Royal Lytham favors no one and everyone

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2012, 3:13 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – If history holds at Royal Lytham & St. Annes it will be a ball-striker who wins this week’s Open Championship, a short-game wizard, a driver, a putter, a proven commodity, an up-and-comer.

In short, there is no short list of contenders for the 141st Open, nor short answers, although if the dialogue so far is any indication it seems plausible that something surreal is in the making.

On consecutive days, Lee Westwood was asked about his “groin” (injury), Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews chief Peter Dawson was grilled as to the number of “bunker rakers” on hand for the year’s third major and one car park was deemed “unplayable” by scribes because of, well . . . standing water.

Such is the scrutiny at the game’s oldest member-member, and all this before the first meaningful shot is sent into the grey, damp skies.

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As for who will round the ancient links in the fewest strokes depends on who you ask. Tiger Woods – who begins a potentially eventful week vying for his 15th major championship, fourth claret jug and, at least mathematically, the world’s top ranking – figures Lytham for a ball-striker’s ballpark. Think Royal Liverpool with greener grass circa 2006.

“The list of champions here have all been just wonderful ball-strikers because you have to be able to shape the golf ball both ways here, you can’t just hit it one way,” Woods said.

Woods’ “Exhibit A” includes David Duval, who won the Open the last time it was played at Lytham (2001) with perhaps the best driver in the game at the time, Bobby Jones (1926) and Gary Player (1974).

A few hours later, Luke Donald sat in the same chair and explained why he likes his chances despite a driver that, relative to his position as the world No. 1, can be considered on the balky side of brilliant.

“Seve (Ballesteros, a two-time Open winner at Lytham) was known as someone that would hit it wild off the tee and use his short game to get out of trouble,” said Donald, who missed the cut at last month’s U.S. Open. “No matter where he was he felt like he could hole a shot. I’ve got to go into this tournament with that kind of fun attitude, that no matter how I’m hitting it there’s always a way to make a score.”

And if Donald’s take sounds more like rationalizing than reality, consider that when Ballesteros won the Open in 1979 he hit his driver nine times in the final round, found just one fairway and was 14-for-15 in par saves from bunkers for the week.

Speaking of which, Lytham’s 205 bunkers are every bit the hazard officials had hoped they would be, a truth compounded by steady rain this week which has left standing water in some of the pitted caverns, and the rough is what one would expect from an English summer – that is to say gnarly and deep.

But if anyone enjoys the clarity of an unbiased mind it is Westwood, the 39-year-old Englishman who, whether he likes it or not, has assumed the title as the “best player without a major.”

When it was suggested on Tuesday that Westwood would be a solid pick this week because of his ball-striking prowess he bristled: “If that's what it takes to win around here. People have said that the previous winners have all got a great short game,” he smiled.  “And apparently I haven't got much of a short game.”

If the tenor of the conversation seems a tad divergent it is by design. Perhaps more so than any other Open rota venue, Lytham is open to dramatically varied interpretations – one man’s walk in the park is another’s forced march.

Lytham defies definition beyond what can be gleaned from its list of champions, from the machine-like Duval to the magician that was Ballesteros the only connecting thread is each player’s status before, and after, his Lytham Open.

In simplest terms, there are no one-off champions. With respect to each winner’s career, a victory at Lytham seems to demand a complete resume regardless of strengths and weaknesses. It is a testament to the seaside linksland that the normal lament that major championship golf has been reduced to a putting contest is largely silenced here along the Irish Sea.

“Most PGA Tour events are decided by the shortest shots (putting); this is the longer the shot the more important it is,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “You’ve got no chance if you’re missing fairways. There’s plenty of space out there, you just have to hit quality shots.”

Perhaps Lytham eschews simple clarification, a no-frills field that favors neither ball-striker (Woods and Westwood) nor plodder (Donald).

It’s a reality supported by the United Kingdom’s ubiquitous betting houses. On the eve of the championship, Woods remained the favorite but his odds had dropped to 10 to 1 despite a run that includes three victories in his last eight Tour starts.

Westwood, Rory McIlroy – undone last year at Royal St. George’s by bad weather – and Donald trail Woods closely in the odds, but if Lytham proves as adept at identifying both pedigree and potential as it has been in the past the list of possible winners is as varied as the types of games that play well on the English gem.

Who will win? A ball-striker, a short-game wizard, a driver, a putter, a proven commodity, an up-and-comer.

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.