Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • 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
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer
  • Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf
    by Kevin Robbins
  • Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    Teeing Off: Players, Techniques, Characters, and Reflections from a Lifetime Inside the Game
    by Ken Bowden

I would love it if we played a tournament every year where we had to use half a set. Or play with persimmon and balata on a 6,400-yard course. It would be fun for us to do a couple times a year. Low score would still win. The best player would still win.  TIGER WOODS

 

   

Wednesday
Jul222009

"I'm playing against Tom Watson, he's 59, he won his first major, I think, right around the time when I was born"

Steve Elling on Stewart Cink's conference call comments Wednesday after his Letterman appearance:

Cink would have had to be an idiot not to realize that his caddie was the lone man on the course pulling for him to beat the eight-time major winner and Hall of Famer. Rest assured, Cink is no moron.

"I knew that the people were really pulling for Tom to win, because that was the story that everyone wanted to be written," Cink said Wednesday in his first lengthy interview since winning. "It was, honestly, as a sports fan, it was a tremendous story.

"Maybe the biggest sports story in the last couple of generations and I was the one standing in the way of it. I had to really put that aside, though."

The magnitude of what he faced finally struck him when regulation ended.

"That really never got to be difficult until the playoff," he said. "That's when the bizarre stuff really started to hit me a little bit. Like, what, Tom Watson? You kidding me?

"I'm playing against Tom Watson, he's 59, he won his first major, I think, right around the time when I was born, and he's been winning tournaments ever since. You know, it was very strange."

Wednesday
Jul222009

"Nobody in the world’s going to want to take 70 million less."

With a contract expiring after next year's event, the PGA Tour has to be encouraged by today's comments from Deutsche Bank CEO's Seth Waugh:

“You can think of the golf tournament as a silly little thing in terms of what’s going on in the world,” Waugh said Wednesday, citing studies that put the economic impact of the Deutsche Bank Championship at $40 million to $70 million annually, “but these are the bricks that can build the economy back up. Nobody in the world’s going to want to take 70 million less.”

Tuesday
Jul212009

Sharp Park Images and Thoughts

My Golf World story on Sharp Park looks at the complicated battle over the future of Alister MacKenzie's gem in Pacifica, California. Many points are covered in the story and as you can imagine there is even more to say than I can fit in 2000 words, but I believe the story gets to the essence of this battle to save the place.

To supplement the piece, I thought I'd post a few images to give you a better idea what the property looks like and just how dynamic the MacKenzie vision was for this property.

The opening graphic is courtesy of MacKenziephile Sean Tully, who found this early course rendering in an old newspaper story. While it does not appear to be by MacKenzie's hand, it does appear in a style produced by his firm.  Tom Naccarato took the map and spruced it up, including some credit to designers Egan and Hunter who were a part of the job.

As always, click on the images to enlarge.

Early course rendering showing many of the dynamic design features (Click image to enlarge)

The Angus McSweeney clubhouse was completed by WPA crews (Click image to enlarge)

Wildlife of all types is abundant at Sharp Park (Click to enlarge)

Sharp Park Golf Course viewed from Mori Point (Click image to enlarge)

The approach to No. 2, a MacKenzie green complex screaming for some simple restoration of green size and bunker (Click image to enlarge)

 

View of the 3rd tee and golfers at Sharp Park. Monterey Cypress were planted by SF park legend John McLarren (Click image to enlarge)

View from behind the 13th tee, a beautiful par-5 with what remains of the Laguna to the left. (Click image to enlarge)

The approach to the 14th features classic MacKenzie mounding and a beautiful deception bunker placed well short of the green to reward drives from the left side (where one of the alternate fairway options was once in play). (Click image to enlarge)

Atop the sea wall with the 16th hole left and the Pacific to the right. (Click image to enlarge)

Tuesday
Jul212009

"If a 59-year-old guy looks like the best player in the field at a major championship, there is something wrong with your era."

Jaime Diaz files a provocative perspective on the Tom Watson run at Turnberry and comes away impressed by Watson but discouraged with the soft modern professional. This is no rant about the all-exempt tour (well there is the money angle), but mostly a statement about skill and the influence of today's equipment.

...the last round at Turnberry provided a revealing snapshot of the current era of golfers—and frankly, exposed them as wanting. For all their power and superior physiques and technical proficiency, the evidence keeps suggesting they are as a group (with one giant exception) competitively softer and less-accomplished shotmakers than their predecessors. And unless a few of them can come closer to being more like the giant exception, their place in history, much like the baby boomers, will end in the shadow of the golf equivalent of the Greatest Generation—a group including Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and, of course, Watson—that ruled the game in the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Tuesday
Jul212009

"It's these little moments that make Open week different and memorable."

Alan Shipnuck's SI game story focuses on the communal aspects of this year's Open Championship, and includes yet another reminder that the game probably needs many more pitch-and-putts:

On the grounds of the hotel is a wonderful little pitch-and-putt, and that, too, was a place for the players and their families to unwind. Cink's boys, both tall and smart and a little shy like their parents, played the course a couple of times during tournament week. On Saturday evening Briny Baird and 2004 British Open champ Todd Hamilton enjoyed a spirited match, while nearby Butch Harmon was overseeing a rowdy skins game involving Rory McIlroy and a handful of friends and caddies, each playing multiple balls and employing old-fashioned stymies on the greens, which meant that instead of the balls being marked they were left in place as obstacles, leading to some billiards-style combos and very loud trash talk. It's these little moments that make Open week different and memorable.

Monday
Jul202009

Open Championship Mop Up

A few tidbits from Monday's aftermath of the Stewart Cink-Tom Watson Open at Turnberry.

Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian:

Cink is a decent enough cove (although his invocation of the Almighty in his victory speech jarred with those who believe that God has more pressing matters to deal with the outcome of sporting events) but he acknowledged when asked if he felt like the villain in Hollywood romance who stole the hero's girlfriend, this was the victory no one wanted "Well as long as I get the girl I am OK with that," he said.

Steve Elling at CBSSports.com:

It's not Cink's fault, but millions invested their hearts with Watson. It felt like when Geoff Ogilvy inherited the U.S. Open title three years ago after Harrington, Furyk, Montgomerie and Mickelson all made a mess of the 18th hole. But mind you, Cink had four birdies over the last eight holes. He shot 69 and was the lone player who began Sunday within five strokes of the lead who broke par. So he clearly earned his win.

Thomas Bonk at GolfDigest.com:

ABC had scheduled Watson to work Sunday's fourth round in the network's so-called halfway house, a booth near the lighthouse. But that didn't work out, of course, due to the fact that Watson happened to be leading the tournament at the time. On Saturday, Watson ran into ABC's Mike Tirico. Said Watson: "Am I fired?" Said Tirico: "You fired yourself."

A couple of encouraging remarks from Peter Dawson in this Mike Aitken piece regarding the age limit.

"I think there are many ways to phrase an exemption," reasoned Dawson. "I mean, one could have an extension of the age limit for any past champion who had performed particularly well.

And...

"It's great to see the names of the past competing. But I do think it's important that we see them in a state where they are reasonably competitive.

Sounds like there will be some creative ways they can ensure he's eligible to 65 based perhaps on recent performance. However, creative and the R&A are not things you generally associate with one another.

Bob Harig at ESPN.com notes that Watson moved to 105th in the world rankings from 1,374th, a jump of 1,269 spots and says that "Official World Golf Ranking representatives said it is the biggest one-week jump since the rankings began in 1986."

He also writes:

The PGA of America is considering offering Watson an exemption into the PGA Championship next month at Hazeltine and has until Aug. 3 to finalize its invites. The PGA is the only major keeping Watson from having a career Grand Slam.

A Scottish Herald report (Douglas Lowe?) shares this interesting note:

Astonishingly for someone with his record, Watson still earned more for his second place - £450,000 - than he did in his previous 31 Opens.

His debut win at Carnoustie in 1975 was worth £7500, his "Duel in the Sun" triumph at Turnberry in 1977 earned him £10,000 and for Muirfield 1980, Troon in 1982 and Birkdale in 1983 the sums were £25,000, £32,000 and £40,000.

Watson's total earnings from the championship before this weekend were £368,592. Now they are £818,592.

Derek Lawrenson says he's hoping for a return to Turnberry...someday in the not forseeable future after the hotel is complete and they figure out a way to attract crowds.

This was the only Open I've attended in 26 years that didn't feel like an Open. Indeed, there was so little buzz during the first three rounds it felt like one of those minor European Tour events you see on Sky where the on-course commentator is doubling the audience.

OK, I'm exaggerating, but not by much.

Monday
Jul202009

Dottie's Commish Picks

There's a common theme among Dottie's three picks for LPGA Commish: they all know golf and have had their hand in the business side of the sport too. What a concept.

Monday
Jul202009

“We’ve seen an evolving of the makeup of a golf tournament media center to now be probably five guys who are consistent presences"

Bill King in Sports Business Journal looks at the changing media dynamic in NASCAR and to a lesser extent, NASCAR.

Not only are the beat writers evaporating, but fewer papers allowed their columnists to travel to golf’s majors this year.

“We’ve seen an evolving of the makeup of a golf tournament media center to now be probably five guys who are consistent presences,” said Ty Votaw, executive vice president of communications and international affairs for the PGA Tour and former LPGA commissioner. “For the tournaments that take place in their markets, the local newspapers fully staff those. But they don’t send their writers out to other events.”

In spite of this, Votaw contends that more words are written about golf now than ever, thanks in large part to the bottomless reservoir of Web pages from ESPN and CBS.

The concern there isn’t how much is produced, but who sees it. There’s plenty for the golf fan who seeks out stories, but what about for the general sports fan who skims and scans? Just as Votaw would prefer that more golf appear on the ESPN.com front page, rather than be buried where only the golf fans drill, he worries that the disappearance of local bylines is costing the sport better play in newspapers.

There's a newsflash from the city.

But at least someone is showing concern at the Tour, after Tim Finchem's less than compassionate answer on this topic last December.

Monday
Jul202009

"So golf carries on perpetuating the myth that nobody cheats."

He filed it Saturday but I just got around to reading Tom English's provocative take on the Lyle-Monty spat, calling it "golf's twisted morality at work again."

Lyle's great crime was to talk about something that golf has no stomach for. He mentioned cheating in the game and the establishment turned on him. Team Monty went on the attack and they spun this issue into something it wasn't. They wanted you to believe that this was about Lyle's bitterness at being snubbed for the captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team, but it wasn't, not really. Only the game's cheerleaders saw it in such a convenient way.

What this was about was honesty – or the lack of it. Sandy Lyle told the truth. The locker room accepted that he told the truth. But Sandy Lyle is attacked and painted as a fool because golf cannot handle the truth.

I'm not sure I agree with this, since Lyle's real problem still seems to be that he's upset about not being selected Captain, making him a lousy messenger.

That said, this is an interesting point and worthy of discussion in light of the Kenny Perry and Richie Ramsay incidents:

So golf carries on perpetuating the myth that nobody cheats. On the record, the players say it's pure as the driven snow out there. Off the record, they have their suspicions about certain guys, they have stories they tell, they know the reality but won't talk about it because it's "not good for business". It's a terrible hypocrisy. It's golf's secret shame.

Monday
Jul202009

The Moon Shot

GolfDigest.com posts the moon shot video and a transcript for today's 40th anniversary.

Monday
Jul202009

Good News For The Mickelsons

Still not a great situation by any means, but as good as can be expected according to this Golfweek report.

Monday
Jul202009

"We'll have to see."

There was so much to enjoy in Tom Watson's post round press conference, but I most enjoyed the jabs at Augusta National and the R&A for over-the-top course changes. Granted, these things have been said many times before by Watson and others, but something about the setting and the magical week transformed these from mere jabs.

Q. With it all said and done, would you have rather gone through this experience at this stage in your career or have the memories be about things you did decades ago?

TOM WATSON: You mean having a chance to win it again?

Q. Yeah.

TOM WATSON: Well, hell, yes. Yeah, darn right. Winning it again was -- as I said, I don't like to go to Augusta anymore because I feel like I'm a ceremonial golfer there; I can't play that golf course anymore unless I'm absolutely perfect. But out here I have a chance. And I knew I had a chance starting out. So, yeah, I'm glad this happened.

Q. Do you think you'll also have a chance at St. Andrews, which is where next year you'll be, of course?

TOM WATSON: Well, it depends on the wind. If the wind comes from the west there, I have a hard time with that golf course. Hole No. 4 gets me. I can't hit it far enough to get it over the junk. You have the rough there, and it depends on how deep the rough is. I'm driving into the rough all the time. It's like the 10th hole at Bethpage Black there at the first U.S. Open; when they moved the tee back, nobody could get to the fairway.

But I feel like I can play St. Andrews. I still have some of the shots to be able to play that golf course. We'll just have to see. We'll have to see.

The fact that a west wind makes the carry at No. 4 nearly impossible does speak to the silliness of these newly installed tees, but also to player perceptions of R&A setup inflexibility.

Speaking of that, did anyone else notice the par-3 tees at Turnberry? All of the divots were in the same general area. The 11th tee appeared to not move more than a five yards over the four rounds.

Sunday
Jul192009

2009 Open Championshp Clippings, Final Edition

The inkslingers earned their money today. Not an easy to tournament to summarize so soon after it happened, but they managed anyway. A few ledes:

Bill Elliott for the Irish Times:

HE WAS the plot and the subplot, the whole 7,204 yards of this final round. And then some. But Tom Watson, 47 days short of his 60th birthday, also ended up just one weak putt short of the greatest victory the game has witnessed.

James Corrigan for the Independent:

Stewart Cink broke the heart of Tom Watson – not to mention the entirety of the watching sporting world – here last night when denying the 59-year-old in a play-off for the 138th Open Championship.

Mike Aitken in The Scotsman:

IT PROMISED to be the most extraordinary story written in golf since the Open began up the road from the Ailsa at Prestwick all of 149 years ago. Tom Watson, 59 years young, faced an eight-foot putt on the 72nd hole at Turnberry to win his sixth Open title.

Instead, he left it short and wide and opened the door for Stewart Cink, the unassuming American Ryder Cup player, to win the 138th staging of the oldest major thanks to an unflinching display in a four-hole play-off.

Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian:

History faltered at Turnberry today when Tom Watson, bidding to become oldest man (and the first with a hip replacement) to win one of golf's major championships, was finally vanquished by his countryman Stewart Cink at the 2009 Open Championship.

Doug Ferguson for AP:

Tom Watson stood over an 8-foot par putt Sunday evening on the final hole of a mystical British Open, one stroke away from becoming the oldest major champion in history. For the first time all week, he showed his 59-year-old nerves.

The putt never had a chance.

A little more than an hour later, neither did Watson.

Larry Dorman in the New York Times:

Not the onrush of history, not the seeming preordination of the champion, not the brutal crosswind off the firth or crowds of thousands of Scots who roared almost exclusively for his astounding 59-year-old opponent could stop Stewart Cink from winning the 138th British Open on Sunday.

Nick Pearce in the Telegraph goes with a Shrek reference:

Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a play-off to win the 138th Open at Turnberry and complete his maiden major victory.

Like the giant ogre in a children's scare story Cink stomped all over this Open Championship and crushed our dreams. The big American beat the heroic Watson in a play-off on a day when three different Englishmen had led at various times in the afternoon. Poor Cink, a more than decent American golfer, has just become the biggest villain in Open history.

But my favorite, from Karl MacGinty in the Belfast Telegraph:

It has to be the biggest anti-climax in golfing history — like Neil Armstrong falling down the steps of the lunar module and breaking his leg.

 

Interviews And Stats

Tom Watson

Stewart Cink

The hole-by-hole scoring averages the week, minus the final scoring average because who would want to know that?


Stewart Cink, Champion Golfer Of The Year

Damon Hack at golf.com:

Cink realized quickly that he would not be the crowd favorite in the playoff. Afterward, he said he was familiar with the role.

"I've played plenty of times with Tiger and hear the Tiger roars and Mickelson," said Cink, who closed with a final-round 69. "I'm usually the guy that the crowd [appreciates], but they're not behind me 100 percent of the way.

"I feel like whether Tom was 59 or 29, he was one of the field, and I had to play against everybody in the field, and the course, to come out on top."

Bob Harig opens with how Cink's win will always be linked more with Watson than anything else:

One of golf's truly great guys turned out to be the bad guy.

John Hopkins in The Times:

Even in victory, Cink seemed to be the loser. Even when he cradles the famous old trophy he will know that he won it from under the nose of the one man whom almost everyone here wanted to win.

“That’s all right” he said later. “I knew what to expect. I had played with Lee on Saturday and the crowds cheered for him, quite rightly. I am often the guy the crowds appreciate but are not 100 per cent behind.”

Lynne Truss wrote in Saturday's edition of the Times (thanks to reader Cardinal for catching this):

but I tell you, until Tom Watson started his charge late on Friday afternoon, I had never been less moved by the golf in a major championship.

At one point I was so desperate that, like an old cracked record, I resorted to drawing my colleagues’ attention to the presence of Stewart Cink on the leaderboard. “See?” I said. Well, I got what I deserved.

“You’re not going on about Cink again?” they said, in disbelief. “We know he’s good, but he’s never going to win. Not now. Not ever. Never.”

I'm guessing that colleague has heard a thing or two from her since.


Our Dear Watson

Derek Lawrenson in the Daily Mail:

In the packed grandstands, people who never go to church from one year to the next clasped their hands in fervent prayer. Then he woke up. We woke up.

His first putt travelled eight feet past. In the scoring area, Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher forgot their own disappointment at failing to win to watch a television monitor.

'Get in!' they urged, but the putt never looked close to the line history intended. It dribbled miserably to the right, and the sense of deflation was overwhelming.

James Lawton for the Independent:

It was the privilege of being around Tom Watson when he not only played some of the most brilliant golf of his life but also defined himself.

It was how it is when you know you have touched something that will always shine like gold.

Long before the moment of decision came, with such awful finality, Watson's achievement was beyond any analysis of pro and con, any feeble attempt to measure the demands of one sports discipline against another.

It was simply to create the greatest, most compelling, and ultimately the most poignant story in the history of any sport you care to name.

Alan Pattullo in The Scotsman:

Just who was this man hirpling again down the 18th, roared to the rafters, though with head this time bowed? It was the kid from Kansas City, freeman of Turnberry, Maidens and every damn cluster of houses in Ayrshire. Forget Colin Montgomerie, Sandy Lyle and unseemly, petty spats. Here is Scotland's finest, here is her adopted son. The fans saluted him in the way he deserved, but Watson, ever alert to golf's etiquette, hung back, allowing Cink his moment in the sun. "We love you Tom!" someone blurted. Before long, more had joined in with their declarations of affection. A terrace favourite was then struck up. All were living in a Watson Wonderland.

Thomas Bonk for GolfDigest.com:

In the end, the numbers were simply too highly stacked against him. If Watson wasn't the longest of shots, he was close. The day before the tournament began, the local odds makers listed him at 250-1.

But Watson evidently changed some minds ... his odds went down to 100-1 after Thursday, then 40-1 after Friday and 7-1 after Saturday.

What do bookmakers know anyway?

After all, Watson was ranked 1,274th last Monday. He would have been ranked 45th on Monday if he had won.

Alan Fraser for the Daily Mail:

But the thing about this past week has been the number of young people who have been rooting for Tom Watson. At times, it was like Tom Jones at Glastonbury. The young ones were rocking with Watson, all of them not even born when he was in his pomp.

They did not throw their underwear at him yesterday but they stuck their hands out hoping for a high five as the walked through the funnel on to the first tee to the first of many ovations.

Steve Elling shares this from Tony Jacklin:

"Nobody said it, but in my opinion, had he won, it would have been the greatest single feat in golf history," said Tony Jacklin, who like Watson is a Hall of Famer himself. "The greatest single feat for sure. I know accumulating 18 majors is a different kind of accomplishment, but for a 59-year-old veteran, had he won, there is nothing else.

"Trust me, 46 is a hell of a lot different that 59, and anybody over 50 knows that. I feel it every day. It was staggering the way he stood up right to the end."

Jeff Neuman wonders about the quality of players today.

The only player in contention on Sunday who looked like he knew how to win a major was Watson, right up until his 277th stroke of the tournament on the final green.

Cameron Morfit for golf.com (including confirmation that that was indeed Tom Lehman behind the ropes out on 13 tee watching Watson).

There were competing theories about the significance of a Watson victory. He would become the oldest to win a major by 11 years, which was amazing, but on the other hand it might reflect badly on the sport, or the rest of professional golf, that a man just two months shy of 60 could prevail.

"This will be the worst thing that could happen to golf," a scribe said.

"It'll be the best thing that could happen to golf," replied another.

John Hopkins addresses this point and notes the cerebral quality of golf is what makes it unique, especially when a geezer nearly wins.

And on that point, it pains me, but we do have to note a serious strategic mistake by Watson on 18 to play at the hole, as Alan Shipnuck notes in the SI Confidential:

Here in the Turnberry press room everyone is still buzzing about Watson's shot into 18 in regulation. He did pure it, but it took a hard bounce and trickled over the back. He later admitted he was between an 8-iron and a 9 and he chose the 8, even straight downwind and with all that adrenaline. I was standing next to the green for the last couple of groups and all the balls were taking big bounces. You'd think that after all these years Watson would've known to hit the 9. Better to be a little short with a 30 foot putt than long to a back flag. It was a rookie mistake that ultimately cost him the Open.

Finally, Graham Spiers on Watson's bagman, 58-year old Neil Oxman and the political discussions they have.


The Other Broken-Hearted

Marvin Collins on Lee Westwood's roller coaster ride finish.

His tee shot at 18 found the left fairway bunker but he still produced a remarkable recovery – "a great shot," said Westwood later – to the front right of the green to set up that unlikely long-range birdie attempt which he felt he had to make to keep his hopes alive.

Westwood admitted he thought he had hit a decent shot on 18 and had no idea his second shot would be from sand. "I thought it had gone down the fairway and missed the trap but it must have curled round and gone in," he said. "I hit a great shot out of the trap but didn't finish it off."

And this from the SI Confidential:

Hack: Lee Westwood is Stewart Cink, circa 2001.

Herre: Westwood blew it on 18 by rushing his final putt, thinking he was out of it, just like Cink did at Southern Hills.

Shipnuck: I was in the Winged Foot locker room with Phil and in the Augusta parking lot with Kenny Perry, and I've never seen anyone as gutted as Westwood was Sunday. He wandered around the locker room in a daze, at one point standing in front of a fridge for 15 seconds or so, staring at all the free drinks. Then he walked away without taking one. There were a half dozen players and caddies in there at the same time and it was dead silent and unbelievably awkward. When I left, Westwood was laying on a bench, rubbing his face over and over, trying to take deep breaths.

Kevin Ferrie on the dashed hopes of Oliver Fisher and Westwood:

Yet like Neil Coles and Tommy Horton, who always seemed to be in the running at some stage of Open Championships in the 70s, none but the unloved and unappreciated Faldo has managed to see it through.

While in this the home of golf, there is endless agonising over the lack of Scottish success on the world stage in some ways it seems even more curious that no other Major winner has emerged from among the ranks of so many gifted young millionaires.

Then again perhaps - as some suspected with Tim Henman in tennis - that such a comfortable existence can be had without the need for doing what is needed to bring home the biggest prizes is at least one part of the problem.

And Alan Pattullo on barely 16-year old Masseo Manassero's epic week


Turnberry Wins!

Mike Aitken says Turnberry presents "a model course," which seems a tad much.

Bearing in mind how Turnberry was burdened with a reputation as a bit of a soft touch, the fact only a handful of players were under par going into yesterday's final round and Tiger Woods, the world No1, missed the cut in the oldest major for the first time, said all that was required about the severity of the examination.

Oh joy, it was hard so it must be great!

Miscellany

Michael Hiestand isn't very high on ESPN on ABC via BBC's coverage.

Dick Friedman rates the broadcast team and says Alliss again stole the show in his limited time on air while Martin Kelner reviews Alliss' BBC work and wonders about his obsession with Pavarotti.

And this note from Paul Gallagher about the R&A faux lockers probably won't come as a shock:

All week the BBC has been telling us, “Let’s go over to the clubhouse locker-room where Hazel (Irvine) is with . . .”. But Auntie hasn’t exactly been straight with the viewers.

The BBC’s post-round interview area has the look of an upmarket locker-room, with rich, mahogany- like lockers and the RA logo visible on each of the locker doors.

We’ve since found out the supposed locker-room is a set in a portakabin just beyond the mixed zone behind the 18th grandstand.

Alan Fraser just loved the BBC's coverage and reports all sorts of fun stuff, including a drinking game that developed. His lede ought to hook you:

Joining the list of things you thought you would never hear on a prime-time BBC 1 sports programme, the following from Andrew Cotter.

‘It’s all about Matt Goggin.’

Just the sort of dramatic commentary destined to send an audience scurrying to The History Channel and an in-depth study of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95).

Mark Soltau compiles the quotes of the day while Johnson/Weinman pick out birdies and bogeys, including a thumbs for the R&A saying they may review their age 60 limit for past champions.

Though Ewan Murray talks to Peter Dawson about the rule and it's hard to be enthusiastic that it'll get bumped back to 65.

And this press room temperature gauge from Damon Hack at golf.com:

Damon Hack: I can honestly say that I've never seen a press corps undergo the mood swing it did from the moment Watson's ball was in the air on the 18th hole to when it landed. As writers, we root for the story, and a Watson win would have transcended golf and made for one joyride of a Sunday-night write. Who knows when this opportunity will ever come again.

Doug Ferguson with notes on Padraig, Chris Wood, exemptions and more.

And finally, my favorite from Jenkins' final day of Tweeting:

Sunday
Jul192009

Rough Questions For The R&A

I know that course setup talk has most writers longing for a return to the cricket beat, but the excessive role of Turnberry's rough deserves more scrutiny. And since several scribblers have access to the R&A's Peter Dawson the Monday following, we can only hope they'll probe about the course preparations that he is so much a part of.

On American TV we heard consistently about the "thick undergrowth" of "overseeded rye and bent" grasses. Native grasses on a links are traditionally fescue with other grasses mixed in, but I sensed that the repeated use of "overseeded rye and bent" was a subtle message from Curtis Strange, Tom Weiskopf and Paul Azinger that they found the dense undergrowth situation peculiar. And certainly the R&A's pre-tournament implication was that "nature" created this situation. 

But lost ball rough next to a par-3 green? That is not the product of nature.

Some will argue that the course having been closed for so many months leading up to the championship led to such a situation. No traffic certainly is a legitimate explanation but there was also evidence of irrigation overspray in some of the more penal roughs. If it's a wet spring, why is irrigation necessary?

I'm no agronomist, but there are ways to thin excessive rough if you deem it excessive (they're called sheep). It's also worth asking if a special overseed took place either for aesthetic or resistance to scoring purposes.

Another lesser issue is the lack of width. It's no secret that the R&A drove changes to Turnberry, including over 200 yards of length and 21 new bunkers. The R&A contends that the course was not narrowed since 1994 and the slivers of fairways surrounded by lost ball rough are all merely a product of nature. But as we saw, with firm conditions and a typical 20 m.p.h. wind, things can get a bit goofy.

Dawson, who supervised the changes, defends the fairway widths as merely working around the bunkering. But as you may have noticed, nearly all of the new bunkers tightened the course and were designed to put the player on the defensive. So yes, the bunkers dictate the width, but then that means the R&A is using bunkers to narrow the course. Why?

And is this really the essence of links golf, or still ultimately about reducing the number of times players can hit drivers and reveal just how far they can drive it with today's equipment?

Sunday
Jul192009

Cink Defeats Watson In Open Playoff; Future Of American Golf Looks Strong

Your thoughts?

Sunday
Jul192009

Final Round Musings

In lieu of a live chat, here's where you can air your grievances, grieving and other profound thoughts.

Saturday
Jul182009

2009 Open Championship Clippings, 54-Hole Edition

Just when you thought Friday's wild events would make for a great day of filings, the possibilities Sunday have the scribes working overtime to put the enormity of Tom Watson into perspective. Not an easy thing to do as the entire concept of a 59-year old winning is still unfathomable to most of us, even after Greg Norman's run last year.

Want to know how big the story is? There were almost no Tiger-missed-the-cut redux specials.

Anyway, gentleman, boot your laptops...


Ledes

Ian Chadband in the Telegraph:

Last time, it was the Duel in the Sun; this time, it could be the Duel with the English Sons.

Larry Dorman in the New York Times:

For just a moment on Saturday, this whole dream vision of Tom Watson, 59 years old and leading the 138th British Open, seemed to have caught up to him — just as his young pursuers had.

But as he did the day before, and as he had done so often in days gone by, Watson resolutely refused to go away.

AP's Doug Ferguson writes:

Tom Watson has a plan to win the British Open. It no longer reads like a fairy tale.

James Corrigan in the Independent:

This is getting serious. Tom Watson is on the brink of golf's most stunning victory.


Watson

If you have time, check out Watson's post-3rd round interview. Lots of great exchanges thanks to some surprising questions. This was fun:

Q. How does the wind affect the modern ball versus what you were playing back in '77?

TOM WATSON: Well, the wind doesn't affect it nearly as much. The modern ball goes straighter; it doesn't curve as much. It's a harder ball to play downwind, I think. The old ball was a better ball to play downwind. But into the wind and crosswind, the modern ball is much better. It doesn't curve as much and it bores through the wind better.

Tom English in The Scotsman:

OLD Tom Morris's whiskers will be fairly twitching up there in the golfing gods. He's watching. Don't doubt it. Watching and cheering. You don't believe it? Fair enough.

It's a fanciful tale to be sure. Mystic nonsense. Okay. So come up with another reason for what's been going on at Turnberry this week. Explain the mysteries of Tom Watson taking a one-shot lead into the final round of the Open championship at the age of 59. Tell us about the huge putts he holed, the fortunate bounces, the feeling in the air around him.

And...

We are talking history on an unimaginable scale. Not just Old Tom Morris but Harry Vardon, too. Vardon is the only man who has ever won six Open championships.

Mark Reason in the Telegraph:

They gave Tom Watson a standing ovation as he walked onto the 18th green, but it was strangely different to the one that Greg Norman received at Birkdale last year.

Norman’s Saturday evening was lit by sentimental sunlight, as if the heavens knew that this was the Australian’s moment. Watson walked home beneath a muted sky and the crowd sensed that ol’ Tom’s moment of magic may still be to come.

Gene Wojciechowski for ESPN.com:

Thanks for saving this Open Championship from post-Tiger Woods withdrawal. Thanks for single-handedly rescuing a tournament that had its steering wheel turned toward ZZZZZurnberry and a leaderboard of Who's-That?, What's-His-Face and So-and-So.

We owe you, Tom Watson.

Doug Ferguson on Jack Nicklaus playing some tennis before retiring to his couch to watch Watson, shed a few tears, send his first text message and issue this proclamation:

"Whether or not Tom players well tomorrow, whether or not he wins, it doesn't make a difference," Nicklaus said. "Of course, we would all love to see Tom win, but what he has accomplished already is a phenomenal achievement.

Paul Forsyth in The Scotsman:

Watson's competitive instincts are what have made the last few days possible. Like Nicklaus, he has resolved never to be a ceremonial golfer, which casts doubt on the wisdom of the R&A's decision to grant exemptions only to players aged 60 or under. Next year's Open at St Andrews will be Watson's last, unless he chooses to go through qualifying.

The man is an inspiration. Not only is he an example to the weekend hackers ambling towards retirement, he is a reason to take up golf in the first place, for in no other sport is it possible to play, and compete, for so long. He has lifted Seve Ballesteros, who says it has made him want to make a comeback. Nicklaus, too, is watching on television, doubtless rubbing his eyes in disbelief. Never mind Old Tom Morris, old Tom Watson is on the brink of something special.

Jaime Diaz breaks down a possible Watson win more scientifically and says it would rank as the greatest single tournament victory in the history of golf.

John Hopkins in the Times:

Such a performance would surpass the victory in the 1986 Masters by Jack Nicklaus when he was 46. It would exceed Ben Hogan's victory in the 1950 US Open 16 months after he had nearly been killed in a car accident in Texas. Tiger Woods's acquisition of 14 major championships pale in comparison. Even Woods's 15-stroke victory in the 2000 US Open, an achievement Watson calls the most impressive thing he has ever known in golf, would be a lesser achievement than a man who is two months short of his 60th birthday winning one of the game's four annual major championships.

Garry Smits also puts a Watson win above the Nicklaus comeback at the 1986 Masters. Maybe Watson has Weiskopf's return to the booth to thank?

Bob Smiley lands a shot of Watson's unique courtesy car.


Fisher, Westwood and Goggin

John Huggan tells us all about Ross Fisher and includes this:

Paired with the 1989 champion at Royal Troon, Mark Calcavecchia, in a near facsimile of the "tortoise and the hare", the oh-so-slow-moving Fisher made the sort of start every player yearns for before the off. A pair of steady pars at the opening holes was followed immediately by a nifty 20-foot putt for birdie at the par-4 third. Suddenly, the world was a beautiful place, appropriate given the spectacular scenery that surrounds the storied Ailsa course.

One did have to wonder, however, just how taken Calcavecchia was with Fisher's tortuous pace. He is, after all, the man who described being paired with Sir Nick as "like playing alone, only slower".

Speaking of Fisher's pace, Mark Reason tags along with John Paramor and explains in must read fashion the methodology on Open slow play timing. It seems Fisher has been close to a penalty several times.

When a golfer is put on the clock he has 40 seconds to play unless he is the first in the group to hit. On Friday morning Fisher received his bad time for taking 67 seconds. He then took 44 seconds over seven subsequent shots.

A cruel referee could have penalised Fisher on each of those occasions, but Paramor is more like a benign policeman. He gives the player 10 per cent leeway, like a traffic cop only pulling in a driver for doing 78mph on the motorway. This week Paramor invited the Telegraph to see how he goes about his business.

And this was beautiful:

Another message comes through on Paramor’s earpiece. Even the news of Tiger missing the cut couldn’t be more exciting. It’s time to put Monty’s group on the clock. Colin Montgomerie, one of the fastest players on tour, KJ Choi, not one of the fastest players on tour, and Zach Johnson are behind schedule.

Paramor steers his buggy under the ropes and waits for the players. He tells each man in turn that they are on the clock. Choi gives him an old-fashioned look. There is history here. Paramor gave the Korean a bad time in his national Open. Monty looks like a firecracker has exploded behind his eyes.

He quickens his pace and heads straight for a 'ball spotter’ working for the BBC. The man has twice got in the group’s way and held up play. Monty has words and the man in the stripy jumper flees the course.

Richard Bath on Westwood's one greedy play and how it cost him a tie of the lead.

Within sight of the 18th green, it was a policy that looked certain to see him end the day with one of the handful of under-par rounds, and within a shot of overnight leader Tom Watson's mark of four-under. But then Westwood got greedy. He eschewed caddy Billy Foster's sage advice to hit right to compensate for the wind, ignored his own plan to go for the meat of the green, and went for the pin. Had he gone for the heart of the green, his shot would have been pin-high. Instead, it flumped into the bank of impenetrable grass just short of the green and plugged. His first attempt to dislodge the ball barely moved it, and although his second was a sublimely deft lob that put him close enough to finish with a single putt, he had still dropped back to two-under, a shot behind Matthew Goggins and compatriot Ross Fisher, and two behind Watson.

Paul Kelso consider England's chances.

Of the two, Westwood is most obviously ready to step up to the highest level. A European Tour fixture for 15 years, he has recovered the consistency that saw him win the Order of Merit a year after Lawrie’s Open win, and is increasingly putting himself in contention for majors.

At last year’s US Open, he was a shot away from joining Woods and Rocco Mediate in a play-off, and having seen off Woods in the opening two rounds here this week, he had no excuse for a shortage of self-belief.

Steve Elling on Westwood's chances, includes this:

Playing alongside Woods and Japanese teen Ryo Ishikawa, Westwood birdied the first three holes of the first round and has had few major issues since, at least compared with most players. Westwood cracked that the media circus left town Saturday, sort of like Woods and Ishikawa, who both missed the cut.
"I couldn't believe it on the first tee today; there were about five photographers there," he said. "I wondered where they had all gone. I thought they were there for me [the first two days], but obviously not."

Derek Clements on Matt Goggin and his pairing with Watson Sunday.

One of the highlights of his professional career was when he played with Tom Watson in the third round of The Open at Royal St George’s in 2003. “I just learnt so much from him. I mean, here was a guy who was getting on in years, but he just hit the ball beautifully and managed his game and the course superbly. To be honest, it was scary how good he was. Six years later, here he is at the top of the leaderboard again. It’s just incredible,” he said.

Reason in the Telegraph:

Fisher, the bookies’ favourite, does not talk about winning a major, he talks about winning majors. That is good to hear, but he will have to hole the putts today. Fisher has the long game, but does he have the touch and the unblinking belief to hole the clutch putts.


Will It Come Down To 17?

Oliver Brown in The Telegraph:

On Friday, the one day when the 17th played downwind, the field helped themselves to birdies with uncommon voracity. Among the top-20 players profiting from yesterday’s more placid conditions, only one, Justin Rose, failed to pick up a shot.

“The one hole that is disappointing is 17,” he said. “They moved the tee so far back that it’s a very boring hole. It plays so long that you can’t reach the green in two.

And while you're reading about the course, Jim McCabe zeroes in on the par-5 7th and Jim Furyk's play there.

Miscellany

John Huggan addresses the annual absurdity of all the empty seats on No. 18, the interview room, Dan Jenkins, the ridiculous 9th fairway and the wonderful 16th.

Justin Rose is at +2 over and envisions a scenario where he could make a comeback.

Mark Soltau with the day's best quotes, and Weinman/Johnson file birdies and bogeys including some fun on-site observations.

Ewan Murray on Seve's hoped-for return in 2010 at St. Andrews.

And finally, the Jenkins Tweet of the day:


Saturday
Jul182009

Thank God For Tom Watson!

Did I mention that already today?

Nothing against Ross Fisher or Matt Goggin (a sharp and insightful guy), but Watson is salvaging an otherwise bizarre tournament on a strange setup.

Is he going to hang on tomorrow? He leads by 1, two months shy of turning 60.

Saturday
Jul182009

Is This "Proper" Golf?

Steve Marino makes triple bogey after nearly losing his ball in the primped-up rough just right of Turnberry's 15th green. Is this what the R&A and Turnberry thinks represents pure golf? Links golf? Proper golf?

It's rough clearly hit with irrigation overspray. Yet it's been a wet spring we've been told. So why are they watering?

Saturday
Jul182009

Mark James Finishes First In The Blame-Hank Sweepstakes!

We're not even 24 hours removed from Tiger Woods' first missed cut in the Open Championship and we already have a winner in the inevitable Blame Hank Haney Sweepstakes!

Steve Elling reports that it's Mark James, working for the BBC:

"If I was Tiger, I'd be having serious words with my coach,"' James said. "I'd be disappointed if I had a [swing] plane like that after all the buildup."