2017: Golf's Most Underrated And Overrated Stories

I enjoyed the nominations by the SI/Golf.com gang in discussing the most underrated and overrated stories from the past year.

I'm not entirely sure verdict is in on Donald Trump's golf impact, as Bamberger notes in his most overrated category, but I certainly agree with his most underrated:

The most underrated story was Spieth's Open win. In a lifetime of watching golf, I never saw anything like it, and the aftermath — how he and Kuchar handled it — was every bit as good.

Sens: I don't know if it was overrated but it got more play than warranted. Four young Tour pros go on a spring break trip together and film themselves yucking it up in the tropics. Sorry, but I couldn't have been more bored. You could take your pick of underrated stories from the women's game, because the women's game rarely gets the attention it deserves. But the ups and downs of Lexi Thompson's season — her run-ins with the rules; her rise up the rankings — have been compelling theater.

Passov: I'll nominate Bernhard Langer's performance on the PGA Tour Champions circuit as the most underrated story of the year. He posted 16 top 10s in 22 events with seven wins and three majors — at age 60!

A more complicated case of overrated/underrated is raised by Joe Passov in suggesting the Erin Hills criticism was overrated. But I think we are talking about different things here (venue vs. scoring).

For overrated, I'll go with the incessant second-guessing and criticism about Erin Hills as a U.S. Open venue. So it played easy. That's what the weather dealt and how the USGA set it up. Honestly, it was a terrific, thought-provoking modern design, whether or not it played precisely like a links. There were no controversies with the greens, except perhaps the tiny, tilted putting surface at the short par-3 9th.

I'd agree the second guessing of the scoring is overrated given that in the long term, few will remember the final number posted by Brooks Koepka. Unless...the narrowing at Shinnecock Hills in 2018 was a response to Erin Hills and backfires.

Royal Birkdale Gets Jordan Spieth's Driving Iron

Because of course there is no club that better recalls Jordan Spieth's epic 2017 Open Championship win, even if he was not satisfied with his shot from Birkdale's range. It was the driving iron that took center stage and no one who watched the scene unfold will ever forget it.

Since it's the club he used to hit the recovery setting up an epic unplayable lie-bogey and eventual win over Matt Kuchar, Spieth admirably donated it to Royal Birkdale. They received the club today, to go with their incredible clubhouse collection of memorabilia from past champions.

(Todd Lewis took us on a rare tour during this year's Open and I can concur after a tour from former club champion Ethan Davies that it's as good a display of historic clubs as any in golf.)

The question remains, does Spieth's drop warrant a plaque? I say yes, even if only the driving range attendants will be the only ones who see it!

Reliving The Best Event Of 2017 Season While We Can: Caddie Wood Talks Birkdale Showdown

One of the more insightful caddies in golf, John Wood was on Matt Kuchar's bag at the 2017 Open Championship, guiding the veteran to an epic performance.

Since we only have a few hours left before the new PGA Tour season ends, Dan Kilbridge's Golfweek piece on Wood may amount to one of the few key season recaps. But it's a good one given Kuchar's play and Jordan Spieth's victory, which, if I had to choose, gets my vote for tournament of the year over Sergio winning the Masters.

This was fun from Wood on the 13th hole delay Kuchar faced as Spieth attempted to take an unplayable lie drop.

Kuchar and Wood waited nearly 20 minutes while Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller, located Spieth’s errant tee shot and tried to figure out how to drop and play on. A big screen left of the fairway gave Wood a vague idea what was going on as they waited. He doesn’t recall any specific conversations during that time. Kuchar probably talked about his kids. Wood might have discussed a book he was reading. A bit of normalcy amid the chaos.

“At a certain point we just started laughing,” Wood said. “That’s all you could do. You’re going, ‘This is a funny situation. I’ve never been in something like this.’ … (Kuchar) didn’t get frustrated by it. He just kept calm, and we were sitting back there telling stories and laughing. That was the best way we could handle it, really.”

Breakfast Viewing Trend? Ricoh British Highest Rated Women's Major Of The Year

For the first time the men's Open Championship edged the U.S. Open in a once unthinkable occrence. And while the 2017 KPMG LPGA was not a morning show, it also beat the U.S. Women's Open ratings.

While the Ricoh Women's British Open had its moments and there may be a Michelle Wie bump, I.K. Kim still held a huge lead heading into the final round. Translation: not the recipe for ratings success.

But are we seeing more evidence yet that sports and golf fans are preferring their golf in morning or prime time hours now that we learn the 2017 Women's British was the season's top rated broadcast?

Remember, all of the events in question are network broadcasts (NBC or Fox), so this is not a cable vs. broadcast network story. And maybe there is no story yet, but the interest in morning golf is a trend worth noting.

For Immediate Release:

HIGHEST-RATED OVERNIGHT TELECAST FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN MORE THAN A YEAR

The RICOH Women’s British Open Final Round coverage on NBC yesterday posted a .86 Overnight (11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET), +15% YOY, making it the highest-rated overnight telecast for women’s golf in more than a year (2016 U.S. Women’s Open; .98) and the highest-rated women’s golf telecast on NBC since 2014 U.S. Women’s Open (1.67). Final Round coverage, which saw I.K. Kim (South Korea) win her first major championship, also became the highest overnight rating at the event in more than 10 years (2006 on ABC; 1.30).

This is the first time in the history of the Women’s British Open that it reigns as the highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year, to date, despite its morning/early afternoon telecast window. 
The comparable final five hours of the RICOH Women’s British Open’s Final Round coverage across Golf Channel and NBC was a .64 (9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET), which makes it the highest overnight rating for a women’s major 5-hour telecast in 2017 (FOX, U.S. Open Final Round, 2-7 p.m. ET; .63). And the comparable final three hours of broadcast television coverage makes the RICOH Women’s British Open the highest rated ( 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. ET; .86), +21% vs. U.S. Women’s Open on FOX (4-7 p.m. ET; .71) and +25% vs. KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (3-6 p.m. ET, .69).

Next up in women’s golf will be Golf Channel and NBC’s coverage of the Solheim Cup, the biennial team match play event featuring the United States vs. Europe, being contested in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, August 18 – Sunday, August 20.

Spieth Finding No Negatives In Grand Slam Quest, Says He's Hit Worse Tee Shots Than Birkdale's 13th

Dave Shedloski with a fun GolfDigest.com account of Jordan Spieth's pre-WGC Bridgestone thoughts. It's rather apparent the possibility of a career Grand Slam is not weighing on him as much as clearing the air on that 13th hole tee shot at Birkdale.

"I'm not really finding any negatives in this. I've been asked this a few times, and I mean this. … It’s just a major. I say that, they are still the four events that we try to peak and think most about at the beginning of every year. But this PGA, if I'm healthy and playing well, I play in 30 of them, I believe I'll have plenty of chances to win them, but it doesn't have to be this year. If it's this year and it happens, that's great, that's another life-long goal that we've then achieved. But I believe that I'll do it someday, so if it happens in two weeks or next week, then fantastic, and if it doesn't, then it's not going to be a big-time bummer whatsoever because I know I have plenty of opportunities.”

As for the pretty awful tee shot at Birkdale that got worse when it hit some poor person in the head and headed east of a dune prompting a 20-minute pause in the action?

Spieth now says the hideousness of the shot has been blown out of proportion. He's hit worse. Ron Green Jr. writing for Global Golf Post.

“I missed my right side of the fairway by 20 yards-ish and it hit the guy in the head and then went over the next mound. So essentially it was 20 yards offline. I hit balls further offline than that on a regular basis, but where it ended up and what it looked like compared to the fairway for viewership was way offline.  

“It really wasn’t that bad. I mean, it wasn’t a good shot. It was a foul ball to the right, but I need to back myself up here in saying that I’m capable of hitting worse shots than that, OK?”

He also discussed watching the final round with caddie Michael Greller. 

"Matt Kuchar comes to grips with coming up short"

As the 146th Open moves to our rear view mirror, I'm still thinking about the incredible play of Matt Kuchar. Having watched him more than any player during the week, I was struck by his consistency, touch and shrewd handling of Royal Birkdale. He deserved to win. And nothing against his signature wins at The Players and Memorial or his Olympic medal in Rio, but this was the tournament of his life.

Tim Rosaforte at Golf World does a nice job summing up where this leaves Kuchar at this point in his career and in the coming years.

Rather than sulk about his near miss, Kuchar did what he always does. He moved on, honoring his commitment to play in this week’s tour stop at Glen Abbey (he is sponsored by RBC). He shot an opening-round 71 on Thursday, though afterward, he said he felt dizzy during the day, even seeking medical help during the round. Unclear what caused the faintness, Kuchar was optimistic it was just temporary. He could have easily withdrawn from the tournament given the circumstances, but instead he followed it with a Friday 68, an impressive round in which he played the last six holes in five under, with an eagle and three closing birdies to make the cut.

There will be more big events in the coming weeks, the PGA Championship on the horizon and the FedEx Cup playoffs again looming. Friends and family have reminded Kuchar there are plenty of positives to take from Birkdale. So it is that he is trying to look at it the way Superman would, the way a bronze medalist would.

“There are such great lessons that come from golf,” he conceded. “You know, this was one of them.”

Follow-up: In Defense Of The Time It Took To Sort Out Jordan Spieth's Open Championship Drop

I wrote about the zaniness at 13 Sunday at Birkdale for Golfweek, and while most are pretty satisfied with the conclusion, many have written in response to the piece still unsatisfied with how things played out.

Namely, many are upset at the time Jordan Spieth's drop took and the impact on Matt Kuchar. Some are still upset that the driving range was not marked as out-of-bounds. And some are unhappy that Spieth could hit such a poor drive and use the rules to his advantage.

A few random rebuttals and reads that hopefully help shed a different light beyond what I wrote above:

- Spieth's tee shot ended up on the side of a huge dune almost 100 yards from the fairway. The ball hit a spectator. The combination of visibility issues and simply maneuvering on a steep, wet hill made it hard for anyone to move quickly or figure out options.

- The range was too far out of play to be seen as a necessary boundary. Sure, the 10th fairway was declared out of bounds on Tuesday of tournament week to prevent 350 yard short cuts, so it certainly could have been declared OB in the same way. But I just don't think anyone could fathom the range being in play.

- As soon as Spieth saw how bad the lie was, he had the clarity to start looking at unplayable lie options, briefly at the base of the dune and then going as far back as he wanted, keeping the ball in line with the hole. He had to move back up the dune to sort out the line with the walking referee. That took a while.

- Spieth should not be blamed for the tour trucks having not left town. Nor is it his fault that the range was left unmarked as a boundary.

- Apparently not seen on the American broadcast was Spieth's drop between the tour trucks, which took a few minutes to sort out and was ultimately resolved by John Paramor, roving official and European Tour rules man. Once he was on the scene things moved along.

- In watching Spieth and Greller work, I actually sensed Jordan might have rushed the shot once he got his line of play and the crowd somewhat settled down. He did not strike it perfectly and from his vantage point, the shot seemed way right. But as Bones noted today on Morning Drive, Greller's yardage call was a great guess. Oh, and rangefinder advocates, a distance measuring device would not have sped things up much or looked very good.

- Jack Nicklaus was impressed with how Spieth used the rules to his advantage.

And while it did take him a long time between the tee shot and the next shot, Jordan figured out what to do. I don’t know if I would have figured out to go over to the driving range for that shot. That was an unbelievable decision and unbelievable 5. That putt was so huge.

- Spieth joked afterwards about having experience with unplayable lie drops and temporary movable obstructions. That may be the case, but as Karen Crouse notes in this comparison between Spieth and McIlroy, he's also just the more analytical player. His nearly-manic energy at times came in handy.

- The entire scene was terribly unfair to Kuchar but not avoidable.

- The distraction of dealing with the situation might have weighed on someone who was already pondering a major meltdown (Coffin/GolfChannel.com). Spieth turned chaos into a positive. Again, lousy for Kuchar but it could have all easily gone another way. Spieth is just a different character. At least he apologized for taking so long.

A YouTube posting of the entire sequence is here.

Michael Greller's Role In Spieth's 2017 Open Turnaround

There is a lot of great insight here from The Scotsman's Martin Dempster talking to Jordan Spieth caddie Michael Greller.

Spieth credited his bagman with helping turn things around and Greller, who rare gives in depth interviews, was more open about this one.

“I just told him to go back to the tempo of the Travelers because it was really similar,” said Greller of the PGA Tour win recorded by Spieth in his previous outing before the season’s third major. “He was leading wire-to-wire and was having some tough things happening. It just so happens this was a major. He knows what to do. This was the 13th time he’s had the lead in a major, so it’s not like this was his first time in this situation. He was easy to work with. He’s matured a lot in the last six years since I met him. It wasn’t that difficult.

“He’s hurt a lot since that 2016 Masters, and I’m sure somewhere in there some doubts had crept in. He just said, ‘You know what, I know how to do this’. He’s done it twice before and now three times. It was just cool to see him with his back against the wall, more than at Augusta in 2016. To do what he did just shows his character and his grit.”

Spieth now famously also gave Greller a new task, picking the ball out of the hole after seeing players do that in old Open highlight films. Kevin Casey with the roundup on that.

Greller also gave the days clubs to the R&A for posterity, with an asterisk:

Ratings: Strong Overnights For 2017 Open At Birkdale

SBD's Austin Karp shared some overnight ratings for Jordan Spieth's win at The Open and for the first time, it may exceed the U.S. Open in total viewership.


Adweek also reported the total interactions on social media. What this means, I have no idea:

 

On the sports side, the final round of the 2017 Open Championship on Golf Channel and NBC drove and putted its way to 433,000 total interactions across Facebook and Twitter.

First 2017 Open Championship Question And Poll: Should Royal Birkdale Host More Regularly?

As I write here for Golfweek, Royal Birkdale is a course for horses. It regular produces great finishes and stellar champions.

The players love the place.  Several, including hometown hero Tommy Fleetwood,  suggested that once ever 9-10 years is not enough.

 

 

The crowds broke records. They were passionate but respectful and incredibly welcoming.

Having seen Hoylake, Lytham and Birkdale in recent years, I wouldn't mind seeing Birkdale permanently replace Lytham in the Merseyside rota-within-the-rota.

What do you think?

Should Royal Birkdale host The Open more regularly?
 
pollcode.com free polls

2017 Open Championship Final Round This And That

Another stellar day at Royal Birkdale gave us some history, mostly incredible play and a few setbacks for stars. Mostly though it was another impressive display by Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar who head into the finale well separate of the field.

Here is the roundup on Branden Grace's historic 62 from yesterday.

Two last points on that, apparently the members are handling it well. (Bamberger/Golf.com)

A week ago, the firmness of the fairways, as measured by something called the Clegg Hammer Test, measured about 130. (Drop a golf ball from shoulder height on a 130 CHT fairway and you will hear a dull thud and see the ball bounce.) By Thursday, the Royal Birkdale fairways were Clegging around 115. Not mushy—let us stand in praise of sandy soil!—but not exactly linoleum, either.

John Huggan wonders if the R&A made the setup too reasonable will welcome discussion of the low scoring (GolfDigest.com).

In order to achieve all of the above, they have deliberately allowed the game’s best almost free rein. They have collectively gritted their teeth and actively encouraged low scoring the like of which we haven’t seen before at Royal Birkdale. And, in doing so, they hope to encourage growing and widespread calls for change in the long-established debate over distance.

No easy task, of course. But it can safely be assumed that the R&A and their American counterparts at the USGA would welcome such discussions.

Johnny Miller's assessment of the setup hasn't gone over well with the younger set (Kerr-Dineen/For The Win).

On to the leaders...

Birkdale and Spieth are a match and we may be watching a "quintessential performance" in Spieth's career. (Van Valkenburg/ESPN.com)

It wasn't long ago Jordan Spieth's game was adrift. (Hoggard/GolfChannel.com)

Doug Ferguson with this piece from a few weeks ago where Jordan Spieth spoke of being uncomfortable in the leading role and hoping to change that.

Jaime Diaz wonders if Spieth will put some final round Masters demons behind him and suggests by that deep stare Spieth gave upon birdieing the 18th yesterday if we'll be on career Grand Slam watch next month.

Some Spieth facts and notes worth keeping in mind. (G.C. Digital/GolfChannel.com)

Kuchar is looking to avoid the unavoidable: match play with Spieth. (Coffin/GolfChannel.com)

More McIlroy disappointment. (Harig/ESPN.com)

Beef Johnston is in a Twitter war with a local presenter who called him a clown. (Kerr-Dineen/For The Win)

Hole, shot and quote of the day. (Ahern/Golfweek.com)

More top quotes from Saturday. (G.C. Digital/GolfChannel.com)

Final round tee and TV Times (Casey/Golfweek).

They employed a marker today and will again tomorrow. Both work in the Royal Birkdale shop. (Myers/GolfDigest.com)

Martin Slumbers' shot at the BBC may come back to haunt him. (Murray/Guardian)

The weather forecast suggests the most wind will be late in the day.

Peter Kostis shot back at Dan Jenkins to defend his CBS colleague Ian Baker Finch.

A GolfDigest.com contributor used The Open to air his grievances with golf and even the modern golf professional ("entitled products of a selfish, insular and elitist culture of wealth"). (Ryan/New York Times)

TheOpen.com for all of your basic needs.

Tee times.

The traditional leaderboard at TheOpen.com.

I'm not sure if it works in the States, but Open radio is a fun way to enjoy the action if you have other tasks to tend to. Inexplicably, the R&A no longer sells radios to spectators.

Golfweek's Live Blog will keep you up to date.

The Guardian's Live Blog will give you the UK perspective.

Final round hole locations:

 

 

Roundup: Branden Grace Becomes First To Shoot 62 In A Major

He made it look pretty easy on a day that was admittedly asking for a 62 at Royal Birkdale. Bones Mackay even predicted it, with apologies, to Johnny Miller.

I stepped out to the course to watch the last part of the historic round and filed this for Golfweek.com on the round, Grace not having a clue where he stood to par or even the historic nature.

Here is the hole-by-hole info on clubs used, provided by caddie Zack Rasego to R&A media liason Dave Seanor and posted here at Golfweek.com. Note that he did not hit more than a 7-iron into a par-4.

Here is a picture of the official scorecard for history buffs.

Johnny Miller's reaction from the NBC telecast on the accomplishment.  

Steve DiMeglio calls Royal Birkdale defenseless in his USA Today assessment.

Derek Lawrenson in the Daily Mail: "A significant milestone in the history of the game was shattered on Saturday by a South African who had no idea of the enormity of his achievement."

Jason Sobel equates it to breaking golf's version of the 4-minute mile.

Jaime Diaz considers all of the reasons the round happened and concluded this:

And maybe the most important factor, considering how many times the golf gods have kept the 62nd stroke out of the hole in a major – it was about damn time.

Josh Berhow at Golf.com captures some of the majestic home hole scene as Grace finished the historic round.

The social media congratulations are pouring in, starting with Jack Nicklaus. GolfChannel.com with the roundup.

Grace's bag, reported on by David Dusek.

Certainly the scores were good, though as the day has progressed we'll see what the final tally is...

2017 Open Championship Round Three This And That

Jordan Spieth is the man to beat, holding a two-stroke lead heading into weekend play at The Open. He was pleased the conditions turned out to not be quite as awful as expected. (Tait/Golfweek)

Matt Kuchar was a pleasure to watch and was taking pleasure in the idea of watching the afternoon round. (Shackelford/Golfweek)

Ian Poulter has nothing to lose, as he sees it. (Coffin/GolfChannel.com)

“I’m in a bonus week,” he said Friday after shooting even-par 70 to remain in contention at his beloved Open Championship. “I qualified for The Open. I’m loving it. I really am. This is a massive bonus for me to be in this position. I haven’t played in a major for a little while, and I can’t wait. I’m excited. I’m pumped up.”

Zach Johnson fired an anger-driven 66 in terrible weather. (Herrington/GolfDigest.com)

Rory McIlroy worked himself back into contention with a 68 and restored some strut to his repertoire too. (Wacker/GolfDigest.com)

Sergio Garcia hurt his shoulder taking a swing at gorse. He still shot 69. (Romine/Golfweek)

The HOF GIF from Ryan Lavner:

Kent Bulle appeared on the leaderboard for a while and is enjoying his time away from the Web.com Tour. (Babineau/Golfweek)

The long-knocking Chan Kim is an intriguing story to watch this weekend and beyond.  (Romine/Golfweek)

Phil Mickelson missed the cut with flair, he said, and other notables going home for the weekend. (Romine/Golfweek)

Justin Thomas made a theatrical 9 en route to missing the cut. (SkySports.com)

Jon Rahm has no hard feelings toward Lee Westwood questioning a decision to alert the walking referee to a violation, but there's also some smoke here that Rahm feels will go away. (Herrington/Golf World)

There's a betting dispute over Tommy Fleetwood and William Hill is not paying up. (Cowan/ChampNews.com)

Eric Matuszewski talks to Tommy Roy about The Golf Channel/NBC approach, including the split screen breaks we've seen so far.

Some background on Bones and his successful first few days as a broadcaster. (Elling/MorningRead.com)

Henrik Stenson's rental home was burglarized and some of his clothes stolen. (Facey/The Sun)

Stenson spoke about the incident after his round and how he might have been targeted, noting several factors of concern. (Murray/Guardian)

The "Amber" weather alert that halted play for 15 minutes is explained here by the Met Office.

Friday's notes, quotes and shots of the day (Ahern/Golfweek).

They look out for their wildlife here...

Saturday's hole locations:

TheOpen.com for all of your basic needs.

Tee times.

The traditional leaderboard at TheOpen.com.

I'm not sure if it works in the States, but Open radio is a fun way to enjoy the action if you have other tasks to tend to. Inexplicably, the R&A no longer sells radios to spectators.

Golfweek's Live Blog will keep you up to date.

The Guardian's Live Blog will give you the UK perspective.

2017 Open Championship Round Two This And That

It was an above average day at Royal Birkdale in terms of scoring, storylines, shotmaking and a course in peak condition.

Day two may not be such a graceful display if the forecasters are to be believed.

Ian Poulter has kept the momentum going since his Players win and in returning to the site of his best Open finish. (Tallentire/Guardian)

Jordan Spieth added a few twists to his game and looked focused. (Shackelford/Golfweek)

Matt Kuchar opened with 67 and admitted after that he should have won more in his career. (Huggan/GolfDigest.com)

Kuchar is crediting his Scottish Open appearance to feeling comfortable here. (Hoggard/GolfChannel.com)

Rory McIlroy got a pep talk from is caddie...well, it was a bit more PG-13 than that. (Tait/Golfweek)

The Tommy Fleetwood-return-to-Southport didn't go as planned. (Mitchell/Guardian)

Brooks Koepka didn't miss a beat since taking off a month after his U.S. Open win. (Babineau/Golfweek)

Jon Rahm went from a disastrous day to a merely eventful opening 69 after he was cleared of an infraction. (Romine/Golfweek)

Aussies aren’t real thrilled with Dan Jenkins after taking a jab at Ian Baker-Finch. (Walten/AAP)

Justin Thomas gave detractors 67 reasons to stop talking about a pretty swell retro outfit. (Romine/Golfweek)

“It’s nice definitely to get people to stop talking about that,” said Thomas, who shot 3-under 67 while sporting a navy tie as part of his Polo Golf/Ralph Lauren scripting for Thursday’s opening round. “Obviously, I knew it was probably going to get a lot of publicity and be out there, but I didn’t come here to dress well.”

Jason Day's joggers and white hi-tops didn't fare well either with fashionistas. (Romine/GolfChannel.com)

Fashion got lots of overall attention. (Romine/GolfChannel.com)

Alfie Plant displayed no fear. England's least known, best hope at the moment.

First day TV hit and misses. (Kaufmann/Golfweek)

Russia has apparently infiltrated the list of Open winners. (Miceli/MorningRead.com)

Monty's bluster brought life to the Golf Channel telecast. (Elling/MorningRead.com)

To kick off round two, the R&A announced Andrew Johnston as "Beef" Johnston. Somewhere Ivor Robson just flinched.

TheOpen.com for all of your basic needs.

Tee times.

The traditional leaderboard at TheOpen.com.

I'm not sure if it works in the States, but Open radio is a fun way to enjoy the action if you have other tasks to tend to. Inexplicably, the R&A no longer sells radios to spectators.

Golfweek's Live Blog will keep you up to date.

The Guardian's Live Blog will give you the UK perspective.

About The Passing Ship That Is The Royal Birkdale Clubhouse

Having inspired several other clubhouses and several homes in the neighborhood, the Royal Birkdale clubhouse influence is unmistakable.

Though as David Owen noted in this piece, with accompanying image, the original design vision was pretty swell and needs restoration.

The club has monkeyed with the building since it was built, by removing a number of the original Art Deco details and adding boxlike extensions, but the basic idea is intact. The building’s design influenced other architecture in the region, including this house, which is just up the road from the club:

These days, the exterior just lacks a few too many of the fun nuances that articulated the original vision and yet I still love the concept and the vision.

We at Morning Drive took the question to the people and here's what they said...

2017 Open Championship Round One This And That

We started it out with positively hideous weather but things have improved notwithstanding a huge drop in temperature compared to the practice rounds.

TheOpen.com for all of your needs.

Tee times.

The traditional leaderboard at TheOpen.com.

I'm not sure if it works in the States, but Open radio is a fun way to enjoy the action if you have other tasks to tend to.

Justin Thomas has stuck to the expected scripting and his cardigan/tie combo is definitely classing this place up.

Golfweek's Live Blog will keep you up to date.

The Guardian's Live Blog will give you the UK perspective.

Round one hole locations at Royal Birkdale appear mostly generous.

Bifurcation: R&A Chief Opens Door To The B-Word

After yesterday's press conference where he acknowledged movements in driving distance averages, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers opened the door to rules bifurcation. Slumbers seems to see the wisdom in letting average golfers enjoy the benefits of technology while making changes to maintain skill in the elite game.

Alex Miceli at MorningRead.com reports:

“When we look at all the options we’ve got, it [bifurcation] will have to be one of the options we look at,” Slumbers said. “Whether that’s the right thing to do, who knows the answer. Up to date, we have had a view of one set of playing rules, one set of equipment rules, and I think that served our game extremely well, but we must make sure we get the skill and technology right, as a balance for the good of the overall game.”

Even considering another set of rules for the elite game is a milestone moment for the R&A. The organization has resisted such a concept, even when the notion was suggested to deal with anchoring.

Couple this with the USGA's Mike Davis suggesting a variable distance ball concept as a possibility and we appear to be on the road to bifurcation.

Roundup: Final Reads And Notes For The 2017 Open

After the bleak forecast almost was proven wrong, an afternoon storm dropped some moisture on the firm fairways of Royal Birkdale. The weather forecast remains bleak unless you like to see wind and rain.

The latest odds.

Bob Harig wonders if length matters and talks to players on both sides of the aisle. Bill Haas had this to say:

"You can play as safe as you want, but then your next shot is that much tougher to the green,'' said Bill Haas, whose tie for ninth last year at Royal Troon was his best Open finish. "Can you compete by hitting short irons off tees? Yes. But I remember Louis Oosthuizen when he won at St. Andrews [in 2010]. He hit driver everywhere. Just piped it. He hit sand wedge into every hole. No wonder he won.

Brandt Snedeker has withdrawn from The Open with a rib injury. James Hahn gets in.

Brian Wacker on Paul Casey's cycling preparation and contentment with his life.

The players are noticing the bunker difficulty, namely the heavy sand and potential for awkward stances. Brentley Romine with the social media round-up.

The R&A press conference elicited a few bits of news. Drug testing is in, reviewing the anchoring ban is not.

Bradley Klein takes you hole by hole at Royal Birkdale.

David Dusek on the emergence of driving irons this week.

Driving irons used to be fairly standard on the PGA Tour, but they started to vanish in the 1980s. The popularization of hybrids in the 1990s and 2000s pretty much were the nail in the coffin for 1-irons and 2-irons. And as clubs and balls improved with technology – and lofts became stronger on iron sets – strong players were hitting their 3- and 4-irons as far as the previous generations hit 1-irons, anyway.

Maverick McNealy says his game is trending in the right direction and he's likely turning pro later this year, Ryan Lavner writes.

Rory McIlroy made anintriguing remark in his press room interview today, Jeff Babineau notes in his Golfweek story considering McIlroy's chances.

“I want to win this week. I don’t need to win,” he said. “A second Open Championship isn’t going to change my life. But I want to win. I’m still as ambitious now as I was starting off my career, if not more so now because I know what I’ve achieved and I know what I can achieve. So it only makes you want to do that even more.”

If you'd like a little history, Michael Bamberger considers the influence Arnold Palmer's 1961 win here had on The Open.

I filed this Golfweek.com piece on The Artisans and their fourth green clubhouse. Nothing like clubs within a club!

This Todd Lewis helmed live piece offered a rare look inside the Birkdale clubhouse. Really cool stuff!

And I visited the food vendors...

And one more reminder for US viewers, all of your telecast times here starting with Wednesday's Midnight Drive at 9 pm PT and leading into Open coverage that commences for 14.5 hours at 10:30 pm PT.

R&A Chief Concedes "Movements" Seen In '17 Driving Distance

Nice to ask a distance question and not get the usual suggestion that things have leveled off, but maybe R&A Chief Martin Slumbers knew after this year's U.S. Open's driving distances that such a stance would not fly.

From today's R&A press conference at the 146th Open Championship.

Q. Several of the players have noted that they are hitting very few drivers. Some players may not even have driver in their bag. In the context of the statement of principles from 2003 regarding skill, does it concern you that that club is not a factor this week because of the distance the players hit the ball?

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, you can look at it two ways, the golf course is set up 17 yards shorter than it was played in '08. The great thing about links golf, as many of you know, if you're as much an aficionado of this game as I am, course management is one of the most important things about links golf. It's pretty firm out there. It's running hard. The rough, if you run out in the wrong direction, can be pretty penal. And certainly the conversations I've had with players is that they are really enjoying the challenge of trying to work at how to get the ball in the right place. And at times that will lead them to hit irons as against drivers or woods. I think Phil was talking yesterday about maybe not putting a driver in the bag, and I think we'll see quite a few irons, especially if the wind stays in the quadrant that it's in in the moment.

The broader question on distance that you raise is we are very -- I spend a lot of my time and the R&A's time looking at distance. We are very focused on setting it up in two ways, one is around transparency, which is what we did two years ago - started to take the PGA data and take the European Tour data, put it together and publish that. Some people don't like that. Others say it's great to have the numbers.

The second thing that I'm looking at and spend probably as much time doing it is this balance between skill and technology, and whether how much the technology and skill, are they in balance, is it good for the recreational game? Is it the same for the elite game? And those two issues are what we are looking at at the moment. And if you look at the data over the last 18 months, we are seeing this year movements, only halfway through the year. We will take a full look at the end of the year, and then come back and make sure we analyse and think about it very carefully.