The Indestructible Game
Make that what a dozer will do, or at least guys with shovels. One way or another, about a foot and half is being shaved from the fearsome wall of the Road Hole Bunker, the hazard guarding the 17th hole of the Old Course. The entire bunker will be smaller, too, making more room between the bunker and the green for those good enough to fly in their second shots from the left side. The changes are expected to soften the sting of what some experts call the hardest par 4 in golf.
'I dont think players will be able to flick it out easily all of a sudden, but it might be less difficult than it has been, said Peter Mason, external relations manager for the St. Andrews Links Trust, in an interview with The Scotsman, Scotlands national newspaper. The Links Trust administers the historic courses in the Auld Grey Toon.
Other golf authorities disagree.
'Tampering with the bunker is going too far and its loss is a tragedy,' David Malcolm told The Scotsman. Malcolm is a former captain of the New Club, one of the many local golf associations that plays over the Old Course.
Of course, even in the birthplace of golf, business is a consideration. Perhaps its a special consideration there, considering the importance of golf tourism to the region.
'With the build-up of sand it had become almost impossible to get out of, Mason said. If you look back at [David] Duval, who took four to get out [in the 2000 Open Championship] and others, golfers of that skill are being made to look foolish.
'You also have to bear in mind that there are 42,000 ordinary golfers playing the course every year who have nothing like the skill of a Duval.'
Aha. The speed-of-play, keep-em-happy consideration. Well, purists though we may be, St. Andrews is still a golf resort. And the Scots wont stand for slow play, even in the last 20 minutes of a round (No. 18 takes, what, 10 minutes to play?). And you dont want people going back to the States grumbling about their Old Course experience, right?
Alas, right. Thats modern business. I, and a lot of others, think St. Andrews got as modern as it needed to in about 1854, and would like it to get stuck there. But realistically, that cant be. As a Links Trust official said some years back when tee time allocation got tighter and local hoteliers got squeezed out of some valuable times, you cant put a bubble around the place. He was right. Annoying, but right.
Fact is, St. Andrews has done a pretty good job of maintaining its old-world charm while incorporating modern conveniences. (My wife, for example, is a big fan of hot and cold running water, so she was very pleased to find the 20th century had encroached on the edges of Old Tom Morris stomping grounds when we visited.)
Even before the Road Hole Bunker story broke, I was thinking of St. Andrews as I leafed through The Golf Club: 400 Years of the Good, the Beautiful, and the Creative, the new book by antique club expert Jeff Ellis. (Ellis other book, The Clubmakers Art, is an enormous compendium of early club information in text and pictures. The latest book is more of a timeline of clubmaking.)
Ellis has seen it all, golf club-wise, and held much of it in his hands. Old club fans may have already seen examples of 19th-, 18th- and 17th-century golf creations, made for the quirks of the ancient game: A rounded track iron, for digging the ball out of wagon tracks (no ground under repair back then), a club with a hole in the face for hitting a partially submerged ball (no casual water, either). Ellis understands the delightful, hard-to-fathom feeling one gets when holding a 400-year-old club that someone has surely hit shots with. History crystallizes into a moment that is poignant, yet challenging to get ones mind around.
Whatever your opinion on clubs, change, the continuity of the ancient game, or innovation, one thought strikes you while looking over these delicious antiquities and oddities. The game has survived.
You cant kill it, former Kansas City Monarchs first baseman Buck ONeill told Ken Burns near the end of the massive Baseball film. No matter what scandal arises, no matter how incredible salaries become, someone somewhere will always be getting together a game on a sandlot, from Detroit to the Dominican, from Tokyo to Toledo.
Golf has a comforting level of the same characteristic. The manufacturers of equipment that pushes the envelope want to be able to innovate, and they should have that right. The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews want golf to be recognizable to that mythical 16th-century Scot who might materialize at any time. They also have a point. A healthy mix of conflict and cooperation will assure both goals.
After a tough regulatory year, economic and good-of-the-game concerns prompted manufacturers to not make too much of a stink about the USGAs whipsaw changes on driver regulations. And we hear that the USGA is setting up focus groups to see how golfers ' and non-golfers ' view the organization and its role in the game. Thats often the first step in a plan to remodel ones public relations, which would be a laudable goal for the USGA in these times of stagnant golf participation.
As long as people want to put a peg in the ground and bat the ball around, you wont be able to kill this game. And one way or another, those are the people who will ultimately decide what golf is.
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days engaging pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGCC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.