Turn to Turning Stone for golf gambling

By David AllenSeptember 30, 2009, 8:00 am
VERONA, N.Y. – The PGA Tour Fall Series, or Second Season, starts this week with the Turning Stone Resort Championship in Verona, N.Y. And perhaps that’s appropriate, as fall-like temperatures (showers and temperatures in the 40s and 50s) are expected in Central New York for much of the weekend.
Charles Howell III hits to 11th hole at Atunyote.
Charles Howell III plays his tee shot at the 11th hole during the third round of the 2008 Turning Stone Resort Championship.

The good news is that spectators can find shelter nearby in the form of museums -- The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, and International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota are both within 60 miles – and, of course, the Turning Stone Resort Casino, for which the tournament is named. The casino features 80 table games from Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker and Roulette to Baccarat and Texas Hold’em, a state-of-the-art Poker Room, and 2,400 Instant Multi-Game ® machines. You can gamble around the clock or, if you choose, take in a comedy show or concert at the Event Center. Among the performers scheduled to appear this fall are Trace Adkins, Stevie Wonder, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rob Thomas.

While the casino is the big attraction in Verona, located some 30 miles east of Syracuse and 115 miles west of Albany, the golf is some of the best you'll find in the Northeast. Turning Stone Resort boasts three championship golf courses, including Atunyote Golf Club – host of the Turning Stone Resort Championship – a par-3 course and player-friendly nine-hole course. Outside of Bethpage State Park on Long Island and its five courses, there’s no bigger golf facility in New York. When you add in the casino, the museums, and other local attractions, which include the Adirondack Mountains, Finger Lakes and Saratoga Springs, you have the makings of a premier golf destination.

Atunyote Golf Club
Atunyote, pronounced uh-DUNE-yote, is hosting a PGA Tour event for the fourth consecutive year, and third as the Turning Stone Resort Championship. As part of the Oneida Indian Nation, it is the first regularly scheduled Tour event held on American Indian land.
It's Casino Month in the Courses & Travel section, where we'll uncover the best casino/golf experiences from around the U.S.

- Verona, N.Y.
- French Lick, Ind.
- Las Vegas
- Biloxi, Miss.

Atunyote is the Oneida word for “eagle,” and at 7,482 yards from the championship tees (6,998 from the blue tees), the soaring hitters definitely have an advantage on this Tom Fazio-designed course, voted one of the “Best 21 Casino Courses in the USA” by Golfweek magazine. From the moment you drive through the iron-crafted main gate, which features wildlife from turtles to fish to birds, it's hard to imagine you're only three miles from a major casino and resort. Everything about the course, from the New England-style clubhouse to the short-game practice area to the personal attention you get from the staff, feels private. You won't find a course marred by hundreds of divots, either, or slow play. Only 4,200 rounds were played on Atunyote in 2008, says Robert Todd, Turning Stone’s director of golf, and there are no tee times allowed after 2 p.m.

As for the course itself, the fairways are fairly spacious, but you must navigate several streams, waterfalls and other water hazards that meander throughout the course, and the undulating greens and steep-faced bunkers which are the trademarks of a Fazio-designed course.

The 230-yard, par-3 11th hole is a perfect example: Part of the Tour’s Kodak Challenge series, it played as the most difficult hole (3.229 stroke average) at last year’s Turning Stone Resort Championship. From the tee, you must hold a very narrow green which slopes downhill and to the right, towards a brook. Any shot that misses the green to the right, even by the slightest of margins, is bound to find the water; miss left and you’re faced with a near impossible pitch shot to a green sloping away from you toward the brook.

Water looms to the right on holes 12 and 13 as well, so slicers beware. A small waterfall stands guard just to the right of the 13th green, leaving you with a nerve-wracking approach shot, especially if you find one of the four fairway bunkers off the tee. It's not a long par 4 at 416 yards (395 from the white tees), but it plays considerably longer because the fairway gets considerably more narrow the closer you get to the green, and positioning is vital. Of the 14 driving holes at last year’s championship, this one averaged the shortest drives (279 yards) and produced the second-highest scores (4.191 stroke average).

Another interesting feature on Atunyote is the red, English-style phone booth which sits behind the white tee box on No. 9. Flown in from England, you can use this booth to call in a burger or sandwich for the turn, although bets are restricted to the casino.

Kaluhyat Golf Club
Turning Stone Casino Resort
Verona, N.Y.

Getting there: Take I-90 (NYS Thruway) to Exit 33 (Verona), turn left onto Rt. 365 and left into Resort; one hour, 45 minutes from Albany, 35 minutes from Syracuse

Prices: Atunyote ($225 Resort Guest, $250 Public Guest); Kaluyhat & Shenendoah ($120, $150); Sandstone Hollow & Pleasant Knolls ($10, $15 for nine holes; $20, $25 for 18)

Did you know: Atunyote Golf Club is host of the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge, a fundraiser to help raise awareness about obesity and diabetes among American Indian youth. Tiger Woods won the most recent skins game event in August with a total of $230,000.

The second of Turning Stone’s three championship courses, and the qualifying site for the Turning Stone Resort Championship, Kaluhyat (pronounced ga-LU-yut) is the most difficult of the Turning Stone courses. From the black championship tees (7,105 yards), it has a slope rating of 150 (the maximum is 155), as compared to 140 at Atunyote.

Kaluhyat is the Oneida word for “other side of the sky,” and it has several holes that seemingly fall out of the sky. One such hole is the par-5, 593-yard 11th hole (621 yards from the tips). From the elevated tees, the first shot plays significantly downhill, but the remainder of this dogleg-left hole reverses direction and climbs several stories up to the green. For the longest hitters, it takes two mammoth shots to reach the green in two, and for the average hitter it requires three well-struck balls to reach the green. You do not want to come up short on your approach shot, as the last 60 yards are the steepest part of the journey. Fail to get up on top of the hill, and you'll be left with a difficult 40-yard pitch shot up a very slippery slope.

Accuracy and good ball-striking skills are a necessity at Kaluhyat. Almost all of the tee shots require you carry the wetlands or some high fescue grass, and it's critical you keep the ball in play. You'll want to hit a 3-wood or hybrid on many of the par 4s to keep yourself in the short grass, and to also curve your ball. Very few holes on this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. championship design play straightaway, and don't expect to find too many flat lies in the fairways, either. Kaluhyat, which was chosen by Golf Magazine as one of its 'Top 10 New Courses You Can Play' in 2003, has a lot of humps, bumps and slopes to its fairways.

Shenendoah Golf Club

This wooded parkland course (7,129 yards from the tips, 6,328 from the white tees), was host to the 2006 PGA National Club Professional Championship, and is the most heavily played of the three championship courses. Designed by Rick Smith, it was selected as one of 'America's 100 Greatest Public Courses' by Golf Digest in 2007, and is a 'Designated Certified Signature Sanctuary' by Audobon International.

You'll spot all kinds of wildlife in the marshlands and open pastures of Shenendoah, from blue herons and red-tailed hawks to whitetail deer, great-horned owls and raccoons. Among the different types of trees you'll find are sugar maple, white ash, tamaracks, hickory, white pine and red maple.

Smith also designed Sandstone Hollow, a nine-hole, par-3 course voted among the top 25 par-3 courses in the U.S. by Golf Event magazine. At $10 (public guests pay $15), it's the best bargain at Turning Stone, especially if you're not enjoying too much success at the craps tables – or you're in a hurry to get back to them. Each hole is surrounded by wild fescue grasses and wetlands, providing a challenging test for a par-3 course.

The other nine-hole course is Pleasant Knolls, which plays to a par of 36 and measures 3,393 yards from the blue tees and a player-friendly 2,710 yards from the whites. Resort guests play $10 for nine holes or $20 for 18, while the general public can tee it up for $5 more.

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The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

He is just four shots off the lead.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.

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How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

And he has plenty of company.

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Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

And there was another guy four shots behind.

Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

He went with the 5-iron.

''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.

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Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.

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Woods doesn't mind 'fun' but brutal 17th hole

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods doesn’t mind the boisterous crowd that surrounds the par-3 17th hole at PGA National.

And why should he?

When the wind died down Friday afternoon, Woods played a “big ol’ cut” with a 5-iron that dropped 12 feet from the cup. He made the putt – one of just nine birdies on the day – and when he walked off the green, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

The scene is expected to be even more raucous Saturday at the Honda Classic, especially with Woods in contention.

There is a Goslings Bear Trap tent just to the right of the tee. The hole has become a hot topic in recent years, after a few players complained that the noise from the nearby crowd was distracting as they tried to play a wind-blown, 190-yard shot over water.

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Woods was asked his thoughts on the party setup after finishing his second-round 71.

“As long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, we’re fine,” he said. “They can be raucous. They are having a great time. It’s fun. They are having a blast, and hopefully we can execute golf shots, but as long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, everything’s cool.”

After the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open, a few players told Woods that fans were trying to time their screams with the players’ downswings.

“There’s really no reason to do that,” Woods said. “I think that most of the people there at 17 are golfers, and they understand how hard a golf shot that is. So they are being respectful, but obviously libations are flowing.”

The 17th played as the most difficult hole on the course Friday, with a 3.74 scoring average and a combined score to par of 104 over. More than a quarter of the tee shots found the water.