A Week for Celebrating the Charms of Scottish Golf
I have long campaigned for Open Championship week to be an international holiday. Avid golfers think about Scotland every four minutes or so. But one week a year, links golf mania rises to the surface like a refreshing mountain spring. I just want to bathe in it.
Before you make a face and click over to Rich Lerner, hang on a sec. This will not be one of those irritating stories that bludgeons you with the idea that everything about golf over there is nirvana and everything about golf here is junk. Thats simply not the case. (And you can read Rich later.)
But I do love golf over there. Heres what I know about a country separated from us by a lot of water and a common game.
The Nose Definitely Knows: Turf has a smell, and its different over there. The first thing I do after hitting my first drive on a U.S. course is to suck in a deep breath of that fresh-cut grass aroma. In coastal Scotland, its a little more sour, but no less interesting, informed as it is by the salt air.
I stepped out of the Old Course Hotel one soft night and walked around back. From there, you can see the 17th fairway on your left, the entire 18th hole on your right, and the clubhouse that serves the New, Eden, and Jubilee courses dead ahead. I sucked in a deep, deep breath. The fellows in the passing four-ball gave me a look that told me they thought I was, to use the local vernacular, daft. To use a phrase they might have, I didna care.
Fly It, Bump It, Roll It, Hole It: Options abound, and that makes the golf fascinating. Not all the caddies will look at you goofy if you ask for a yardage. But Tigers right; a lot of times you can just dump the number and come up with something creative. Thats especially important when the breeze is up, which it usually is. Resist the temptation to loft a 9-iron 120 yards when the wind is crossing at freight-train speed. Hit low and bounce it up instead.
Feel the Need for Speed: Dave Seanor, my old editor at Golfweek, told me before my first trip to Scotland, Youll hit your ball, put your club in your bag, take two steps and hear balls landing behind you.
Its true. Everyone plays fast and cant conceive of doing it any other way. People dont hit into groups or do anything unsafe. But they dont waste time either. Makes it easier to get in two rounds a day, walking. And youll sleep like a baby.
The Caddies, Laddies: Sure, the sage, dour, old Scots are still out there. But most of the bagmen over there are gregarious locals aiming to please. As long as your golf manners are up to par, theyll do anything for you. And my advice is to accept whatever they do, be it a driving line or a putt read. These guys are almost all good players, and youre on a course they know as well as their house. Go ahead and have a beer with your caddie afterward too; youll be glad you did.
Which Brings Us to the Pubs: Theyre everywhere, and most of them are low on pretense and high on the cozy factor. Its more like sitting in someones living room than in a bar.
As for that problem finding ice for your drinks, or cold drinks in general, get over yourself. Its not that hot there anyway, and the local beers and ales actually tastes better just cool instead of cold. But in most towns now (including St. Andrews), there are convenience stores featuring (gasp) refrigerators full of Coke and other soft drinks. (One of these is Barrs Iron Bru. Having tasted it, I am proud to say theres no relation.)
The Zen Part: For you Golf in the Kingdom fans, dont go looking for Shivas Irons around every corner. So much of what you find on any trip depends on what you bring to it, and that includes managed expectations.
So if you dont hear a choir of angels or experience some epiphany when you play a course youve been dreaming about for years, dont worry. Find a way to have fun anyway. Something about a well-played bump-and-run shot tends to lighten any spirit.
That said, anything can happen. The scenery, weather, and companionship can coalesce into a permanent memory.
Out on the far end of the Old Course, on the ninth hole, the high bushes block the view of the town. All that was there when I played was the Eden River estuary behind me, the turf below my feet, and the misty sky above. It was unutterably quiet. There were no jets landing at the Royal Air Force base across the river in Leuchars. The hole probably looked much as it did 400 years before that day. The feeling of ancientness was palpable. I expected Old Tom Morris to step out of the bushes and shake my hand. Im not sure he didnt.
Close to that was simply the knowledge that at Carnoustie, I was walking where Ben Hogan walked.
Driving on the Left: Hey, youre on vacation. Go a little crazy. But for the first hour, watch the curb on the left. And please, for your own safety, keep moving in the roundabouts, those clockwise traffic circles found at intersections all over the country.
Single Malt Scotch: This is a family site, so I wont go into detail. But follow these simple instructions: 1. Sip. 2. Say Ahhhhh. 3. Relax.
The Dogs: Seaside Scots cherish their access to the beaches, even if theres a golf course between them and the sand. So youll see a lot of folks making their way down agreed-upon pathways to the North Sea. Many will have dogs. Trust me, if you approach them politely, introduce yourself, and declare your love for all things canine, they will smile and let you pet their dogs.
And who can get peeved about a pushed 3-iron when you can pet a dog?
Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.