Players Ready to Enter Devils Mouth in Mexico

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Mayakoba Golf ClassicPLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico -- The first PGA TOUR event in Mexico doesn't have Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or the prestige of the Match Play Championship that also is being held this weekend.
 
Instead, it boasts the 'Devil's Mouth.'
 
With white sand in front and mossy grass dripping over various shades of limestone around the sides, the 'mouth' actually is the opening to an underground, cave-like passageway that comes out behind the second hole.
 
Known as a 'cenote,' it's the first of many natural delights found on El Camaleon, the Greg Norman-designed venue for this slice of PGA TOUR history, the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which opens Thursday.
 
'It gives character right away,' Norman said. 'It's an opening statement: `Here it is!''
 
Viewed from tee-to-green, the area is shaped like an upside-down egg. It is about 30 yards long and 20 yards wide. It's steep, too, something not truly appreciated until standing on the green side and looking back toward the sandy front.
 
This week, it's also marked as a hazard with three stakes and a painted circle -- all red, of course.
 
As striking as it is, the intimidation will be mostly for show this week.
 
The mouth is unlikely to swallow many shots, seeing as it is 320 yards from the tee of this 554-yard, par-5 hole. Pros should easily be able to keep their drives short or wide, then have little trouble clearing it with their second shots.
 
Still, during practice rounds and perhaps even the real ones, carts parked all around the area and walkers came by, too, to take a peek and wonder about this natural wonder.
 
'It's a bad place to be when you're playing golf, but it might be a fun place to be with your girlfriend,' joked one caddie.
 
Norman recommended doing more than just looking at it.
 
'You can walk through all the bats and bat (droppings),' he said with a smile befitting his Shark nickname. 'Go right ahead. I've done it.'
 
It doesn't take going all the way through to appreciate the cenote.
 
From just a few feet in, thousands of stalactites are visible, some still dripping water. There is more water gurgling in pools, with plants growing out of rocks and thick roots of trees that are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.
 
And, yes, there are a few shiny white golf balls.
 
'A lot of people don't go down there because it's hard to understand what exactly it is,' said Douglas Goubault, the course's director of golf. 'Once you get down there and start to see the depth of it, see how cool it is ... it's beautiful.'
 
The story of how it was discovered is pretty cool, too.
 
Developers knew all along about underground structures because many of them were used to form a Venice-like canal system throughout this resort community along the Riviera Maya. But it wasn't until the course already was laid out and bulldozers were shaping the holes that this cenote presented itself.
 
The introduction came when a machine rolled over and the ground gave way. Once the rubble was cleared, workers saw the water-filled cave.
 
There was little thought given to filling it in. Norman believes in disturbing the environment as little as possible; besides, the key to all real estate is location, location, location, and a natural obstacle like this is tough to beat.
 
'The whole design stayed exactly as it was,' Goubault said. 'It was just perfect. It's just a wonderful characteristic to have.'
 
Goubault grudgingly calls the cenote the signature piece of the course, noting that there are many more, such as the two holes facing the Caribbean Sea and many more lined by mangroves, areas densely packed with trees and other vegetation. Anyone venturing into the mangroves to find a wayward shot is more likely to discover an iguana or one of the course's namesake chameleons.
 
Although the world's top 64 players are in Arizona, the field for this event includes more than 40 PGA TOUR winners. Those guys have combined for 148 victories, including nine majors, two by Lee Janzen.
 
There are also entries from 12 countries, with Latin America representatives from Mexico, Paraguay and Argentina.
 
'This probably already is or is going to be the biggest tournament, the most important tournament, in Latin America,' said Carlos Franco of Paraguay.
 
The event will be televised by the Golf Channel -- and, yes, coverage will include shots from inside the 'Devil's Mouth.'
 
Related Links:
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

    Getty Images

    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.