SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Tom Weiskopf borrowed a design element from Oakmont when he replaced the left fairway bunker on TPC Scottsdale's par-4 18th hole.
Out of respect for the historic Pennsylvania club's Church Pews bunker, the course architect refers to the four long, thin strips of raised, turfed ground as islands.
"That's reserved for Oakmont. There is only one Church Pews," Weiskopf said. "Those are islands in there. Four islands. Big islands. Some people call them church pews. They can call them whatever they want. You don't want to be in there."
At the Phoenix Open this week, players will face a 300-yard carry over the left-side water and need to fly it 340 yards to clear the bunker. The previous bunker ended at 310 yards.
The punishing islands are the key feature.
"Oh, my gosh, that went through a process of about two months, because the islands were actually a little higher. They were very nice," Weiskopf said. "You know, I had enough controversy as a player. I didn't want controversy. So, we toned them down. I wish we wouldn't have, to tell you the truth."
The 72-year-old Weiskopf, a 16-time winner on the PGA Tour who has designed close to 70 courses, directed the $9.2 million renovation that was completed in November. He relished the chance to update the city-owned Stadium Course he teamed with Jay Morrish to design nearly 30 years ago.
"I felt lucky to be approached and asked to be involved," Weiskopf.
Weiskopf's team moved four greens, resurfaced all of the putting surfaces, reshaped and moved bunkers and tee boxes and replaced the irrigation and drainage systems. The clubhouse also was renovated, bringing the cost to $15 million.
Weiskopf used ShotLink data from the last five years to put the fairway bunkers back in play for even the longest hitters. He cut the number of bunkers from 73 to 66 and filled them with white sand that area tour players tested for two years on the back range.
"I thought the most important thing that we could do for this tournament was to challenge the tee shot more," Weiskopf said.
To reduce frost, the second and third greens were shifted to create better angles to the morning sun. The fourth hole was completely rebuilt, with the green moved away from the hotel, and the 14th green was shifted to a hilltop.
"I always thought the 14th green should be up on the hill in a location where you look behind that green and you can see the famous Superstition range behind it," Weiskopf said. "More importantly, we needed to get away from a very tight situation with the road."
Mark Calcavecchia set the tournament record of 28-under 256 in 2001 and Phil Mickelson tied it two years ago. The course record is 60, set by Grant Waite in 1996 and matched by Calcavecchia in 2001 and Mickelson in 2005 and 2013.
"I would hope we never see the 20s," Weiskopf said.
Mickelson said he has always liked Weiskopf's work.
"He has great strategy from a player's standpoint," Mickelson said.
The greens are better than he expected.
"The first year you always have to cut some slack because the greens are firm and unreceptive because the roots haven't had a chance to grow in," Mickelson said. "Surprisingly, the greens are putting very true and in wonderful shape."
Keegan Bradley also praised the work.
"They did an unbelievable job," Bradley said. "A lot harder, but still very fair. I think this is a great test."
PHOENIX (AP) — Criticized for its own handling of head injuries, the NFL launched an extensive lobbying campaign to pass laws protecting kids who get concussions while playing sports. The result: Within just five years, every state had a law on the books.
But are the laws strong enough?
An Associated Press analysis of the 51 youth concussion laws — one in each state and the District of Columbia — found that fewer than half contain all of the key principles in the initial bill passed in Washington state in 2009. That measure mandated education for coaches about concussion symptoms, removal from a game if a head injury is suspected, written clearance to return, and a concussion information form signed by parents and players.
About a third of the laws make no specific reference to which ages or grades are covered. Even fewer explicitly apply to both interscholastic sports and rec leagues such as Pop Warner or Little League. Certain laws make clear they cover public and private schools, others only refer to public schools, while some don't say at all. Almost all lack consequences for schools or leagues that don't comply.
"We did make compromises ... in some states where we wanted to get something. A 'B'-level law, as opposed to an 'A'-level law," said NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy Jeff Miller, who testified about concussions before Arizona's legislature on Tuesday while in town for the Super Bowl.
"Better to get something good, and get something in place," Miller said, "as opposed to shoot for something fantastic in all places — and fail."
The laws were passed with remarkable speed, and many were weakened because of concerns about cost. Jay Rodne, the Republican who sponsored Washington's initial law, said putting expensive enforcement mechanisms in the bills would have caused many to fail.
Judy Pulice, in charge of state legislation for the National Athletic Trainers' Association, helped guide the NFL as bills were written and was disappointed that the final products didn't include penalties for noncompliance.
"What happens if you don't pull the kid out of the game? What happens if you put them back in with no medical release?" Pulice said. "Nothing happens."
The AP's review of the laws passed after Washington found that only 21 have all four of the requirements in the model legislation.
All but two of the laws call for the immediate removal of an athlete from a game or practice if a concussion is suspected. All but four contain language about education for coaches.
Yet only 34 say that before returning to action, an athlete with a head injury must have written clearance from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. Just 30 mandate that a concussion information form be signed both by the athlete and a parent or guardian.
"They don't all have the (main) principles. Not every state has the same bite as Washington state," said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, chairman of neurological surgery at the University of Washington and co-chairman of the NFL head, neck and spine committee.
He treated Zackery Lystedt, the middle-school football player who nearly died after getting two concussions in a game. Washington's law was named for the teen.
After that landmark bill was passed, Ellenbogen recalled, he had a conversation with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about efforts to replicate the legislation.
"The commissioner asked me, 'What do (you) want to get out of this?' I said, 'I want to see, in my lifetime, 10 more states pass a Zack Lystedt law,'" Ellenbogen said. "And he said, 'No. We're going to get all 50 states. And we're going get them in under five years.'"
Goodell pushed for the laws at a time his league was facing almost daily reminders of concerns about the link between football and head injuries.
Researchers studying brain tissue of deceased former players such as Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, who both committed suicide, found signs of a degenerative disease also found in boxers and often connected to repeated blows to the head. Thousands of ex-players sued the league, saying it didn't do enough to inform them about, and protect them from, concussions. President Barack Obama suggested fans might have a guilty conscience while watching football.
Against that backdrop, Ellenbogen said, the NFL held weekly conference calls with state legislators, doctors and other advocates. Miller, who led the lobbying, estimated the effort cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Their success was swift. By comparison, it took more than twice as long to get mandatory seat belt laws passed in 49 states; New Hampshire still doesn't have one for adults.
"We wouldn't have had 50 states pass these laws," Ellenbogen said, "if it wasn't for the financial backing and political gravitas of the NFL."
Goodell wrote 44 governors whose states had not enacted laws. He spoke about the topic at Harvard's School of Public Health and in an address to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
And when, a few days before last year's Super Bowl, Mississippi became the last state to finalize its law — albeit a measure missing elements — the league patted itself on the back, saying it had "actively advocated" for the regulations. In October, the NFL trumpeted that Goodell would accept the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington's 2014 Leadership Award.
Now the question becomes how effective these laws might be in a country where, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly a quarter-million people under 19 were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal, sports-related concussions in 2009.
For 10 years, Dr. Dawn Comstock has collected data from athletic trainers at hundreds of U.S. high schools, and she is comparing state-by-state concussion statistics from before and after each law was enacted to try to understand the practical effect the legislation is having.
"I'm sensitive to people getting a false sense of security," said Comstock, of the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. "It's great what (state lawmakers) did. But has it made a difference for any player playing any sport?"
Larry Cooper, athletic trainer at a school for grades 7-12 outside of Pittsburgh, charts concussions reported in all sports. In the 2007-08 academic year, three years before Pennsylvania passed its law, there were 10 concussions reported at his school, he said. That rose to 15 in 2013-14, and 18 already in 2014-15.
"Parents and student-athletes are much more aware of signs and symptoms," Cooper said.
He's not the only one noticing. Despite the weaknesses in a majority of the laws, there does seem to be consensus that they have increased awareness.
The NFL's Miller said they can always be amended.
"I say, 'Let's go back and make them better.' That's OK, too," he said. "There's only 10 laws that are etched in stone and those are the Ten Commandments. Everything else can be changed. Everything else can be improved."
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
Follow AP National Writer Eddie Pells on Twitter at http://twitter.com/epells
PHOENIX (AP) — Marshawn Lynch smiled politely, waved at the crowd and answered every question the same.
"I'm here so I don't get fined," the Seattle Seahawks' star running back constantly repeated for five minutes before leaving the podium at Media Day on Tuesday. It's not clear if his plan will work.
About 200 reporters crowded around Lynch's podium for at least 15 minutes before he arrived. But the media-shy Lynch made it clear right from the start he wasn't saying anything except variations of his scripted answer.
Lynch set a timer on his phone and told everyone he showed up just to avoid a fine. Lynch caught a bag of Skittles tossed from Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson and stopped to pick up a reporter's recorder off the floor before he walked away.
The Professional Football Writers of America was talking to the league about the session, and Lynch had been apprised of a potential fine. He is also required to be at media sessions Wednesday and Thursday.
In November, the NFL fined Lynch $50,000 for violations of the league's media policy in addition to collecting the $50,000 fine that was imposed against Lynch for violations last season. The fine from 2013 was held in anticipation of future cooperation from Lynch.
"I'm fine sitting up here, but not everybody is comfortable with it, so I don't think he should be forced to do it," All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Lynch has much more to say when the price is right. Insurance company Progressive and candy maker Skittles released commercials featuring Lynch saying a bit more than his usual: "Yeah" and "Nope" and "Thanks for asking."
At Media Day last year, Lynch's reclusiveness became a major story. Lynch appeared for 6 1/2 minutes, left the arena, and then returned to a "mixed zone" the NFL created for players not on podiums or in microphone-equipped speaking areas at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
With the exception of briefly speaking with the NFL Network's Deion Sanders, to the Seahawks' website, and to Armed Forces Network, he did not deal with reporters that day.
Sanders, the Hall of Fame cornerback, tried again to interview Lynch, but got nowhere this time and left laughing.
Teammates defended Lynch's behavior.
"This is who he is. I don't nitpick or judge, so I just accept a person for who they are," All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said. "I just love who he is. He is so random."
Sherman even continued answering questions after the 60-minute session ended.
"I don't think (players) should be obligated any more than the commissioner is obligated to speak to the media," Sherman said. "I think that if players are going to be obligated to speak to the media, then every one of the NFL personnel should be obligated to speak to the media weekly, and that's not the case.
"It's unfortunate, but I think that every team should be forced to present certain players, obviously a few of them. Obviously, if someone is uncomfortable in front of the media and uncomfortable answering questions, then you have to find a way to accommodate the NFL. This is a game; you find a way to accommodate everyone else who's uncomfortable."
Lynch was fined $20,000 for making an obscene gesture during Seattle's overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC championship game. The league did not specify what the gesture was, but Lynch grabbed his crotch after scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Lynch was fined $11,000 for a similar gesture in Seattle's win over Arizona on Dec. 21.
Lynch also was told before the last game he could not wear gold shoes because they were a violation of the NFL's on-field dress code, and that he could be ejected from the game if he wore them.
"He's a guy that cares about everyone in that locker room," assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tom Cable said. "Anytime you hand it to him, he's carrying them. He's not carrying the football, he's carrying his team. That's who he is. That's what he does."