A Week for Celebrating the Charms of Scottish Golf

By Adam BarrJuly 18, 2002, 4:00 pm
We should be singing carols.
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.
St. Andrews ClubhouseFly 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?
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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)

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Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

“Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

“For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”

Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

“We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

“It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

“I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

“She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

“I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

“Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

“Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

“She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”