The long and short of golf courses

By John HawkinsApril 17, 2012, 7:34 pm

For reasons I’m still not sure of, I continue to hold memberships at two private establishments in southern Connecticut. One was founded in 1895 and features a course designed by A.W. Tillinghast, paddleball courts and a stately clubhouse erected at the highest point on the property. It is usually in immaculate shape and has hosted several U.S. Golf Association events over the years, most notably the 1987 U.S. Senior Open.

My other club is a 5,800-yard mousetrap we call the Little Brown Dog. In addition to a lack of space, the course has drainage problems and two or three holes that make no sense from an architectural standpoint. Speaking of which, I have no idea who is responsible for the layout at LBD.

Some would consider it a waste of four hours, others would call it quirky, but I call it home. I play a vast majority of my golf at the Little Brown Dog, which is about 1,000 yards shorter than the Tillinghast but every bit as difficult, especially if you’ve played it no more than 20 or 30 times. When it comes to local knowledge, LBD is basically Harvard with a little more mud.

I’m enlightening you with all this useless information because professional golf, at least in recent years, has gravitated toward venues with gigantic greens, lots of room to miss off the tee and a collection of 500-yard par 4s. Now more than ever, the game is rewarding faulty distance, blithely catering to players without anything close to a full skill set.

Not to pick on TPC San Antonio, site of this week’s Valero Texas Open, but after back-to-back stops at Augusta National and Harbour Town, two of the most ingeniously designed courses to host a golf tournament, we’re looking at a 7,500-yard behemoth with all the sign-of-the-times components requisite to befriending the PGA Tour. The posh, on-site hotel and spa. No par 5 shorter than 567 yards, which might be why TPC San Antonio’s par-5 scoring average (4.94) was the Tour’s highest in 2011. The outrageous green complexes and oversized putting surfaces, surely as competitive compensation for the sheer length of the course itself.

Add it all up and you’ve got a 21st-century shrine to modern golf. A place where Greg Norman, a renowned and very talented architect, had all kinds of room and all kinds of budget, then went out and waged his own little war with equipment technology.

Take a good look at the field. It is one of the weakest all year, which is not the fault of the tournament, which is happy to be part of the regular-season schedule after time spent in the Fall Series. The turnout is simply a function of the dates – smack in the middle of what Tim Rosaforte, my longtime colleague, has referred to as the “dead zone.”

Harbour Town, however, has done pretty well despite batting right after the Masters, in part because a good number of Tour pros – perhaps a dozen I’ve talked to over the years – consider it one of their favorite courses. It is very tight in spots, somewhat spacious in others, but without fail, Harbour Town requires precision. The targets are small (or narrow), the penalty for errant play unyielding. It is a test in every sense of the word, and players definitely like challenges that are unique, not silly.

I find it interesting that a majority of pros, at least in my estimation, would prefer Harbour Town over TPC Sawgrass – both Pete Dye products with strikingly similar aesthetic characteristics. Perhaps it’s just the relaxed atmosphere of Hilton Head and the exhale of post-Masters steam. Or maybe it’s the tiny greens and miniaturized margin for error they find so appealing, the notion that just reward is best gleaned from proper execution.

For all the talk in recent years about the sensibility and lovability of short par 4s, it’s a trend that simply hasn’t caught on. The few that made it such an endearing premise are still the common standard. When Sergio Garcia refers to TPC San Antonio’s 410-yard 12th hole as “short but dangerous” in his online description of the venue, I beg his pardon, albeit with a smile.

My Little Brown Dog has one par 4 in excess of 410 yards. And when the state’s best club pros gather for our charity pro-am, very rarely do more than a couple of them shoot par or better. As Jeff Sluman told me years ago when former Masters chairman Hootie Johnson began lengthening Augusta National, “If you really want to Tiger-proof the place, if you really want to give everyone a chance, you don’t make it longer. You make it shorter.” Amen.

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.

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Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 7:43 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds of the Honda Classic.

The threesome will tee off at 7:45 a.m. ET Thursday off PGA National’s 10th tee, then 12:35 p.m. off the first tee in the second round Friday.

Woods is making his first start at the Honda, his hometown event, since 2014. He tied for second here in 2012, after a final-round 62.

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This is the first time he has ever played with Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the FedExCup points leader.

Other notable groups for the first two rounds:

  • Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger: 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 12:25 p.m. Friday
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland: 7:55 a.m. Thursday, 12:45 p.m. Friday
  • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner: 12:25 p.m. Thursday, 7:35 a.m. Friday
  • Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington: 12:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Friday
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The Social: In perfect harmony?

By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Bubba Watson had himself a week.

The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

Welcome to the block party, Bubba. Despite his former professional basketball playing wife's advice to stay out of the paint, Watson decided to challenge Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady at the hoop. You could say his challenge was accepted. And then some.

Watson, who picked up a couple of assists but also shot an air ball in the game, said afterwards that he "was just trying not to get hurt" and even poked a little fun at himself, calling out McGrady for committing a foul on social media.

But if these tweets from a couple of his PGA Tour peers are any indication, it will be a while before he lives this one down.

Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

Want to know how far Tiger Woods has fallen? Sure, you could look at his 544th-world ranking or the current state of his game as he returns from injury, but the most telling sign came from his Wednesday pro-am round at the Genesis Open.

Woods was grouped with Mark Wahlberg for the day, and the superstar actor couldn't even be bothered to take the Apple AirPods out his ears – either one – for the entire round, even wearing them for the picture Woods posted on Instagram himself.

Marky Mark, you don't have to be his thunder buddy but at least show the man some common decency. He's still Tiger Freakin' Woods. Who is supposed to fake laugh at one of Tiger's patented hilarious dad jokes if all of his playing partners suddenly start listening to music during their rounds?

On a related note, guess Tigers are the only animals that Wahlberg won't talk to.

Something tells me this whole criminal thing isn't going to work out for these two.

Drinks were on John Daly Sunday after his hole-in-one at the Chubb Classic. But how many drinks? Well, that depends on who he’s drinking with.

If it’s with U.S. Olympian John Daly, the answer is, A LOT.

That's right, there's an American skeleton (headfirst luge for you newbs) racer competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, with the same name as the two-time major champ, and he couldn't help himself when asked about the similarity, jokingly saying he could keep up at the bar.

Of course, Daly (the golfer) wasn't just going to sit idly by while his name was dragged through the mud, tweeting out, basically, be careful what you wish for.

Somehow, someway, sliding headfirst down a frozen patch of ice with very little protection seems like a better idea than challenging Long John to a drinking contest. Just ask Andrew 'Beef' Johnston how it turned out.

If someone quits Twitter but they don't leave a long, drawn-out message on Twitter about why they're quitting Twitter before doing so, then did they even quit Twitter?

That's the riddle surrounding Lydia Ko's disappearance from the social media platform, one that the South Park Police Department would call, "suspicious."

The former LPGA world No. 1 has gone through all kinds of changes over the last couple of seasons, and added this curious move (on top of switching out her swing coach and caddie to start this season) because she said the app was “taking up [too much] storage on my phone.”

Whatever the reason, whether it be the storage issue she mentioned, or Twitter being a giant cesspool of negativity, here's to hoping it brings Ko happiness and a return to the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.

But we're sad to see her go.

After all, if people aren't freaking out on Twitter, what are we going to focus on here in The Social?

Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

That hasn't deterred John Peterson, who was on Twitter Monday openly recruiting Woods to play on his team for the Zurich Classic.

The April New Orleans PGA Tour stop switched to a team format last year, with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith joining forces to win the first title.

Peterson followed up his original tweet by asking how many retweets he'd need to make it happen. We're no experts here, but probably more than the 132 it had at the time of this publication.

Peterson's followers had some fun with the request, applauding his effort as a shooter:

And hey, who knows, stranger things have happened. While the two may seem like an unlikely pairing, they have some stuff in common – Peterson won the 2012 Coca-Cola Walmart Open and Tiger, we think, has heard of an establishment known as Walmart.

So yeah, you could say the two are basically best friends at this point.