Memories of a Magical Place
Its known formally as Royal Liverpool, but much more familiarly as Hoylake. Liverpool is across the River Mersey, separated by a tunnel and perhaps 15-20 minutes of winding road. Its in the little burgh of Hoylake, hence the name. The club is quite stodgy and ver-ry British.
It was probably 15-20 years ago when Steve Hershey, then the golf writer for the newspaper USA Today, and I ventured over to Hoylake for a round the week prior to the British Open. Hershey was aware of the course through his readings of past Opens, I believe. Hoylake wasnt generally known to Americans, wasnt one of Britains golf factories, was in a rather out-of-way location, and thus wasnt frequented by a host of tourists.
Plus ' the main street of Hoylake the town has one of the worlds greatest British pubs. Once Hershey had discovered The Ship Inn, it was nigh impossible to dislodge him from his bar stool. The pubs proprietor, one Ian Mackie, was a most jovial fellow, and it didnt take much encouragement to convince Hershey (and admittedly, myself), that this was the place to be. The golf course was only about a mile down the street ' ergo, Royal Liverpool became a permanent fixture on the White-Hershey pre-Open travels.
We were able to gain admittance with the old golf reporters sleight-of-hand ' liberally dropping the golf journalist occupation to the club secretary. And then we were off on a most baffling jaunt around the Hoylake property. The first hole is right out the door of the clubhouse, but after that, finding holes in numbered sequence was as difficult as finding a course named Royal Liverpool in a town nowhere near Liverpool.
Trying to locate the second hole from the first green, and third hole from the second green, is nigh impossible. You would find the tee box, but the fairway was lost amongst the landscape that is virtually inescapable from the surrounding flora.
But eventually we succeeded, of course. The course plays along peoples backyards and flower boxes until you get to the 7th, which runs parallel to the 10th, which is parallel to the Dee Estuary and the Irish Sea. The 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th are all adjacent to the sea, though sometimes the sea is hidden by the mounds and gorse.
One additional mention: the first, 15th and 16th holes surround the practice range, located interestingly enough inside the course. And each have out-of-bounds stakes on the practice range side. Hit it in the range and you are OB.
My wife and I went to England once on vacation and I had to include Hoylake, anxious to introduce her to the club, The Ship and the ebullient Mackie. On this visit I produced a small video feature on Hoylake for The Golf Channel, and I encountered Leslie Edwards, the club historian. Edwards, himself a former golf writer, was a very pleasant elderly gentleman who then invited the missus and me to meet him for 2 oclock tea in the clubhouse.
Of course, 2 oclock tea meant coat and tie, and a similarly dressy outfit for my wife. As I say, this course was ver-ry British. The two of us played a round at 9 a.m. ' the missus got a rather subtle scrutiny from the club secretary as she hit her opening tee shot. Luckily, she nailed it, and no further evidence of golf aptitude was required. And after the round, we showered, changed into our Sunday duds, went into the clubhouse proper and properly lifted tea cups. All so very well, British.
Over the years, I have frequently returned to Hoylake. The Ship Inn, the Green Lodge Hotel, Ian, the quirky old golf course ' all are wonderful memories. Throughout the years I have returned many times and made many memories.
I could never imagine that Hoylake would ever host another British Open when I first visited in the 80s. But the club purchased some adjacent land a couple of years back and suddenly it became a possibility. Then, the more the teas were held, and the more the discussions took place, the more realistic it became.
I, sadly, am going to miss this one. But the old red brick clubhouse of Royal Liverpool will be rocking, I am sure.
Well, not rocking gently swaying is a much more civilized phrase. Hoylake is just not that way. Ver-r-y British, you know.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.