Living History

By Randall MellSeptember 12, 2009, 1:23 am

USGAARDMORE, Pa. – Golf’s best like to play with ghosts.

It’s no different today.

Ask two-time Oklahoma State All-America selection Rickie Fowler.

In Walker Cup practice with fellow Americans Adam Mitchell and Nathan Smith at Merion Golf Club, the trio couldn’t resist.

Peter Uihlein
U.S. team member Peter Uihlein hits an approach on the 18th Friday. (Getty Images)
They dropped their balls on the East Course’s 18th fairway near the plaque that commemorates the famed 1-iron shot Ben Hogan played into the 72nd hole when he won the 1950 U.S. Open. It’s a shot that was immortalized by photographer Hy Peskin, who captured Hogan’s perfect follow through from behind.

The 1-iron got Hogan into a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio that would win Hogan more than a trophy. Just 16 months after his car collided head-on with a Greyhound Bus, Hogan limped to that U.S. Open title, changing the way golf fans mostly viewed this cold and aloof competitor.

Hogan’s memory is so inescapable at Merion that Fowler, Mitchell and Smith couldn’t resist trying to duplicate Hogan’s shot.

“Took a picture with the background the same as Hogan,” Fowler said.

Except Fowler hit 4-iron.

The Walker Cup begins Saturday at Merion Golf Club, where the young members of the American and Great Britain & Ireland teams are relishing gallivanting among the game’s great ghosts. The East Course, created by Hugh Wilson, a club member, was opened in September of 1912.

Merion’s full of great memories.

“It’s fabulous coming back here,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competition. “You almost get tingles coming, the place reeks with such history.”

The history here can feel more like mythology with Merion’s rich past remembered mostly in grainy, black-and-white images.

Though Merion has been host to 17 USGA championships, more than any other club, its mostly ancient history to today’s young players.

Smith is the only player in this week’s Walker Cup who was alive the last time a U.S. Open was played at Merion. He was 3 years old.

This venerable course is where Bobby Jones played his first and last U.S. Amateur. He completed the Grand Slam here, defeating Eugene Homans, 8 and 7, to win the U.S. Amateur in 1930. A plaque commemorating Jones’ victory can be found at the 11th hole, where he clinched that match. On the last Friday of every September, Merion’s membership honors the victory in a black-tie affair, marching behind a bag piper out to the 11th tee, where the club president offers up a toast.

“Probably one of my favorite holes here,” Fowler said.

Merion’s also where Lee Trevino threw that rubber snake at Jack Nicklaus before beating the Golden Bear in an 18-hole U.S. Open playoff in 1971.

This year’s Walker Cuppers are part of Merion’s resurgence as a championship venue.

Time seemed to have passed Merion by after David Graham won the ’81 U.S. Open. The ’89 U.S. Amateur title won by Chris Patton looked like it was going to be the club’s last hurrah. The East Course appeared too short for the modern game, not suitable for meaningful lengthening within its smallish boundaries. The U.S. Open also seemed to have outgrown the venue logistically. The property couldn’t hold enough spectators to suit the championship’s growing needs, or enough hospitality tents, but this weekend’s Walker Cup is proving to be part of Merion’s big comeback.

After successfully hosting the 2005 U.S. Amateur, Merion was awarded the 2013 U.S. Open.

Merion membership and the USGA did some hard work making sure the championship test was more than strong enough, and that property on the club’s West Course could be used to meet U.S. Open hospitality and other needs. Attendance may be limited when the U.S. Open is played here, but the possibilities no longer are. The demanding exactness of Merion’s East Course layout, its rough and diabolical greens still make it a supreme test.

“Merion has always been the poster child for what equipment’s done to championship courses,” Davis said. “To be able to bring the Open back here, it’s one of the most exciting things that’s happened in the 20 years I’ve been with the USGA.”

Today’s Walker Cup competitors hope to add to the club’s great memories this week.

“Knowing some of the history here just makes it even more special,” GB&I’s Wallace Booth said.
    <tgcitem value='5.11381' showthumbnail='yes'>Event: Walker Cup</tgcitem>

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.