With or without Muirfield, East Lothian is a top Scotland golf destination

By Brandon TuckerJuly 17, 2013, 3:00 pm

I'm freshly awoken from a delightful 11-hour sleep following my return home from the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in the Highlands of Scotland. The whole past week seemed to be a positive press gush-fest; an extension announcement was made by Aberdeen Asset Management to keep the event running thru 2017, the weather was fantastic and Phil Mickelson finally won the event he's been coming to for years. 

Now, the Open Championship in East Lothian takes center stage. It appears that a lot of talk this week, at least until the first peg is put in the ground Thursday, is that Muirfield and the Company of Honourable Edinburgh Golfers have taken Augusta National's spot in the world of golf as the Old Boys Club everyone loves to hate.

What makes me a little nervous about this negativity is that it could potentially steer traveling golf groups (particularly those groups bringing the ladies with them) away from going to one of Scotland's most delightful places to visit. I spent a week in the area in 2009 and my itinerary didn't include Muirfield, who aren't always so media-friendly when there's no Open on the schedule (actually, I met a member during a lunch one day who told me, 'I could probably get you a tee time there tomorrow, we just don't want you writing anything about it.').

The general public can play Muirfield, but only twice a week during limited windows. Usually, you need to book these times well in advance to get on the sheet, especially if your group is rolling deep. But those who play it almost certainly always rave about it. Golf Digest rates it the third best course outside the U.S. behind just Royal County Down and the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Sure, any golfer would love a round here, regardless of the club's member policy. But don't hold Muirfield above East Lothian as a whole, which can hold its own whether or not you've got the links on your itinerary. A collection of gorgeous seaside towns are strung along the Firth of Forth overlooking the Bass Rock and within an easy ride of Edinburgh for Scotland's best nightlife.

View tee times in East Lothian on GolfNow

Not surprising to me, North Berwick, just east of Muirfield, seems to have won the hearts of many golfers this week, like Bubba Watson. and Mickelson has been plugging it in various interviews as well. To date, I've played 38 golf courses in Scotland, and North Berwick is in my personal 'Top 3,' jostling for position with the Old Course at St. Andrews and Royal Dornoch. It's just too fun and interesting, representing just how creative you can be with golf course design without going off the deep end. Actually, the 16th green is pretty nuts:

North Berwick

On the other side of Muirfield is Gullane No. 1, another standout that boasts both championship links challenge and gorgeous scenery. It's a unique round in that it has a volcanic hill golfers must play over twice (the 2nd hole is a brute). But there are elevated points, like the 7th tee, that make for some of the area's best vantage points (this view may be the closest you get to seeing Muirfield, which can be seen in the distance). 


It seems like The Renaissance Club, a private club with a Tom Doak-designed course, has the inside track on being awarded a future Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in coming years, but why not look at Gullane, too? (For the record, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond is adamant the event will be staged at a venue where women members are welcomed).

There are other charming plays. Historic Dunbar Golf Club is a postcard setting on every hole. Kilspindie is a lovely little 5,500-yard, mellow links that is a wonderful seaside links ideal for a quick afternoon game after you've played a medal links. And I'd be remised if I didn't mention the full little 9-holer set within a race track, the Old Course at Musselburgh, which is played best with a set of hickories.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.