An Acquired Taste

By Associated PressJuly 10, 2010, 9:50 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods fell in love with St. Andrews the first time they saw it.

Not so with Bobby Jones.

Or Sam Snead.

Legend has it that Jones tore up his scorecard and stormed off the course the first time he played the Old Course. That’s not entirely accurate. In his debut at the home of golf in the 1921 British Open, he went out in 46 during the third round, made 6 on the next two holes and picked up his ball without finishing the 11th hole. This from a man who went on to win the claret jug there six years later, and the British Amateur in 1930 on his way to the Grand Slam.

Such is the essence of St. Andrews.

It is a links course that can inspire immediate affection.

“I fell in love with it the first time I ever played it,” Woods said. “I played it when the tide changed right when I was at the turn, so I played all 18 holes into the wind. Absolutely fell in love with the golf course.”

And it is a course that can evoke eternal disdain.

“Worst piece of mess I’ve ever played,” Scott Hoch said.

Snead was somewhere in between.

He made his first journey to St. Andrews for the 1946 British Open, and as his train pulled into the old gray town, Snead gazed out the window at the Old Course and said, “Say! That looks like an old, abandoned golf course. What did they call it?”

It grew on him, for he went home with the claret jug after a four-shot victory. Years later, he still wasn’t sure what to think. “Down home, we wouldn’t plant bow beets on land like that,” Snead said.

But there is no denying one aspect to the 150th anniversary of this British Open. There is something magical about playing golf’s oldest championship on the linksland where it all started.

“If you’re a golfer, how could you not be a little bit in awe when you get to the first tee, with the R&A building, the 18th green, all the things that have happened over the last 400 or so years?” Scott Verplank said.

Then he added the ultimate compliment: “It will teach you everything you need to know about playing golf.”

“Course management and the strategy of golf is all on that golf course,” he said. “If you want to play conservatively, you go further left and leave yourself a tougher shot. If you want to play aggressive, you play further to the right and have a better angle at the flag. People who don’t like it don’t understand it. If you understand it, then it’s brilliant.”

First impressions can be misleading.

Justin Leonard first played the Old Course on a golfing trip with his father when he was 12. He was old enough to understand the historical significance of St. Andrews, but little else.

“I thought it was the nuttiest place I had ever seen, to be quite honest. Has it changed today? Not a whole lot,” Leonard said with a laugh. “It’s pretty quirky, and that’s not always a bad thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you play it, you’ve got to sit there and look at your yardage book and figure out where you’re aiming.”

Curtis Strange first went to St. Andrews with a 1975 Walker Cup team that included Hoch, Jay Haas and Craig Stadler.

“We all thought we had been transplanted to the moon,” Strange said, who went on to set the course record with a 62 in the 1987 Dunhill Cup. “I will say that I hated it, like some guys, because you wonder what’s going on. But the more you play it, the more you realize how special it is.”

Australian Geoff Ogilvy first went to St. Andrews with his father when he was 16, and like so many others, he loved it the first time he played it.

“I think it would be fair to say that I really wanted to like the course, so it is perhaps hard to be completely objective about a place you have decided to like before you even play it,” Ogilvy said. “I liked the width of the place, and enjoyed that there seemed no prescribed way to play the course. The route you take around it is up to you.

“I’m not sure if I understood any of this at 16, but I remember having lots of fun that first time.”

Nicklaus, meanwhile, was equipped with a scouting report.

Much like Jones, his idol, Nicklaus first played the Old Course as part of a trip to Britain for the Walker Cup at Muirfield.

“My father went over before and played with a couple of his friends, and he said it was the worst golf course they’d ever seen – what a cow pasture it was, horrible conditions,” Nicklaus said. “Of course, they three-putted 13, 14, 15 greens. And they didn’t have a very good time because they didn’t understand the golf course.

“When I went there, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I went down there and I saw this village and this big, beautiful pasture out there. Then I went out and played the course and I loved it. I suppose I loved it because all kids try to do the opposite of their father. I just fell in love with the place.”

What a love affair that turned out to be. Nicklaus won the British Open at St. Andrews in 1970 and 1978, received an honorary degree from St. Andrews University, and the Royal Bank of Scotland produced a 5-pound note with his image when he chose St. Andrews to be his final major championship in 2005.

That year, Woods matched Nicklaus by winning his second Open on the Old Course, and he returns this year trying to become the first player to ever win three times at St. Andrews.

Woods’ first impression was that it was easy to hit the fairways. Then he realized how little that mattered.

“I though it would be a little bit more narrow,” Woods said. “But then again, once you start playing, you realize it’s not that wide. To get the angles you need to have into these flags, it narrows up very quickly. Then you add wind, and where you need to put the golf ball to give yourself a chance of getting the ball close, it gets really narrow.

“You can hit every fairway there and still never have a shot at a flag.”

What makes St. Andrews unique is that all but four holes have double greens, and they may as well share the fairways. Because it has no trees, and so many of the pot bunkers are not visible off the tee, it can be difficult to sort out where to hit tee shots.

Verplank’s problem the first time he played St. Andrews was what to do after the tee shots.

“I spent three days figuring out the lines off the tee, with however the wind was going to go,” he said. “I thought I had it down perfect. So I get to the second hole and I stripe a 3-wood right down there perfect. I had sand wedge to the green. And I had no idea where to hit it. I had six three-putts the first day because I kept hitting it 80 feet away.”

Like with any links, there can be some funny bounces along the way. But there’s something different – something special – about St. Andrews that perhaps former British Open champion George Duncan summed up best.

“St. Andrews has got a character and features that you find nowhere else,” Duncan once said. “You can play a damned good shot and find the ball in a damned bad place. That is the real game of golf.”

That’s the home of golf.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

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Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump