Mr Starter Please tear down this sign

By Adam BarrJune 2, 2009, 4:00 pm
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By now its the most famous sign in golf, with the possible exception of No spikes in the grillroom.
 
We speak, of course, of the simple white placard at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y., site of this months U.S. Open. In language as direct as possible without crossing the line into insulting, the sign informs would-be players that the Black is extremely difficult and should only be attempted by very skilled players. As part of my continuing linguistic services to golfers the world over, I will translate and condense the sign for all to understand:
 
Get lost.
 
Its great that the United States Golf Association has chosen to play the national championship on certain courses that are open to the public. That policy recognizes the continuing trend away from private clubs as the American games only nerve center. Using public courses also presents the real opportunity for fans to do something no other major sport allows: bringing their own game to a championship field. You wont be shagging flies at Fenway any time soon. As in ever.
 
Bethpage in 2002, extra poignant in the wake of 9/11 and extra exciting because of Tigers win (not to mention Phil being in contention), was the real blossoming of the public-course Open movement in this country. Sure, Pebble Beach is technically open to all, but the price tag keeps out all but a privileged few. Bethpage, though, is a true municipal course, or more accurately a state-run track, which is the same thing. Yes, theres the whole bit about sleeping in your car to wait for a tee time, but thats just a matter of supply and robust demand. And most committed golfers are willing to commit the time and effort it takes to play this public gem.
 
But what do they find when they get to the door? The ol no-dogs-allowed sign.
 
This strikes a dissonant note with me, especially in light of the fact that golf needs more participation, now more than ever. Anything unwelcoming doesnt just fail to help the sport. It hurts it. Never mind that everything the sign says is true. Its a hard course, and it can be especially tough on the inexperienced. Its just American human nature ' no one likes to be kept out of anywhere.
 
Now, I understand there are countervailing interests here, legitimate ones. I expect a tsunami of e-mails from the (usually nasty) golfers who seem to forget they were beginners once too. They swear up and down that all the earths ills are caused by slow, inexperienced groups in front of them. They want such golfers to disappear faster than your tax refund.
 
Well, so do I. But now that golf participation is flat and has been for some years, we may have to put up with a little inconvenience if the sport is not to go backwards, back to where its only for the few and the financially fecund. Back to where kids wont have a place to play because only big-money real estate developers can afford to build and maintain courses ' and city managers start thinking municipal golf courses generate a lot less tax revenue than another strip mall would.
 
Theres a better way. I say, let anyone play the Black. Encourage high handicappers to try the other great Bethpage courses first. But if they insist, take their money and relent ' with one big proviso. Anyone with a handicap of 16 or higher must sign an agreement before teeing off that once he or she has taken a number of strokes equal to two over par on any hole, that player must pick up and move on. And thenlisten carefullyENFORCE IT. Wall to wall, all the time, every round. Get the rangers moving. That should satisfy the skilled players, while dissipating the uncomfortable exclusivity cloud that hangs over the Blacks legend.
 
And good players, buoyed by this protection, should realize this: Not all unskilled players are what one Tour pro called slicing hack monsters when discussing his pro-am partners. Some of us, despite dragging around double digits, can get it around pretty fast. Ive done it at Carnoustie, Muirfield Village, and a dozen other top, tough courses. And yes, I have picked up when necessary.
 
Its a two-way street, this participation thing. Theres a golf course in the middle, and we can all meet there.
 

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.