Open Course Shrouded in Mystery

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship The Beatles had just released 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' Jack Nicklaus was making his first title defense in the British Open. Nine of the top 10 players now in the world rankings had not even been born.
It has been so long since the British Open was held at Royal Liverpool that some players didn't even know it existed, a startling fact driven home to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson during a conversation this spring with a top player he declined to identify.
'He inquired whether Royal Liverpool was a new course in the rotation,' Dawson said with a chuckle.
New? Not quite.
The British Open first came to this links course in Hoylake in 1897, making it the second English course to host golf's oldest championship. Bobby Jones won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 1930 on his way to the Grand Slam.
So why all the mystery?
Royal Liverpool has not hosted the British Open since 1967, when Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina came over to see old friends and 'I won ze bloody thing,' holding off Nicklaus with a bold 3-wood over a portion of the practice range that set up a clinching birdie on the 16th hole.
The British Open returns to Royal Liverpool for the 11th time, ending a 39-year absence that is the longest among any course still in the rotation.
'I haven't been there, haven't seen any photos of it,' Tiger Woods said. 'All I know is it's in Liverpool.'
Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen not only hasn't been to Royal Liverpool, he doesn't know anyone who has.
'Nobody has really seen it,' Goosen said. 'All of the guys playing these days are very young or were not even born yet when we last played there, so it will be nice to go to a course that everybody sort of starts from scratch.'
Phil Mickelson got his first look at Hoylake a week after his collapse at the U.S. Open. Mickelson has been cramming for majors over the last few years, taking eight hours for each practice round to study every nuance, figuring out whether he needs two drivers or four wedges.
'I think it was really important that I went over,' Mickelson said. 'I thought I knew what types of shots were going to be expected at Hoylake. They're totally different. I thought I was going to be hitting certain shots, and I'm not going to go into detail because I'm going to let everybody else figure it out.'
For a course hardly anyone knows, its reputation already is taking a beating.
The R&A has stretched the course by 263 yards, refurbished the sod walls in the bunkers, built new tee boxes and reshaped the greens. Even so, it will play as a par 72 at 7,258 yards, six yards shorter than Winged Foot, which was a par 70 at the U.S. Open.
There are a few oddities for a British Open.
The course has been reconfigured to accommodate better routing and a more dynamic finish, so the par-5 16th hole for members will be the closing hole for this British Open, making it the only par 5 for the 18th hole on the rotation.
And while it doesn't have as many gorse bushes as Royal Troon, waist-high grass like Carnoustie, moon-like mounding similar to Royal St. George's or the double greens found at St. Andrews, Hoylake has one of the worst penalties in golf -- out-of-bounds on 10 of the holes.
That led Ron Whitten, the architecture editor at Golf Digest, to refer to the course as 'Royal O.B.'
Conditions were soft and mildly breezy 39 years ago, and it showed in the scores. De Vicenzo won at 10-under 278, and a dozen players finished the tournament under par. Barring any wind, Nicklaus is among those who fear record scoring.
Nicklaus was at Hoylake two months ago, and what struck him was the bunkers that were positioned about 270 yards away from the tee, which can be easily carried in today's power game. He also noticed ample fairways that were being prepared.
'At the same time, the greens are very generous in size and should be receptive to shots,' Nicklaus said. 'So once you combine all these facts, unless the wind kicks up and the weather helps defend the golf course, the recipe exists for low scoring.'
Dawson, however, is not the least bit worried.
The reason it took nearly 40 years to return to Royal Liverpool was a matter of logistics. The British Open, like other majors, has become big business. Along with a course, there has to be room for corporate tents, ample grandstands, a sizable driving range and decent roads to get some 35,000 fans to the tournament.
The tented village will be partly on the practice range, while the players will be shuttled across the street to a municipal golf course that will be turned into a range. A new road has been built.
As for the golf, the biggest change will be numbering of the holes. Dawson felt the 18th hole was too weak, and there was not enough room for a large grandstand. The first two holes will be Nos. 17 and 18, and the British Open will end with a par 5 (No. 16).
That could lead to a dynamic conclusion. No other course on the Open rotation ends with a par 5, and this one features out-of-bounds down the right side of the hole.
But will Royal Liverpool be a stern test?
'It's just as strong as all the other venues,' Dawson said. 'If we've got trepidation about Hoylake, we would have trepidation about all of them.'
The list of champions at Hoylake is not as impressive as other venues, with the except of Jones and Walter Hagen. Hoylake delivered the first European winner of the Open (Arnaud Massy of France in 1907), the only Irishman (Fred Daly in 1947) and De Vicenzo, the only player from South America to have won a major.
One of the few players acquainted with Hoylake is Padraig Harrington, who played the British Amateur in 1995. For those who have criticized it as being too weak to host the Open, his only advice is to wait until the claret jug is on the line.
'A links golf course only really shows its true character when it's played in tournaments,' Harrington said. 'You'll only be able to tell after we've played the Open there what sort of course it is, and how much of a test.'
And only then will anyone know whether it has to wait another 39 years to return.
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    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.