The Two Faces of Royal Troon

By Associated PressJuly 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Tiger Woods played one practice round on what seemed like two courses Monday.

He walked to the 10th tee at the far end of Royal Troon and turned to face a fresh breeze off the Irish Sea. Glancing back at the first nine holes he played, Woods grinned and said, 'That was a nice little course, wasn't it?'

Then, staring ahead at a blind tee shot over mounds of prickly gorse bushes on a 438-yard hole that begins one of the most daunting back nines in the British Open, Woods said sternly, 'This is where it starts.

'That was the JV,' he added. 'This is the varsity.'

Perhaps no other links in the British Open has two nines that are more diverse.

The outward nine plays with the prevailing wind and is only 3,462 yards with two par 5s, one of them reachable in two with as little as a 7-iron. The inward nine is 3,713 yards and plays into the teeth of the wind, yet it has only one par 5.

'You're going to see a lot of birdies and sure enough some eagles on the front nine,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'But then you get to the 10th tee, and the fun starts. If the wind is blowing pretty good, which I hope it does, I've got to believe the back nine will play ... five shots harder.'

It was blowing hard late Sunday evening when Mark O'Meara came to the 457-yard closing hole and barely reached the fairway with one of his best drives. It was blowing moderately Monday morning when Woods cracked a 3-iron toward the 222-yard 17th hole and watched it barely creep up to the putting surface.

'I can't get there with that,' he said under his breath.

This Jekyll & Hyde links will holds its eighth British Open starting Thursday, with the focus on Woods trying to end his 0-for-8 drought in the major championships, Phil Mickelson attempting to add to an illustrious season that already includes a green jacket, and Ernie Els with another outside chance to become No. 1 in the world.

Mostly, the attention will be directed to the crackle of flags atop the clubhouse. After all, the official club history is titled 'The Breezy Links 'O' Troon.'

'You try to make your score going out,' said Lee Westwood, whose best finish in a British Open was a tie for 10th at Royal Troon in 1997. 'I remember last time there were a lot of guys who were 4 and 5 under par on the first eight holes. And then you try to hang on.'

Not all the first nine holes play like a local municipal course. The shortest hole in Open history is also one of the most punishing, the 123-yard 'Postage Stamp' that can turn fortunes quickly.

The green is narrow with two pot bunkers to the left, one in front and two to the right. O'Meara tossed a ball in the soft, brown sand during his practice round early Monday, blasted it out and watched it roll across the green toward another bunker.

Herman Tissies, a German amateur, was bunkered left of the green in the 1950 British Open. It took him five shots to get out -- to a bunker on the right. He eventually made 15. Woods was trying to get back into contention in the final round in 1997 until taking a triple bogey on the Postage Stamp hole.

Just the sight of it can be intimidating.

'I was nervous today and it was a practice round, and it was a 9-iron and the wind wasn't blowing very hard,' Calcavecchia said. 'It's an awesome little hole.'

The rest of the front nine is relatively easy. Players routinely try to drive the green on the 370-yard opening hole and the 379-yard third hole, and Woods gave passing thought to trying to drive the 405-yard fourth.

That's not technology talking -- that's a wee breeze at Royal Troon, not to mention the firm fairways of a links that require landing the ball some 30 yards short of the green and bouncing onto the green.

But while the holes aren't particularly long, some skill is required.

Calcavecchia had 240 yards left to the front of the 560-yard fourth hole and decided to hit 5-iron.

'I normally fly my 5-iron about 195 to 200, so I figure I needed to fly it 30 or 40 yards short of the green,' he said. 'I hit a good shot, landed 30, 40 yards short the green and went over. So it was your stock 270-yard 5-iron. And I'm not one of the longer guys with my irons.'

Still, the back nine is what separates the contenders.

Tee shots are into the wind, so any errant shot is exaggerated, and there are gorse bushes lining some of the fairways. Those are like shrubs full of tiny thorns, which essentially serves as a one-shot penalty. And at 3,713 yards, the back nine plays significantly longer.

Calcavecchia, who hit that 'stock 5-iron' that went 270 yards on the downwind fourth, had about 200 yards on the 13th and pounded a 3-iron that just reached the green.

'It's all about the wind,' he said.

Calcavecchia won at Royal Troon in 1989 with one of the best shots of his life, a 5-iron from 201 yards in the first cut of rough into about 15 feet on the 18th hole to win a four-hole playoff against Greg Norman and Wayne Grady.

Justin Leonard won in 1997 with a brilliant performance on the greens, which are among the purest in Britain. Also back in a rare appearance is Tom Weiskopf, the last wire-to-wire winner in the British Open who captured his only major at Royal Troon in 1973.

'There's a few changes, some new bunkers, some tees and some news angles,' Weiskopf said. 'But the course basically plays the same. There's some opportunities on the front nine. And then the back nine, it's long and demanding and difficult.'
Related Links:
  • TV Airtimes

  • British Open Photo Gallery

  • Full Coverage - 133rd Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

    Getty Images

    Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

    PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

    While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

    But then . . .

    “Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

    In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

    She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

    With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

    At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

    Park’s back with a hot putter.

    That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

    “The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

    Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

    “But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

    Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

    Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

    They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

    Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

    “I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

    “She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

    Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

    “I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

    Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

    “When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

    Getty Images

    Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

    PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

    It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

    “This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

    Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

    “First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

    Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

    Getty Images

    Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

    PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

    She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

    That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

    With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

    Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

    Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

    Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

    “I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

    Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

    Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

    “I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

    About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

    “I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

    Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

    While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

    Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

    “You never know,” she said.