The Latest: Rose says back feels fine leading into PGA
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on the PGA Championship, golf’s final major of the year (all times local):
Justin Rose says the back pain that forced him to withdraw from last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational shouldn’t pose a problem for him at the PGA Championship.
The world’s third-ranked player decided to skip playing any practice rounds at Bellerive, but he has hit on the driving range and said everything feels good. He also walked the course a couple times, and he thinks that will be enough to formulate a game plan for Thursday’s opening round.
“It’s been a slightly different preparation for me this week because of it,” Rose said, “but I think it’s all been about trying to get to Thursday and be ready for Thursday.”
Heavy rains that fell at Bellerive this week hardly slowed its massive greens, which tournament coordinator Kerry Haigh said were running right where he wants them for the PGA Championship.
Haigh said about 1 1/2 inches fell during Tuesday’s storm. That could make an already long course play even longer from tee to green, but the otherwise the course handled the rain quite well.
Some players had grumbled after early practice rounds about brown patches on some of the greens, but Haigh said Wednesday that’s hard to avoid given the oppressive summer heat in St. Louis.
Haigh added that PGA officials “love where they’re at. They’re rolling beautifully.”
Longtime golf instructor Peter Kostis thinks Tiger Woods has done “exactly what he needs to do” in remaking his swing after spinal fusion finally allowed him to overcome his back problems.
Kostis should know. He helped his own son, who had a similar procedure in almost the exact same place in his lower back, make the same kind of adjustments to his swing.
“I like the way he’s moving the club,” added Kostis, who is part of the CBS broadcast team for this week’s PGA Championship. Now, Woods must “get the mindset back prior to all the injuries and all the surgeries. That’s where his focus needs to be right now.”
Woods is paired with Rory McIlroy and defending champion Justin Thomas for the opening rounds.
Good luck trying to figure out how Justin Thomas hits the ball so far. Not even he knows.
The reigning PGA Championship winner averages 313.8 yards off the tee, putting him ninth on the PGA Tour in driving distance and within spitting distance of big hitters such as Dustin Johnson.
Pretty good for someone who weighs about 160 pounds.
Thomas weighed less last year, about 145 pounds at the start of it. He bulked up because he wanted to get stronger in the legs and core, which could help him ward off injuries.
Thomas figures his length stems from when he was young, and would swing right out of his shoes. As he grew into his body, “swinging that hard just resulted in hitting it farther,” he said.
His length should come in handy at Bellerive this week. The par-70 course measures 7,300 yards.
Kerry Haigh of the PGA of America took what some considered a subtle shot at the USGA when he said Tuesday his goal in setting up courses for the PGA Championship is to let the players be the stars.
The USGA is often criticized for its U.S. Open setups, whether that’s because of long, thick rough or penal green speeds that are designed to produce a specific winning score.
Some years, the setup itself becomes the tournament’s dominant story.
Yet rarely do the same critiques accompany the PGA, and Haigh said that’s because “my hope and I think the plan is that the players are the story. It is their major championship.”
“I don’t like to be up here. I don’t want to talk,” the PGA’s chief championship officer said from a podium. “We are not the show, and that is our aim for every championship.”
The Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, remains the front-runner to become the new home of the PGA of America, but outgoing CEO Pete Bevacqua said the move from South Florida is not finalized.
Bevacqua said the organization decided a couple years ago its current headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens no longer fit the bill. So, the PGA began soliciting offers from around the country, and Frisco officials proposed a site that would include two, semi-public 18-hole courses.
Bevacqua, who is leaving to become president of NBC Sports Group, said it’s still possible the PGA could elsewhere or even stay in Florida. “Our goal is to resolve that and come to a conclusion as quickly as possible,” he added. “We’re just not there yet.”
Jim Furyk predicted next month’s Ryder Cup will be a “battle of two giants,” but the U.S. captain said he’s pleased with the way his team is shaping up heading into the PGA Championship.
This weekend at Bellerive is the last chance to earn points and automatically make the team.
Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas have already clinched spots, but there are four more automatic spots in play. There are also four captain’s picks up for grabs.
“I’d love to be playing late Sunday,” said Furyk, who is also in the PGA field, “but if not, I know I’ll be glued to the TV and trying to figure out points and what could happen to our top eight.”
Thomas Bjorn has withdrawn on the eve of the PGA Championship after an old back injury flared up, giving first alternate Kevin Streelman a spot in the field at Bellerive.
Streelman finished in the top 10 at the John Deere Classic last month, but he missed the cut last week at the Barracuda Championship, the tournament that runs concurrently with the WGC event.
Streelman learned he was in the PGA field in time to play a practice round Tuesday.
Bjorn probably isn’t going far. He’s the captain for the European team for next month’s Ryder Cup, so chances are he’ll be following some of his prospective players the rest of the week.
Tommy Fleetwood keeps showing up at the biggest events. Now he just has to figure out how to get through Saturday.
Last week at Firestone was the latest example of Fleetwood digging a hole in the third round. He was tied for the 36-hole lead and shot 74. Two weeks earlier, he was one shot off the lead until a 71 on a good day for scoring at Carnoustie. Fleetwood tied the U.S. Open record this year with a 63 in the final round, but that wasn’t enough to undo the damage of a 78 on Saturday.
Fleetwood hopes it’s just a coincidence, that the third round is when the putts stop falling. He also says his ordinary third rounds tend to follow hot rounds on Friday, like his 63 at Firestone.
The Englishman says it’s nothing he worries about, but he has taken notice.
“And hopefully, it doesn’t last for too long,” he said.
Bellerive is busier than usual on the final day of practice for the PGA Championship.
Players typically are concerned about rest going into the final major of the year because the British Open was only about two weeks ago and the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour are just around the corner. Plans changed on Wednesday because of the rain.
Bellerive received more than an inch of rain on Tuesday, limiting practice time. Tiger Woods only managed to play five holes on a course he hasn’t seen in 17 years. Woods says he expects plenty of players on the course, and “I’m going to be one of them.”
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were among those playing as soon as the course was open for play.