Greens should be an adventure. The game should not end when the ball is safely on the green. Up to 1953, there was one set of rules for golf. It was called "through the green" and you didn't touch the ball until it was to lift it out of the cup, unless perhaps, it was in somebody's way and you moved it to allow them to putt….Today you hit a ball onto the green, mark it, pick it up, put it in your pocket, wipe it, even change it. Then, when it's your turn, you put it back. If there's a pitch mark, you repair it. None of this happens outside the green and it shouldn't happen on the green. PETER THOMSON
Knowing the scribblers don't like to leave the press tent to chase down a story in even the best of conditions, the R&A chased down poor Jean Van De Velde in between cancer tests do a conference call to relive the 99 Open. The USA Today's Christine Brennan has a decent summary of the call.
Doug Ferguson did venture out in Monday's hideous weather (hopefully in more than his usual attire) to take in Tiger's 6 a.m. practice round.
No one bothered practicing putts or chips around the greens because the green was too soft, and some of them had puddles on the edges. Woods was duly impressed when Pampling hit driver off the deck for his second shot (on a par 4), and doubled over in laughter when Pampling hit a 2-iron to the 176-yard 13th hole that didn’t clear a bunker 150 yards in front of them.
But the joke was on Woods at the 14th, a par 5 at 514 yards known for the Spectacle bunkers some 65 yards in front of the greens that players usually can carry easily. But not on this day.
Woods hit driver in the fairway and hit 2-iron short of the Spectacles, just left in a sparse patch of rough. He swung hard and watched his third shot over the bunkers, and stopped in his tracks when he arrived at the green and found his ball a few yards from the green.
“I didn’t get there,” Woods said incredulously. “With a 4-iron!”
Even more stunning was the yardage he had with that 4-iron – 112 yards to the front, 128 yards to the hole.
The link to that James Corrigan piece I tried to post yesterday did finally start working, and it included this nice bit of from the R&A's Peter Dawson, who seems to be working off the talking points memo that says "blame the warm summer for '99, not the 9-yard wide fairways."
"This is the longest and hardest course the Open is played on," said Dawson, before explaining why it played so much longer and harder the last time. "In 1999 we had horrendous rough, but every course down the east coast of Scotland had horrendous rough that year. There was a freak weather pattern that caused it and sometimes people forgot that when pointing the finger. And, contrary to opinion, there was supposed to be interim rough and the balls weren't supposed to go straight from fairway to the thick stuff. It was just that the interim rough all burnt away."
I think that's a new one actually...the interim rough burnt away!
"I think sometimes it's stretching it when over par is the winning score," he said. "If you are missing fairways and laying up, wedging it around, it can get demoralizing. You don't get tested and it cuts off your flair and ability to pull something off. You have no option to do that. For me personally, that's what used to get me down."
Damon Hack tackled a similar subject in the New York Times (thanks to reader Jim for this), and it includes this interesting bit:
More and more, professional golfers are battling lengthened courses and thickened rough, knowing that they may spend hours — and sometimes days — between birdies.
Jesper Parnevik, a five-time PGA Tour winner, said that people would look back on this era and think players were not so good.
“Everybody went from winning majors at 10 and 12 under to winning majors at 5 and 10 over,” he said. “It’s not fair, really. You have golf courses where guys were shooting 20 under 50 years ago and we can’t break par today.”
Greg Owen said, “So many of these golf courses are tricked up every week.”
The Telegraph posts Thursday's tee times.
Finally, Mark Garrod features Jose Maria Olazabal's remembrances of his mentor Seve, who retired Monday. Lawrence Donegan weighs in with an obituary of sorts too.
...errr...I mean, Charette. That's what Dr. Klein is calling the design orgy taking place at Bandon to create the "Old Macdonald" course.
Here's his first report on the festivities.
Scroll down a bit for details of the pga.com online coverage, the alternative to TNT's "extensive linear coverage":
TNT to Present More Than 50 Hours of Combined Televised and Online Coverage of the 136th British Open Championship from Legendary Carnoustie Golf Links
Network’s digital plans to include live coverage of Tiger Woods’ first round on PGA.com
Turner Network Television (TNT) heads overseas this July to present more than 50 hours of combined televised and online coverage of the 136th British Open Championship from Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland . Taking place July 19-22, the historic major tournament will showcase some of the biggest names in professional golf, including back-to-back defending champion Tiger Woods , 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson, 2007 US Open Champion Angel Cabrera and FedEx Cup contenders Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson .
TNT’s televised coverage begins on Thursday, July 19 at 6:30 a.m. ET/PT with a preview show, followed by exclusive coverage of the first round. The network’s fantastic four days of coverage will also include exciting new technical features enhancing the telecast and stories celebrating the course and tournament, such as:
- Total Vision : Super-slow-motion gives our expert analysts the opportunity to break down every detail of the PGA’s top players’ swings.
- Golf Trak : Cutting edge virtual technology allows viewers to follow the flight of the ball.
- Carnoustie: Then and Now : A look at the challenging golf course and how the conditions have changed from 1999, best remembered for Jean Van de Velde’s infamous mishandling of the 18th hole.
- Only at the Open : Weather reports from Carnoustie’s weather reporter, Patrick Healy ; and fascinating stories and folklore about the remarkable Scottish course.
“We’re extremely proud to continue TNT’s coverage of the British Open Championship as we provide our viewers with innovative features such as Total Vision and Golf Trak while paying tribute to the grandeur of Carnoustie,” said Jeff Behnke , Turner Sports executive producer. “The drama of Tiger Woods’ potential three-peat, combined with the challenging Carnoustie course, will certainly make this year’s British Open a thrilling event.”
2007 British Open Championship on TNT Programming Schedule
DAY/DATE TIME EVENT
Thurs., July 19 6:30 a.m. ET/PT Preview Show
7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET/PT First Round Coverage
Fri., July 20 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET/PT Second Round Coverage
Sat., July 21 7 – 9 a.m. ET / 4 – 6 p.m. PT Third Round Coverage
Sun., July 22 6 – 8 a.m. ET / 3 – 5 a.m. PT Final Round Coverage
This year's announcers includes Ernie Johnson who returns to TNT’s golf coverage this season, Bobby Clampett (analyst), Billy Kratzert (reporter) and Jim Huber (reporter/essayist). ABC’s Terry Gannon (play-by-play), Peter Alliss (analyst), Paul Azinger (analyst) and Judy Rankin (reporter) will contribute to TNT's four days of coverage as well.
TNT will once again partner with ABC to share coverage of the tournament. TNT will televise daylong exclusive coverage of the first and second rounds and early coverage of the third and final rounds during the weekend. ABC will air the duration of the third and final rounds.
TNT holds the top spot in airing more hours of major championship golf than any other television network. In addition to the British Open Championship, TNT’s stable of 2007 golf programming also includes the Senior British Open (July 26-27), RICOH Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-3), 89th PGA Championship (Aug. 9 – 12), President’s Cup (Sept. 27 – 30) and the PGA Grand Slam Golf (Oct. 16 – 17).
TNT earned an Emmy® in the Outstanding Live Sports Special category for its coverage of the 2005 British Open. 2007 marks the fifth consecutive year TNT will televise the tournament, and the first time since 1999 that the event will return to Carnoustie.
Turner Sports New Media PGA.com Coverage
In addition to extensive linear coverage, Turner Sports will also provide innovative digital coverage, as it launches Open Championship Live which utilizes CNN’s patented Pipeline technology to simulcast multiple video streams and bring golf fans inside the ropes and closer to the action online. The online streaming of live and taped action from the legendary major will be available on PGA.com, which is operated by Turner Sports . Open Championship Live will feature three pipes that will stream content from Carnoustie, with Pipe #3 featuring Tiger Woods’ first round and other select groups of golfers from 4 a.m. – 7 a.m. ET on Thurs., July 19 . Pipe #1 will stream live action from holes 16, 17 and 18 from 4 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET on Thurs., July 19 and Fri., July 20. Pipe #2 will offer video content including highlights, flyovers, features, behind the scenes coverage, footage from press conferences, an Open Championship spotlight of past winners and events, as well as PGA Golf Instruction from PGA of America professionals. In addition, midday and end of day reports on the status of the players in the field.
Open Championship Live builds on the success of PGA.com's online four-camera feed of last year's PGA Championship which registered nearly one million video streams and was a key driver to setting a single-day traffic record on the site with over 16 million page views and a significant 18% boost in total page views.“We're excited to complement our television coverage of the British Open on TNT with innovative online coverage to give fans an exciting multi-platform experience to enjoy one of golf's most popular and revered tournaments,” said Lenny Daniels, senior vice president of production and new media, Turner Sports. “ Open Championship Live will help take fans inside the ropes and closer to the action, providing them both a unique showcase of the competitive play of the tournament, as well as up-to-the-minute reports and highlights that they can't find anywhere else."
Why? Why not leave the great courses alone? Why turn them into bumper-car rides with crashes at every turn?
It's done to protect par in the face of the onslaught of the world's best golfers, armed with equipment technology and an evolution of their own abilities.
But in defending par, a dangerous precedent is being set. Daunting course setups with undulating greens rolling at breakneck speeds, ankle-deep rough and narrowing fairways are beginning to change the game at the recreational level.
It's a contradiction for organizations like the United States Golf Association, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and course operators world-wide who are fighting the battle of flat participation numbers. That makes retention a key factor and it's hard to keep golfers when the game is less fun, more expensive and takes more time.
What the severe setup of courses on the major championship rotation -- Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Oakmont, Carnoustie and even Augusta National, where the opening rounds this year resembled a U.S. Open, not the Masters -- have resulted in is a skewed view of what a golf course needs to be.
Too many recreational golfers don't bother to discern between the lethal major championship set-ups and what they play. What they see on television is what they want. It's no different than seeing the pristine emerald at Augusta National on television and transferring those images to the home courses. It's impractical, of course, but it happens every year.
It's a common refrain among course operators that their golfers too often don't play the proper tee, that they choose markers too intense for their ability. By today's standards, golf courses that don't stretch to 7,400 yards are viewed as deficient. It's an unwarranted view but increasingly prevalent in course design.
Well, he played one more regular Champions stop than Greg Norman, so he's got that going for him. Still, Seve Ballesteros made his retirement official at Carnoustie Monday.
"If we can have something in clothing, something in wine, and one or two other areas, such as golf-course design, it could be interesting."
Paul Forsyth talks to Ian Poulter about how important winning the Open Championship would be in...uh, extending his brand's range of services.
He does not need telling that lifting the Claret Jug is more important than wearing it, as he has been reduced to in recent years, but success at Carnoustie would bring priceless exposure to his new clothing company, the first collection of which is to be launched in the days ahead. “I would love to win it,” he says. “For me, there is more to golf than just hitting balls at the minute. I’m seeing it from all angles. We want to try and grow the business, and winning a major would help that. It wouldn’t just be a two-minute fly-by.”Whatever happened to the good old days when winning a major was just fun because it was, you know, a major?
The 31-year-old has invested a sizeable chunk of his not inconsiderable earnings in Ian Poulter Design. While an account with 60 professionals’ shops represents a cautious start, the grand plan is to be more than just a retired golfer when he grows old. “Who knows what the next 20 years will hold? The aim is to grow the other side of Ian Poulter, the business side. If we can have something in clothing, something in wine, and one or two other areas, such as golf-course design, it could be interesting. The business side fascinates me. Successful business-men fascinate me.”You know I love how the golf course design part could be just one little subsegment of the brand extension.
Isn't it touching how today's touring professionals take the plowing and plundering so lightly?
I'll spare you the assorted recaps of Jean Van de Velde's meltdown, and point to some of the fresher perspectives on this week's Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Paul Kimmage talks to Nick Faldo about turning 50, and he shares the conversation with us as it occurred. Or so it seems.
The Times' Graham Spiers looks at the town of Carnoustie.
The Independent had a couple of interesting looking stories, but as is often the case with their stellar web site, the links weren't working. Perhaps this story on the state of Carnoustie's rough will be working by morning. And it also appears there is another of James Corrigan's always entertaining email Q&A's, this time with British Amateur champion Drew Weaver.
Robert Philip of the Telegraph turns on his tape recorder and lets Peter Alliss reminisce.
The U.S. golf web sites appear determined to outdo one another in the limited content division, but some blogs are offering up lively reads that'll get you in the mood for this week.
Chris Lewis reviews the weekend's play and previews this week's play.
Meanwhile The Principal offered this countdown, this look at Carnoustie, and a two part look at the R&A's finer moments, here and here.
Golf World's John Hawkins does a nice job of analyzing Tiger Woods' lack of a come-from-behind win in a major. He doesn't overdo it, yet also offers up some interesting insights on why Tiger's approach works so well, except perhaps in come-from-behind situations.
Besides that, I thought this was an interesting concession from the mainstream press, something we might not have read just a few years ago when everyone seemed to worship super-silly setups:
No question, Woods has gotten much better at staying in contention when he doesn’t have his best stuff, maybe because he has become so used to it. That said, radically tough layouts such as Oakmont and this year’s version of Augusta National are far more likely to produce an uncommon winner. The higher the degree of difficulty, the more random the competition becomes, which levels the playing field and brings all kinds of candidates into the mix.
Harder is better for the world’s best players, but only to a certain extent. Course fairness is a very subjective matter, but at some point, skill yields ground to luck, in which case you get Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel.
Jonathan Byrd moves to 25th in President's Cup standings with his win at the John Deere Classic!
And he surely moved up the FedEx Cup points list too, but who really cares?
Well, the friends and family of Chris Stroud, to be exact. He would not be in if the playoffs started today. Just thought you should know.
In light of last week's PGA Tour press release on Jason Day becoming the youngest-ever winner of a "Tour-sponsored" event, I'm awaiting a release on R.W. Eaks' win at last week's Champions Tour tourney, but failing that, perhaps they'll at least send out a release on Daniel Summerhays becoming the first amateur to win a Nationwide Tour event.
For those of us who have long been willing to pay to hear the BBC Open Championship feed, it seems that there is a paid service offering live UK TV streamed online, with a current 7-day free trial to test things out. I haven't signed up yet because I want to make sure I get next Sunday.
But what better time than now to take in the Open Championship coverage, since any sane being has been dreading two days of Bobby Clampett and hearing those relentless plugs for The Closer (sorry Mike!). Oh, and ABC's coverage will apparently have no Peter Alliss on the weekend. Brilliant move!
The sign up page link is here.
I'll let you know how the sign up goes tomorrow. And if anyone has tried this already, could you let us know how it works?
"Part of the strategy on any links is avoiding the bunkers. But we couldn't see too many of them because of the rough!"
John Huggan reminds us that Carnoustie is a great golf course, we just couldn't see it under all that rough in 1999. He reviews the event in his Sunday column.
First, this memory from Geoff Ogilvy:
"Then I got up there. It was such a disappointment. Breaking 80 was an unbelievable effort. If there is one course on the rota that doesn't need to be touched at all, it is Carnoustie. And they got lucky. It didn't even blow to any great extent. It was the greenness of the rough that was embarrassing. It looked so cultivated and unnatural. It was bizarre."And on John Philp's contribution to the game...
That it was, the strangeness of the whole situation summed up by the sight of Greg Norman, one of the game's most powerful players, missing the 17th fairway by a foot with his tee-shot, then swinging as hard as he could in a vain effort to move the ball from a lie best described as subterranean. The whole thing was getting silly enough to cause the then 20-year-old Sergio Garcia to burst into tears after an opening round of 89. Less than one month later, it should be noted, the young Spaniard was good enough to finish second in the USPGA Championship.
"If you missed the fairway - any fairway - by even a yard, you were hacking out," remembers Australian Peter O'Malley, one of golf's straightest hitters and the man who hit the opening tee-shot on day one. "We were just lucky the weather wasn't too bad. If it had been really windy no one would have broken 300.
"The set up was really weird. Part of the strategy on any links is avoiding the bunkers. But we couldn't see too many of them because of the rough!"
Most, if not all, of the blame for the craziness was heaped on the head of one John Philp, the head greenkeeper. And it must be said he deserved nearly all of the criticism that rained down on his misguided head. Indeed, the much-maligned Philp did not help himself with a series of public comments seemingly designed to further alienate the world's best golfers.
"Golf is about character and how a player stands up to adversity," he sneered. "But, like a lot of things in life, golf has gone soft.
"Playing this type of course requires imagination and it requires handling frustration.
"I know there is a bit of a lottery in the way this course plays. Top players take badly to bad bounces. But the element of luck is critical.
"Take that away and you don't have a real game of golf. They are too pampered now."
Amidst the fast-accelerating level of complaints, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club claimed that all was well, that the jungle-like rough had been neither fertilised nor excessively watered and that, besides, they had been unable to do anything about it all. The problem, they claimed, was caused solely by the weather immediately preceding the championship.
Except it wasn't of course. Almost three months before the championship, your correspondent had played the Carnoustie course in the annual media gathering hosted by the R&A. After my round I was - funnily enough - standing at the bar in the hotel behind the 18th green waiting to be served. As I did so, the then secretary of the R&A, Sir Michael Bonallack, approached and asked my opinion of the course.
This was fun too...
"There is nothing wrong with having long, wispy rough that introduces doubt in a player," confirms Scotland's Andrew Coltart, who finished in a tie for 18th back in '99. "But long, lush grass only requires us to mindlessly reach for the lob wedge and is just plain daft.
"Eight years ago, the rough was just so thick and looked to me like it had been fertilised. There was no chance to get the ball on the green and no chance even to take a chance, if you see what I mean. I played with Tiger Woods on the last day and even he couldn't hit out of that stuff. So it was boring to play and, I'm sure, to watch. It was drive, chop out, wedge to green."
And Barker Davis, writing for the Sunday Telegraph, offers these remembrances...
The first round I was playing with Greg Norman, and he was playing really well, a couple under or something. On 17 he hit it right, not far right, just a couple of feet off the edge of the fairway and you virtually couldn't see it. He ended up making seven or eight and that summed it up. But I like the course, it's up in my top three with Birkdale and Muirfield.
I remember playing the last couple of holes on Friday just praying to get off the golf course. I was just in a lot of mental pain. There was one tee shot on the fourth that I hooked to the right. I ended up slashing about in the rough for ages. But it's still one of my favourite courses, up there with Kingston Heath in Australia and Royal Lytham.
Hank Gola, New York Daily News
It was like watching a slow-motion car wreck. When Jean Van de Velde went into the Barry Burn and rolled up his pants, it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. The Frenchman goes up in flames. I remember walking in the play-off with Davis Love III, who was smoking a cigar at the time, and he said they got what they deserved for the set-up.
On the sixth hole I hit a drive and it bounced 90 degrees right and finished in the rough by two inches. From there I couldn't get the fairway back. So I made a drive, my sand iron five times and a putt - seven, double bogey. It was so deep I didn't know if that ball was going to go one yard or 80. But what I remember most is Jean Van de Velde. I was at the airport with Dean Robertson.
We were sitting in the lounge at Edinburgh watching Jean play the last hole.
It was a great moment of golf, like a great tragedy, but it was not very good to know it was a Frenchman. We couldn't believe it. We were speechless. It was crazy that day.
I think I shot 13 over and missed the cut by one. I remember sitting down with a bunch of players and watching the coverage on the Friday afternoon. It was carnage. It was pathetic really. I watched Norman hit it two yards in the rough. I wasn't laughing at the time. I was shaking my head saying: "This is not right, this is not good TV."
Just in case you forgot how silly a test Carnoustie was, John Huggan reminds us of this:
Perhaps the biggest irony of Garcia's disastrous two days at the '99 Open - he followed the 89 with an 83 - was that he arrived having just shot 62 at Loch Lomond in the Scottish Open. For a 19-year old with the game seemingly at his mercy, the world was a wonderful place.
Yes, he's depriving us of several signature designs, but the game will survive (I hope). From an unbylined Daily Mirror piece where he talks mostly about his divorce and health problems:
"Some people might say: 'You've done well but give it a break and do something else'," he said. "I've got the golf course design company and other bits and bobs away from golf.But golf is who I am. It totally defines me. I still love the competition and I love winning. Don't tell the sponsors but they don't have to pay me because winning means more.
The most significant changes, though, are at No. 3, which becomes a more pronounced dogleg right. One of Carnousties's trademarks, a bunker in the center of the fairway, was replaced by an island smothered by rough. But also pinching in the rough on both sides of the fairway, the R&A greatly restricts options off the tee; the impulse is to play over the island, which brings Jockie's Burn into play through the fairway. Driving the green requires crossing the burn as it curls in front of the putting surface. Although the burn should be dry during the Open, challenging it probably isn't worth the potential penalties considering the green's existing contours.
I recall this being a wonderful hole, particularly as it appeared from the tee (though my memory is awful!).
Has anyone seen this R&A imposed design change?
Reducing options and a grassy mound in the center of the fairway do not exactly sound like the stuff of great design.
You can launch the official Open Championship site's course tour (where the drawing above was taken from) here.
"Mis-hits with his current equipment meant off-line landings of 5-10 yards; with the old clubs, as much as 50 yards off-line."
Steve DiMeglio of the USA Today got Brandt Snedeker to play a retro set of golf clubs with the help of Bridgestone and Taylor Made, presumably to tell us how lucky we are while they're in the world. Snedeker's assessments are particularly interesting in this lengthy piece.
Snedeker arrived at this approach as a test subject for USA TODAY. The 6-1, 190-pound former Vanderbilt All-American enthusiastically agreed to play a round of golf with a set of previous-generation clubs.
Obviously figuring his round would be made more difficult, Snedeker was nonetheless surprised how drastically golf had changed in just a matter of years.
"I don't know how to explain the sound" at impact with the old clubs and ball, he says. "It feels like the ball is getting stuck on the clubface. The old ball feels so soft, like a marshmallow."
His oversized metal woods, perimeter-weighted irons and state-of-the-art shafts and golf balls were pitted against woods actually made of wood; heavy, steel shafts and diminutive irons that were far less forgiving than today's advanced sets and balls last seen 20-25 years ago. Snedeker last hit a wood driver when he was 8 and then only in goofing with his dad's set.
The test came just hours after Snedeker secured his future by cashing in for $182,000 for his 12th-place tie at The Players Championship in May to earn his 2008 card.
Snedeker stepped back in time here by the Atlantic Ocean at the par-72, 6,687-yard Plantation Course where LPGA Hall of Famer Louise Suggs and PGA Tour star Davis Love III honed their games.
On a traditional course that unfolds among oak and cedar trees 300 to 500 years old and presents wide fairways and relatively flat greens, Snedeker experienced the game of golf as played by his predecessors.
Snedeker appreciated as he never did how good it feels to play with the modern ball — featuring titanium compounds, hybrid materials, softer shells and a more pressurized core — and his TaylorMade r7 driver. That club features moveable weights, inverted cone technology to promote higher ball velocity and an exotic shaft that matches the swing weight, flex point and kick point he prefers.And thankfully, it helped him score!
With his technology-driven equipment, much of it devised by those with aerospace and defense industry backgrounds, Snedeker shot 3-over 75 in 15-25 mph winds — five shots better than when he pulled out the older counterparts used by previous generations.
Only a red-hot 1988 putter kept matters so close. With the old flat stick, Snedeker made birdies from 3, 4, 25 and 30 feet and holed many par-saving putts of 4-8 feet. With his up-to-date putter he made three birdies but had two three-putts and just missed on five other putts for birdie.
The rest of the round, however, was marked by a one-club difference in length between the old and new irons.
There was a 25-30 yard difference between drivers, 40-50 yards when he mis-hit the old driver. Mis-hits with his current equipment meant off-line landings of 5-10 yards; with the old clubs, as much as 50 yards off-line.
So glad we're going to get those grooves regulated.
"I truly appreciate growing up in the generation that I did," Snedeker says, "because I don't think I would have grown up to be a pro golfer if I had to have played with the old stuff. It is so much different, so much tougher."
That's why Snedeker was so thankful the 80-year-old seaside layout he played isn't bursting with forced carries over water, 15-foot-deep bunkers and large mounds on the greens. Only seven holes bring water into play; his slightest mis-hits on three involving water resulted in two double bogeys and a bogey.
"On the toughest new courses, where you have to fly the ball 200 yards over water or unplayable areas, I might not break 90, 100 with the old equipment," he says.
"But the great equalizer is putting. That's what makes golf so great. Even if I was using 1960s equipment, if I'm putting great that day, I could still spank the best equipment in the world. If I don't make putts, I get killed."
This was nice to read:
"It makes me really appreciate the guys that came before me," Snedeker says of hitting the old clubs. "The way Bobby Jones played golf, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller. Those guys were phenomenal.
"They had to be unbelievable ball strikers to hit the ball straight and as solid as they did."
Just as shocking was the once top-of-the-line Rextar golf ball, which featured rubber-like balata-tree material that created a soft cover and yielded more spin. Conducting his own experiment, Snedeker hit one of the Rextar balls with his new sand wedge and shredded the cover of the ball.
"If we had (the new) golf ball in my day," Trevino says, "the best of us would have hit it 300 yards and Jack Nicklaus would have hit it 360."
Don't forget those workout programs Lee!
On the first nine holes using the persimmon driver and the older ball, Snedeker could find the fairway just two of nine times. Each of his drives were low-flying projectiles that snapped to the left and went 200-220 yards — into high rough and behind trees.
On the first hole, he had 188 yards to the pin after his drive with the wood ended near a tree. With his contemporary TaylorMade r7 driver, he had 128 yards from the middle of the fairway to the pin.
On the par-4, 445-yard ninth, he had 200 yards to the pin after his drive with the wood ended up in rough; he had 144 yards from the middle of the fairway after using his modern driver.
"I'm seeing parts of this golf course I've never seen before," Snedeker said on the 12th hole. "I'm trying everything to keep the old driver on this planet."
He finally ditched his normal swing with the old driver and tried something that was supposed to produce a slight fade. By the time he reached the tee on the par-4, 409-yard 13th, he was pleading to the golf gods to find a fairway. He figured he needed a slice-swing to make it go straight.
"The biggest difference is the new ball doesn't curve as much anymore," Snedeker says. "It was a more precise game back then. The ball was spinning so much more, and it was so much harder to control vs. today's golf ball. The ball wanted to curve 20, 30, 40 yards.
Damn ball! How dare it not do what you pray for it to do!
"That's why you see guys hit the ball so much farther now, because we can go at it so much harder than they were able to do so back then. Back in the '60s and '70s and '80s, you couldn't go at it full bore because you could literally hit it 30, 40 yards off line.
"Every pro on the Tour, the biggest fear is hitting a low draw or snap hook," Snedeker adds. "Now the equipment is set up today where the ball won't spin enough to hit that draw. I have no fear. I really saw that today."
The irons Snedeker used in this experiment were certainly some old fuddy-duddies.
"The old irons take a much steeper divot. Today's irons are built with so much more bounce, which allows you to sweep the ball off the ground," Snedeker says. "I was taking huge divots today with the old stuff, and when you take steep divots, it affects your speed and affects the way the club works with the ball.
"The players in the past had to have great tempo to control the ball back then. It was a lot of fun to draw the ball 30 yards into a pin or cut the ball 30 yards into a pin. It proves the old guys were so much better course managers. They had to think their way around the golf course so much more because of the way the ball moved.
"You had to know every trouble spot," he says, "because the slightest mis-hit, you were in big trouble."
But at least he knows who signs his checks...
As Snedeker signed his scorecard, he had little trouble recalling every shot. He smiled at some of the recollections.
"Technology certainly makes the game easier for everyone to play, and that's great for golf," he says. "It makes the game easier for the pros to play. But don't think it's easy out there for us. The courses are getting longer and longer, the bunkers deeper, the rough deeper, the greens faster.
"Golf has always been a great game. Today it's still a great game, too, with all the new technology. I can't wait to see what comes next."
With the news that 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa is turning pro, as well as this interesting Mike Sorensen Deseret Morning News piece on Utah's Finau brothers taking the plunge (thanks to reader Warren), I continue to wonder what it is beyond the obvious lure of money that is encouraging kids to make a decision that so rarely ends well.
Is it the success of Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer?
Does technology allow them to play a certain game that 16-year-olds weren't capable of just a few years ago?
Is it mostly that the people around them hoping to cash in?
Or is it the rule change that allows juniors and amateurs to receive free equipment?
I've had several college coaches tell me hair-raising stories about club company reps and how pervasive their role is in amateur golf. Since amateurs have become eligible to receive free equipment, we have seen an unusual number of top juniors skip college to cash in, with few success stories.
Does anyone else see the correlation, or is this simply a matter of golf catching up with other big time sports?