Best golf developments of the past 50 years

By Brandel ChambleeJanuary 27, 2014, 12:00 pm

In my last column I told you about a vision I have of golf in the near future. It wasn’t pretty. It had its genesis in the short attention span and instant gratification needs of today’s youth, as well as some of the well-intentioned yet misguided proposals to halt the erosion of recreational golf’s player base. I followed with a list of the five worst things that have happened to golf in the past 50 years – events or ideas or people that have hampered the growth of the game.

But I’m not totally pessimistic about golf’s future. There have been other, more positive developments in the game that give me hope that my kids might one day break 80 playing 18 holes in four hours, with their shirts tucked in while enjoying each other’s company and savoring the opportunity to be outdoors.

So here are my five best things to happen to golf in the past 50 years:

5. Keeping it simple. Harvey Penick, with his direct way of communicating, avoiding all technicality, was the well-known teacher of Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth and countless others, famous and not. All of them came away better golfers and people for having been in his company. In an age when everyone seems to have all the answers about the golf swing, it is worth noting that Penick, who died in 1995 shortly before Crenshaw’s second Masters victory, was known to take a day to answer a student’s question, so careful was he in choosing the right words, realizing their lasting impact. He took this complicated game and made it simple and charged $5 for a lesson. His lifetime of compiled thoughts on golf, the “Little Red Book,” sold for $19. 



4. The Golden Age revival of golf course architecture over the past 20 years. It has given us Bandon Dunes, Cape Kidnappers, Ballyneal, Friars Head and Sand Hills, to name a few. The popularity of these venues illustrates the lengths to which golfers will go to play a course uncorrupted by someone’s contrived aesthetic appeal, both of commercialism and design. Every architect I have talked to pays homage to Alister MacKenzie, yet so few seem to understand his principles of creating an ideal course, principals such as “Every hole should be different in character and there should be infinite variety in the strokes required to play the various holes.” Thankfully the architects of the courses named above are among the few who do. You want to play golf in three hours with one ball and breathe inspiring air? Play Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes. 

3. Advances in equipment. Much-maligned developments such as perimeter-weighted irons, investment-cast clubs, square grooves, metal-headed drivers, fairway clubs, hybrids and two-piece balls have made this game more exciting and easier for everyone. Whether it was Karsten Solheim and his Ping Anser in 1967 or his K1 irons in 1969, Golden Ram introducing surlyn in a golf ball in 1968, TaylorMade unveiling a metal-headed driver at the PGA Merchandise Show in 1979 or its adjustable-weight technology in 2007, Callaway and the Big Bertha or Titleist and the Pro V1, or countless other technological advances, golf equipment intoxicates us. Critics say the governing bodies have been remiss in their duties to protect the game. Hogwash. It’s not their job to thwart capitalism, but by bifurcating they could have allowed amateurs the joy of these advances while protecting the nostalgic professional records and the nuances of the game. They also would have negated the need to lengthen courses and speed up greens. 

2. Tiger Woods. He possesses an aptitude for this game that we cannot explain. There have been players who were geniuses at striking the ball, players who were geniuses in the short game, players whose genius was in strategy and players who had a flair for the moment. But no player has ever woven all these threads into the kind of tapestry that makes up the game of Tiger Woods.

Such virtuosity, comparable to that of a Mozart, a Michelangelo, a Picasso, a da Vinci, a Rembrandt, makes us wonder how gifts so absolute come into being. We evaluate artists and athletes by how they are able to change history. Tiger has no rival for impact in his profession.

1. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. No sport has ever had two better examples of how to compete, how to win and how to lose. The game is indebted to these two for the safekeeping of its traditions, as either could have used his immense power to avoid the obligations that come with enormous success. Arnold has the popularity of transformative U.S. presidents; Jack has the kind of respect that goes way beyond his mind-boggling success. 

I’m certain of one thing: that the good things that have happened in this game over the past 50 years far outweigh the bad.

Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.