Hickory Heaven

By Adam BarrJuly 24, 2004, 4:00 pm
IRVINE, Scotland ' Here in the land where the foam on your beer clings to the side of your glass, you expect things to be a little different. Incongruities abound, silently and systematically crumbling the American ethos of everything in its place, all neat and modern.
 
Sitting in the bay window of the clubhouse at Irvine Bogside Golf Club on a windy Wednesday afternoon, you realize that Scotland delights in presenting incongruities of time, little arguments that history can coexist with rampant modernity, and probably should.
 
Case in point: To my right, on the paneled grill room wall, is a display of ancient golf clubs. A member stands before it, exclaiming to his fellows a couple tables away, The long-nose looks like a Philp!, referring to a well-known maker of old putters. His friends harrumph their assent.
 
At that same moment, viewed over the rim of my foamy pint glass, is the first tee at Irvine, a club that dates back to the late 19th century. In the distance is a high hill surmounted by half a dozen state-of-the-art windmills, spinning madly. Scotland is making the best of its ever-present natural resource. And out the same window to the right is the railroad line, the same one that runs by Royal Troons famed 11th hole about 10 miles south of here. Every ten minutes, the telltale BEE-ohh heralds the approach of another BritRail locomotive.
 
It does not seem so incongruous, then, that I, a thoroughly modern man, should be dressed in knickers, argyle socks, and a shirt and tie. I am to knock it about today with members of the British Golf Collectors Society. I will use hickory-shafted clubs made before 1930 and a replica Haskell golf ball. For today at least, I have exchanged titanium and graphite for a microscopic sweet spot and charmingly erratic performance.
 
So it would seem, anyway. What I found in the playing was that although it is harder to make completely satisfying contact, playing with hickories adds a new dimension to the game. Nothing said here should be taken to denigrate modern golf ' its just that the older game is different, the way the Louvre is different from the Museum of Modern Art. Theyre both art, just different approaches.
 
One quickly finds out with hickories that you only need about half a dozen clubs. Shot creation becomes more important as you monkey with ball position and clubface angle. It gets very challenging ' and proportionately satisfying ' when you manage to pull off a 135 mashie-niblick (call it a 7-iron) shot in one instance, then use the same club to hit a low, running, hooky pitch of about 60 yards in another.
 
Of course, the hard surfaces and design of Scottish courses encourages this. But absent mushy watering practices, theres no reason not to raid the discount bins and assemble a set of these clubs for fun rounds on U.S. courses. But Im getting ahead of myself.
 
The BGCS boys (and some girls) use their summer meeting as a chance to dress up in period costume and become committed hickory nerds. I played with Rusty Billingsly, producer of 'Whats In The Bag?,' and John Hanna, an Irishman with steel-grey, swept-back hair and little glasses. Rusty and I looked good, but Hanna was resplendent in butter-colored plus-fours and a matching linen sport coat. His socks were a marvelous sky blue/pale yellow combination, and he had the gumption to tie his own bow tie.
 
Lest we think he was just a pretty face, Hanna immediately stepped up to the tee and split the fairway like a butcher after knife-sharpening day. He continued this quiet campaign all around the course, putting himself in excellent position for creative irons and wedges to Irvines tricky greens.
 
Rusty, a 9 handicap, acquitted himself well, and I plodded along. I didnt score particularly well, but I had a great time figuring out how high, right, left, bouncy, whatever, I wanted to hit my shots. Our borrowed clubs (thanks to BGCS stalwart John Sherwood) were an eclectic lot, with different kinds of leading edges, weights, balances ' if they were guests at a dinner party, there would never be a dull moment, because each one brought something new to the mix.
 
Throughout the afternoon, divots flew, marram grass lofted off wedge faces as people extracted their balls from the rough, and putts clicked off old metal. Bunkers took on a new menace as I approached golf life without Sarazens flange.
 
But with just a few clubs in my Sunday bag, my step remained light. I was challenged and invigorated. When bad ankle tendons forced an early retirement, I was disappointed. I wanted more.
 
Later, having doffed my sweater vest and tossed on a sportcoat (still with the knickers), I sat in the clubhouse with my new friends, laughing over the fact that I was the one with the accent, and contemplating another foamy glass. I promised myself that Ill be looking in a lot more discount bins from now on.
 
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry