Remembering Ouimet: Why Vardon and Ray?

By Al TaysJune 5, 2013, 11:55 am

Harry Vardon was one-third of the Great Triumvirate of British professional golfers around the turn of the 20th century, but only the most ardent golf fans in the United States would likely be able to name the other two members, James Braid and J.H. Taylor.

"When we talk about the greatest players ever, of course we talk about Jones, Nelson, Nicklaus and now you put Tiger in there," said Golf Channel historian Martin Davis. "We tend to forget Vardon."


 Remembering Ouimet
Baggs: Who was Francis?
Baggs: Search for Ouimet
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The British were eager to recapture the U.S. Open trophy in 1913 after John J. McDermott had become the first American to win the title, in 1911, and successfully defended it in 1912. Those victories, coupled with the fact that Walter J. Travis, an Australian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, had in 1904 become the first American player to win the British Amateur, still peeved the British.

Writing in The American Golfer in January 1913, English golf writer Henry Leach looked down his nose at American golfers and golf courses. "I am sure that we are appreciably better than their best, and I believe we shall always be so because the Americans have to play the game under inferior conditions and such as hardly permit of their developing the finer shades of skill," Leach wrote. "The Americans play a rather plainer game than we do. The country may and probably will produce an occasional golfing phenomenon, and it may win our Championship again, but it will never be really superior to us at golf."

Why put most of their hopes in Vardon and Ted Ray and to a lesser extent, Wilfrid Reid? Were they really the best men for the job?

Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, James Braid and J.H. Taylor

(Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, James Braid, J.H. Taylor (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

In 1913 Vardon had won one U.S. Open, in 1900, and five British Opens. But before his most recent British Open win, in 1911, he had not won one for eight years. He was also 43 years old and had spent quite some time way from the game while suffering from tuberculosis. The disease still made his hands twitch, and his putting suffered considerably.

Taylor, an Englishman, was a year younger than Vardon and had won five British Opens, his fifth, and last, coming in 1913. He had played in only one U.S. Open, finishing second to Vardon in 1900.

Braid, a Scot, was three months older than Vardon. In 1913 he had won one more British Open than Vardon, five to four, Braid's most recent having come in 1910.

So why Vardon for the U.S. tour and not either of the others? Taylor did play in the 1913 U.S. Open, finishing T-30, but he made the trip to America at his own expense. Braid never played in a U.S. Open.

"I'm not sure that Vardon was considered the 'premier' player in 1913," said British golf author/historian Dale Concannon. "I think both Braid and Taylor would have been considered over him – perhaps even Ray as the 1912 Open champion) – but Vardon was by far the best known to the wider golfing public."

Americans had become familiar with Vardon during his 1900 tour of the U.S., during which he had won his first and only U.S. Open, and during the time when he was recovering from tuberculosis and playing less than usual, Vardon increased his public profile by writing books, making appearances, etc.

"The problem with Braid," Concannon said, "was that he suffered from terrible travel sickness, which is why he never played abroad. Taylor was the most in-form player at the time – shown by his 1913 Open win, but was considered abrasive and 'uncommercial,' unlike Vardon.

"That's why Wilfrid Reid went on the trip. He was a well-mannered English golfer."

As for Ray, he was seven years younger than Vardon, also from the Isle of Jersey, and a popular player because of both his personality and his bomb-and-gouge style. He had won the Open Championship in 1912, but he had contended in several others, finishing in the top 10 seven times before 1913. He would go on to win the U. S. Open in 1920, becoming, at age 43, the oldest U.S. Open champion until Raymond Floyd, older by only a few months, won in 1986.

Ray also was a different character than the one portrayed in the Disney movie, says Concannon, calling his portrayal "a disgrace. He was a soft-spoken and intelligent golfer who Vardon trusted through his entire life."

In the end, Vardon and Ray were the best men for the job – they simply didn't get it done. They came up a single shot shy of winning back the trophy for Britain in regulation, and were decisively beaten in the playoff.

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."