History of Golf - Part Four The First Heroes

By George WhiteJuly 17, 2002, 4:00 pm
When you spoke the word professional in the early 1800s, you were referring to a professional caddie. The caddies were the only group that made a living from the game. They carried the clubs, certainly, but in 1800 they did so much more. In Robert Brownings book A History of Golf he describes the early caddie as his patrons guide, philosopher, and his friend, his instructor when he was off his game, and co-arbiter with the opposition caddie in all disputes.
Caddies were, in short, usually the best players. The best known in the early 1800s was David Robertson of St. Andrews. He was known as a senior caddie, whose duties were primarily to carry for the captain of St. Andrews on important occasions.
Robertson was the last of the senior caddies. His son, Allan Robertson, was also a caddie as a youth, but he emerged as the first great professional player.
The Robertsons were also ball-makers, carefully stuffing feathers into leather spheroids. But Allan was an exceptional golfer. In a series of famous matches watched by one of Scotlands largest sporting crowds of the 19th century, he teamed with his assistant, Tom (Old Tom) Morris, to play the Dunn brothers, Willie and Jamie of Musselburgh.
The four were to play a trio of matches in 1849, the first to be at the Dunns course at Musselburgh. The second was at St. Andrews, the home of Robertson and Morris. The third was at the neutral location of North Berwick. The matches were each to be 20 holes, and at stake was 400 pounds ' a huge sum in those days. Of course, side-bets were made from the spectators totaling many times more than that.
The Dunns won the first match easily on their home course, 13 and 12, principally because Robertson played poorly. Allan and Tom barely won the second match at St. Andrews. And at North Berwick in the decider, Robertson and Morris were down four with but eight holes to play.
Then, in one of the great comebacks in golf history, Robertson and Morris rallied to win six holes in a row, taking the match 2-up and winning the series, 2-1.
It was a great golfing tandem, the old master Robertson and his apprentice Morris. However, they would split friendships before too long over a dispute about golf balls. Robertson was a featherie man all the way. Morris had begun to use the gutta percha ball, which had come into widespread use in the middle of the 1800s.
The gutta percha was much superior to the featherie, hard as opposed to the soft ball which was subject to abuse by so many objects along the ground. Robertson, remember, was a ball-maker and did not want to see the age of the featherie come to an end. The dispute caused a split between the two which lasted the remainder of Robertsons life. However, the featherie was doomed with the gutta percha quickly taking over as the ball of choice ' Robertsons angry protests notwithstanding.
Robertson did, however, make one contribution to the game, the effects of which are still felt today. Previous to Robertson, the iron club was used strictly to extricate oneself from difficult lies. The rest of the clubs were used to score, and they all had wooden faces. Robertson introduced the iron as the way to approach the green. No longer would golfers use woods with their greater mass only for extrication from ruts and such.
The first inter-Scotland club matches were played in 1857, signaling the end of the great private match-play competitions. St. Andrews was the location and Royal Blackheath was the winner of the 11-club meeting, each club fielding two-man teams..

History - 1860 British Open
The inaugural British Open was played in 1860.
The world would wait until 1860 for the first British Open to be played. The first year only eight players competed and there was nothing open about this meeting ' all eight entries were professionals. Willie Park was the champion, his 174 two strokes better than Old Tom Morris.
The first Open was held at Prestwick with its 12 holes. Players went around the course three times in a single day for the 36-hole match. Park received no prize money, only a large red leather-and-silver belt. Interestingly, the word caddie and professional in this era were used interchangeably.
With no prize money, there had to be some reason for the golfers to come to Prestwick. And indeed, the Prestwick club tournament was held that week. It offered a great opportunity for the professionals to caddie and earn extra money ' which they did.
The second Open, though, in 1861, was open to everyone ' amateur and pro alike. Old Tom Morris won that one and he also won in 1863. By now he was the premier player, winning four of the next six tournaments.
His streak was finally broken by his son, Young Tom Morris. Young Tom was a golfing prodigy, much the same as Bobby Jones in the early 1900s. Young Morris first began playing matches when he was only 13, and by the time he was 16 he played in his first British Open.
Young Tom won in 1868 on his third try, then proceeded to win the next three in succession ' four in all. He won by remarkable scores ' 157 for 36 holes in his first win, which beat the field by 13 shots. He won by an average of nine strokes during his four-year reign as British Open champion ' exceptional for a 36-hole tournament. Morris score of 149 in 1870 was a record for the gutta percha ball. It remained unbroken until Jack Whites victory 34 years later.

History - Tom Morris
Tom 'Young Tom' Morris
Alas, though, death claimed Young Tom when he was just 24 years old, after his fourth British Open victory. His wife had just died in childbirth, and many believe Morris died of a broken heart. He succumbed on Christmas Day of 1874.
The first 12 Opens were played at Prestwick, a club that never intended to monopolize the proceedings forever. Therefore, St. Andrews stepped in 1873 and from thereafter a rota was arranged.
An interesting incident occurred in 1876 when an oversight occurred and the St. Andrews committee forgot to reserve tee times Saturday for the Open. Thus, the competitors were mixed in with couples and others out for 18 holes on a pleasant day. To make matters worse, the tee sheet was quite crowded, which caused a myriad of problems for the competitors, who still had to complete 36 holes.
The latter part of the 19th century saw an explosion of golf in England and Ireland. Through it all, however, the men who played in these tournaments remained first of all equipment manufacturers and caddies, giving lessons to others. Not until the Parks, Willie and Willie Jr., did a golfer attempt to live off what he had won at tournaments.
That was because the British Open for many years paid precious little. The first year, as noted, there was only the belt and no prize money. Not until 1892 did the prize money total 100 pounds ' about $150.
Nor was the belt of much value. Willie Park, Jr., returned it to the Royal & Ancient after he won it, saying that if the cheap medal was the best the society could do, the members had best keep it themselves.
Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.