Chambers Bay

18th hole Chambers Bay

Figures this would happen at the first U.S. Open held in a state where marijuana use is legal. Practice rounds came to a grinding halt Wednesday because of slow play. Golfers don’t even know which tee to use. They’re wandering around in a daze, as if lost in space.

It’s going to be that kind of U.S. Open. The kind that tests a player’s patience and mental acuity. This is, after all, the national championship. That means you have to be physically perfect and mentally razor sharp. Or else you don’t have a chance.

That makes practice rounds at Chambers Bay unlike those at any other U.S. Open. That’s because the layout is on such a vast scale, with enormous variety and potential for wild differences in course setup from day to day. As Tiger Woods said in reference to the setup choices available to U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, “none of the players know what Mike is going to do on the different winds and the different days.”

Consider:

Par on the first and 18th holes will shift, depending on wind and whim, with one of them always playing as a par 4 and the other always as a par 5. Small wonder that players in practice rounds are hitting their drive on the 598-yard par-5 hole, then walking up and hitting another drive from the 496-yard par-4 tee. On the 18th hole, running exactly in the opposite direction and partially sharing a fairway, they hit their finishing drive on the 604-yard par-5 18th hole, then walk up and play another drive from the 525-yard par-4 tee. Sound confusing? Just do what Rory McIlroy does.

“I like that they’re going to flip it each day,” he said, “so it retains a par 9 for the two holes.”

That’s nothing compared to the choice on the par-3 ninth hole, where two alternate tees are at right angles from one another, 250 yards apart. Good luck practicing on that one in one round. In fact, no one has tried. From the top tee, 224 yards from the center of the green, the tee shot parachutes 100 feet down to the ground. From the bottom tee, way to the right and 217 yards from the green, the shot plays 20 feet uphill. Phil Mickelson reports having hit “5- to 6-iron” from the high tee and a 5-wood from the lower one. There’s a good hole location front left that can’t be held from the high tee because of excessive slope on that side, but that works well from the low tee. And a back right spot that’s ideal from the high tee that cannot possibly be held when approached from the low tee.

Forget about divulging setup intent before the opening bell. Davis is a firm believer in keeping players on their toes and making them work hard in practice, not just physically. Davis said that players are being tested on “how they think on their feet; how their caddies think.”

That means reading the ground game and going with what the landforms allow. There will be times when the only way to hit it close will be to loft an iron crisply, with perfect spin and hope it doesn’t bounce too far on these extremely firm greens. There will be other times – due to wind, approach angle or hole location – when the only way to get it close will be to pick a spot 70 or 80 feet to the side and bank an approach shot in that runs out toward the hole.

Davis warned players of the complexity of the place and advised them to arrive early for practice rounds. Those who played here a few weeks ago played a course that was slower greener and thus less reactive than the nearly bone-dry one they are playing this week.

All of this means players will have to pay close attention to hole locations, teeing ground and the elements around the exact point at which they must land the ball. Turns out it’s going to be a severe mental test this week.

That makes Chambers Bay no arbitrary toss up. Out here, the head wins.

courtesy of Bradley S. Klein (Golfweek.com)

 

Lee Janzen, 50, and Cole Hammer, 15, among the U.S. Open qualifiers

RIO GRANDE, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 05:  Lee Janzen plays his shot from the 13th tee during round one of the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular at Trump International Golf Club on March 5, 2015 in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

RIO GRANDE, PUERTO RICO – MARCH 05: Lee Janzen plays his shot from the 13th tee during round one of the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular at Trump International Golf Club on March 5, 2015 in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

Two multiple winners of the U.S. Open qualified for next week’s Open at Chambers Bay outside Tacoma, Wash., as did a 15-year-old from Texas and the grandson of a legend.

Two-time Open champions Lee Janzen, who now is playing on the Champions Tour, and South African Retief Goosen qualified in Purchase, N.Y., and Memphis, respectively. Janzen, 50, was the medalist in his qualifier.

Big day. Even played the same tees as all those youngsters,” Janzen Tweeted.

Cole Hammer, 15, who just completed his freshman year in high school, was second in the Dallas qualifier.

Sam Saunders, a PGA Tour rookie and the grandson of Arnold Palmer, earned his second U.S. Open start. Saunders missed the cut in the 2011 Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

Meanwhile, Fred Couples and Davis Love III both withdrew from their qualifiers. And David Lingmerth, who won the Memorial on Sunday, failed to qualify for the Open on Monday, as did University of Oregon golf coach Casey Martin.

Other notable qualifiers:

  • Luke Donald finished second in the Jupiter, Fla., qualifier, with friend Michael Jordan in his gallery.
  • Amateur Bryson Dechambeau of SMU, who won the NCAA championship, qualified in Columbus, Ohio, in a field that included many PGA Tour players. Besides talent, Dechambeau is known for playing irons that are all an identical length, 37 1/2 inches.
  • Andres Romero holed an eagle chip on his last hole to qualify on the number in Memphis.
  • Beau Hossler, 20, a University of Texas junior-to-be who finished T-29 in the U.S. Open as a 17-year-old in 2012, tied for second in the Newport Beach, Calif., qualifier. Hossler held the outright lead midway through the second round in the ’12 Open at the Olympic Club.

courtesy of John Strege (golfdigest.com)