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National notes

LPGA Tour needs better networking

Mike Davis, who set up the US Open layout at Pebble Beach, agrees with criticism by Ryan Moore (above). Mike Davis, who set up the US Open layout at Pebble Beach, agrees with criticism by Ryan Moore (above). (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / July 15, 2010

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Emptying out the notebook from the US Women’s Open, while wondering how the LPGA Tour can make itself more relevant.

■ It’s not fair to compare, but we’ll do it anyway. There were signs last week that underscored how little the networks care about women’s golf. True, NBC brought Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller, Dottie Pepper, Gary Koch, et al to Oakmont Country Club, but do you think the Peacock would ever end its coverage and sign off from the men’s US Open halfway through the third round before play was done for the day, like what happened on Saturday?

Worse, ESPN provided first- and second-round coverage. Granted, the LeBron James decision happened Thursday night and predictably dominated “SportsCenter’’ the following morning, but I failed to see anything from Oakmont on the one-hour highlights show. No action, not even a list of scores, which might have taken 10 seconds — enough time for the worldwide leader to promote that it would be airing the second round later that afternoon. “SportsCenter’’ did show golf highlights Friday morning, but it was the Thursday 59 shot by Paul Goydos. No complaints there; something that rare deserves appropriate attention. But ignoring the US Women’s Open seemed puzzling and unnecessary.

■ It was done quietly and with very little fanfare, but Natick native Meg Mallon withdrew from the US Women’s Open and announced her retirement last week. The 47-year-old won 18 times on the LPGA Tour, including four majors and two US Women’s Opens: in 1991 at Colonial Country Club, and 2004 at The Orchards in South Hadley.

It was that triumph in Western Mass., in front of friends and family, that left her exempt for this year’s championship. But Mallon decided to finish where she started, making the tournament two weeks ago in Toledo, Ohio, her final appearance. That’s where she made her tour debut, in 1988.

Mallon always has been close to her family, and health concerns with loved ones took Mallon away from the golf course more and more frequently the past few years. Her father died in 2005, and her sister, Tricia, passed away earlier this year.

It was evident watching Mallon that she loved to play the game, always interacted with fans, and was appreciative of the opportunity to turn her passion into her profession. The women’s game could use a few more just like her.

■ In one aspect, the women compared most favorably to the men. Granted, the course was shorter, the rough not as high, and greens not as quick, but US Golf Association officials, factoring in the strength difference, set up Oakmont as closely as they could to what the men found at the 2007 US Open. That year, Angel Cabrera won with a score of 5-over-par 285. This year, Paula Creamer finished at 3-under 281.

■ The greens at Oakmont are some of the toughest in the world, with its members proudly boasting that speeds are reduced slightly for major championships. Putting well on them, then, would be a big key to the tournament. Creamer finished with 121 putts for the week; only Amy Yang and Brittany Lang, with 119, took fewer. Jiyai Shin hit the most fairways (44 of 56), Suzann Pettersen hit the most greens in regulation (59 of 72), and Tamie Durdin had the longest driving average (283.9 yards).

■ Pebble Beach had been rumored to be an upcoming site for a US Women’s Open, but those plans have been set aside after last month’s announcement that the resort would host the US Amateur in 2017 and the US Open in 2019. Next year’s US Women’s Open is at the Broadmoor in Colorado, followed by Blackwolf Run (2012), Sebonack (2013), and Pinehurst No. 2 (2014), when the USGA will hold the men’s and women’s US Opens in consecutive weeks.

More on Moore
We’ve mentioned PGA Tour player Ryan Moore a few times recently, in light of his critical comments regarding the setup of US Open courses. He was particularly incensed about the 17th hole at Pebble Beach this year, when he said the firmness of the green — which resembles an hourglass tilted sideways — made it virtually impossible for even the highest, softest shot to stay on the putting surface. In a move that might surprise people, Mike Davis, the man responsible for setting up Pebble Beach, said last week that he agrees with Moore’s assessment. “In hindsight, I wish we had put more water on the 17th green, because it got firmer than we wanted,’’ Davis said. “A guy could hit a really good shot and he couldn’t hold it, and we never wanted that to happen, particularly when it’s the 71st hole of a national Open. That wasn’t the golf course staff, that was us.’’ Davis also addressed another hole that was the subject of player criticism. “I goofed on how I thought 14 would play,’’ he said, referring to the controversial par 5 on which players sent balls back and forth over the crowned green, with 8s and 9s being made. “I thought by having closely-mown [areas] partway around it would actually help the players; instead of having to chop out of rough every time I thought it would bring the bump-and-run game into play. It did do that, but unfortunately it accentuated getting balls [moving] . . . Sometimes I’ll see player comments, and sometimes you’re like, you know what, they’re right. You live and learn.’’

Fore times four
For the first time, a cable network will televise all four rounds of a men’s major. ESPN is on the tee this week for the British Open, and fortunately for golf fans and early risers, the network will be starting the wall-to-wall coverage before the sun comes up. Live coverage begins at 5 a.m. today and tomorrow (until 3 p.m. both days), with the third round on from 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and the final round from 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m. There’s nothing better than waking up and turning on live golf from St. Andrews, especially if the wind is howling. Great stuff.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.

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