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.''
 
Related Links:
 
  • Full Coverage - 134th Open Champoinship
     
  • Daily Photo Gallery
     
  • Open Championship Trivia Challenge
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''