Golf Roundup: Sandy areas won't be played as bunkers in PGA

The SportsXchange

The ruling came two years too late for Dustin Johnson, but the PGA of America has determined that all sandy areas will not be designated as bunkers in the PGA Championship next week on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

The Ocean Course was designed by Pete Dye, architect of a similar layout at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., where Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty on the 72nd hole in the PGA two years ago when he grounded his club in a sandy area that he did not think was a bunker.

DJ had a one-stroke lead at the time and made bogey on the hole, but the penalty cost him a spot in the playoff in which Martin Kaymer defeated Bubba Watson.

"With the unique topography of the Ocean Course, natural sandy areas spread throughout the entire property, the PGA of America rules committee has determined that all of these areas will be treated alike and played as through the green," Allen Wronowski, president of the PGA of America, said in a press release.

"We believe that by establishing the Condition of Play for the 94th PGA Championship well in advance of the Championship, it will help players and spectators prepare for this spectacular major championship experience."

The local rule will be in place because wind and tide carries debris to these sandy areas. This same Condition of Play was in effect at the Ocean Course for the 29th Ryder Cup in 1991, at the 2005 PGA Professional National Championship and at the 2007 Senior PGA Championship.

It marks the first time that the PGA Championship, which dates to 1916, will be played under these conditions.

The PGA has not been played at Kiawah Island previously.

--Russ Cochran made the trip to the United Kingdom in hopes of playing in the 141st Open Championship and the Senior British Open but was forced to withdraw from both because of a back injury.

The 53-year-old Cochran was especially disappointed at being unable to defend his title last week in the Senior British at Turnberry.

"I can't play -- just can't do it," said Cochran, who played 12 holes at Royal Lytham the day before the Open started but walked off the course when he determined he wasn't fit.

"They said it's an intercostal muscle strain. It goes across the back of the ribs. Doctors told me to let it go, to give myself plenty of time and it will be fine."

Cochran, who said this is the first time in his life he has had a back injury, watched some of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes but left after the third round.

He qualified for the oldest championship in the world for the second time in his career by winning the Senior British Open last year at Walton Heath Golf Club at Walton-on-the-Hill in Surrey, England.

"Guess I'm going to have to win the Senior Open another time," he said as he left Lytham.

The only other time he played in the Open Championship, he tied for 28th in 1992 at Muirfield.

--Even before Ernie Els became the third player to claim victory with a long putter in the last four majors, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association were discussing the possibility of banning clubs that are anchored to the body.

Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A said last week that a decision might not be far away.

"We appreciate that there is much speculation about this and that we need to clarify the position as soon as possible," Dawson said. "And I think you're going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months, rather than years.

"This decision has not been taken (yet). Please don't think that it has."

Keegan Bradley, who uses a belly putter, captured the PGA Championship last August, becoming the first player to win a major with a longer putter, and Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open in June while also using a belly putter.

Adam Scott, who uses a putter anchored to his chest, led most of the way in the Open Championship two weeks ago before making bogeys on the last four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, allowing Els to win thanks to a 15-foot birdie putt with his belly putter on the final hole.

"As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them," Els said last October, despite being a vocal critic of the longer putters earlier in his career.

It's not the length of the putters that is in question, but the fact that they are anchored to the body. Dawson said the discussion with the governing bodies has switched from an equipment issue to a rules issue.

The rules committees of the R&A and USGA are conducting the study, and each will make a recommendation.

"The initial determination has been that we are examining the subject from a method of stroke standpoint, rather than length of putter standpoint, and that takes it into the area of the rules of play, the rules of golf, rather than the rules of equipment," Dawson said.

Because the issue is being treated as a potential rule change, it would not become effective until 2016. The Rules of Golf are updated every four years.

Jim MacArthur, chairman of the championship committee for the R&A, said there were 27 long putters and 16 belly putters among the players in the 156-man field at the Open Championship.

--Latanna Stone of Valrico, Fla., shot 2-under-par 70 to win medalist honors in qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Championship at the Wanderers Club in Wellington, Fla.

That doesn't sound like that big of a story until you realize that Stone is 10 years old.

"Thanks everyone for the well wishes i received for qualifying for the US Women Amateur," Stone tweeted afterward. "So happy and excited to play!"

Stone is the youngest qualifier in the history of the U.S. Women's Amateur, which will be played Aug. 6-12 at the Country Club in Cleveland.

Michelle Wie also was 10, but slightly younger than Stone when she qualified for the 2000 Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.

Allisen Corpuz, who qualified for the 2008 Women's Amateur Public Links, was the youngest qualifier for a United States Golf Association event at the age of 10 years and three months old.

"God gave me the greatest talent in the world, but I don't want to throw it away," said Stone, a fifth grader who stands 4-foot-8 and weighs less than 100 pounds.

"I want to beat the older girls. You have to practice every day. You know what they say -- practice makes perfect."

Stone's swing coach is Charlotta Sorenstam, who once played on the LPGA Tour along with her sister, Annika, one of the greatest players in women's golf history.

--Golf officials from around the world celebrated when their sport was awarded a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games, but now they are dealing with the harsh reality of fitting it into an already hectic summer schedule.

The Olympics are scheduled for Aug. 5-16, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, with golf taking up two weeks, one for the men and one for the women.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews had considered moving the Open Championship back one week, but the All-England Club beat golf's overseers to the punch, announcing last week that the Wimbledon Championships will be moved back a week.

That will make for a three-week break after the French Open and impacts the dates of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, which have yet to be announced.

There is virtually no way the powers-that-be in England would allow the Open dates to clash with Wimbledon, for the sake of both iconic events.

"The Wimbledon date change does impact on this with regard to when it's most sensible to play the Open that particular year, so we are going to have to go slightly back to the drawing board on this," said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A and the president of the International Golf Federation, which oversees Olympic golf.

Dawson said the IGF has made a commitment to the International Olympic Committee that none of the majors will clash with the Olympics.

The PGA Championship, the final major of the season, usually is played on the second week of August, but the PGA of America has offered to move up to the last week in July.

On the LPGA Tour, the U.S. Women's Open was played this year in the first week of July, and the Evian Masters, which now is a major, was contested last week.

The first step is for the IGF to set the golf dates for the Olympics, so stay tuned.

--Those who took SportsBettingOnline's 45-1 odds on Adam Scott in the Open Championship probably were counting their winnings before he blew a four-stroke lead with bogeys on the last four holes, allowing Ernie Els to win with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.

As it turned out, all those people broke even after SportsBettingOnline announced that it was refunding any money bet on Scott.

"With so many of the favorites including (Tiger) Woods not cashing, it was a good day for sportsbooks," said Dave Johnson, head oddsmaker at SportsBettingOnline.

"But that wasn't the case for those who dropped money on Scott. We feel it's our duty to refund the players for taking such a bad beat. His collapse was historic and we know the bettors who had him must feel as awful as he does."

SportsBookOnline also issued a refund to those who bet on boxer Manny Pacquiao after his controversial loss to Timothy Bradley in June.
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