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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  • Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

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    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

    Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.