Road Hole at St Andrews gets tougher

By Doug FergusonJuly 13, 2010, 12:06 am

Open ChampionshipST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Scott Verplank walked off the 16th green on the Old Course and headed for the next tee when his caddie made a startling observation.

“Hey, look,” Scott Tway said. “We’re teeing off out of bounds.”

Sure enough, the right side of the 16th green is lined by white stakes to indicate out of bounds. The new tee for the British Open, 40 yards beyond where it used to be, is located behind those stakes. That stretches the par 4 to 495 yards.

As if the Road Hole at St. Andrews wasn’t peculiar enough.

Thomas Aiken
Thomas Aiken plays from the Road Hole bunker Monday. (Getty Images)
The Royal & Ancient is up to speed when it comes to the modernization of championship golf, and chief executive Peter Dawson figured it was time to lengthen one of the most famous holes in the game. It was intended to challenge players toward the end of the round, yet more and more players were getting by with an iron off the tee and a short iron to the green.

Now, the driver is required on days except when the wind is at the back. And the hole appears to be as tough as ever.

Quirky, too.

“I’ve never had to hit over a building before,” Dustin Johnson said Tuesday during his practice round.

Players cannot see the green from the tee – they can’t see most of the fairway, for that matter – because the proper line is blocked by the Old Course Hotel. The ideal tee shot is over the hotel’s lettering written on the side of a maintenance shed.

The confident players pick a letter – typically the “o” in hotel, although any “o” usually will suffice.

“Actually, in practice rounds I always go along the limit, so I hit it down along the hotel to see how far right I can go,” Padraig Harrington said. “It’s one of those things, you want to know how far you can go right. And it’s not that far.”

Keeping it in the fairway is the chore.

Whereas the fairway used to go in the direction of the tee, the angle now is so severe that it goes sharply to the right in the direction of the second shot. To play a tee shot away from the hotel, which looks safe, will put the ball in thick, rough and make it virtually impossible to reach the green.

And then there’s the green.

To the left is the Road Hole bunker, which is about 6 feet deep and has a sodden wall up toward the green. Beyond the putting surface is a paved road, which is in play and how the hole got its name.

Birdies are rare. Bogeys are acceptable.

“I don’t mind making a 5 on the 17th,” Masters champion Phil Mickelson said.

Geoff Ogilvy tends to lean on the advice of five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson who said he would aim for the front right portion of the green all four days, no matter where the flag was.

“He used to say if made two 4s and 2 5s, you haven’t lost anything to the field,” Ogilvy said. “I don’t think that’s changed.”

The R&A expects controversy, or at the very least complaints. That’s typical of any change, especially one that lengthens the hole. So far, the change has been accepted.

“I think it’s a really good improvement,” Lee Westwood said.

That’s not to say it has been approved.

“I don’t mind the length of the hole,” Ogilvy said. “I just wish they didn’t have to do it.”

Ogilvy’s biggest beef is the punishment on a 495-yard hole by missing the fairway to the left. The rough doesn’t look any different from the rest of the Old Course, with its wispy strands of shin-high native grass. It’s what is underneath that is so troubling. The grass is green and dense, and it makes it difficult to find a stray tee shot, much less hit it.

“The don’t like the left rough,” Ogilvy said. “Not that it’s rough, but that it’s in the state it’s in. It’s the only patch of dark, green rough on the course. I don’t think it’s like that anywhere else.”

And he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.

The one hope for the players – if you can call it that – is a notice from the R&A that the previous tee might be used if the wind is too strong into the face. Then, it might be tough to even reach the fairway.

Otherwise, complaints have been minimal, perhaps because the line off the tee has not changed much. It’s still about picking the right letter and hitting the right shot.

“I went for the ‘d’ in ‘Old,’ Johnson said, and he hammered it into the middle of the fairway.

Eric Chun, a junior at Northwestern playing his first Open, hit a draw over the corner of the maintenance shed and wound up in deep rough. Verplank, not a power player by any stretch, showed him the way with a gentle draw over the “o” in hotel.

“Anywhere over ‘old’ is a good line, and not much further than ‘l’ in ‘hotel,”’ Westwood said.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson simply wanted to put the challenge back into the Old Course, and it’s not the first time. It was stretched 164 yards for the 2005 British Open, and so many tees were rearranged for championship golf that players hit off parts of five courses at St. Andrews.

Yet it was the out-of-bounds stakes in front of the 17th tee that drew so much attention.

“You could hit a shot on 16 and be out of bounds,” Ogilvy said. “And then play your next tee shot from there.”

The Road Hole has not played a big part in deciding the last two British Opens at St. Andrews, mainly because Tiger Woods won by eight and five shots, respectively.

That might not be the case this time.

“You’ve really got to stand up there and hit your drive, and hit it well,” Harrington said. “The way I look at it, you always want to make sure that the guy that wins the Open Championship is tested at some stage coming down the stretch. There’s nobody who’s going to get through 17 without thinking about it for four days.”

 

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.