R&A Turning Fairway Into OB Zone Highlights Distance Issues

Here's the notice to competitors:

I opine for Golfweek.com on the many issues surrounding the bizarre idea of turning the 10th hole fairway grass into out-of-bounds. Yes the safety issue was legitimate. But the concept that anyone would think of playing down another fairway to avoid their own speaks to how narrow the course is.

This also summarizes a number of other issues including the overall lack of appetite to hit driver this week, as best summarized by Phil Mickelson's plans.

Birkdale: Phil Going Driverless, For Now

From what I've seen of the course, I'm not surprised by this move reported on by GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard.

Mickelson arrived early on Tuesday to tinker with a modified 3-iron, a Callaway Epic model, that has been bent to 16 degrees, which is closer to a 2-iron loft.

He also had a 3-iron in the bag with standard loft as well as his normal 3-wood during his practice round with Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

Things may change for many players should the winds get going and tomorrow's forecasted rain slow the course down, but even then it's just hard to imagine with the rough and lack of width that most of today's players need their driver at Royal Birkdale.

He spoke to Golf Channel:

Some Theories On Seven Straight First Time Major Winners And Why We May Get Another This Week

In the July issue of Golfweek I took a crack at why we have had seven straight first-time major winners and suggest that because of money, technology and increased risk of injury, we need to get used to more players not dominating.

As we prepare for the 146th Open at Birkdale after a Wimbledon that featured geezers Roger Federer and Venus Williams in the finals, Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail offered thoughts on why golf has gone the opposite direction of tennis, where a small group still dominates.

Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson also won 11 between 1970 and 1984, but a clean sweep of all 15? How on earth can the two pastimes be so far apart? If truth be told, such domination shouldn't happen in a popular individual sport.

During all his years at the top, it's amazing to think Federer has met only two high-calibre players from America in Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi and two from Australia in Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt, and none at all from South Africa. Contrast that to the picture in golf.

Indeed, Tiger Woods's unwitting gift to Federer for his dotage must be the fact he turned so many impressionable sporting teenagers in his own nation and others away from tennis and into golf. Hence the reason why the queue of talented twentysomethings at Birkdale this week stretches down the corridor and out the door while in tennis you could count them on the fingers of one hand.

Jordan Spieth was asked about the matter Tuesday at Birkdale. John Huggan analyzes the answer for GolfDigest.com and wasn't impressed.

Spieth took the field depth angle:

“I think it's a really impressive stat and it speaks to the state of the game. There are a lot of tremendous young players right now. And then you've got guys like Henrik (Stenson) and Dustin (Johnson). They are still young, but they have been around in contention many, many times - and sooner or later it was going to happen for them. And it did. It was just a matter of time for them.”

2017 Open Championship: American Viewing Schedule, Options

For U.S. audiences, The Open viewing options are plentiful: Thursday and Friday you can watch via cable or your Golf Channel and NBC Sports apps (with subscription login).

The weekend will continue that coverage on NBC only, with news and programming surrounding the telecast on Golf Channel.

New this year is even more first day coverage with "Midnight Drive" lead-in coverage that starts at 9 pm Pacific Wednesday (yours truly will be there bright and early so tune in!).There is also exclusive digital coverage of the 1st and 18th holes (details below), Marquee Groups and Featured Holes (12, 13, 14).

Here goes:

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):

Thursday         1:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)

Friday              1:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)      

Saturday          4:30-7 a.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)

Sunday            4-7 a.m. (Live) / Midnight-4 a.m. (Replay)


Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern):

Saturday          7 a.m.-3 p.m. (Live)

Sunday:           7 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live)


NBC Sports Digital Complementary Feeds to the Broadcast

NBC Sports Group will offer several ancillary digital feeds to complement its linear broadcast, including: Marquee Group, Featured Holes (12, 13, 14) and The Open Spotlight, which will include coverage of the 1st and 18th holes, along with look-ins at players on the driving range, press center interviews and highlights. Digital coverage will include Golf Channel hosts Ryan Burr, Cara Robinson and Damon Hack, along with analysts Justin Leonard, Colin Montgomerie, Curt Byrum, Tom Abbott, Billy Ray Brown, Jerry Foltz, John Cook, Trevor Immelman and Billy Kratzert.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports digital platforms also will provide fans will full round replays, made available within the NBC Sports and Golf Channel Apps immediately following live coverage.

DirecTV to Simulcast Live Broadcast, Ancillary Feeds

DirecTV will simulcast the live tournament broadcast on Golf Channel / NBC throughout the tournament via their Mosaic, which also will include the feed from the Marquee Group, Featured Holes and The Open Spotlight. Other offerings on the Mosaic include an expanded leaderboard function, detailed player scorecards, and an ability to create a “favorites” list top the Mosaic leaderboard. The Mosaic Channel and interactive menu will be available to DirecTV subscribers during broadcast hours all four days, Thursday-Sunday.

News Coverage:

Wednesday, July 19  6-10 a.m.      Golf Central Live From The Open
10 a.m.-Noon                               Morning Drive

Noon-2 p.m.                                Golf Central Live From The Open

Thursday, July 20 

Midnight-1:30 a.m.                       Midnight Drive

4-5 p.m.                                      Golf Central Live From The Open

Friday, July 21                      

4-5 p.m.                                      Golf Central Live From The Open

Saturday, July 22                  

3-4 p.m.                                      Golf Central Live From The Open

Sunday, July 23                    

2-4 p.m.                                      Golf Central Live From The Open
7-9 p.m.                                      Champion Golfer of the Year (highlights show)

Handicapping The 2017 Open Championship!

Oddschecker is sensational for up-to-the-minute (literally) prices.Full disclosure: I've placed each-way bets on Rickie Fowler (18-1), Alexander Levy (250-1) and intend to add Wesley Bryan at 300-1.

My ten players to watch at Golfweek.com. Note: this was filed before Rory posted another missed cut at the Scottish and Stenson, the defending champion, all but declared his chances are slim.

The Golfweek staff makes fantasy picks including for those in various formats.

Wednesday's weather is bleak, so look for a softer course Thursday. The Met Office expects pretty steady winds all day Thursday and the same for Friday's play.

On the upcoming ShackHouse, we will be discussing the course and who it favors, plus working through some prop bets for those attempting to handicap a very wide open Open.

Video: New And Incredible #ArnieWould Ad For The Open

Given that he won here in 1961 and in doing so, re-validated The Open at a time when it was not at peak strength. And still so soon after his passing, this is obviously a sentimental week for Arnold Palmer fans who have two nice tributes to enjoy.

The R&A has a tribute to him at the 18th (and to Roberto de Vicenzo), while the club has commemorated his epic shot at the 16th (then the 15).

And this new Mastercard ad set to run during The Open is especially well done.


Summer Of '76 Preview: Q&A With Rich Lerner

Golf Channel Films unveils its next project – Summer of ’76 – Tuesday, July 18 at 9 p.m. ET and, if you've seen the promos, there is no shortage of 70s fun and funk. But that's a mere teaser for what is the most unusual and spunky production Golf Channel has put on the air.
While the film centers around the Johnny-Seve duel at the 1976 Open, it's also a film about 70s. Narrated by actor Tim Matheson and co-produced by Israel DeHerrera, Golf Channel host Rich Lerner and James Ponti, it is written by Lerner who answered a few questions in advance of Open week and the film's Tuesday debut.

GS: You’re credited as a writer and co-producer with Israel DeHerrera on this, so tell us how this project came about and what inspired you to add more work to an already full slate as Golf Channel’s lead announcer?

RL: As part of our relationship with the R&A, we’re producing one documentary film each year.  With The Open returning to Royal Birkdale, we began to look closely at 1976 because of the two principal characters, Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros, both charismatic and even transcendent figures. But what really excited me was the chance to explore the 1970s, with all those legendary tough guys with homemade swings, the cool style, wood and steel, and so the piece is as much about that period as it is the Open of 1976 and I think people are going to really enjoy it.

In terms of the additional work, it’s always a labor of love.  Plus, I need projects to pass the time with all my travel!  And Izzy DeHerrera, who’s dogged and brilliant, did a lot of the heavy lifting along with James Ponti and Max Miller.  Also, I’d done long form specials years ago, like New York Stories, in which I followed five people, involved in some way in golf, who were impacted by the events of 9-11;  Se Ri Pak, A Champion’s Journey; and an hour on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In terms of storytelling, I wanted to get back to that sort of depth.

GS: How was the process of a film like this different than your day-to-day job covering live golf and did you enjoy it?

RL: It’s similar in some ways to doing a long feature story, though in this case you’re constructing six and trying to keep them connected over the course of one hour.  We lay out a storyboard and get busy, knowing we’re going to do an entire segment on what the golf scene was like in the 1970s, another on Europe’s inferiority complex with Americans having dominated, another on Seve and who he was and where he came from, another on Johnny and just how ridiculously good he was at that time.  The interviews were a blast, talking with Johnny and Peter Jacobsen and Roger Maltbie.  That was their time, and they light up and get totally engaged when you take them back 40 years. 
GS: The promos have some great footage and music for fans of the 70s, was part this to highlight the culture once lampooned and now better appreciated from an arts or sports perspective?

RL: Look, we all have the same reaction when we look at our old pictures from the ‘70s.  What was I thinking?  But that’s what it was, big hair and platform shoes and wide collars and Sansabelt slacks.  I mean, even Jack Nicklaus, who came of age in the brush cut 1950s, let his hair down.  People weren’t so buttoned up.  In fact, they were showing chest hair!  We try to capture the vibe in interviews with among others, Peter Frampton and one of my all-time favorites, Walt “Clyde” Frazier.  And yes, it’s easy to poke fun at that decade but what also made it great was that it wasn’t so corporate.  It was looser and boozier, with stiff shots on and off the course.  Think too about how good it was musically with originals like David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, The Ohio Players and golf had plenty as well like Trevino, Floyd, Wadkins, Miller and of course, Seve.  They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, do they?  So yes, I do think people will come away with a renewed appreciation for that time, or at least smiling at the memories.

GS: What in particular are you most pleased with in how the final product came out?

RL: From the start, we approached this with the idea that we were in a Mustang with the top down and an eight track cranking tunes.  Let’s just have some fun.  And I think that’s what I’m most pleased about, that it’s a good time.  Plus, it’s “golfy” in plenty of places.  I love the Seve back story, coming as he did from a farm in Spain.  And when Johnny explains that he actually mimicked several different swings from several other legends, it’s just a fantastic insight into the way high level performers approach their craft.   
GS: The Open returns with a bit of chaos at the top of the sport, with seven straight first time major winners and a few who’ve already seem declines in their games immediately after winning. After putting this film together and exploring that generation, do you think we have the potential to enjoy a similar decade with a group of stars or do you sense the amount of money in the game will make careers shorter?

RL: Both Johnny and Tom Watson are adamant that the 10 best from the ‘70s would be tough to beat in a head-to-head against the 10 best from today.  Why?  Because you had to win back then to really earn.  Guys knew how to close.   Now, we all agree there’s far more depth of talent today. 

But when you’re 23 years old with 7,000 square feet and an ocean view you might be inclined to say, “This is good enough.”  That said, I do think today’s great young stars want it as badly as those from previous generations.  And I also think about Arnold Palmer after he won The Open in 1961 at Royal Birkdale.  He arrived back home in Latrobe to a big celebration.  His father, Deke, said, “Congratulations son, now the back nine needs to be mowed.”  Arnie put down the Claret Jug and hopped on the tractor at the club where he grew up.  There comes a time when a man, no matter how rich and how famous, needs to get back to work.

The trailor:

Getting In The Mood For Birkdale: Johnny & Seve In '76 Video

The 1976 Open Championship was won by Johnny Miller, and as he recounted for Golfweek, it was a memorable weekend battle with Seve Ballesteros.

This short piece on the '76 Open is mostly about Seve but includes some great footage of Johnny and Seve's epic recovery on 18. Their battle is at the heart of next week's "Summer of '76" documentary airing on Golf Channel.

This longer piece by Scott Murray just appeared at The Guardian's site and reminds us what a wild week this was:


Getting In The Mood For Birkdale: 1971, Trevino And Mr. Lu

Birkdale was also site of Lee Trevino versus Mr. Lu, the blue-hat-wearing (and pulling it off) Lu Liang-huan, who lost the 1971 Open by a stroke.

Sportsmail Reporter caught up with Mr. Lu prior to the 2008 Open Championship and he was still haunted by his ball striking a female gallery member, as seen in the recap film below.

Lu Liang-huan, now aged 73, treated Lillian Tipping and her husband to an all expenses paid holiday to his home country after the incident on the final hole of the 1971 championship in which he finished runner-up to Lee Trevino.

'This time I cannot make it, but I'll never forget that day,' he said. 'When I go back next time maybe we can meet up. I would like to see her again.'

Lu is more into course designing than playing these days - including work on what he describes as 'the best 10 in Japan and one in China' - but was happy to report that he can still compete on his day.
In one round last year, he added: 'I shot 66. Seven birdies, one bogey. Now I'd be lucky to shoot 100, but I hope that my body will allow me to continue to play. I need the exercise.'

The Open highlight film:


Getting In The Mood For Birkdale: British Pathé's 1961 Open Film

British Pathé has uploaded all sorts of fun stuff to YouTube, so with the return to Royal Birkdale coming up this should whet your appetite for the place: a short recap of Arnold Palmer's 1961 victory there. This Sky Sports piece is a nice summary of the win with a couple of superb images.

Besides Palmer being relatively subdued compared to other wins (but he does give a great pants hitch), note Kel Nagle's headwear, the attire of the caddies and Dai Rees' final putt for second.

The Claret Jug ceremony in front of the clubhouse isn't bad either. Enjoy... 

And the official Open film:




Getting In The Mood For Birkdale: Thomson Wins '54 Open

To kick off the countdown to Birkdale '17, this Open footage from the past shows us 24-year-old Peter Thomson posing for the Claret Jug, one of five victories.

This Sky Sports piece is a nice wrap-up of Thomson's win.

A few things to note about the course: exposed sand in the dunes, the galleries going where they please (apparently), and how stark the difference between fairway and green cuts.

There's also a brief glimpse of putting master Bobby Locke. Enjoy!

Punters: Pre-Open Championship Karma Watch, Poulter Edition

Nothing against the four players who made it through the Open Qualifying Series at the Greenbrier Classic, and nothing against the series itself, but punters with karma hunches may want to check out this James Corrigan Telegraph story on Ian Poulter making it to Royal Birkdale by playing the Woburn qualifier.

Besides taking the local qualifying angle at a course he knows well--once one of the great features of The Open and now relegated to this last event due to the Open Qualifying Series--Poulter did this in a year he finished second at The Players. And the year The Open returns to the site of a second place finish.

“Obviously going back after what happened will be special. I honestly thought I had that 15-foot putt on the last to maybe win or to get in a play-off and then my Irish friend decided to go bananas on the last five holes.

“But still, it was a great week, my best in a major. After I finished, [his wife] Katie told me she was pregnant with Lily [the third of their four children], so it was happy days. Birkdale is my favourite Open venue.”

Just saying he's worth a look for a nice each way wager at 100-1...

R&A Moves To Dollars, Increases The Open's Purse

Read between the lines all you want, but the standout for me is the increase in purse that keeps The Open in line with the Masters and PGA/Players but behind the recently-increased U.S. Open ($12 million).

For Immediate Release...


5 July 2017, St Andrews, Scotland: The Champion Golfer of the Year will win USD1,845,000 at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.

The R&A announced that the total prize fund will be USD10,250,000.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are operating in an increasingly global marketplace and have made the decision to award the prize fund in US dollars in recognition of the fact that it is the most widely adopted currency for prize money in golf.”

Prize money

Place    USD         Place    USD
1     1,845,000          36     53,500
2     1,067,000          37     51,000
3     684,000          38     49,000
4     532,000          39     47,000
5     428,000          40     45,500
6     371,000          41     43,500
7     318,000          42     41,500
8     268,000          43     39,500
9     235,000          44     37,500
10     213,000          45     35,500
11     193,000          46     33,500
12     172,000          47     32,000
13     161,000          48     30,800
14     151,000          49     29,500
15     141,000          50     28,900
16     129,500          51     28,200
17     123,000          52     27,600
18     117,000          53     27,200
19     112,000          54     26,800
20     107,000          55     26,400
21     102,000          56     26,000
22     97,000          57     25,600
23     92,000          58     25,500
24     87,000          59     25,400
25     84,000          60     25,200
26     80,000          61     25,000
27     77,000          62     24,900
28     74,000          63     24,800
29     71,000          64     24,700
30     68,000          65     24,500
31     65,500          66     24,400
32     62,000          67     24,200
33     60,000          68     24,000
34     58,000          69     23,800
35     56,000          70     23,600
Prize Money shall be allocated only to professional golfers.

If more than 70 professional golfers qualify for the final two rounds, additional prize money will be added. Prize money will decrease by USD 125 per qualifying place above 70 to a minimum of USD 13,500.

Non-qualifiers after two rounds: Leading 10 professional golfers and ties USD 7,200; next 20 professional golfers and ties USD 5,750; remainder of professional golfers and ties USD 4,850.