When US Amateur Stopped Counting as a Major
Tiger Woods could say he has won 13 majors using that math, but he doesn't see it that way and never has. Ask him how many majors he has collected, and Woods doesn't hesitate to say the British Open last month was his 10th.
None of it really matters to Jack Nicklaus.
Whether he has 18 or 20 majors, he still holds the record.
``You could do it either way you want to do it,'' Nicklaus said. ``I could have 20 and Tiger could have 13. I mean, I don't care. But I can't imagine that anybody would have thought of the U.S. Amateur being a major in the last 10 or 15 years. Forty years ago, they still looked at it that way.''
Nicklaus spoke two weeks before the start of the U.S. Amateur, the oldest championship (by one day) in American golf and long considered a major title. He won it in 1959 and 1961 before turning pro, then captured the U.S. Open the following year for the first of 18 professional majors.
Somewhere along the way, the U.S. Amateur seems to have lost its status, if not some luster.
Edoardo Molinari of Italy is the latest champion, winning Sunday afternoon at fabled Merion Golf Club to become the first European winner since Harold Hilton in 1911.
The victory earned Molinari a place in history alongside some of the biggest names in golf -- Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Palmer, Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Woods. It gets him into the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
But should it count as his first major?
It sure didn't for Mickelson. And it certainly won't for Nathaniel Crosby or Bubba Dickerson.
``That should be classified as one of the major championships,'' said Palmer, who won the 1954 U.S. Amateur before adding seven majors as a pro. ``I don't know who downplayed it or why they did. Until they downgraded it, I used to say I had won eight. I've sort of backed off of that now, because no one recognizes it any more.
``To not recognize it as a major is too bad.''
If not for the U.S. Amateur, there wouldn't be a Grand Slam.
This is the 75-year anniversary of Jones winning the four major titles of his time -- the British Open, the British Amateur, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. George Trevor of the New York Sun referred to Jones' feat as the ``impregnable quadrilateral,'' while O.B. Keeler in the Atlanta Journal later called it the ``Grand Slam.''
And that's what inspired Palmer in 1960 to reinvent the notion of winning all four majors in one year.
He won the Masters and U.S. Open and was on his way to St. Andrews with Pittsburgh sportswriter Bob Drum. They got to talking about Jones, and Palmer suggested a new Grand Slam.
``That became the talk of the town,'' Palmer said. ``They dropped the status of the Amateur, and I'm sorry they did that. How can you say Jones won the Grand Slam if you don't include the Amateur?''
Someone was still counting the U.S. Amateur when Nicklaus came around.
His victory in the 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury gave Nicklaus his 14th career major to break Jones' record of 13 (five U.S. Amateurs, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens and one British Amateur). At the time, Nicklaus had won 12 professional majors and two Amateurs.
But when he won his last major at the 1986 Masters, the record he left behind was 18 professional majors.
What became of the U.S. Amateur?
``It's a major championship in the game of golf,'' Nicklaus said. ``But is it one of the ones that you want to put in that list? Because of Jones is the only way you would put it there. I accept it either way.''
Without the U.S. Amateur, Jones only has seven majors. Nicklaus still would have beaten the record at Canterbury with his 12 professional majors, one more than Walter Hagen.
Trying to determine when the U.S. Amateur lost its status as a major is as unclear as when the Masters and PGA Championship took over.
Woods brought the U.S. Amateur some attention by becoming the first male to win three straight years. But he never considered it a major. He suggests the demise of the Amateur came in the 1940s and 1950s, when Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson were the popular forces in golf.
``That's when professional golf got big,'' Woods said. ``They didn't play in it because they were all pros. I think that's when you can discount any guy winning the Amateur as being a major.''
Even Nicklaus says the U.S. Amateur as a major was ``borderline'' when he won in 1959 and 1961. He probably counted it toward his major total because the record he chased -- 13 by Jones -- included six amateur titles.
``A lot of people considered that a major at that time because of Jones' situation and what he did,'' Nicklaus said. ``I think as time has gone on, and so much focus has gone on the four professional majors, they just sort of dropped off.''
USGA president Fred Ridley is the last U.S. Amateur champion (1975) who didn't turn pro. Jay Sigel won in 1982-83 and remained an amateur until he turned 50 and tried the Champions Tour.
Golf at the highest level is now about professionals.
So are the majors.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
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?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
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
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.
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.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
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.