Changes to the Old Course are Nothing New

By Associated PressJuly 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland --The last time Tiger Woods played at St. Andrews, he went back 100 years in time by hitting a replica of the gutta percha golf ball during a practice round. Despite a mighty drive on the 352-yard ninth hole, he still had a 5-iron left to reach the green.
 
And to think that might still be the standard ball if the Old Course never changed.
 
Take a Hole-By-Hole look at St. Andrews
 
Even with Jack Nicklaus playing the first practice round of his final major championship, and Woods teeing off so early Monday that he was done before some people got out of bed, the buzz at the British Open was the new look of the Old Course, at least on five holes that added a combined 164 yards.
 
``They leap out at you,'' Jim Furyk said.
 
For those alarmed by adding yardage to such a historic track, perhaps they should wander across the street to the British Golf Museum. One exhibit contains the rubber-core Haskell golf ball, which phased out the gutta percha - which came from a tree substance - and was all the rage at the turn of the 20th century.
 
The Royal & Ancient was so worried about how far players were hitting the Haskell that it lengthened the Old Course and added pot bunkers to protect against low scores. It must have worked, for there were only a dozen scores below 80 and James Braid won that 1905 British Open at 318, the highest winning score in 10 years.
 
One hundred years later, people are still talking about tradition and technology.
 
``It's just evolution,'' Stuart Appleby said. ``It wasn't long ago everyone was playing in tweed jackets and ties.''
 
Traditionalists made a passionate case for the gutta percha to be the standard ball for championship golf. Alas, the R&A declined to outlaw the Haskell because it seemed to make the game easier and more enjoyable for the majority of players. Ultimately, it helped make golf more popular.
 
Now, the R&A is simply keeping up with the times.
 
``The changes are good. You've got your thinking caps on 12, 13 and 14 now,'' said Nick Faldo, who won the 1990 British Open at St. Andrews. ``I don't think it sets up for Tiger, but I think Tiger is the favorite. He's played, he's won, and he comes here with a mission.''
 
The changes start with the second tee, which has been moved back 40 yards and to the right, so that players now face a blind tee shot over gorse bushes. Brad Faxon decided to aim at a crane in the distance, and only later figured out that the door of a corporate chalet was a better target.
 
What really got everyone's attention was the 480-yard fourth, which is only 16 yards longer than in 2000 but now requires a carry of some 290 yards to reach the fairway.
 
``If that gets any wind at all, they might have to move the tees,'' Mike Weir said. ``I smoked one today that carried a little left and got into the fairway. Then I hit another one that a little to the right - and I hit it pretty darn good - and it was in the stuff.''
 
Peter Thomson, the five-time Open champion who won at St. Andrews 50 years ago, still has a house in the gray old town and plays the Old Course about six times a year.
 
The change to No. 4 was the only one he criticized.
 
``The fourth doesn't need a tee, it needs a fairway,'' Thomson said.
 
Clearly, this isn't the same place where Woods broke a major championship record at 19 under par when he won by eight shots in 2000. Some argue that the British Open now is held on four courses - the new tees on the 12th and 13th actually are part of the Eden course; the ninth tee is on the New Course; and the second tee is part of the Himalayas putting course.
 
Nicklaus has been criticizing the governing bodies for years about the golf ball, and he told the British media in May that he worried the Old Course would be obsolete.
 
Faxon is among those who believe that golf is doing just fine adjusting to the times.
 
``It's not just the evolution of golf, it's the evolution of life,'' Faxon said earlier this year. ``Guys that used to play basketball can't even start on any team now. I love Bob Cousy, but could he be a starting point guard today?''
 
Others, Nicklaus included, would say that the Old Course changes even if nothing is done at all.
 
Nicklaus played with Faldo, Fred Couples and Memorial winner Bart Bryant on a day as spectacular as it gets in these parts - brilliant skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. The three-time Open champion had already seen the changes, and he says only Nos. 4 and 14 will make a difference.
 
Everything else depends on the weather, which is the way it has always been at St. Andrews.
 
``The course is a surprise each time you look at it,'' Nicklaus said. ``No matter how many times you play it, you'll still find things that you've never seen before. Every time, the conditions change and you have to make adjustments.''
 
Even players with far less experience have figured that out.
 
Appleby was asked about the changes and drew a blank. He has played St. Andrews four times - the Open in 2000, and three times in the old Dunhill Cup.
 
``I don't think this is a course that's as easy to measure as Augusta, because the course can change so much with wind,'' Appleby said. ``It needs to be 10 to 20 mph before it gets tricky, and above 20 mph to be difficult. Scores in the mid-60s are no problem with no wind. But it's not likely you'll get four days without wind.''
 
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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    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

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    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.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    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.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.