Reverence and the irreverent collide at The Open

By Brandel ChambleeJuly 11, 2017, 11:30 am

Long before Donald Trump followed Barack Obama, The Open was the world leader in incongruences, of the irreverent and reverent. It’s as if the docent at the snobby auction house came in half-cocked and filled the room with Ansel Adams and Leroy Neiman. Elysian Fields meets W.C. Fields. One minute you’re sitting there in that anecdotal cacophony, in that half-windsored, winter-weighted sport-coat world and the periphery of gray is suddenly interrupted by a group of men dressed like bunnies, discussing who was the better teacher, Bob Torrance or Pete Cowen.

In 1985, The Open left Scotland for England (it does that every now and then to remind Britain what makes it “Great”) and was played on the southern shore near the Cliffs of Dover at Royal St. George’s. As the championship Sunday was coming to a close, when the only worry was that they might run out of champagne, and the thread of the rich tapestry of The Open was playing out once again, by cracky, a streaker appeared on the 18th green. Give the man credit, streaking in the cold of Scotland has its own shortcomings; one is more apt to be seen in his full potential in warmer climes of Royal St. George’s I’m told … and the sun was out down south.

This man had to be dealt with, but nobody really wanted to put down their shepherd’s pie and do the dirty deed and the bobbies looked reluctant as they circled the naked villain. Tom Kite and Peter Jacobsen were just short of the home hole watching this dance, when Peter (does anyone else recognize the irony of someone with that name taking hold of the situation?!) horizonalized the man and then celebrated as if he had won golf’s oldest championship. I’m told Sandy Lyle later held the claret jug in the spidered light looking royal, if not yet ancient.

Even the name of the trophy suggest confusion. Claret is a dry red wine from the Bordeaux region of France, of left bank and Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild fame, Napoleonic perhaps. A jug is, well something to put Uncle Buck’s homemade hooch in. But give a man a claret Jug, empty even, and he can hardly speak. Unless his name is Justin Leonard.

Long before Leonard had a Sunday that looked like it was authored by St. Paul and won The Open, Bobby Jones played and spoked his way onto the shoulders of the citizens of St. Andrews in that river of tweed behind the home hole at the Old Course. He held his most prized possession, his putter, Calamity Jane, above the fray. Even that scene, as perfect as it was, illustrates the anachronistic contrasts of color, sartorially and personally, present amongst all things Royal and Ancient.

Jones came to The Open in 1921 as a 19-year-old, and after 36 holes was the low amateur in the field. But in the third round, bunkered at 11, he took four to get out and then inexplicably quit. The petulant and irascible young man, when he left for America, left an irreverent impression of disdain behind. He wouldn’t return for five years and when he did he was never beaten again in The Open, winning in 1926, ‘27 and 1930. The compost of contempt that Jones had felt at first blush at the Old Course blossomed into the most florid prose, when later in his career he said, “I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St. Andrews and I would still have had a rich and full life.”

Like Jones, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus know the sting of humility on links golf. Jack’s first round as a professional in The Open, in 1962, he shot 80, and in the third round of the 1987 Open at Muirfield, he equaled his highest ever round as a professional in a major with 81. Fifteen years later, Woods, also at Muirfield and also in the third round, also shot his worst round in a major – 81. Of which the great commentator Peter Alliss said, “It’s like turning up to hear Pavaroti sing and finding out he has laryngitis.” And yet, both of them completed the career Grand Slam by winning golf’s oldest major championship. Jack at Muirfield in 1966 and Tiger at St. Andrews in 2000.

Nicklaus also chose, as had Arnold Palmer, and later Tom Watson, The Open as the place to retire from major golf. The event meant that much to them, I suspect not only for its history but because those that come out to watch the championship are unlike any other spectator in sport.

Traipsing through the sand dunes, in the worst that Mother Nature can throw at them, they seem to have an inexhaustible zest for life. Jauntily headed to see Phil or Lee or Luke, they’ll stop to look out at a bit of windblown sea and then predict the coming weather with pharmaceutical precision. It is not just rain to them. It is a warm rain or a driving rain or it is a soft rain and why worry because, as they say, most of it ends up as Scotch, anyway.

And if the sun comes out, regardless of temperature, out come the shorts – from younger and skinnier days most likely – and you’ll see legs as white as string cheese and they will walk past men dressed like bunnies. And just when you think you’re at the Piccadilly Circus a positively surreal scene will unfold and there in front of you is nothing impermanent and everything is royal and ancient.

Yep, nobody does the irreverent and reverent like The Open.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.