National Golf Links has a grip on Crenshaw

By Damon HackSeptember 6, 2013, 12:50 am

“How’s your grip?” Ben Crenshaw asks on the other end of the phone, and I start to fumble for words.

This is not why I’m calling the World Golf Hall of Fame member – I want to talk about the National Golf Links of America, site of this weekend’s Walker Cup matches – but I tell him I just shot 41 for nine.

I’m mortified – how does 41 sound to Ben Crenshaw? – but he was only following up on a grip lesson he gave me after we shared a round at Streamsong in January. He wants to know if I’ve been working on it. With Ben, it’s all about the fundamentals.

The same can be said for the golf course Crenshaw calls “one of my favorite places in the world,” a golf course whose fundamentals are so sound it just might be perfect.

Walker Cup Match: Articles, videos and photos

It is the National, a course Crenshaw visits every year, a course that has informed him both as a player and a golf course architect.

“It is a nod to the past, it is a nod to yesterday,” he explains. “I love that clubhouse. It is an ancient, brooding place. The land is brilliant and beautiful. You really feel like you are playing at a cousin to the golf courses of the British Isles. It has such great feeling and character.”

Twenty amateurs will walk these grounds in competition Saturday and Sunday, but NBC’s television cameras will be poised on the course as much as the players.

The first Walker Cup was contested at the National in 1922, 14 years after the club was founded under the leadership of Charles Blair Macdonald, who worked with the engineer Seth Raynor to shape the future of American golf.

“Charlie Macdonald was determined to elevate the face of golf architecture in this country, and he did it in spectacular fashion,” Crenshaw says.

He calls him Charlie. I didn’t see that coming.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a Charlie Macdonald or Seth Raynor golf course where I didn’t remember the features – the immense bunkers, the rolling greens, the distance and quality of the holes,” Crenshaw says. “There are so many wonderful puzzles in playing the National. Long holes, short holes, fun holes, heroic carries, magnificent greens. I heard it said that there used to be 365 bunkers – one for every day of the year.”

I asked Crenshaw to compare it to its long-time neighbor, Shinnecock Hills, which will host the United States Open in 2018.

“Shinnecock is a sterner test, and it’s ironic that they are right next door,” he says. “Fun is the operative word at the National.”

Over the years it has become rote to describe the National as an ode to the great Scottish links, but Crenshaw believes that notion is a simplification.

“Yes, a majority of the holes are replicas of famous holes overseas, but they have a touch of character that makes them play a little different,” he says. “You play the Alps hole, the 17th, at Prestwick and then you play the third hole at the National, you can see the features, but they are entirely different,” Crenshaw says. “Macdonald put his own stamp of character on them. I, for one, think the Redan hole, No. 4 at the National, is a better hole than the original at North Berwick.”

Crenshaw says he is excited for the teams from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland – “young and impressionable” – to play a golf course that represents the blossoming of American golf.

He predicts that the players from overseas will feel comfortable at the National, just as their forebears did in 1922, despite an 8-4 defeat.

The great golf writer Bernard Darwin covered the event for the Times of London and took a spot on the team when one member fell ill. (He defeated William C. Fownes, the 1910 U.S. Amateur champion, 3 and 1).

Nearly 30 years into his own golf design career with Bill Coore, Crenshaw says he can’t help but reference the National in various ways.

“We think about that course a lot and we talk about its principles,” he says. “Holes that are fun to play, holes that everyone can enjoy, that are spacious, really bold, and that have elasticity.”

How many golfers speak like this, I quietly ask myself, typing furiously as Crenshaw continues. He seems willing to talk about this great romance forever, but I know I should let him go.

“I don’t think there is a prettier site in golf,” he says.

I bid him farewell and reach for my 6-iron.

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Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 8:07 pm

Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.

Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”