PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Twenty-five events have come and gone during the 2013-14 season on the PGA Tour. Many of the names in the winner’s circle have ranged from “surprising” to “I could not successfully pick him out of a lineup,” but they have all shared one common bond: they’re not from Europe. While Australia has attempted to take over Tim Finchem’s circuit this year, one victory at a time, the contingent from across the Pond is still 0-fer. There have certainly been some close calls – notably, Rory McIlroy’s successful surrender at PGA National and Matt Kuchar’s bunker hole-out to beat Luke Donald last month at Harbour Town. But during a Ryder Cup year, when the biggest and best from Europe are expected to shine as the season progresses, their collective trophy haul remains as bare as the section of Ian Poulter’s mantle set aside for majors. That could all change Sunday at The Players Championship. While TPC Sawgrass has already dispatched several top Americans, freeing up Phil Mickelson’s weekend plans and humbling former major champs in Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, the European armada has shown up in a big way through three rounds. There are a total of four European flags flying in the top 10 heading into the final round, a tally that would have been five if not for Justin Rose’s two-shot penalty for microscopically moving his ball behind the 18th green. The group is led by Martin Kaymer, a former world No. 1 who is in search of his first win on U.S. soil since the 2010 PGA Championship. Kaymer equaled the course record with a 63 during the opening round, and after an even-par 72 on Saturday, shares the lead with Jordan Spieth. The German explained that sometimes the deck can be stacked against Europeans trying to win on American soil. Full-field scores from The Players Championship The Players Championship: Articles, videos and photos “When you’re trying to win a big tournament, usually the big tournaments, you play them in America, so I’m always a foreigner,” Kaymer said. “It’s a good challenge.” While Kaymer will tee off Sunday in the best position among the Euros, the sentimental choice is likely Sergio Garcia. While only three Europeans have won this event – and none since Stenson in 2009 – Garcia is among that select group after his playoff win in 2008. The Spaniard’s relationship with the Stadium Course remains a tumultuous one following last year’s near-miss, but it’s a venue where, by and large, he has had success. After missing the cut at the Masters in his previous start, Garcia is happy to be back on a course that has largely been kind to him – and his play this week reflects it. “They say that there’s courses for horses,” he said. “I see too many shots at Augusta. Here, I see less shots. I see, in my head, I have everything a bit more clear of what I want to do.” Garcia has won just once in the U.S. since his triumph at TPC Sawgrass, having also won the 2012 Wyndham Championship. After a third-round 69 that left him three shots behind Kaymer and co-leader Jordan Spieth, he noted some surprise that a European has yet to win in the States this season. “It’s such a thin line between winning and finishing second or third,” Garcia said. “I’ve been close a couple times, Justin (Rose) has been close, Luke (Donald) has been very close…It’s not like we haven’t had chances.” Still on the outer edge of contention sit a pair of Ryder Cup veterans in Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, five shots back among a tie for eighth. Westwood has had close calls at TPC Sawgrass before, and has cracked the top 10 in two of his last three appearances in Ponte Vedra. Molinari has had more limited success in this event, following a ninth-place finish in his debut in 2010 with three straight missed cuts. He fired a 5-under 67 in the third round, though, a score that equaled the low round of the day and gave the 31-year-old reason for optimism. “I think there’s still, if you play well, there are a few chances out there,” Molinari said. “I’m happy with where I am at the moment.” Recent success against the U.S. has been a point of pride for Europeans, who currently possess the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and U.S. Open trophies. The continent as a whole could go winless for the balance of the season and still head to Gleneagles as favorites when the Ryder Cup is again up for grabs in September. With many top Americans either on the couch or well down in the standings, the fact remains: Sunday presents a high-profile opportunity to stake the European flag atop one of the biggest events the U.S. has to offer.
AKRON, Ohio – If you feel the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has been a snooze-fest through 54 holes, you’re probably not alone. Sure, the tournament bears a World Golf Championships prefix, and the hefty purse to match. But thanks to a variety of factors, this week has more closely resembled a half-filled balloon. This event has seen Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy hoist the trophy over the last two years, and things got off to a bad start when neither showed up this week in Akron – although one certainly would have preferred to make the trek had he been invited. Then the ovens got turned up at Firestone Country Club, turning a typically soft venue into the type of firm and fast layout that only Mike Davis could love. While fans last year were treated to a birdie barrage between McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, this week par remains an enviable score. Instead of roars for tight approaches and birdie runs, galleries have been left to applaud tidy two-putts from 35 feet and scrambling par saves. The cheers that often envelop portions of the South Course have been mostly non-existent. The PGA Championship always casts a shadow over the proceedings here, but this week it seems especially long as players try to fine-tune their game for Whistling Straits. It didn’t help matters, then, that Jim Furyk – not exactly the Tour’s flashiest player – took control of things Friday and appeared ready to put this event on ice at the halfway point of the third round. But lo and behold, despite the lack of buzz and theatrics, a compelling finale has emerged. WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, photos and videos Furyk began the day with a four-shot lead and maintained that cushion until Justin Rose came roaring from the pack, firing a 7-under 63 to draw even with the 36-hole leader. Now the two former U.S. Open champions are set for an intriguing final-round duel, featuring one of the hottest players of the summer and a man who still has a score to settle at Firestone. Rose sparked his season with a runner-up finish at the Masters and hasn’t looked back since. A win in New Orleans has been followed by three top-six finishes in his last four starts, a run he appears set to extend this week. “If I look back at Augusta, that was the start of me feeling very confident,” Rose said. “Got beaten by a great Jordan (Spieth) performance, but I felt that I was good enough that week to win another major.” While his season has had plenty of highlights, Rose admits he let one get away the last time he was in the Buckeye State, surrendering a 54-hole lead at the Memorial before losing a playoff to little-known David Lingmerth. “I played well there, should have knocked that one off,” he said. A victory Sunday would give Rose his first multiple-win season since 2010, and it would also offer plenty of momentum heading into the PGA, where he will likely be considered one of the pre-tournament favorites. Furyk, meanwhile, is focused more on finally closing it out on one of his favorite venues. The 45-year-old has lavished praise all week upon Firestone, which he put alongside Colonial and Harbour Town among his favorite Tour stops. A native of Pennsylvania, Furyk has said that the tree-lined fairways and old-school design of the South Course remind him of the courses he grew up on. While Furyk’s record here is exemplary, Firestone has also been the site of some of his biggest heartbreak. He lost a hard-fought, seven-hole playoff to Tiger Woods in 2001, then shocked the crowds gathered around the final green in 2012 when his double bogey on the 72nd hole handed the trophy to Keegan Bradley. “I would say that I’m disappointed I’ve never won here,” Furyk said. “It’s one of my favorite courses that we play.” Furyk ended a lengthy victory drought earlier this year with a come-from-behind win at Hilton Head, but another troubling footnote to his resume still lingers. Sunday will mark the 10th time that he has carried at least a share of the lead into the final round since 2011 – the most of any player in that span. Each of the previous nine opportunities ended in disappointment. It’s a streak Furyk would not be in position to end were it not for an 11-foot par putt that he rolled in from off the fringe on No. 18 to cap a 1-under 69, his eighth straight sub-par round at Firestone. “Knocking that putt in was nice,” Furyk said. “In the whole scheme of things, it’s nice to have the shot. It’s just a good way to finish off the day.” While Sunday’s matchup is not exactly Hagler-Hearns, it does represent a contest between two proven winners with similar approaches. “I get on well with Jim,” Rose said. “He obviously is very business-like out there on the golf course, and that suits me just fine.” “Our personalities may have some similarities like that,” added Furyk. “I think it will be a good pairing for both of us. We get along well.” While the winner will likely come from within the final pairing, Shane Lowry lurks at 7 under, two shots back, and a quartet of players – Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson, chief among them – also sit two shots further adrift, poised for a potential final-round rally. The excitement levels have yet to match those of years past at Firestone, but that could all still change.
HONOLULU – A new driver, a new swing and Brandt Snedeker is starting to feel just like new. Coming off a great weekend at Kapalua, Snedeker played bogey-free Friday and rolled in a couple of long birdie putts that carried him to a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Kevin Kisner after two rounds of the Sony Open. Snedeker was at 12-under 128. “I feel like I’m playing great, so it should be fun,” Snedeker said about the weekend at Waialae. It could be fun for a lot of players. Two dozen players were separated by five shots at the halfway point. Scoring conditions were so ideal that 87 players from the 144-man field made the cut, meaning there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday. Kisner, who played with Snedeker, kept pace with him on Thursday (both opened at 63) and on Friday until a two-shot swing on their 12th hole. Snedeker made a 35-foot birdie putt and Kisner missed a 5-footer for par. Kiser kept his wits even as his putts kept missing. Even though he missed three birdie chances inside 10 feet and had several others in the 15-foot range that caught part of the cup, he hung in there long enough to make a 12-foot eagle putt on his last hole for a 66. British Open champion Zach Johnson (66) and the resurgent Luke Donald (65) were among those two shots behind, while the group three strokes back included Sean O’Hair and 49-year-old Jerry Kelly. Vijay Singh, who turns 53 next month and can become the PGA Tour’s oldest winner, had a 69 and was four behind. Dating to his final two rounds on Maui – 65-67 to tie for third – Snedeker is 26 under over his last 72 holes. That beats the way he finished the up last year. He went to the Australian PGA Championship and opened with an 84. He made a full commitment to an overhaul of his setup, and Snedeker said he worked hard with Butch Harmon and then showed up in Maui early, playing a couple of practice rounds with Jordan Spieth. And it helped that Kapalua’s fairways are among the widest in golf. Sony Open in Hawaii: Articles, photos and videos “Maui being wide open off the tee a little bit helped me get comfortable with it,” Snedeker said. “And then I realized this week … how it feels, what should happen, and when I do hit a bad shot, I kind of know where it comes from. So I feel way more comfortable with it this week and excited about it, because the bad shots haven’t been near as bad as they have been.” Kisner was a runner-up in the HSBC Champions and won the RSM Classic at Sea Island in his final two tournaments of 2015, and he started the new year by finishing ninth at Kapalua on a weekend where his putter went cold. And here he is again, contending on the weekend after a year in which he had four runner-up finishes at a victory. “To go out and play the way I did on Sunday at the RSM with a three-shot lead was a huge confidence builder,” Kisner said. “It wasn’t that favorable that I took a month-and-a-half off after it, but to come back and get right back into the fire and have a chance to win this weekend is going to be huge for me.” Two-time defending champion Jimmy Walker finished with nine straight pars for a 68 to finish on 3-under 137 and make the cut on the number. He was nine shots back. Kisner and Snedeker were right of the fairway on the par-4 third, having to punch out low to avoid the palm trees. Kisner’s shot caught a frond and came down short of the green, and he pitched to 5 feet and missed the par putt. Snedeker’s shot ran all the way onto the green, and he holed a 35-foot birdie putt for a two-shot lead. On the par-3 fourth, Snedeker made a 20-foot birdie putt, and then finished with a good chip out of the rough to 4 feet for birdie on the par-5 ninth. Kisner’s frustration was starting to get noticeable when he bent over so far that his hands nearly touched his shoes on the fifth, but with that eagle on the ninth, he still was only one shot out of the lead. “I was proud of the way I stayed patient all day,” Kisner said. “That round could have been a few more bogeys if I’d have let not holing any of the putts get to me, but stayed patient, kept hitting good shots and good way to finish it on 9.” DIVOTS: All three players who are staying on for the Champions Tour season debut next week on the Big Island – Singh, Fred Funk and Davis Love III – made the cut. … Robert Allenby missed the cut by four shots in his return to Honolulu. He shot a 68 on Friday. That was his lowest score since Aug. 2. … Five players who were at Kapalua last week missed the cut – Russell Knox, Justin Thomas, Chris Kirk, Graeme McDowell and Troy Merritt.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – One bad swing by Adam Scott led to two balls in the water on the same hole Saturday in the Honda Classic. Even with a quadruple bogey, he managed to be satisfied with a 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Sergio Garcia. A bizarre and breezy afternoon ended at PGA National with two players whose fortunes changed mightily in the final hour. Scott looked better than ever, 7 under through 14 holes and only once having to save par. He was three shots ahead going to the tee on the par-3 15th, and it was starting to look like a runaway. Some 20 minutes later, he was one shot behind Garcia. ”Pretty costly,” Scott said. ”But fortunately, I had a couple shots to spare. Hopefully, it won’t cost me too big in the grand scheme of things.” Garcia lost the lead with a bogey from the bunker on the 17th, and caught Scott with a short birdie on the 18th for a 67. They were at 9-under 201. The Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos Blayne Barber had a 69 and was four shots behind. Scott and Garcia were quick to point out that Sunday might not be the two-man race, and there was plenty of evidence to back them up. Rickie Fowler had a one-shot lead going into the third round and was the first player at the Honda Classic to go bogey-free through the opening 36 holes. And then on Saturday, he couldn’t make a birdie. Fowler made bogey on the easiest hole at PGA National, the par-5 third, and wound up with a 74 to fall five shots behind. Nothing went right for Jimmy Walker, starting with the first tee. Playing alongside Fowler, he was introduced as ”Jimmy Fowler.” Walker had the lead with his birdie on the third hole. He didn’t make another birdie until the 18th hole, and that was to break 80. Walker wound up 11 shots out of the lead. ”Who can tell me that the guys that are 4 under are not going to go and play like Adam did today?” Garcia said. ”We’ll see how the day goes. And then if it becomes a two-horse race on the last three or four holes, I’ll welcome that. But I will expect some of the guys behind to shoot a good number and make it tough for all of us.” Thanks to one swing by Scott, those guys at least have a chance. Justin Thomas opened with three straight birdies and had to settle for a 68, putting him at 4-under 206 with Fowler. Graeme McDowell had a 67 and was six shots behind at 207 along with Scott Brown and Vijay Singh (68). Singh made a double bogey on the 15th hole without hitting in the water, hitting in the bunker or hitting in the rough. His problem was the golf ball hit the putter four times from 20 feet. Still, nothing was more shocking than Scott on the 15th. The former Masters champion with one of the prettiest swings in golf was flawless. He didn’t miss a green through 13 holes. He ran off four straight birdies to close out the back nine, starting with a 50-footer on No. 6, the toughest hole of the day. He stretched his lead to three shots. Get through the final four holes, and he might have made it easy on himself. And then his 6-iron soared into the wind, and everything changed. Scott went to the front of the circular drop zone and was stunned to see it bounce over the back of the green and tumble into the water. After checking to see if he could play out of the water – he couldn’t – he went back to the drop zone for a third try and hit it 10 feet from the hole. He missed that for a 7, and Garcia’s long two-putt par gave the Spaniard the lead. Scott’s most important holes were the next two. He pulled his tee shot left, cleared the water from the rough and got up-and-down for par ”The par there was very important at the time, because it’s really stopping a severe bleed after 15,” he said. And then he hit 6-iron to 10 feet on the 17th for birdie, regaining the lead when Garcia made bogey. Scott didn’t seem overly bothered by the quadruple bogey, mainly because of the 17 other holes he played so well. ”I did a lot of things really well today, so it’s exactly the round I needed,” he said. ”I need to put one more together tomorrow. It’s going to be an exciting day for me.”
Will McGirt’s journey ends in victory, Rory McIlroy switches grips, Ian Poulter trades in spikes for a radio and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: A week that began with talk of a rejuvenated Big 3 (three wins in a row!) ended with a career-altering performance from McGirt. The 36-year-old journeyman had played in just one major since turning pro a dozen years ago, but now he’s booked for three of the next four Grand Slam events, including the 2017 Masters. The trip was well-earned, after McGirt went bogey-free over his last 22 holes, including a pair of gritty par saves in overtime, to beat Jon Curran at the Memorial. The outliers get all of the attention, the guys who jump from college straight to the pros, but it’s worth remembering the Tour is made up mostly of members whose path to the Tour was anything but linear. This was McGirt’s 165th start on Tour. Before reaching the big leagues, he toiled on six different mini-tours, teeing it up almost every day each week. His last win came on something called the Tarheel Tour, in 2007, with a first-place check of $16,000. “I’m crazy,” he said. “We’re all nuts. We play this game. We chase a little ball around the grass and do it 18 times. We’re all nuts. “But I kept doing it because my ultimate dream was to get on the PGA Tour and try to win on the PGA Tour. The other thing was I didn’t know what else I was going to do.” 1. The only major McGirt has played in is the 2012 PGA, which came the week after a runner-up finish in Canada. It was on the putting green at the PGA that McGirt bumped into Tiger Woods, who offered some advice on how to better handle final rounds. For starters, he told McGirt to look at leaderboards, to know exactly where he stood and what he needed to do. “It was more of a ‘here’s what you need to do and you’re an idiot for not doing it'” type of thing, McGirt said. And so, when asked Sunday night how often he looked at the boards, McGirt replied: “I looked at it all day. Every single one I passed, I looked at.” Lesson learned. 2. Some playoff losses are easier to accept than others. Curran made bogey on the second playoff hole to lose to McGirt, but while walking off the green he was greeted by Jack Nicklaus, the greatest champion in golf history, but also a man who had 58 runner-up finishes in his career. “He told me I’m going to win a lot of tournaments,” Curran said with a smile afterward, “which is pretty cool.” 3. Dustin Johnson launched some of the most awe-inspiring drives you’ll ever see at Muirfield Village, yet he could only muster a third-place finish, one shot out of the playoff. He made four bogeys on the back nine Sunday, including a pair on the par 3s, when he had only a short iron into the green. If he can tighten up his short game, he should be on the short list of favorites for the Oakmont Open. On a somewhat related note: On the last two holes, DJ sent two wind-aided drives that totaled 749 yards. But yeah, OK, governing bodies, driving distance is not on the rise. 4. Two weeks after snapping a yearlong winless drought, McIlroy showed up at Jack’s Place with a new (well, old) putting grip. After switching to the cross-handed style at Doral, McIlroy ended the three-month experiment and reverted to the conventional grip. The timing was peculiar, given that he had just won the Irish Open and the year’s second major was coming up, but the proof was in the numbers: It just wasn’t working. When he won in Ireland, he took 127 putts. Clearly, he had won in spite of his putting. Entering the Memorial, he was No. 122 in strokes gained-putting on Tour. He finished the week ranked second, after pouring in 410 feet worth of putts. (Jordan Spieth, by way of contrast, made just 304 feet.) It was McIlroy’s eighth top-10 in 12 starts this year. 5. Longtime readers of this column probably noticed (or not) that I took a two-week hiatus to cover the women’s and men’s NCAA Championships. It’s an event that seems to get better each year. Washington won the women’s title, after an incredible short-game display in match play, and the men’s championship went into sudden death, with host Oregon dog-piling on the 10th green after the Ducks birdied the third extra hole to outlast an undermanned Texas team in an instant classic. Needless to say, Sulman Raza shouldn’t have trouble getting a drink in Eugene anytime soon. 6. One of the issues that arose late in the men’s championship was the health of Beau Hossler, who injured his shoulder during the semifinals. He said that his left shoulder “popped out” during his follow-through, and he didn’t recover in time to help the Longhorns in the final match. (His status is still uncertain, as he dropped out of Monday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier.) Casual fans struggled to grasp why Texas wasn’t allowed to replace its injured star, especially on the biggest stage of the year. Allowing substitutes has been one of the college game’s hot-button issues, with some coaches still opposed to the idea because there are budgetary concerns and it would only further separate the haves and have-nots. But shining a light on an unfair situation at the national championship should help expedite the timeline of a rule change. In a few years, it might become known as the Beau Hossler Rule. Make no mistake, change is coming sooner than later. (I wrote about the no-sub rule at length here.) With so much at stake – a national title, a coach’s legacy, a player’s pro future – there has to be a better alternative than forfeiting the match and a crucial point on the first tee. 7. Get this: 536,000 people tuned in for the conclusion of the Oregon-Texas final. To put that in perspective, that’s slightly more than the viewership for Thursday’s opening round of the Memorial. How riveting were this year’s NCAAs? Even the clubhouse chef was into it: 8. This week, in How the Zika Virus Issue May Affect the Best Golfers in the World … After researching the issue with medical professionals, McIlroy is back on board for the Olympics, saying that getting infected isn’t “the end of the world. It takes six months to pass through your system, and you’re fine.” Except that part is still very much unknown, which is why Jason Day, after initially saying that it’d be a great honor to play in the Olympics, left open the possibility that he’d miss out on the Summer Games. Day, who has two children with wife Ellie and hopes to have more, said that he’s “a little wary about it” and must make a “smart, educated decision whether to go or not” based on his family. The world No. 1’s absence would be a massive blow for the Olympics, but you can’t blame him in this case. 9. After 54 years, Doral will not host a PGA Tour event next year. The Tour is instead moving the World Golf Championships event away from the Miami resort – and Donald Trump – and instead heading to Mexico with a new seven-year deal. Commissioner Tim Finchem insisted that the move was more about finding a title sponsor willing to pony up and less about the polarizing presidential nominee – “I hope they have kidnapping insurance,” Trump snarked – but the timing of the announcement couldn’t have been worse. The news not only upstaged the Memorial, where Nicklaus was honoring Johnny Miller, but it also started a public spat with a man who soon could become president of the United States. Not smart. 10. How will players respond to the Tour’s new WGC? That’ll be one of the biggest storylines to watch in early 2017. Though the revamped Doral fell out of favor with many players (particularly the short- to medium-length knockers), the event slid nicely into the Florida swing schedule, after the Honda in Palm Beach Gardens and before the Valspar in Palm Harbor. No host venue has been named for the WGC event, but it remains to be seen whether a glamorous destination like Cabo will be enough to lure all of the big names at a time of year when Masters prep takes precedence. 11. Matt Fitzpatrick is now a virtual lock for the European Ryder Cup squad after earning his second European Tour title Sunday at the Nordea Masters. It’s been written in this space multiple times that the 21-year-old Fitzpatrick just might be the European equivalent of Spieth, with a stout résumé, an affable personality and a spiffy short game. At the U.S. Amateur victory in 2013, Fitzpatrick was described as Luke Donald, but with a better long game. Donald, a former world No. 1, has done OK for himself. Oh, and speaking of the Ryder Cup … 12. Ian Poulter, a non-factor much of the past few years, has decided to rest an arthritic joint in his right foot. The injury will cost him the next four months, which means that he is likely to miss the Ryder Cup in late September, if he were even a viable candidate at that point. Poulter has an 12-4-2 record in the biennial matches, but he is now 40 years old, he hasn’t won since 2012 and he is coming off a 0-1-2 performance at Gleneagles that dented his bulletproof reputation. The Englishman has already been picked to torment the Americans in a different way – as the European team’s fourth vice captain. With Woods in the other team room, things could get testy. 13. Graham DeLaet announced last week that he was stepping away from the PGA Tour to deal with what he described as “incredible anxiety” while chipping and pitching. It sure sounds like the yips. DeLaet should be commended for his honesty, especially when a few of his peers hid behind complicated swing jargon like release patterns and entry points. Interestingly, the Canadian has been playing pretty well of late, notching three top-15s in his past seven starts. In his most recent round, he shot 65 at the Nelson. Around the greens, though, he has been dreadful – ranking 186th in scrambling and 178th in sand-save percentage. Overall, he is 188th in strokes gained-around the green, losing nearly 0.4 shots to the field. Look, your intrepid correspondent isn’t frightened by much – not insects, not heights, not crowded rooms, not savage discussion boards. But this alligator in Palmetto, Fla., is downright terrifying, a beast that is more dinosaur than crocodile. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Apparently, people have been traveling from far and near to check out the massive gator at Buffalo Creek Golf Course, with no intention to actually play golf. If the club wanted to take full advantage of the situation, they’d sell $20 passes for those who wanted to sit and wait out the gator, with the disclaimer that he might eat you and your entire family whole. This week’s award winners … One for the Old-Timers: Anna Nordqvist. The 28-year-old’s win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic was the first this year by a player who wasn’t 23 or younger. FORE!-head: Phil Mickelson. Last week, Lefty drilled a ShotLink volunteer with a tee shot, his ball caroming off the poor guy’s noggin so hard that it wound up all the way across the fairway, into the rough. “If your head was a touch softer,” Mickelson told the man, as he handed him a signed glove, “I’d be in the fairway.” You might remember at the Colonial, when Tony Finau pelted a spectator, he gave the fan flowers and chocolate. Welcome Back: Keegan Bradley. Maybe it was seeing his buddy, Curran, near the top of the leaderboard that led to his first top-10 of the year at the Memorial. Whatever the case, it was a badly needed week for a guy who had plummeted to No. 122 in the world. Changing His Name to Coca-Cola?: Steven “Pepsi” Hale. Keegan’s longtime caddie will work for newly minted pro (and Georgia product) Lee McCoy for the rest of the year, beginning at this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Must Not Have Read the Survey: Bubba Watson. You might recall that Watson was tabbed by his peers last year as the player they’re least likely to help in a parking-lot fight. And yet there was Bubba, defending Rickie Fowler against a boneheaded heckler. When You Don’t Want to be in the Featured Pairing: Justin Thomas. Grouped with McIlroy and – all together now – good friend Jordan Spieth for the first two rounds, Thomas threw up rounds of 77-78 and was one shot out of DFL. Here Come the Newbies: John Deere Classic. If you want alternative programming to the Olympics, you can find the next generation of stars teeing it up that week at the John Deere Classic. Tournament officials there always give out spots to the game’s brightest up-and-comers, and this year is no different – Aaron Wise, Beau Hossler, Jon Rahm, Charlie Danielson and the previously mentioned McCoy have received exemptions into this year’s event. Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Hideki Matsuyama. Five consecutive top-10s, and he was returning to a ball-striker’s paradise, the site of his breakthrough victory … and so, of course, he shot rounds of 74-73 and missed the cut, his first early exit since January. Sigh.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Walking around Sedgefield Country Club, you can still feel the echoes. If you close your eyes, you can still envision the throngs that gathered a year ago, the thousands that packed this cozy layout on the off-chance they might see him walk by for an instant – a blur of red, black and swagger. It was exactly a year ago, on Aug. 23, 2015, that Tiger Woods took the Wyndham Championship by storm. He started the final round two shots off the lead, in search of a win that would end a two-year drought and serve as an emphatic coda to an otherwise disappointing season. After bombing out at the PGA Championship the week prior, Woods made a last-minute decision to add Greensboro to his schedule for the first time. It was a surprising choice, but one that seemed to kick-start his idle game. There were stingers. There were club twirls. There were birdies by the handful, and there were crowds the likes of which only Woods can deliver, as the people of Greensboro flocked to watch a man who once again seemed comfortable in his element. “I’m just guessing, but we had to have had 20,000 people following our group,” said Scott Brown, who played with Woods in last year’s final round. “It was 10-deep, wrapped around every hole. It was unbelievable.” He was back. And just like that, he was gone. Sure, we’ve seen Woods make a handful of appearances since. There was the Zapruder-level analysis of his simulator 9-iron back in February, and the disastrous outing at Quicken Loans National media day in May. But 365 days have passed since Tiger’s last competitive swing. A hiatus once measured in weeks and months has stretched to include an entire year, and it may not end anytime soon. “It’s tough to ignore that the golf world is a little different, a little quieter without him,” said Graeme McDowell. “We’re not ready to talk about a post-Tiger world, but everyone’s starting to think about that.” Woods announced a pair of back surgeries in the weeks that followed his T-10 finish at last year’s Wyndham, and the resulting wait-and-see left legions of fans hoping he would turn up again at Augusta, or maybe Quail Hollow, or perhaps Royal Troon – only to be disappointed each and every time. “While I continue to work hard and get healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year’s U.S. Open or Quicken Loans National,” Woods wrote on June 7, the most recent health update posted to his website. “I am making progress, but I’m not yet ready for competition.” When that return to competition might occur remains the subject of much conjecture. Some hold out hope that he’ll tee it up at the season-opening Safeway Open, while others target the limited-field Hero World Challenge in December or even tournaments in early 2017, at which point Woods will be 41 years old. When reached for comment Monday, Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg offered little insight. “No update at this time,” Steinberg said via email. “He continues to make progress.” Whenever Woods does get back inside the ropes, it’s not even clear what equipment he’ll be using. Nike’s recent decision to get out of the golf equipment space means that Woods is shopping for a potential suitor, adding yet another variable to the growing equation. “He and I have discussed at length a plan for that, and feel comfortable with what we’re going to do going forward,” Steinberg told GolfChannel.com earlier this month. “But clearly, there’s likely going to be a change.” While so much surrounding Woods’ status remains uncertain, the impact of his lengthy absence on the PGA Tour is quite evident. “You look at tournaments like Bay Hill, the tournaments that he’s accustomed to playing like San Diego. The crowds they get, that they get for him, it’s not the same,” Billy Horschel said. “It’s disappointing that he’s not out here playing. It’s disappointing that you don’t feel the energy. Still a lot of energy, but that extra special energy when he’s in the field, especially near the lead, isn’t there.” There was strong fan support this year at the Wyndham, as spectators flocked to local favorites like Webb Simpson and Bill Haas as well as another surprising tournament newcomer, Rickie Fowler. But the modest crowds that gathered around Sedgefield’s tees and greens only highlighted the fact that the mass influx sparked by Woods’ appearance last year won’t be seen here again anytime soon. “Tiger is still the biggest draw in our game. No one else compares to him,” Horschel said. “Fans like to argue with me on Twitter about it, but they don’t get it. I understand that they look at Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and they get big fans, but Tiger’s in a different level. He’s in a level that few have ever been.” Much has changed in golf over the last year. Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have become major champions. Day has cemented his status as the world’s best player, while another promising crop of young guns has found its footing. The biggest figure in golf, however, remains stuck in neutral. “Obviously, we’d love to see him back. We’d love to see him come back and potentially start winning events again,” McDowell said. “He’s been so great for the game. But we know he’s got health issues, and time could be against him now.” The images from Woods’ surprise detour to Greensboro still seem vivid. But one year later, the buzz that overtook Sedgefield has slowly faded away. All that remains are the memories, along with the fervent hope that we’ll someday be able to witness it all again. “I hope he comes back. I hope he’s healthy,” Horschel said. “I’d just like to see him give it one last good shot. If that’s what he wants to do, I want to see it.”
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Lexi Thompson shot her second straight 6-under 65 on Friday to take a three-stroke lead over playing partner Gerina Piller into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship. Thompson is playing her third tournament since losing the major ANA Inspiration in a playoff after being penalized four strokes for a rules violation that a TV viewer spotted. ”I feel great with where my game is at,” Thompson said. ”I am just trying to keep my thoughts very simple, focus on doing my routine and picking small targets out and committing to my shots. If I do that, my game is in a good spot.” The long-hitting Florida player had six birdies in a bogey-free round on Kingsmill’s River Course. She waited out a rain delay in the middle of the round. ”Always stalls you a bit,” Thompson said. ”Wasn’t too loose on the first iron shot that I hit, but, it was a beautiful day out. Not much wind. Hopefully, we get some good weather this weekend.” Piller shot a 67, closing birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey. She chipped in for her birdie on 17. ”I feel like my putting is really great right now,” Piller said. ”Just excited for tomorrow. … Hit the fairway, hit the green, make the putt. Keeping it as simple as possible.” Piller will play alongside U.S. Solheim Cup teammate Thompson again Saturday. ”She’s a great ball-striker and hits it far,” Piller said. ”This course definitely suits the long-ball hitters, especially now. The greens are firming up and getting a little quicker. To have a shorter iron in is definitely an advantage.” Top-ranked Lydia Ko was four strokes back at 8 under after a bogey-free 67. Trying to hold off So Yeon Ryu and Ariya Jutanugarn for the No. 1 spot, Ko is winless since July. ”There is a lot of golf to be played,” Ko said. ”All I need to do is focus on my game and be excited for the weekend.” Ryu, the ANA winner, was 5 under after a 67. Jutanugarn, defending the first of her five tour victories last year, was 3 under after a 67 playing in the group with Thompson and Piller. Candie Kung joined Ko at 8 under. Kung eagled the par-4 sixth in a 66. In Gee Chun (66) and Vicky Hurst (67) were 7 under, and Angela Stanford (66), Shanshan Feng (67) and Brittany Lincicome (70) were another stroke back. Chun rebounded after an opening bogey on the par-4 10th. ”Walking to the (next) tee I said, ‘Forget it, start again,” Chun said. ”I tried to stay patient and made a lot of birdies.” The South Korean player is one of five major champions in the top nine, joining Thompson, Ko, Feng and Lincicome.
SYLVANIA, Ohio – Gerina Piller followed her opening 8-under 63 with a 68 on Friday to maintain a one-stroke in the Marathon Classic. Piller had four birdies and a bogey at Highland Meadows in the second round to reach 11-under 131. ”Very satisfied,” Piller said. ”I feel like I was pretty steady. I kind of had a par streak going there. But I gave myself chances for birdie, and at that point, you’ve just got to be patient, and there’s some birdie holes out there. I stayed patient, not one on my front nine and then reeled off three in a row on the back. It is difficult, but if you can just kind of plug along and hit fairways and greens and keep it simple.” She’s winless on the LPGA tour. ”Well, it’s only Friday, so I wouldn’t put the cart before the horse, but to get that first win I think would be really special, no matter where it is,” Piller said. ”I’m just going to try to focus on the process, and the result will take care of itself.” U.S. Solheim Cup teammate Lexi Thompson had a 65 to move into a tie for second with fellow American Nelly Korda (64), South Korea’s In-Kyung Kim (67) and Taiwan’s Peiyun Chien (68). ”I’m actually hitting a little baby cut around the golf course,” Thompson said. ”I never thought I would say those words. But I’m just sticking to it, and I hit some great iron shots, which helped.” Korda played the back nine in 6 under, birdieing the first three holes and the last three. ”I’ve been on top of the leaderboard a couple of times this year and I’ve just learned to stay patient and just take it shot by shot,” Korda said. India’s Aditi Ashok was 9 under after a 68. Sung Hyun Park, the U.S. Women’s Open winner Trump National in New Jersey, had a 70 to join fellow South Korean player Chella Choi (67) and Americans Brittany Lincicome (67) and Laura Diaz (67) at 8 under. Stacy Lewis, her U.S. Women’s Open chances ruined by a third-round meltdown, was 2 under after a 71. She’s looking ahead to the next two weeks at the Ladies Scottish Open and Women’s British Open. ”I’m just going to try to play better,” Lewis said. ”I’m not going to be looking at a leaderboard. At this point, it’s now try to play better and get ready for links golf next week and just controlling ball flight and controlling spin. That’s what I’ll kind of work on this weekend.” Lydia Ko, winless since her victory last year at Highland Meadows, had a 68 to reach 1 under. She also won the 2014 event. ”I feel like I’m hitting it OK and I’m putting it fine, but those things kind of need to come together,” Ko said. ”At the end of the day, I know I need to be patient, and sometimes it’s just not going to go your way even though you try your best. At the end, all I’ve got to do is just try my best, and after that it’s really out of my hands.” Canadian Brooke Henderson missed her second cut of the season, shooting 70-75.
Origin of Life: Brian Miller Distills a Debate Between Dave Farina and James Tour Recommended Sarah ChaffeeNow a teacher, Sarah Chaffee served as Program Officer in Education and Public Policy at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. She earned her B.A. in Government. During college she interned at Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office and for Prison Fellowship Ministries. Before coming to Discovery, she worked for a private land trust with holdings in the Southwest. Share “A Summary of the Evidence for Intelligent Design”: The Study Guide PLOS, the “Public Library of Science,” is the publisher of a number of a high-profile open access science journals – PLOS ONE, PLOS Biology, PLOS Medicine, and others. They also publish a range of blogs, including Sci-Ed, which deals with issues relating to science and education. A recent headline there caught my eye, “Go ahead and ‘teach the controversy:’ it is the best way to defend science.”That’s provocative. But here’s the subtitle: “as long as teachers understand the science and its historical context.” Well, who could disagree?But you can probably guess what’s coming. The author is Mike Klymkowsky, a University of Colorado Boulder Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Klymkowsky, as expected, says teaching about the evolution controversy is fine as long as you show how absurd that “controversy” really is. In other words, you can expose students to diverse views on Darwinian theory, so long as the takeaway for them is the orthodox evolutionary one.But I wanted to point out a comment left at the end of the article by someone identified as CWGross, who notes:There is no good reason to believe the naturalist-materialist, Scientistic proposition that science has epistemological primacy (in fact, it is a self-contradictory axiom), so we automatically fail if we refuse to discuss the limitations of science and its inadequacies in questions of morals, politics, aesthetics, relationships, spirituality, etc. Without doing so, we implicitly teach science as an authoritarian system which WILL be rejected, as you note, when it conflicts with lived moral, political, aesthetic, relational, spiritual, etc. experience. You do it yourself, in your confession of ideological dogmatism: “Yet, as a person who firmly believes in the French motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité, laïcité, I feel fairly certain that no science-based scenario on the origin and evolution of the universe or life, or the implications of sexual dimorphism or racial differences, etc, can challenge the importance of our duty to treat others with respect, to defend their freedoms, and to insure their equality before the law.” You express disapproval over philosophies of theistic evolution while at the same time refusing to entertain the implications of a purely materialistic science for your own liberalism.Klymkowsky wants to marshal a purely naturalistic science in the classroom. CWGross points out the conflict with Klymkowsky’s own liberal ideology. Only an “authoritarian” approach can bridge the gap, expecting students to embrace both (rigidly materialist science, liberalism) without acknowledging the contradiction.Our preference is for a pedagogy that is much more modest, and more authentically liberal. Klymkowsky worries that students are “vulnerable to intelligent-design creationist arguments centered around probabilities.” ID isn’t creationism, and there’s a lot more to it than “probabilities,” but never mind. We oppose pushing intelligent design into public school classrooms.Instead, we want students and teachers to be able to explore scientific controversies over mechanisms of evolution and the origin of life discussed in mainstream, peer-reviewed scientific publications. Let them study these questions for themselves, and arrive at their own conclusions. Let them struggle, too, with the philosophical implications, but, of course, not in the science classroom.On the evolution controversy, Klymkowsky would likely benefit from more study himself. His understanding of what we argue about appears to be limited. He writes, “For example, a common attack against evolutionary mechanisms relies on a failure to grasp the power of variation, arising from stochastic processes (mutation), coupled to the power of natural, social, and sexual variation.”For a start, he should review the discussions from November’s Royal Society meeting. In fact, some of the ideas presented there would be fascinating to share with students. In the world of professional science, at the highest levels, the foundations of evolutionary theory are up for debate. That fact should not be concealed from young people.Photo: Royal Society discussion panel, London, November 2016, by Günter Bechly. Education Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Tags”teach the controversyacademic freedomevolutionintelligent designliberalismMike KlymkowskyPLOSRoyal SocietyUniversity of Colorado Boulder,Trending Congratulations to Science Magazine for an Honest Portrayal of Darwin’s Descent of Man Jane Goodall Meets the God Hypothesis Evolution Sure, “Teach the Controversy,” Says an Evolutionist – But You Know What’s Coming NextSarah ChaffeeJune 9, 2017, 1:40 PM Requesting a (Partial) Retraction from Darrel Falk and BioLogos Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share A Physician Describes How Behe Changed His MindLife’s Origin — A “Mystery” Made AccessibleCodes Are Not Products of PhysicsIxnay on the Ambriancay PlosionexhayDesign Triangulation: My Thanksgiving Gift to All
Evolution Intelligent Design Origin of Life: Brian Miller Distills a Debate Between Dave Farina and James Tour A Physician Describes How Behe Changed His MindLife’s Origin — A “Mystery” Made AccessibleCodes Are Not Products of PhysicsIxnay on the Ambriancay PlosionexhayDesign Triangulation: My Thanksgiving Gift to All Tagsapical cellsauxinbotanycell divisionCris KuhlemeyerCurrent BiologyDarwin-of-the-gapsembryoepidermisFibonacci sequenceflowersgeometryGolden Ratiointelligent designmeristemphyllotaxisplasma membraneprimordiaprotodermspiralstem cellsUniversity of Bern,Trending Congratulations to Science Magazine for an Honest Portrayal of Darwin’s Descent of Man Plant patterning, known as phyllotaxis, brings together multiple independent fields of inquiry: mathematics, physics, botany, genetics, communication theory, and even philosophy: Why should brainless plants produce spirals that follow the Golden Ratio? The last times we looked at this question in some detail, we found mechanistic answers unsatisfactory. Periodic structures can be explained, but why do they use the Fibonacci Series? Why do we find them beautiful?A new open-access paper in Current Biology provides some of the best detail on this question in recent times. Cris Kuhlemeyer from the University of Bern has sliced and diced the cells at shoot tips, looking for clues. He identified specific plant hormones and proteins involved in development of shoot primordia, the locations where new leaves or flowers will grow. Moreover, he is fully aware of the history of the question.Leaves and flowers are arranged in regular patterns around the stem of a plant, a phenomenon known as phyllotaxis. Different arrangements occur, such as distichous, decussate or spiral (Figure 1). Most prevalent in nature are spirals in which the average divergence angles between successive organs are close to 137.5°, the so-called ‘golden angle’. It is this exact number that has given phyllotaxis its special flavor as a quantitative developmental problem, and over the centuries, it has enjoyed the attention of scientists far beyond botany. In the 1830s mathematicians described the spirals as they related to the Fibonacci numbers, and in the 1860s improved microscopes made it possible for botanists to observe the initiation of leaf and flower primordia in a diversity of plants. This descriptive work led to the conclusion that new organ primordia form in the first available space between existing primordia, a conclusion still valid today. But how does it work? [Emphasis added.]In his Primer, Kuhlemeyer tackles the question from several angles. He considers answers from the perspective of mechanics. He looks at the interactions of plant hormones, such as auxin and its transporters, the PIN family of proteins. He delves into communication and network theory, examining whether feedback loops can explain the patterns. From the view of evolution, he asks whether the patterns are adaptive in some way. Do any of these perspectives yield the “Aha!” moment?In his experimental work, Kuhlemeyer has examined the tip of a growing stem, called the apical meristem, in great detail. There’s nothing about the meristem that suggests a Golden Ratio spiral will emerge.The lateral organs have their origin in the shoot apical meristem, a simple dome-shaped structure at the very tip of the stem (Figure 2A). This meristem is usually defined as the tissue above the youngest lateral organ primordium, a leaf or a flower. So defined, the meristem is about 1/10th of a millimeter in diameter and consists of a few hundred cells that together weigh no more than 2 micrograms. This tiny organ generates all the stems, leaves and flowers of the adult plant. And it keeps doing so over the lifespan of the plant — for a few weeks in Arabidopsis, for year after year in long-lived species.The shoot apical meristem has been the object of intense study from when it was first viewed under a microscope in 1759. Meristem cells are small and, when viewed under a light microscope, they look more or less the same; at best, subtle anatomical differences can be observed between them. There are no asymmetric cell divisions. The internal cells tend to divide with randomly oriented division planes, whereas the cells in the surface layer (the protoderm) divide perpendicular to the surface and, as a result, the protoderm maintains its identity as a single-cell layer that eventually forms the epidermis of the leaf. Cell division is also non-synchronous: even neighboring cells can differ in cell-cycle length by as much as a factor of four.Of special interest in the meristem are four cells at the tip, called apical initials. “Analysis of clonal sectors and, more recently, direct in vivo imaging,” he says, “demonstrate that these apical initials have a high probability of maintaining their position, whereas their descendants are displaced from the center.” And yet the surrounding cells do not differentiate either. “Only after further divisions do cells acquire the option to differentiate into the cell types of the central axis and lateral organs,” he observes. A group of cells around them, in the “central zone” devoid of leaf primordia, express a hormone called CLV3. Here, we start to see some differentiation:Approximately 20 cells at the tip of the meristem express a small peptide, CLV3, which moves to the cells below to repress the homeobox gene WUSCHEL (WUS). WUS in turn induces the expression of CLV3. The negative feedback loop between the two proteins stabilizes the sizes of the CLV3 and WUS domains. In analogy with animal nomenclature, the CLV3-expressing cells are now often called ‘stem cells’.Of interest to design theorists, the apical cells avoid the effects of mutations in the way they divide. This allows some trees to survive thousands of years:Despite this lack of cellular structure, geometry imposes order…. In the classical literature apical and subapical cells are together referred to as the central zone, whereas cells below the central zone are defined as the peripheral zone. Their stable position at the tip of the meristem provides the apical initials with a special attribute that determines how new mutations are propagated (Figure 2C). Together with early sequestration of axillary meristems, this allows trees to live for thousands of years without suffering mutational meltdown.Figure 2C shows what happens to mutations. They tend to propagate downward, affecting small sectors of the stem but not the apical cells themselves. As a result,a mutation in a subapical initial…will be rapidly displaced from the meristem and affect only a narrow and short section of the shoot. Due to early sequestration of axillary meristems, in a tree with 1,000 branches there will be only ∼60 cell divisions between the embryonic meristem and the meristems in the terminal branches.The fewer the cell divisions, the fewer the mutations. That’s how a giant sequoia avoids mutational meltdown. Fascinating!He said that geometry imposes order. But does order impose geometry? What about that Golden Ratio?Cells in the central zone of the meristem divide but do not differentiate. Once in the peripheral zone, they have the option to enter a pathway of organ formation. Cells become bigger and grow faster than their neighbors, with the result that a bump forms on the flank of the meristem. In 2000 we demonstrated that tomato meristems placed on inhibitors of polar auxin transport grow vigorously but fail completely to induce new leaves (Figure 3A). This highly specific ‘phenotype’ can be reversed by the application of a minuscule droplet of auxin to the peripheral zone. Moreover, the position of the droplet determines the position of the leaf and the auxin concentration in the droplet determines the number of cells recruited into the leaf primordium. From these experiments we concluded that actively transported auxin is the instructive signal that determines both the induction and the positioning of lateral organs.It sounds like Kuhlemeyer has found a strong lead, like a bloodhound on a scent. Further experiments showed that the PIN1 protein, a transporter for auxin, gives it direction:The PIN1 proteins are oriented within the plasma membrane in a coordinated fashion, in such a way that they will transport auxin towards young and incipient primordia and deplete it from the surrounding tissue (Figure 3B).Therefore, patterning is not through an inhibitor emanating from the young leaves, but the opposite: through redistribution of an activator — auxin — that is present in the meristem itself.We’re getting warmer. Auxin and its transporter, PIN1, regulate each other in a cycle. We see a timing mechanism emerge below those undifferentiated cells in the central zone:The combined experimental results suggest models in which an autoregulatory loop between auxin and subcellular PIN localization creates auxin maxima. The auxin–PIN1 interaction can be envisaged to function as a pattern generator, conceptually similar to the circadian clock (Figure 3C). Like the circadian oscillator, it generates outputs, responds to inputs and is subject to feedback regulation. Inputs are the enzymes and regulatory proteins involved in the synthesis of auxin and PINs, but can also be factors that indirectly affect phyllotaxis, such as meristem size, light or metabolism. Outputs are the lateral organs and all the steps in between: transcription factors, wall-loosening enzymes, and mechanical stresses.In fact, another protein, a cytokinin, stabilizes the angle at which a new primordium emerges. “This suggests a mechanism in which inhibition of cytokinin signaling prevents premature outgrowth of correctly patterned incipient primordia.”Let’s take stock of what we’ve learned. From an undifferentiated beginning, cells at the tip express a peptide that migrates to cells outside the central zone, preserving the “stemness” of the apical cells. The peptides repress a homeobox gene in the lower cells, allowing more peptide to be expressed. This initiates a bump, or primordium, where a new leaf will appear. PIN1 directs auxin to these incipient primordia, while cytokinin stabilizes the angle. In addition, he explains, the flow of auxin insures that vascular bundles in the bump will connect with those in the stem.So do we now have a Golden Ratio? No. Nothing in the above explains why these primordia arrange themselves in a spiral.Phyllotaxis is an inherently quantitative problem. But how can a small molecule in concert with its transporter induce organ formation at angles of 137°? Early computational models posited an inhibitor that is produced by pre-existing primordia and diffuses into the meristem. When the inhibitor decays with time and distance, patterns are produced. Such ‘pre-auxin’ models are simple and robust and, by varying parameters, they can reproduce all major phyllotactic patterns. Integrating the recent pharmacological and genetic data makes models biologically more plausible but, unfortunately, also more complex and less robust. This is even more of a challenge when models are implemented on geometrically realistic templates, with cells that grow and divide as in a real-life meristem.And yet, he goes on to say, the computational models cannot discriminate between auxin-based or biophysical models. So far it is impossible to measure auxin concentrations accurately enough to solve this “inherently quantitative problem.” He laments, “We need more experimental data rather than more computational models.”Kuhleman briefly looks at evolution. “It is not altogether clear what the adaptive function of the different phyllotactic patterns is,” he says. Do they maximize sunlight? Do they prevent unequal bending? Do they limit the access for pathogens? “Perhaps the rather unsatisfactory default explanation is,” he quips, “that regular patterning is simply an emergent property of the molecular mechanism of lateral organ initiation.” In short, he finds none of the proposals satisfactory. They appear to be the usual Darwinian narrative gloss applied after the fact, without explaining how the patterns emerge in DNA coding. He speaks later of “Our lack of understanding of the selective advantage of the various phyllotactic patterns,” hoping it can be remedied with more research (i.e., promissory notes).Kuhleman’s paper ends with a series of questions, showing that evolutionary biologists really know very little about phyllotaxis. “Experimental evidence and computational modeling strongly suggest that phyllotactic patterning works through a positive feedback loop between auxin and its transporter,” he boasts from his own experimental work, but none of that explains the origin of the feedback loops, the origin of auxin, the origin of the transporter, the origin of the genes that build these machines, or why any of those factors should follow the Golden Ratio.Could mechanics have perhaps been a crude ancestral mechanism that predated auxin-dependent patterning? What about phyllotactic patterns in flowers? Phyllotaxis reaches its greatest diversity in the flower, where it is obviously related to different reproductive strategies. How do regulatory mechanisms of phyllotaxis interact with the extremely well-studied floral organ identity determinants? It is not that we have run out of basic questions to be asked in model plants; instead, there is a world of diversity waiting to be explored.He’s clearly reaching at this point. How can “mechanics” be an ancestral “mechanism”? If you can answer that play on words, how would auxin know to take it over later? Remember, all this had to come about by natural selection working on random mutations. Flowers don’t have “reproductive strategies,” because they have no brains. We fail to see how phyllotaxis is “obviously related” to reproductive strategies, when many plants do fine without Fibonacci spirals.So that’s it. We looked for a really detailed answer to Golden Ratio patterns in plants, and were left with only more questions. By admitting new complexities, Kuhleman even indicates that answers now are more elusive than they used to be. Darwin-of-the-gaps is a bad strategy for scientific explanation when the gap has been getting wider for centuries. There is a cause we know that can generate patterns that are both precise and beautiful. There is a cause that can pre-program genetic software to control the interactions of elements that generate the patterns. That cause is, naturally, intelligence.Photo credit: Stan Shebs [GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons. Life Sciences Plant Spiral Designs Still UnexplainedEvolution News @DiscoveryCSCSeptember 20, 2017, 1:12 AM Jane Goodall Meets the God Hypothesis Requesting a (Partial) Retraction from Darrel Falk and BioLogos Recommended Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Evolution NewsEvolution News & Science Today (EN) provides original reporting and analysis about evolution, neuroscience, bioethics, intelligent design and other science-related issues, including breaking news about scientific research. It also covers the impact of science on culture and conflicts over free speech and academic freedom in science. Finally, it fact-checks and critiques media coverage of scientific issues. Share “A Summary of the Evidence for Intelligent Design”: The Study Guide