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Links they may be worthily called, for the golf at Royal Porthcawl is the genuine thing—the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls.   BERNARD DARWIN


    

Sunday
Jul132014

Gullane, Castle Stuart Land Next Two Scottish Opens

It was all smiles Sunday morning at Royal Aberdeen as a successful week finished up with the announcement of Gullane and Castle Stuart as the next two Aberdeen Asset Management Opens, with a West Coast date eyed for 2017.

Martin Dempster reports on the exciting news that figures to keep building this tournament's momentum and also this fun exchange regarding Rory McIlroy's assertion that Gil Hanse and Mark Parsinen's Castle Stuart is "not a true links test."

The two-time major winner is likely to approve of Sunday’s confirmation that a composite course made up from 15 holes of Gullane No 1 and three from Gullane No 2 will host the tournament next year.

But it remains to be seen whether he will change his opinion of Castle Stuart to play there in 2016 ahead of the Open at Royal Troon.

Castle Stuart general manager Stuart McColm said: “The disappointment for me is that Rory has never been. I don’t know how he can say something about a golf course he has never seen.

“Why doesn’t he come up there and play it before making up his mind.”

Thanks to reader Brooks for this unbylined BBC story that notes this about Gullane, for those not aware of what a sensational place this will be for the Scottish Open. Bringing a big event back to East Lothian at a course not named Muirfield is monumental for this event, which might have suffered had it gone to the beautiful but ultra-exclusive Renaissance Club.

Captain of Gullane Robert Dick added: "The club has a history that stretches back to 1882 but golf has been a part of Gullane for well over 350 years. Golf is at Gullane's core, the village is surrounded by courses and the club's children's course, runs through its very centre.

"To bring the Scottish Open to this golfing heartland is something our members are proud of, and I believe we will provide a fitting venue for Scotland's top golf tournament."

Of the club's three courses, holes from Gullane No. 1 and Gullane No. 2, which have previously been used as Open Championship qualifying venues, will form a course of over 7,000 yards for next year's Scottish Open.

Here is the full press release.

Below is a before and after aerial depicting the composite routing, which will unfortunately eliminate Gullane No. 1's first tee for infrastructure, but mercifully has the finish near the enchanting town and incorporates some really special holes from the No. 2 course. Click on the images to enlarge:

Sunday
Jul132014

University Of St. Andrews Principal On R&A: "Little did I know."

Karen Crouse profiles 55-year-old University of St. Andrews "principal" Louise Richardson, who is the first such leader of the university not to be asked to join the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Because she's a woman.

I know what you're thinking, they could have quietly done so and been done with the whole membership thing, but it'll be so much more fun to have a vote and possibly have the whole thing backfire!

Anyway, Richardson makes clear that this has become an issue, more than she initially thought, because of her inability to take blustery old rich types to lunch at he R&A to clinch the check-writing deal. Must so fun to be a college president these days.

Crouse writes:

“A supporter of the university got in touch and asked if he could possibly have lunch at the R&A today,” she said. “I had to arrange for somebody I know to take him to lunch at the R&A because, of course, I can’t. And I had to arrange for another member of the staff to take his wife to lunch some place in town because, of course, she can’t get into the R&A, either.”

At the time she took office in 2009, Richardson dismissed any discussion of club membership as a nettlesome distraction to more important issues.

“I, being kind of a professional and a pragmatist, said, ‘Oh, we can work something out; this is silly,’ ” she said. “But little did I know.”

Richardson also gets big points for this from the hickory golf crowd:

For the 55-year-old Richardson, golf has always been a bonding exercise. She took up the sport when she was young to spend time with her father.

The last time she played, she used hickory clubs, but it was not that long ago. In 2012, Richardson hit the first shot during a fund-raiser at Kingarrock, a golf course 10 miles from the St. Andrews Old Course and 100 years behind modern times. People who witnessed her solid shot expressed surprise at how she lifted the ball in the air. They had mistakenly interpreted her silence on the Royal and Ancient Club membership as a lack of interest in the game.

Saturday
Jul122014

Rickie Is Ready, But He Shoulda Played Fraserburgh

I bounced between the Phil Mickelson-Jimmy Walker pairing and the Rickie Fowler-Richard Bland twosome during round three of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and while Mickelson's overall game still seems a notch above the rest (other than still struggling to gauge long putt speed), Walker flashed moments of good form until a late round collapse. And Fowler looks to be very much ready heading into next week at The Open.

John Huggan writes about Fowler's love of links golf and how his wind play bodes well. Growing up in the wind-tunnel that is Murrieta, it figures Rickie can handle the breezes. So much so that I'll be speaking to my friend William Hill about an each-way opportunity with Rickie at an attractive 40-1.

After the round Rickie revealed to a few reporters that he played 36 holes Friday, the first 18 at Royal Aberdeen and later another round at Trump International where he pushed his tour bag on a trolley while playing with is caddie and agent. If he'd asked me, I would have surely recommended the otherworldly Cruden Bay or the lovely links at Fraserburgh, the seventh oldest golf club in the world and which I visited for the first time Saturday.

For those considering a trip to this part of Scotland, I'd highly recommend adding this gem and I explain why in this Loop item. Tell your friend it's like going to a craft beer tasting instead of a Four Seasons bar. The millenials will get it, the list checker-offers won't.

And thanks to Ran Morrissett for urging me to add this course to my studies. He has a much longer review with photos in much better light at GolfClubAtlas.com.

Saturday
Jul122014

McGinley All But Locks In GMac & Poulter For Ryder Cup

Not a lot of grey area in European Captain Paul McGinley's comments to the Daily Mail's Derek Lawrenson about Lee Westwood's chances of getting a captain's pick, especially compared to fellow Cup stalwarts Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.

Lawrenson writes:

"I spoke with Chubby (Chandler, Westwood’s manager) last week and spelled it out. We’ve got three huge events coming up that will determine the final line-up and the truth is Lee needs to do something."

Poulter and McDowell are in a different category. ‘They’ve got the pedigree and they’re in good form,’ argued the Irishman. Poults is one place outside the team and G-Mac’s just won the French Open. So I’m not going to try to kid anybody. If either of them end up needing a pick, they’ve got a very good chance of getting one.’"

Saturday
Jul122014

Tiger Appears At Hoylake, Press Is Ready!

Probably thinking he could get some quiet practice in Saturday at Hoylake without writers on hand to ask questions, Tiger appeared a day earlier than he had in recent years for The Open. Didn't fool some scribes!

The first reps are in, Patrick Reed was his playing partner and Tiger says he's feeling good.

Bob Harig writes:

And he was pleased that you'd be hard-pressed to see any pain or discomfort as he played the course.

"I'm not favoring anything," Woods said. "The little baby steps worked. We were very diligent about what I was doing. Going into it we pushed it pretty hard to get my abs and glutes strong so when I did come back I was able to rebound fast. I can do whatever I want. I'm at that point now. We didn't think we'd get to that point until this tournament or the week after."

Steve DiMeglio on the quiet before the mild storm that was Tiger's appearance.

"Growing," Woods said when asked about his confidence concerning his game. "Congressional was big for me, the fact I could go out there and play and I got better as the days went on. It was a little bit eerie and iffy if that was going to happen or not, especially with how hard I was hitting the ball.

James Corrigan responds to the recent jabs at Woods by Paul Azinger, Curtis Strange and Hank Haney, while also giving us a report on Hoylake for next week.

From Corrigan's story:

If people such as Strange are eager to write off Woods, they should definitely not do likewise with Hoylake. In truth, it was too bouncy in 2006 and this week should give a more genuine examination of its strengths and weaknesses. Whatever their hue, Craig Gilholm, the shrewd greenkeeper, still believes there will be some fire in the fairways and the forecast is for good weather, if not quite the ice cream heatwave of eight years ago.

Nick Faldo elaborated in this Sky report on why he didn't understand Tiger's run-up to Hoylake:

"But it is just amazing he's only played two rounds of golf since March and he's the favourite. That's just incredible.

"But then if he comes with the right game plan we will see, and it's as simple as that.

"However, it's a tough game to play when you are rusty and that's why I came here to Royal Aberdeen as every day you learn and pick something up.

"At present, Tiger's short on everything and it seems strange as he had a chance to play in the Greenbrier Classic which would have been good for him or he could have come here to the Scottish Open as a late entrant.

"So given he was looking for competitive practice, why Tiger just didn't tee it up last week or this I can't say.

Tiger's currently anywhere from 12-1 to 20-1 depending on which venerable wagering institution you prefer. Even at that price, my Tiger budget this year may be going to a missed cut bet, sadly. Just a wee one, in case the price is right.

Friday
Jul112014

Holly Sonders Jumps To Fox Sports!

Nice scoop by Martin Kaufman that Holly Sonders is leaving Golf Channel for Fox Sports in a deal that will have her appearing on the new USGA package and NFL Sundays.

Kaufman writes:

Sonders was in the midst of contract discussions with Golf Channel and “we didn’t come to terms,” according to a spokesman.

“We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” he said, declining further comment.

My sources say Sonders wanted to be reunited with husband Erik Kuselias, who was living in Connecticut and will be leaving his gig at NBC Sports Network.

Friday
Jul112014

State Of The Game Podcast 42: The Other Tom Watson

En route to the UK, I couldn’t be part of Episode 42 of State of the Game but Mike Clayton and Rod Morri thankfully caught up with Tom Watson, caddie to So Yeon Ryu, a couple of hours before the pair hit off at Royal Birkdale in the Ricoh Women's British Open.

Watson is a golf course architecture junkie and goes out of his way to play as many great courses as he can while he’s on the road looping and says he’s even started to get the 2011 US Women’s Open champ interested in the subject. His list so far this year includes Sand Hills, Ballyneal and Bandon Dunes and he also shares some great insights into the recent US Women’s Open at Pinehurst.

Friday
Jul112014

“That’s another Friday out of the way. Thank God."

Some have seconditis, Rory has second rounditis.

Ewan Murray reports on Rory' McIlroy's shocking second round 78 at the Scottish Open where another Friday blow-up took him from the lead to struggling to contend. 

From Murray's report:

McIlroy’s woes began with a bogey on the opening hole after his approach shot missed the green. Having reached the turn in 38, two over, he went on to bogey the 10th and double-bogey the 12th after taking two to get out of a bunker. McIlroy was seven over for the day through 14 holes and suddenly flirting with the cut.

The 25-year-old parred in from there and thus avoided what would have been an ignominious exit but he still cut a dejected on-course figure. “That’s another Friday out of the way. Thank God,” McIlroy said with a laugh.

In Bob Harig's account of the round, he noted this about McIlroy:

Worldwide, McIlroy has played his first rounds in 51 under par this year, but 9 over in the second round.

Rory certainly didn't go the route of Monty, as James Corrigan recounts this classic from 1996 when Carnoustie played tougher in the Scottish Open than Open host Lytham.

Following his first-round 70 in benign conditions, Montgomerie said: “This place is fantastic. It’s the best links course I’ve ever seen — I can’t find a detrimental thing to say about it.”

Following his closing 81, in which the elements howled, Montgomerie said: “That course has completely destroyed my swing for the Open. The conditions were far too severe to play golf. This event deserves better.”

Ricardo Gonzalez and Kristoffer Broberg lead at -6, one clear of Justin Rose, five ahead of Phil Mickelson and six ahead of McIlroy. And don't forget the coverage is split between Golf Channel and NBC this weekend.

Thursday
Jul102014

Azinger: Tiger Made Himself Worse Trying To Get Better

Tiger has bulletin board material for his Hoylake house!

John Strege with Paul Azinger's intriguing comments about Woods to promote ESPN's coverage of The Open Championship next week.

"And Tiger's quest to get better, I think he's actually gotten a little bit worse. Most golfers have made the same mistakes in some weird way about changing their golf swing . . . and I think Tiger has done that to his detriment. Jack never made those mistakes. Jack understood that if he could stay the same, he would still dominate. Tiger didn't need to get better. He just didn't need to get worse. He needed to stay the same and he could still dominate, and in his quest to get better, it's kind of backfired on him."

Speaking of ESPN, during next week's Open they are going to show ONLY Tiger on their internet streaming channel, ESPN3. Strege has that too.

Thursday
Jul102014

Birkdale: American Resurgence Continues, Wie Has Work To Do

Ayako Uehara of Japan shot a four-under-par 68 to take the first round lead at Royal Birkdale, but as Ron Sirak points out, the American contingent got off to a nice start. (With the exception of Michelle Wie, who posted a 75 playing conservatively.)

More interesting is that Sirak reminds us it wasn't long ago that the Americans were not so great, and maybe it was that Solheim Cup loss that turned things around.

 Pretty much everyone traces the resurgence to the stinging defeat by Europe in last year's Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club outside Denver, the first time the U.S. squad lost a home game in that competition.

"I think all of the Americans are very motivated," Wie said. "We kind of got our butt kicked [at last year's] Solheim and I think after that, I think a lot of us just really looked into ourselves and kind of just re-evaluated what was happening. It was a good reality check."

Round one highlights courtesy of Golf Channel.

Thursday
Jul102014

ESPN's OTL Tackles Golf Addicts & Those That Tolerate Them

The Open Championship always helps get ESPN's attention in other programming areas as well (synergy!). You can hardly miss it on the refreshed Sportscenter, which could also be a product of golf folks like Rob King and Mike McQuade having a bigger say in the show. We'll see if that continues when Johnny Manziel is first spotted wearing something orange or brown.

For now, Outside The Lines is taking a look at golf addicts and it sounds like a reach. The last time OTL took on golf it was the PGA Tour's charitable giving and the report misfired.

The preview for Sunday's 9 a.m. ET show.

Thursday
Jul102014

Video: Phil Clips One Off The Royal Aberdeen Asphalt

Alex Myers sets up up the backstory of this Mickelson doozy on the 436-yard 13th during round one Scottish Open play. This is also the hole where Rory McIlroy drove the green.

Thursday
Jul102014

Definitive Video Evidence Surfaces Confirming Lack Of Synergy Between Pro Golfers And Segways

Brandt Snedeker is just now finding his game again after last fall's Segway mishap which was not caught on video.

Jesper Parnevik was courageous enough to Instagram this public service message to all golfers...and maybe all people. Stay off the Segway.

John Strege with the explanation and broken rib report that will keep Parnevik out of action for the immediate future.

Wednesday
Jul092014

"Eyebrows will be raised if the winning score at the Scottish Open is higher than that at the Open Championship"

Because Royal Aberdeen is short by modern standards it has remained relatively tight since the 2012 photos I posted, which isn't necessary, especially when the forecast calls for rain and three different wind directions during Scottish Open play.

Ewan Murray with the player takes on whether such a severe test will defeat the purpose of the Scottish serving as a firm-but-sane warm-up to The Open, as Castle Stuart did the last two years.

Murray writes for The Guardian:

A strong field are looking in part to prepare for a tilt at the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool. They are unlikely to do so the easy way. “There’s two schools of thought,” Justin Rose said. “I think that’s why I thought Castle Stuart was a great course for us; because it was links golf and it was pretty authentic but it wasn’t too demanding and too tough. So you weren’t going to get destroyed the week before an Open Championship. This course is the opposite to that. Hoylake might seem a gentle test compared to maybe what we face here, depending on the weather.”

Bob Harig at ESPN.com on defending champ Phil Mickelson's press conference and plans going in for the event, where he played Trump International earlier in the week. Mickelson is embracing the forecast and even the severity of the setup.

And his attitude appears to be: Bring it on.

"I'm looking forward to it; tomorrow is supposed to be terrible weather," Mickelson said Wednesday at Royal Aberdeen. "I hope it is, because I would love to be able to get out in that stuff and play in that stuff that I never get a chance to back home, and have actually started to play pretty well in over the years. It's fun, and it's a great opportunity."

A whopping eight hours of Golf Channel coverage runs from 5:30-1:30 ET Thursday and Friday, with Golf Channel and NBC splitting the weekend.

Wednesday
Jul092014

Davies On Caddies Lining Up Players: Time To End It

Alasdair Reid on Laura Davies telling the assembled scribes at the Ricoh Women's British Open that it's high time for the governing bodies to end the credibility and time-killing act of caddies confirming player alignment.

Reid writes:

“It shouldn’t be allowed,” said Davies, who acquired her title in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last month. “It’s a basic part of golf, alignment. You’re not allowed to get a grip that’s perfectly set for you, so why should you have someone stand behind you and tell you where to aim?

“I don’t understand why the USGA and the R&A haven’t sussed that one out yet because it just seems basic to me. And it slows the game down.”

As speed of play is a common criticism of the women’s game, Davies’s final point could yet make the sport’s authorities sit up and take note. However, actually framing the legislation would be difficult, as the caddie’s role as an adviser has long been an accepted part of golf.

Oh they can find a way!

Wednesday
Jul092014

Ranking Unveiled To Remind Us Olympic Golf Is Happening

Rex Hoggard first broke it and now he explains in further depth the new ranking to be officially released next week which will essentially keep a week-by-week listing of who will make the 2016 Rio Games where they hope to play golf for the first time since 1904 and hopefully, on the golf course constructed for the games by Gil Hanse. Hopefully.

Hoggard wonders:

The idea is to provide players, media and fans a weekly update of the Olympic field, but the rankings may leave some wondering if golf will be playing for gold in Rio or some watered-down World Golf Championship trophy.

By design, the selection process to earn a spot in Rio casts a wide net. A country can have up to four players qualify for the ’16 Games if they are ranked within the top 15 on July 11, 2016, the deadline for both fields. After that the fields will be filled out with the highest-ranked players with a maximum of two players per country.

While infinitely inclusive, the process promises to create fields that will cause a few double takes.

Naturally, I'm all for the attempt to get more countries involved. I'm not for then turning them loose in 72-hole stroke play. Because of No. 320 where to give No. 1 a run, suddenly you have something compelling. Over four days that's less likely.

The ranking is a splendid idea for building interest and debate, however, and while Hoggard is right that it may undercut the credibility of golf in the Games, I suspect the debate will actually spike interest that has been lacking because it feels like the WGC South Of The Equator Bridgestone.

Wednesday
Jul092014

Butch's Stable Signs Off On Snedeker Addition To The Barn

I'm not sure where this came from, but it's always fun to read of players leaving longtime teachers and going to another teacher only after the approval of the other "stablemates." Why any instructor should have to get the approval of his pupils to work with another player is beyond me. Maybe a limited supply of barn carrots? Either way...

Rex Hoggard on Brandt Snedeker entering stall seven in the Butch Harmon portfolio of brands:

“You know me I don’t make overhauls, but he had gotten into some bad habits and I just showed him the way we could fix it,” Harmon said. “The big work as far as the changes is there. We did some work today on his ball flight going into the British and he took to it very easily.”

Harmon said Snedeker called him about 10 days ago to ask if the two could work together permanently and after running it by the other members of his stable Harmon said it was an easy decision.

Wednesday
Jul092014

Youngest Ever: 13-Year-Old Qualifies For U.S. Amateur

The Buffalo News' Keith McShea on Will Thomson of Pittsford, New York becoming the youngest U.S. Amateur qualifier.

He writes:

Thomson shot rounds of 68 and 66 on the par-71 course for a total of 8-under-par 134. Thomson finished four shots ahead of Gavin Hall (69-69-138), a Pittsford-Mendon graduate who will be a sophomore for the University of Texas golf team this fall.

Tuesday
Jul082014

Getting Ready For Three Weeks Of Links Golf

Thursday's kick-off of the Ricoh Women's British Open and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will be followed by The Open and finally, the Senior British Open.

With the Ryder Cup headed to an inland Jack Nicklaus design, this is our first and only chance to soak up links golf. I set up the next three weeks in this Loop post and add some pithy lines from the great Bernard Darwin to whet your appetite. I also added this short post on the wackiest entrance drive I've ever seen, the one-lane road to Royal Aberdeen's next door neighbor, Murcar.

As for Royal Aberdeen's Balgownie course, it's a sensational links with a brutal outgoing nine and a more reasonable incoming nine that is marred slightly by a modified 12th green (Martin Hawtree) and a bland 17th hole. The penultimate hole is not poor, it's just that the club's shorter Silverburn course's sporty 17th sits next to the Balgownie 17th and easily could be confused as the hole you are supposed to go to after the 16th. I've included it at the tail end of this slideshow from 2012 when the course was especially lush from spring rains.


Coverage of the Scottish Open starts Thursday on Golf Channel in the U.S., with 90 minutes each weekend day airing on NBC.

Tuesday
Jul082014

NY Times On "Buyers Market" For Golf Course Purchases

Sarah Max filed an interesting look at the state of golf course ownership, sales and investment, and though the story oddly left out the high-profile Donald Trump's various moves in the sector, it still includes some good information.

Thanks to readers Brian and JB for this.

Before the financial crisis, buyers were paying the equivalent of 11 to 14 times net income, he said. Now, the going rate for a well-run course is in line with other businesses, typically six to eight times net income, he said — assuming there is income.

The change is warranted, Mr. Woolson said, because most courses left on the market have deed restrictions that preclude developing them for other purposes. “Where people got into trouble was thinking golf is a real estate investment,” he said. “Golf courses are a real estate asset only insomuch as they use real estate in association with their business.”

In fact, golf courses typically cost more to build than they are worth. “They’re like new cars,” Mr. Hirsh added. “They’re worth less the minute you drive off the lot.”

Of course, the new car depreciation only happens because the architecture, uh, is lacking permanence.

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