Where Golf Runs in the Blood

By Adam BarrNovember 9, 2001, 5:00 pm
the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own

Such reprobates are on Ko-Kos famous little list of people who should be dispatched if executions ever come back into fashion in Gilbert & Sullivans light opera, The Mikado. While I generally agree with Gilbert on this one, Im going to risk being the thing he reviled.
The reason: Golf, the way it should be, is getting too hard to find in this country.
Ive been fortunate enough to visit Scotland twice. Of course, I took my clubs. I never tire of telling people that Scottish golf is one of those rare travel experiences that actually lives up to its advance billing.
Golf in Scotland is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of life that the game should have an ancient tartan all its own. Im not talking about the championship-course, five-star-hotel aspect of it, although thats fun. Its more the fact that nearly every little town has a course, just as so many New England villages have quaint town squares.
On these unassuming courses, unassuming people play golf the way American kids play baseball and Canadian kids play hockey. Its as natural as breathing. They play quickly and enthusiastically, on their feet, without a care for shaft flex, mower height, or whether theres Bookers at the clubhouse bar.
Some of the unassuming courses happen also to be championship caliber. Royal Dornoch, in the far north of the country, holds a special place in the hearts of golfers the world over, from the anonymous to the likes of Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson. The people in the tiny town of the same name know what a treasure they have, but they dont treat it as a museum piece.
If you live in Dornoch, you must play golf. Thats all there is to it, says local Sandee Mackintosh. She said this to Lorne Rubenstein, the noted Canadian golf writer who spent a summer in Dornoch and wrote a book about it. (Talk about envy)
The book, A Season in Dornoch (Simon & Schuster), evokes the true spirit of links golf, and in so doing, points up the differences between the game in the Auld Sod and the version we find in the United States.
Speed of play is religion over there. No one feels the need for the courses to be wall-to-wall swaths of emerald green. Fun is paramount, but matches are taken seriously. Initiation fees and dues are in the hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands, and no one has ever heard of a dining minimum. There are no outsize greens fees.
Carts are for players with medical infirmities. Otherwise, you walk. There is consideration for other players on the course. The devotion to fast play assures a feeling of openness on the course, the happy end of the search for scale, for proportion, for perspective, as Rubenstein writes.
I wonder what happens when too many people crowd a space, and believe something essential is lost in the game when a course is clogged with golfers, Rubenstein continues. Nobody enjoys it when golfers knock against one another. A golf course is not an elevator in an office building at closing time; it is a landscape meant to allow for breathing room and walking room and space to join with others, but not for golfers to overwhelm each other.
We all play because we love it, and we smile because we can. But how many of us long for what Rubenstein describes?
Most of us, Id say.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.