Florida's big new sandbox: Streamsong Resort

By Brandon TuckerNovember 29, 2012, 9:05 pm

On December 21st, Streamsong Resort will unveil 36 holes of golf just south of Lakeland. Brandon Tucker has a sneak preview.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- The long upheld knock against the Florida golf scene is that too many courses resemble each other: largely flat with cookie cutter designs from the 1980s with an accompanying residential component. Golf course architect Tom Doak summed it up in his hold-no-punches book on course design, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, published in 1996:

“I’ll take Seminole,' he wrote. 'You can have the other 999 [courses in Florida].”

This stigma, unfair as it is, is what makes the new Streamsong Resort such a big deal. At last, one of the country's most golf-saturated states has a 36-hole facility suitable to the new era of throwback golf course architecture. The facility features 18 holes from Doak and 18 from Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (technically, it's a 37-hole property if you count the 'settle-your-bets,' bonus hole next to the clubhouse).



Streamsong is the creation of Mosaic, a fertilizer company that mines all over Florida for phosphate. At their 16,000-acre property just south of Lakeland, their mining operations created a canvas unlike anything else in Florida: a massive sandbox, where machines tossed earth around for years and, unintentionally, left behind a terrain of humps and wetlands that rendered itself ideal for an extraordinary golf site. Virtually no development can be seen for miles around, just the frame of the future lodge. 

Sandy dunes tower high enough to resemble that of Ireland. One such formation near the clubhouse is the centerpiece for two of the property's most remarkable par 3s. On the dunes' left slope is the 16th hole of Coore-Crenshaw's Red Course: a brutish, 200-plus-yard shot played over water to a green over 50 yards long. On the other side is the 7th on Doak's Blue Course, which features a green tucked well below the dunes' shadow beside water:

Streamsong Par 3s

Side-by-side par 3s on the Red and Blue course (Photos by Brandon Tucker)

This isn't the first time Doak and Coore-Crenshaw have done work side-by-side. Coore-Crenshaw's Bandon Trails followed Doak's Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon. The firms also have tandem courses in Australia at Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm on the island of Tasmania.

At Streamsong (which like Bandon Dunes is managed by Kemper Sports), each firm's design philosophies and sites to build on are relatively similar to the eye on the first loop around: wide fairways with rippling contours, plus greens of all shapes and sizes. It's inevitable every golfer who tees it up here will find themselves in sand, whether its a small green-side pot bunker or the waste areas that surround fairways. Neither course employs much of any rough: either you're in the fairway or in bunkers or waste areas. On a few occasions, holes tip-toe along lakes, like the Red's gorgeous par-5 7th.

Streamsong No. 7

The par-5 7th hole on the Red Course hugs water on the left from tee-to-green (photo by Larry Lambrecht)

With many green sites rolling off right onto the next tee box, each layout was built to walk, ideally with a caddie (there isn't much signage out here and it can easy to lose your sense of direction), though carts are offered as well. But not everything about Streamsong exudes the British Isles. It's too hot in Florida to successfully grow fescue turf. Instead, the Red and Blue will rely on wide fairways seeded with Bermuda 419 and large, rolling greens with MiniVerde, while daily maintenance practice will strive for firm-and-fast. 

Also, just because the sandy dunes may remind you of Ireland, don't get overzealous ball-hocking around ponds; there's gators in these waters. 

Streamsong Resort: The details

Streamsong Lodge

An artist rendering of the main lodge at Streamsong, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. 

The clubhouse, which includes a restaurant and 12-room hotel will open on December 21st along with both golf courses. Green fees will range between $125-275 depending on season and time of day. The 216-room lodge, managed by Interstate Hotels, will open in the fall of 2013 and include a spa, multiple dining venues, conference space and off-course recreation like skeet shooting, tennis, birding and fishing.

Streamsong Resort is located about 25 miles south of Lakeland near Fort Meade in Polk County. From Orlando, it's a 90 minute drive and 60 minutes from Tampa International Airport.

www.streamsongresort.com

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.