Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

Almost without exception the old seaside rabbitty turf has disappeared and been replaced by grasses entirely unsuitable for golf. The turf near the clubhouse is usually worse than that farther away as on most seaside links there still remain a few rabbits on the outskirts of the course.
ALISTER MACKENZIE


    

Monday
Jul112016

2016 Olympic Golf Fields Set, Spieth Is Out

Jordan Spieth will be addressing his reasons Tuesday at Troon, but in the IGF press conference

The men's list is here. The top 15 here:

The women's field is here. The top 15:

Sunday
Jul102016

Deja Vu All Over Again Files: Penalty Talk Overtakes U.S. Women's Open; USGA Prez Botches Another Trophy Ceremony

We watched late here into the night in the de-United Kingdom and it was surreal watching players notified on the fairway about Anna Nordqvist's barely discernable brushing of the sand, adding two strokes to her aggregate playoff score.

Ron Sirak on Brittany Lang's U.S. Women Open victory and the cloud hanging over the rules once again as HD cameras picked up something the naked eye could not have detected.

Sure to be second-guessed will be the fact TV was used to detect the violation and that Nordqvist was informed of the penalty after she hit her third shot into No. 18 while Lang found out before she played her third over a water hazard, timing that could have affected how boldly she played the shot.

“We got the information out to the players as soon as we could,” the USGA said in a statement.

After Johnson was told on No. 12 tee that he might be assessed a penalty for his ball moving on No. 5 the USGA said it would expedite such decisions. In that case, Dustin played the last seven holes not exactly certain if he would be penalized.

Well they expedited the notification, but isn't that the least of the issues? Thoughts and reactions?

There was also some less than speedy play, with Lydia Ko fessing up that she deserved to be put on the clock Sunday. Keely Levins reports.

And finally, there was USGA President Diana Murphy botching a second straight U.S.G.A. trophy ceremony, making everyone excited about what she'll do next at the Senior Open!

Sunday
Jul102016

Q&A With Golf Architect Martin Ebert

The firm of Mackenzie & Ebert, founded in 2005, has been entrusted with some of the world's most important links. The former staff members of Donald Steel's firm have proven up to the task of addressing difficult issues while leaving behind architectural touches that restore and embellish.

I was fearful that any Cruden Bay tinkering could be problematic, but Tom Mackenzie made the 9th hole significantly better, injecting several new elements to form a more dramatic hole befitting the epic location of that short par-5. A new tee angle at the 10th improved the look and feel of the tee shot, while addressing a safety matter brought on by modern technology.

Mackenzie's design partner, Martin Ebert, kindly took time to give us insights into three links he has worked at and which are very much on the minds of golfers: Turnberry, Royal Portrush and Royal Troon.

As The Open gets underway at Troon, Ebert fills us in on the work done at these three landmark courses. I'll be posting a ful Turnberry review after an evening round in the rain. In short, the transformation is magnificent. But in the meantime, please enjoy his thoughts as well as links to Mackenzie and Ebert's groundbreaking use of presentation graphics.


GS: What would be the best description for the work at Turnberry: redesign, modernization, restoration, renovation or some combination of all?

ME: That is an excellent question as there is a combination of all of the descriptions which could apply.

'Redesign' can definitely be applied as we have, I would say, 5 completely new holes within the layout. The 6th is really a new par 3, having new tees and a new green in different locations and the hole is a much shorter par 3 than it was before. The 9th is a new par 3, albeit played from the same general teeing area as the old, hog's back par 4. The 10th has been extended to a par 5 with new back tees and a new green so I would claim that this is really a new hole. The 11th is a new par 3 occupying a different piece of ground than the old hole. Finally the 14th is routed into completely new land from tees in a similar location to the old hole and the hole is now a par 5 rather than a par 4. A case could even be made for the 1st being a new hole as well as the tees and green have both been extended backwards and the landing area bunkering has been reconfigured. So I think that the changes would constitute redesign.

'Modernization' also applies as I believe that we have made the course fit to test the greatest players in the world and the way that they play the game from a range of new tees and green locations. Some of the changes would not have been possible in years gone by. The players would not have carried the ball far enough to take on the new tee shots at the 9th and 10th holes for instance. However, the course needs to meet the modern demands of average club member and visitor play as this will be the use of The Ailsa for 99% of its time.

In pursuit of that, I believe that we have made the course more 'fit for purpose' as it should now be more enjoyable for the vast majority of golfers. They now have five par 3s to play and almost all golfers love playing par 3s, and we have added two par 5s to the front nine, leading to four in total, which makes the 5th and the 7th holes, previously par 4s, much more playable. In another way we have modernized the course by providing more flag positions on many of the greens. Higher green speeds have meant, as with all courses, that some areas of greens which used to be suitable for flag positions no longer are. That was especially the case at Turnberry where many of the greens had a 'bowl' like shape with the edges of the greens just too sloping to be useable. We have softened some of these areas to provide some exciting new flag locations which will use the edge features of bunkers, links banks and swales much more than before. An example is the par 3 15th hole where the flag can now be located much closer to the dangerous bank to the right of the green.

As far as 'Restoration' is concerned, my advice to Mr Trump when we embarked upon the project was that we should conduct as thorough a study as possible of the evolution of the course and especially following its reincarnation immediately after the Second World War. This proved to be a fascinating exercise when we compared the aerial photographs from just before Philip Mackenzie Ross carried out his work to just after it was completed. The photographs showed completely different bunker shapes and it was also clear that the bunkers had rough edges rather than revetted edges. In fact, the rough edges survived until the 1980s. Hence our recommendation was to restore the shapes of the bunkers where appropriate and to restore the rough edged character to the fairway bunkers. The greenside bunkers have new plan shapes to reflect the old forms but are revetted which was preferred by The R&A. Now that the project is completed I think that the two styles sit well with one another.

Finally, 'Renovation' also applies as every tee, green and bunker has been reconstructed. The greens have been built with a much sandier root zone created by mixing the old green root zone with dune sand to provide much more free draining surfaces which will be easier to manage in the long term to produce firmer and finer greens. The tees have been formed using the old green root zone and the bunker drainage as well as general fairway drainage has been improved.

(A full study and the rationale behind the changes can be viewed in this booklet and video.)



GS: Turnberry has produced some of golf's most thrilling finishes, did this put any added pressure on you in approaching how to re-imagine the links?

ME: I am not sure this added any pressure but we did want to respect those wonderful Open finishes as far as possible. For instance, we chose to retain the 18th green surface exactly as it was before the work started given the historic moments of the Duel in the Sun in 1977 and the sad events of 2009 although the green surrounds have had a little more feature added.

There were some misgivings about changing the 17th green. I imagine that Nick Price will be a little disappointed that the scene of his great eagle putt is no longer. However, hopefully he will understand that the greater cause of the major layout change to produce a straightened 18th hole for championship play justifies this.

One of the key changes to the course has been that straightening of the 18th hole for championship play. Previously the hole was a sharp and rather unnatural dogleg. The spectators in the 18th green grandstands would only get a view of the players at the corner of the dogleg. Now they will see the players silhouetted on the tee located on the dune bank with the ocean as the backdrop. The golfers will be taking aim on some part of the iconic hotel. So hopefully we will have set an even better scene for more thrilling finishes. However, that did mean shortening the 17th hole to a par 4 but it also had the knock on effect of requiring a new par 5 at the 14th hole and the new, shortened par 3 6th hole.

GS: Tell us about what has happened with the pitch-and-putt course, The Wee Links?

ME: The pitch and putt course has been completely rebuilt and now provides the hotel with a real links like setting immediately below it. The pitch and putt course used to have more of a garden feel to it and the greens were tiny. You had to be a good player to have any chance of hitting the greens. There was also a tennis court within the area which detracted from the view from the hotel. We imported a lot of on site fill material and shaped this up into what could be described as a large scale Himalayas (St Andrews) landscape with some bunkers included. Apart from recovery from the bunkers, a complete non golfer can now play the course with a putter. There are no set tee positions so the tee markers can be placed wherever suits. There are 18 greens (two are double greens) but the course could be played as 18 holes, 12 holes, 9 holes or even 6 holes by simply removing some of the flags and hence creating longer or shorter holes.

GS: The Arran Course is also slated for a redesign, what can you tell us about the plans?

ME: I assume that you mean the Kintyre Course although the second course used to be called the Arran. There is a lot of change here too to the extent that the course will be renamed. We are currently working on the changes. Mr Trump is currently considering some alternatives for this. The jewel in the crown of the landform is Bains Hill at the furthest point from the hotel and clubhouse. This coastal hillside will have its three holes reversed in direction to make maximum use of the views to the ocean and the existing 11th will be extended to a par 5 with an aiming point directly upon the Lighthouse. The direct coastal stretch will be the home of an incredible new hole with one of the most stunning greensites perched high above the waves as one could imagine.

Along with the changes at Bains Hill, there are new back tees for the 1st, 7th, 17th and 18th holes and a redesigned green for the 18th which sits just below the clubhouse. The 1st hole has had the artificial burn which used to cross it replaced with central bunkers giving more options to play the hole and the gorse lined nature of the course will be lessened with the creation of a large wetland feature between the 5th and 13th holes. The fairway bunkers are being converted into marram grass fringed hazards much like some of the bunkers at Royal County Down. All in all a considerable makeover.

GS: How are things going at Royal Portrush?

ME: The changes at Portrush are coming along very well. The new Valley Course came into play in May and have been well received. There are also a couple of new holes for the par 3 Skerries Course which have stunning views. These changes were necessary to give enough ground for the two new holes of the Dunluce Course.

The changes within the existing Dunluce Course have all opened for play in May. This includes the new 2nd green (adding length to the par 5), the new 3rd green (rebuilt to improve its condition) and the new 10th green (existing 8th green which was not an original Harry Colt green so it has been reshaped to give it more of a 'Colt' character) and various fairway bunkers and new tees.

The two new holes have been completed. The tees, greens and surrounds were turfed (sodded) and could  be played already. The fairway areas are being established by spreading hollow cores and overseeding. They are coming on well. The plan is to open them in the early summer of next year but they may be ready by the end of this year.


GS: How will the new holes fit in with the original course?

ME: I think they will fit in really well to the rest of the course both in terms of location and their character. There was a possibility of the Club playing them on the back nine but The R&A were adamant that they be part of the front nine for spectator movement reasons principally and the Club are likely to adopt the same routing. This sees the holes slot in between the 6th and 7th holes. The landscape for both holes is stunning with the 7th running down into and gently up a valley in the dunes and the 8th demanding a spectacular tee shot with a carry over a steep dune bank which will require a real decision about how much to bite off from the tee.

A permanent players' tunnel is being constructed to provide access for players during The Open between the 8th and 9th holes and between the 10th and 11th holes with the spectators able to move freely above.

(Here is the Portrush booklet and a video).


GS: You've also consulted at Royal Troon, what has happened in advance of this Open?

ME: A long time has passed since the last Open at Royal Troon in 2004. There have been two tranches of changes carried out in that time although a number of the changes might be described more as restoration of old features than changes.

We removed trees and created new dunes behind the 9th green, really to help improve the light and airflow to the green and we added new back tees and the restored a huge bunker in the carry of the 10th hole originally designed by Willie Fernie and which Dr. Alister MacKenzie provided input upon in the 1920s.


The other major change was to the position of the tees and the first half of the 15th fairway well to the left of the previous line. Again this is a restoration of the hole alignment which was played during The Open in 1923. This became clear following the discovery of a wonderful illustration of the course for the event which was published prior to that Open in the Illustrated London News. Plans were already afoot to take the hole away from the Old Course's boundary road to the right of the hole for this year's Open. Any unease felt by the members about such a change was dispelled by the discovery of the illustration. Quite incredibly, it showed that the chosen alignment was exactly the same as that played in 1923.

In the intervening years the tees and fairway had been moved to the right, possibly due to low areas of the old fairway lying wet during the winter months. In order to ensure dry conditions for the restored fairway, levels have been raised considerably. Hence the new fairway has been shaped from where it starts to where it joins up with the wonderful undulations of the second part of the hole.

The other changes included some fairway bunker adjustments and the addition of an approach bunker at the par-5 4th, plus we reconfigured the tees on 5, reshaped green surrounds at 6, restored an old bunker at 7, softened the green contours at 8 which had become more severe from bunker sand splash and constructed dunes along the fairway by the burn at 16. Many of the greens have been mown out larger including the front of the Postage Stamp to bring the front bunker into play more. We also enlarged many of the championship tees and removed scrub and gorse vegetation in various places. We took those areas down to bare sand as recommended by The R&A's ecologist which has helped return the course to more of its look from years gone by.

(Here is the Troon assessment.)

GS: Besides the Postage Stamp, what holes would you say are most worth of study at Royal Troon?

ME: I believe that the Old Course at Troon is generally underrated. I believe it to be one of the best of The Open venues. It has some superb views, has tees which could not be closer to the coastline on the front nine, some great individual holes including the incomparable Postage Stamp and one of the toughest back nines in championship golf. In terms of other notable holes, the 5th is a wonderful par 3 on its elevated ridge by the sea, the dogleg 7th asks questions from the tee if conditions are favourable, the 11th must have the most intimidating tee shot on The Open rota being played over a sea of gorse with no view of the fairway, the 13th has the most magical undulations and shows that bunkerless holes can be the very best, the 15th, in its new guise has great shape to its fairway line and, of course, the 18th is the ultimate test with the clubhouse and out of bounds so close behind the green.

GS: You will be working as a referee at The Open, correct?  What do you enjoy about that role, since it's so different than the work of a golf architect?

ME: I will be refereeing at The Open this year. I am possibly one of the most nervous referees! However, we are well briefed and have great back up for any awkward situations. It is a real privilege to walk inside the ropes and be so close to the players and it does help give me an insight into how the modern elite golfers play the game which is very useful when it comes to making changes to Open venues.

Overall though, the sheer experience of being part of the greatest championship of them all is incredible and, last year, I had the opportunity to walk up the 18th at St Andrews as referee with my son carrying the scoreboard. A truly special occasion.

Sunday
Jul102016

Video: Sarazen At Troon, 1923 To 1973

We'll hear about Gene Sarazen's Postage Stamp ace in 1971 no doubt, but thanks to British Pathe we get to see the legend at Troon in 1923 when he failed to qualify for the first Open played at the course.

1923:

1973:

Other films posted on YouTube from the 1923 Open Championship: here and here.

Sunday
Jul102016

Olympics: Rickie To Make Pre-Tournament Statement At Troon

While whapping it around the Old Course Saturday defending his Scottish Open title, American Olympic hopeful Rickie Fowler was followed for a few holes by IGF President Peter Dawson.

The former R&A chief apparently made his last minute case for Fowler to show up in Rio, Alex Miceli reports for Golfweek.com.

After his round, Fowler confirmed that he talked with Dawson about the Olympics but did not commit to the games. He intends to make a pre-tournament statement in the coming days at Royal Troon.

The world awaits...

Sunday
Jul102016

Video: The 1973 Open Championship, Anchorman Style

It's that time to start soaking up just enough history to be excited about a return to Troon and the times we live, which include multiple replays, Yanni theme music (with bagpipes!), Protracers and Johnny.

Speaking of Johnny, check out his hat early on in this 33 minute highlights package from the 1973 Open Championship at Royal Troon. While deep diving YouTube for some pre-tournament appetizers, this was the keeper of all films. We're all in on the 70s, from the attire to the music to the graphics. I kept expecting Ron Burgundy to pop in at some point.

Hope you didn't have much to do at the office Monday! Here goes:

Saturday
Jul092016

Martha Burk, Black Golfers Taking On USGA Over Trump

Turning to Huffington Post to share her thoughts on Donald Trump's Bedminster course hosting the 2017 U.S. Women's Open, former Augusta National crusader Martha Burk is targeting the USGA with a petition to move next year's championship.

Beth Ann Baldry in summing up the petition said LPGA players at this year's U.S. Open weren't biting.

No LPGA players whom Golfweek asked for comment after their rounds at CordeValle, however, agreed with Burk’s call to move the event.

“Just because it has Trump’s name on it, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play there,” said Jessica Korda, who competed at Trump National Bedminster in the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior.

England’s Mel Reid said she doesn’t necessarily agree with Trump’s values or policies and can understand why people would want to sign the petition. But, just as with the 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Trump-owned Turnberry in Scotland, Reid doesn’t see the need to move the event.

Adam Schupak reports on prominent members of the black community joining in support of Burk. No matter where you come down, I think we can all agree Dr. Calvin Sinnette writes a good letter. This is what he sent to USGA Executive Director Mike Davis:

“The organization’s decision seems to be governed by a warped notion of fiduciary rectitude rather than a sense of moral probity. Pious pronouncements about ‘inclusion,’ ‘broader access,’ and ‘disparities,’ ring hollow when the USGA is forced to confront vexing challenges,” Sinnette wrote to Davis. “Unless the USGA changes the venue for the 2017 event and severs its relationship with a blatant racist and misogynist, I have no alternative but to relinquish my association with the organization.”

Trump Bedminster also hosts the 2022 PGA Championship.

Saturday
Jul092016

Thru Two Rounds: Catching Up On The Scottish Open

Seems it was an interesting two days here at Castle Stuart, where the wind pushed the boundaries of sanity, prompting the European Tour to issue an apology for not setting the course up appropriately, reports Golfweek's Alex Miceli.

He also notes Phil Mickelson's Friday charge to make the cut and set himself up for a run this weekend. Mickelson is paired with Henrik Stenson for Saturday's third round. Alex Noren leads, with Danny Lee one back.

Golf Channel and NBC coverage times are here.

Ill be out watching some golf and chatting with Morning Drive's Damon Hack at 8:15 am ET.

Saturday
Jul092016

Greenbrier Hit Harder First Than Realized, '17 Classic In Jeopardy

Adam Schupak with the unfortunate news of the 2017 Greenbrier Classic being in jeopardy due to necessary green rebuilding and regrassing caused by recent flooding.

The issues facing the resort pale in comparison to the troubles of those who lost lives and homes, but still a blow to the region should things not be able to be grassed in time.

Adam Schupak reports:

The Old White TPC, host course for the tournament, suffered extensive damage from the flooding and was deemed “beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament,” Tour officials said. The tournament, scheduled for July 7-10, was cancelled on June 25.

“I’ve witnessed a lot of natural disasters to golf courses, but nothing to this extent, nothing even close,” said Roth, of the damage to the tournament course located in the Allegheny Mountains in White Sulphur Springs, West Va.

Saturday
Jul092016

The Week In Zika: LPGAers Aren't Quite Buying Zika; DJ Is Out

It's been nice to not read Zika-excuse related stories but they seem unavoidable as Dustin Johnson has pulled out of the Rio Olympic games citing the Zika virus. From an unbylined AP story:

"This was not an easy decision for me," Johnson said in a statement released by his management company. "But my concerns about the Zika virus cannot be ignored."

Ignore we will and move on.

More fun was reading Randell Mell's quotes from the LPGA's finest at the U.S. Women's Open where Lydia Ko is chipping away at the lead (Beth Ann Nichols reports).

Stacy Lewis, while wisely wheeling out the understanding of Zika's grave threat to the male golfers of the world (rumors are it targets only those who play in The Open and PGA), notes this:

“It’s hard,” Lewis said. “Those guys play for so much money, and I think you kind of get lost in that at times. If I knew that I had the potential of a $10 million paycheck at the end of the year, I'd probably do my schedule a little bit different, too.

“You become a product of that environment. You have that opportunity to win that that money, you become a product of it. And you can't blame them for being that way. They are bred to be that way, with the amount of money that they play for.

“On our tour, while we have some pretty good paychecks, it's nowhere close to what those guys are playing for. So, to me, the opportunity to play in the Olympics, and to represent your country, is probably worth as much as winning a U.S. Women’s Open or winning an [ANA Inspiration] or winning any of those big majors. Winning a gold medal would be up there with winning a major championship, to me, and that's the difference of the men versus the women.”

Thursday
Jul072016

A Few Quick Thoughts & Images From The Highlands

I'm still investigating many things in the hopes of providing you tips on Highlands golf and elsewhere, but I'm already floored by a few things from my visit: value, options and golfers branching out to lesser known courses.

While there is still a ways to go in making this an East Lothian/St. Andrews pilgramage destination, for the record I want it known there was a tour bus at Lossiemouth today (aka Moray Golf Club). I couldn't have been more pleased! Americans testing the craft architecture!

And while I've pondered what Herbert Warren Wind would make of the masses pulling up to Dornoch and tackling the place with passion, ultimately I concluded from the epic Links House Dornoch that he would be utterly thrilled to see so many making the journey here for northernmost links golf.

Anyhow, as I said, more to investigate while you hopefully enjoy the Scottish Open at nearby Castle Stuart. But my findings will be here and at GolfDigest.com.

In the meantime, a few photos I Tweeted today:








Thursday
Jul072016

USGA's FAQ Page To The Dustin Johnson Ruling

Many of you have forwarded the form replies you've received to your letters to the USGA following this year's U.S. Open.

Included is this FAQ page from the USGA that I found fascinating in its tone. And revealing.

Why are the Rules of Golf so complicated?

We recognize that due to the fact that golf is played outdoors, on a wide variety of courses, and by players using an assortment of different clubs, the Rules of Golf are naturally complex and can be challenging to apply. We, together with The R&A, have been conducting a fundamental review of the Rules of Golf in an effort to simplify and clarify them. We are well along in that process and intend to consult many within the game before implementing any revisions.

Why does the USGA use video review?

At the U.S. Open and its other televised championships, the USGA actively monitors the broadcast in an effort to respond to viewer inquiries and prevent questions and disputes from arising during the competition and after it closes. While we recognize that there are differing opinions about the use of video, it provides us with another method to help ensure the integrity of the championship and protect its outcome.

Wednesday
Jul062016

Q&A With Kevin Cook, Author Of Tommy's Honor

I resisted picking up Tommy's Honor in my usual fear of fictionalized versions of real stories and a cover that suggested it was going to be a downer. But for me it has become the best pre-Scottish golf pilgrimmage reading and one which I now crack open before heading to Scotland. (Note to self: don't judge a book by its cover.)

Any concerns about the Tommy's Honor storytelling related to golf's founding father and his decorated son are promptly eliminated when Kevin Cook takes us back to Old Tom's days in Prestwick. He captures a genuine sense of what these brave, slightly-nutty characters did to transform the idea of whapping a ball around on fescue turf and into the sport we have today. The former Golf Magazine editor does it with a perfect mix of historical accuracy, soulful storytelling and cinematic flair.

Cook's 2007 book, winner of the USGA book award, is an essential and entertaining way to learn about the early days of golf and The Open. It's become an essential piece of reading prior to making a Scotland golf pilgrimage.

Given the book's early focus on the first Open Championship at Prestwick and an Edinburgh Film Festival screening of the film version receiving encouraging reviews (here, here, here), the author kindly answered questions about his work.

No distributor has been finalized for the film with a screenplay by Cook and wife Pamela Marin. But since the film has just hit the festival circuit (clip's below Q&A), and we should be able to see it later this year or in early 2017.

GS: What compelled you to tackle the seemingly impossible task of re-creating the life and times of Old Tom, Young Tom and the founding of golf? 

KC: My wife, Pamela Marin, took me to Scotland for my first pilgrimage in 1986. I showed up at the Old Course at dawn and was lucky enough to play with three locals, Peter, Peter and John. They blessed me gravely when I descended into the Hell Bunker and laughed when I hit a grounder and called it a worm-burner. To them that’s a “scalded cat.”

They also talked about Tommy Morris. I knew about Old Tom, but the more I learned about his son the more I was drawn to this untold family drama with a tragic love story at its heart—all revolving around the dawn of professional golf.

 

GS: How many years was the book in the works research-wise and what kind of interesting things happened along the way in digging through archives for this?

KC: First came 20 years of filing away bits and pieces of the story. Then I got fired as editor of Golf Magazine. Seemed like a good time to write that book! In 2005 I rented a room in St Andrews and spent a couple weeks haunting the university library. That was the first of several trips, with side trips to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, other archives in Scotland and the library at Royal Liverpool, where Tommy won the first big pro tournament outside Scotland in 1872. I hit a few worm-burners there before the 2006 Open Championship.

Along the way I made friends. One I’ll never forget was the late David Malcolm, a St Andrean who was one of the smartest and warmest people I ever met. (His Tom Morris of St Andrews: Colossus of Golf, co-written with Peter Crabtree, is a more scholarly approach to Tom’s life.) We compared notes and shared research. Our families became close, and we even house-swapped. David and his wife, Ruth, a gifted artist, got our pad in New York while Pamela and our kids and I stayed in their home in St Andrews.  

 

GS: Old Tom’s Prestwick years have always seemed to be a bit of a mystery, yet you get right into them early on in Tommy’s Honor. What went into the Prestwick research and does Old Tom Morris get enough credit for his role in helping create The Open?

KC: Ian Bunch, then the club secretary at Prestwick, welcomed me to the upstairs archive where I pored through records of Tom’s 14 years there, including the invitations (on robin’s-egg blue paper) summoning crack golfers to the first Open Championship in 1860. Tom organized the whole thing, working with his patron James Ogilvie Fairlie and the wealthy, sporty Earl of Eglinton. Tom hit the first tee ball—just as the wind blew his necktie up over his face, blocking his view—and came in second to his rival Willie Park.                 


Kevin Cook and Pamela Marin, photo by Ken Kubik
GS: As a writer and historian, did you struggle at all with taking what you researched and how you made it into a narrative, even if you were perhaps fictionalizing at times? (As a reader you never come across as either uncertain in your take, nor overly presumptuous about the circumstances they faced). 

KC: One surprise was how much specific information there was to tap into. During a time of what was called “Golfomania,” newspapers in Scotland and England tried to outdo each other in covering the game. I wore out a microfiche machine or two reading shot-by-shot accounts of famous matches. It was like discovering box scores from the very first baseball games.

Tom lived until 1908. As an eager publicist for his sport and his town (and his clubmaking business) he gave loads of interviews and loved to reminisce about Tommy. Many of their contemporaries wrote memoirs and gave interview of their own. David Malcolm’s research turned up fascinating details about Margaret, Tommy’s wife, which he generously shared with me. One of the great pleasures of writing the book was connecting the dots between countless details and putting them in context.

Yes, it had to hold together as a narrative. I was lucky to have a story that’s inherently dramatic, literally life and death. But there are times when you make storytelling choices, which boil down to educated guesses. For instance, I’ve got Tommy needling Tom about his lousy putting: “You’d be a fine putter, Da, if the hole were always a yard closer.” Now, I certainly don’t claim to know that Tommy said that on the hole where I’ve got him saying it, but he did tease his father, and Tom remembered that line decades later.          

GS: How did getting the book to the big screen come about? 

KC: A movie producer named Jim Kreutzer picked up my book on a golf trip to St Andrews and called to ask me about it. This was in 2012. Good timing. My wife, Pamela, a journalist and author of a well-received memoir, was remaking herself as a screenwriter. It’s an utterly different kind of writing—and thinking—and she’d written a script that got attention in Hollywood. That one didn’t get made, but it proved her ability. When the time came to make a deal for Tommy’s Honor, I optioned the book with one proviso: We write the script.

GS: The film looks visually stunning, but naturally, all golfers want to know is: did they make the golf scenes realistic?

KC: Jim Farmer, the R&A’s honorary professional and a former British Club Pro champ, did a terrific job as the actors’ golf coach. He got a surprise at first. During the casting process Jack Lowden, who plays Tommy, said, “Oh yes, I’ve been a golfer for years.” Because that’s what you do as an actor—if they ask if you can ride a horse or breakdance, you say yes. Later he told Jim he’d never swung a club in his life. But Jack’s an athlete as well as a brilliant young actor, and with Jim’s help he built a swing that’s authentic to the period. One thing I loved about Jim Farmer’s work was that the swings are authentic but different. Willie Park’s swing isn’t like Tommy’s.

There’s a crowd reaction that’s totally real. The great Peter Mullan, who plays Tom, had to make a ten-foot putt on a bumpy 19th-century green. He must have missed fifteen times. Each time, director Jason Connery reset the shot and the gallery got pumped up again. At last Peter knocks it in and the crowd goes genuinely wild.

The CGI people did a remarkable job recreating the blizzard of 1875 for one key sequence. And the biggest laugh in the movie comes during a favorite scene of mine, a caddies’ tournament that’s straight from the archives.       

GS: How did the trimming process go for making the book into a film?

KC: As the screenwriters Pamela and I did our own whittling, sitting side by side at the computer in early 2013. If I showed you our first draft you’d see that its structure, tone and dialogue account for about 80 percent of what wound up onscreen. Jason Connery was a joy to work with and had a bunch of good ideas that we incorporated. Jason grew up playing golf with his famous father; he’s got this story in his bones.

GS: Is there anything since the book was published that you have learned that might have changed your approach to the “characters”?

KC: I think we got it right. Tom Morris was modern pro golf’s founding father. Tommy invented a new role—he was the first touring professional. Tour pros should tip their hats to Tommy every time they tee off on Sunday.

And I think or at least hope that my work, and the script of which Pamela was the lead writer, will remind readers and moviegoers that the game’s pioneers weren’t stained-glass icons out of ancient history. They were brave, tough, star-crossed strivers living in a fascinating time.

 

GS: What does it mean to you that your book is now often cited as required reading before golfers make the pilgrimage to Scotland for the first time?

KC: That’s the best compliment I ever got. Tommy’s Honor began with my first pilgrimage to St Andrews. If the book and movie contribute to others’ experiences, I’ll have done my bit to honor Scotland and its people. 


Tommy's Honour clip one:



Tommy's Honour clip two:

Wednesday
Jul062016

Golfer Becomes First To Declare Himself Out Of Olympic Games He Wasn't Going To Qualify For Anyway

Andy Sullivan says he wouldn't go to the Rio Games because of fears over Zika and security. Which is good to know since he's replacement option five should Danny Willett or Justin Rose withdraw.

Telling the Nuneaton News...


"I mean this as no disrespect to the Olympics but for me even if I get in the team I would not be going to Rio.

"You have to look at where it is being held, there is a dangerous virus going round, plus the security is said to be not water tight, they are all reasons why I just cannot go. It is a dangerous place to go and when you run the rule over the risk, it is not one I will be taking."


Don't worry, Andy it's a decision you won't have to make.

The male golfer exodus from the Games has officially reached the surreal stage.

Wednesday
Jul062016

Another Reason To Be In Awe Of Lydia Ko: Lack Of Distance

GolfChannel.com's Randall Mell, in previewing Thursday's first round U.S. Women's Open pairing of Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson and Lydia Ko reminds us just how incredible Ko's rise to No. 1 is given the distance disadvantage she faces against two of her top peers.

He writes:

Thompson leads the LPGA in driving distance at 284.2 yards per drive. Henderson is 12th, averaging 268.1 yards per drive. While Ko is just 117th in driving distance at 248.4 yards per drive, she leads the tour in money winnings ($1,816,738), scoring (69.08), rounds in the 60s (30) and putts per greens in regulation.

Tuesday
Jul052016

How Dustin Johnson Is Using Trackman To Become Better

If you saw Dustin Johnson on Golf Channel warming up for his WGC Bridgestone final round, you know he was hitting balls with a Trackman on Firestone's range tee.

Doug Ferguson explains how the device has helped Johnson break out of an early season slump and improve the biggest (statistic) weakness in his game.

Johnson wanted it only for his wedges.

"All I look at it is carry numbers, just so I have more of a feel when I'm on the course and playing," Johnson said. "I felt like that was one area I needed to improve on. I felt like I was good with it, but I was too streaky. One day I'd be perfect, the next day ... not that I hit them bad, I just didn't hit them good enough."

Now it's perhaps the most underrated part of his game.

Three years ago, Johnson was tied for 113th on the PGA Tour in approach shots from 50 to 125 yards.

Now he is No. 1 on tour.

Regarding DJ's latest win, the SI/golf.com roundtable kicked the WGC Bridgestone around and noted this:

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It’s the grittiness. We’ve all known for a long time DJ had the talent to overwhelm the golf world. Suddenly he is playing with a different hunger, and focus. If he keeps imposing his will like this, look out!

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine (@CameronMorfit): I remember once interviewing DJ and he made mention of his long limbs, but not in the context of that being an advantage. He was saying that because of his physique, when things got out of synch, they really got out of synch. Well, now he’s really, really in synch, and to do it on two vastly different tracks, one choked with trees and one with none, is impressive.

Heading to The Open, the Daily Mail's Derek Lawrenson looks at Dustin's "late bloomer" evolution given his age and the way players are evolving at a young age, and reminds us of this:

You have to go all the way back to 1950 and seven Opens at Troon to find the last non-American champion and Johnson will now be favoured by plenty to continue that winning streak.

How has the game’s best athlete gone from something of an underachiever to serial winner at the age of 32?

Tuesday
Jul052016

Finally An Olympic WD We Can All Agree Is Regrettable, Understandable And Reason To Hate Wraparound Golf!

Zika virus talk is terribly unsexy, depressing and hard to refute when wheeled out by players who understandably do not want to mention Rio's security concerns or their lack of interest in participating in the world's greatest athletic competition.

But I know we all can unite around any opportunity to be reminded of the sheer silliness that is wraparound golf!

You may recall that PGA Tour Tim Finchem, whose bonus revolves around purse growth/playing opportunities, worked very hard to make four fall PGA Tour events more important even though they earn some positively eye-openingly low ratings in either form of scheduling (as Fall Finish or new season events).

(Take this year's midweek NCAA golf ratings and divide by two). The domino effect from the wraparound vision meant golf tried to wheel out playoffs right when America's attention shifted to college and pro football, and worse, started the upcoming year three months earlier, giving us clunky stuff like 2016-17, etc...

A wraparound schedule also meant that once every four years, players looking to keep their card would have to decide between the Olympics and securing their livelihood. Camilo Villegas is in that camp, and so is Zimbabwe's hope for Olympic golf.

Rex Hoggard reports on Brendon de Jonge announcing his Rio WD. He rightfully has to worry about his career at 160 on the FedExCup points list and because of the wraparound schedule, had to choose career.

“I am truly disappointed, but my current position on the FedEx Cup points list does not allow me the luxury to skip the John Deere Classic or the Travelers Championship,” de Jonge said. “I must finish in the top 125 to gain entry into our FedEx Cup Playoffs. This has to be a priority for me and my family.”

Of course, wraparound enthusiasts (amazingly there are a few left in spite of the numbers and apathy expressed), would say that much of this Olympic apathy or WD's due to needing FedExCup points could have been avoided had the PGA Tour done what the LPGA Tour did, and take a break around the Olympic golf that the tour has stressed is vital to growing the game.

But that would have meant not growing executive pocketbooks. And therefore, you know why players are not showing much sympathy for those who, admirably, worked hard to get golf in the Olympics. They just didn't work hard enough to make it easier for players to ignore the annoyances for the shot at representing their country after a 104 year absence.

Tuesday
Jul052016

What Happened To Wie & U.S. Women's Open Storylines

I'm heading off to the home of golf and while I would love to say I've read all of the U.S. Women's Open preview stories, I have not. But as I note in this week's Forward Press, the course should provide an entertaining setting and due to unforeseen circumstances, will get some of its best visibility ever thanks to no competing PGA Tour or European Tour event and a west coast, prime time finish.

But Ron Sirak's GolfDigest.com piece on Michelle Wie, winner at Pinehurst just two years ago is worth checking out.

But she is now winless in 50 LPGA starts since Pinehurst with 14 missed cuts and five WDs. One explanation for Wie’s inconsistency can be found in her health, where she’s had extremely bad luck. She’s had problems with her wrist, her back, her hips and her ankles. She also has multiple food allergies, which has complicated matters.

“It’s been a struggle this year,” Wie said. “But I still have half a year left and I’m just trying to get some confidence. I feel pretty good at the moment. I’m happy to come in here pain free.”

Wie remains a huge fan-favorite and is probably the woman who has moved the needle the most for women’s golf since Nancy Lopez almost 40 years ago. A winning Wie is good for golf.

Follow Ron for updates from the women's U.S. Open.

Here are a few highlights from the USGA media department's excellent table setter:

July 7-10, 2016
CordeValle, San Martin, Calif. (cordevalle.com)
 
usga.org/womensopen
 
www.twitter.com/USGA, #USWomensOpen; www.facebook.com/USGA; www.instagram.com/USGA

ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP

This is the 71st U.S. Women’s Open Championship.

The first U.S. Women’s Open, played at Spokane (Wash.) Country Club in 1946, was the only one conducted at match play. The Women’s Professional Golfers Association (WPGA) conducted the inaugural championship, won by Patty Berg. The WPGA conducted the Women’s Open until 1949, when the newly formed Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) took over operation of the championship. The LPGA ran the Women’s Open for four years but in 1953 asked the United States Golf Association to conduct the championship, which it has done ever since.

The youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Open is Inbee Park, who won the 2008 championship at the age of 19 years, 11 months and 18 days. Babe Zaharias, who won the 1954 Women’s Open at age 43 years and 6 months, is the oldest winner.

In 1967, Catherine Lacoste, daughter of French tennis player Rene Lacoste and 1927 British Ladies Amateur champion Simone Thion de la Chaume, became the only amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Six other amateurs, most recently Brittany Lang and Morgan Pressel in 2005, have had runner-up or co-runner-up finishes.

WHO’S HERE

Among the 156 golfers in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, there are:

U.S. Women’s Open champions (9)
Na Yeon Choi (2012), In Gee Chun (2015), Paula Creamer (2010), Eun-Hee Ji (2009), Cristie Kerr (2007), Se Ri Pak (1998), So Yeon Ryu (2011), Karrie Webb (2000, 2001), Michelle Wie (2014)

U.S. Women’s Open runners-up (10)
Na Yeon Choi (2010), Cristie Kerr (2000), I.K. Kim (2013), Candie Kung (2009), Brittany Lang (2005), Stacy Lewis (2014), Se Ri Pak (2001), Suzann Pettersen (2010), Morgan Pressel (2005), Angela Stanford (2003), Amy Yang (2012, 2015)

U.S. Women’s Amateur champions (7)
Danielle Kang (2010, 2011), Lydia Ko (2012), Hannah O’Sullivan (2015), Jane Park (2004), Morgan Pressel (2005), Jennifer Song (2009), Mariajo Uribe (2007)

U.S. Women’s Amateur runners-up (7)
Sierra Brooks (2015), Jaye Marie Green (2012), Brooke Henderson (2014), Moriya Jutanugarn (2011), Jessica Korda (2010), Azahara Munoz (2008), Jane Park (2003)

U.S. Girls’ Junior champions (7)
Amy Anderson (2009), Julieta Granada (2004), Ariya Jutanugarn (2011), I.K. Kim (2005), Minjee Lee (2012), Jenny Shin (2006), Lexi Thompson (2008)

And...


NCAA Division I champions (3)
Austin Ernst (2011, Louisiana State University), Stacy Lewis (2007, University of Arkansas), Azahara Munoz (2008, Arizona State University)

PLAYERS WITH MOST WOMEN’S OPEN APPEARANCES (2016 included)
Cristie Kerr (21), Karrie Webb (21), Catriona Matthew (20), Se Ri Pak (19), Angela Stanford (17), Candie Kung (15), Paula Creamer (14), Christina Kim (14), Maria McBride (14), Suzann Pettersen (14), Morgan Pressel (14), Brittany Lincicome (13), Michelle Wie (13), Karine Icher (12), Brittany Lang (12), Jane Park (12), I.K. Kim (11), Yani Tseng (11)

ACTIVE CONSECUTIVE U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN APPEARANCES (2016 included)
Karrie Webb (21, 1996-2016), Cristie Kerr (19, 1998-2016), Angela Stanford (17, 2000-16), Paula Creamer (14, 2003-16), Candie Kung (14, 2003-16), Suzann Pettersen (14, 2003-16), Brittany Lincicome (13, 2004-16), Morgan Pressel (12, 2005-16), Brittany Lang (12, 2005-16), I.K. Kim (11, 2006-16)

FIRST-TIME U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN COMPETITORS (44)
Sandra Angulo Minarro, Sierra Brooks, Hannah Burke, Liv Cheng, Chih-Min Chen, Ssu-Chia Cheng, Pei-Yun Chien, Yoon Ji Cho, Hye-Jin Choi, Allisen Corpuz, Olivia Cowan, Valentine Derrey, Julia Engstrom, Anna Hack, Erina Hara, Spencer Heller, Kotone Hori, Yu Sang Hou, Caroline Inglis, Taylor Kim, Naomi Ko, Jennifer Kupcho, Nicole Broch Larsen, Camilla Lennarth, Mika Liu, Yan Liu, Leona Maguire, Sung Hyun Park, Kasey Petty, Sophia Popov, Pamela Pretswell, Robynn Ree, Haeran Ryu, Madelene Sagstrom, Karah Sanford, Emi Sato, Chika Sawada, Jade Schaeffer, Erica Shepherd, Lauren Stephenson, Albane Valenzuela, Jing Yan, Julie Yang, Yunjie Zhang

COUNTRIES REPRESENTED IN THE FIELD (24)
Australia, Brazil, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United States of America

SPECIAL EXEMPTION FOR PAK
Se Ri Pak, of the Republic of Korea, received a special exemption into the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. In March, Pak, 38, announced her intention to retire following the 2016 professional season. She plans to return to Korea and serve as an ambassador for the game of golf.

Pak’s 1998 U.S. Women’s Open victory at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., revolutionized women’s golf and sparked a cultural phenomenon. When Pak won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, she was the only Korean player on the LPGA Tour. Since then, countrywomen Birdie Kim (2005), Inbee Park (2008, 2013), Eun-Hee Ji (2009), So Yeon Ryu (2011), Na Yeon Choi (2012) and In Gee Chun (2015) have joined Pak as U.S. Women’s Open champions and more than two dozen players from Korea compete regularly on the LPGA Tour.

CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD
The USGA accepted 1,855 entries for the 71st U.S. Women’s Open. This marks the second consecutive year the U.S. Women’s Open has received more than 1,800 entries. The 2015 championship at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club holds the entry record with 1,873.

The 156-player field includes 93 fully exempt golfers and nine past Women’s Open champions. Sectional qualifying, conducted over 36 holes, was held at 25 sites between May 9 and June 3, four international (China, England, Japan, Korea) and 21 in the United States.

Tuesday
Jul052016

Video: Skratch Goes Straight To Compton

Stick with it, because it's a good reminder that golf can be universal in many forms, with a diverse cast of followers. Especially in Compton!

Erik Anders Lang takes us on a tour of Compton's par 3 course.

Tuesday
Jul052016

Forward Press: U.S. Women's Open & Scottish Open Preview

With the unfortunate but completely understandable cancellation of the Greenbrier Classic, the U.S. Women's Open and Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will more than satisfy your viewing thirsts.

I have quick previews and the extensive TV windows for both here at the Forward Press, plus some nice refreshers on two courses--Cordevalle and Castle Stuart--that have been in the spotlight over the last five or so years.

For some bonus coverage, check out the Castle Stuart and U.S.G.A. twitter accounts.

They are doing something kind of fun in this week's Aberdeen Asset Management Pro-Am. John Strege explains.

I will be at the Scottish for a few of the later week days, while stopping in to check on a few golf courses to make sure they are ok!