Sinister Dye Course at French Lick Resort lands 2015 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid

By Mike BaileyJuly 30, 2013, 9:03 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- There's a statue of Pete Dye in front of the clubhouse of the course he designed at French Lick. Underneath it, there's a quote from Dye that reads: 'The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody would put a flagstick on top. Golf is not a fair game, so why build a fair golf course?'

Whether the six-year-old Dye Course at French Lick Resort is fair or not is up for debate, but in 2015, the best senior golfers in the world will be able to decide for themselves.

On Tuesday, the PGA of America announced that the Dye Course will be the site of the 76th Senior PGA Championship Presented by KitchenAid, set for May 21-24, 2015. There were several dignitaries in attendance the press conference, including Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America. While Bishop, the director of golf and general manager at The Legends Club in Franklin, Ind., didn't dispute Dye's notion that golf courses need not be fair, he did say that this particular venue, which can be stretched to more than 8,100 yards, would be set up so that it was enjoyable for the players.

'We're certainly not looking to beat them up,' said Bishop, an Indiana native.

The Dye Course is one of four courses at historic French Lick Resort in Southern Indiana. It's also, by far, the hardest golf course at the resort and one of the most difficult courses in America.

In 2010, the course got a trial run with the PGA essentially when it played host to the PGA Professional National Championship. Mike Small, the golf coach at the University of Illinois, won the event for the third time when he carded an 8-under-par total through four rounds to win by three. Most remarkable was that he fired a 65 that week on a course that was routinely giving up scores in the high 70s and low 80s to the field of 312 who qualified at local pro events around the country to get there. In recent years, the course has also been the site for the Big 10 collegiate championships and also hosts the LPGA Legends Championship.

If you're wondering what makes the Dye Course so difficult, all you have to do is understand Dye's philosophy. Dye designs courses to test the best and as he has aged, he's become more stubborn. Although the course has five sets of tees, it's not easy from any of them. Even the second set of tees rates north of 73 for women. Fairways get awfully narrow around driver landing areas. Miss them, or the greens, and you can count on a very uneven lie, usually out of pretty thick rough. For the recreational golfer, bogey is par.

Still, the course is one of the most picturesque in the country. Built on one of the highest points in Indiana, there are panoramic views from the clubhouse, several greens and a number of tees. Indiana Gov. Mike Spence (R), who was also in attendance Tuesday, said he hopes TV coverage inspire viewers from around the country and the world to visit Indiana just because of the natural beauty of the topography.

Conditioning on the Dye Course is also flawless.  Forecaddies are required, and the practice facilities are among the best in the nation. At $350 plus caddie fee and tip, it's a little steep for most recreational golfers, so tee times really aren't needed. As one player at the resort said, 'I can't afford the green fees and I don't want to lose $50 in golf balls.'

Simply put, the Dye Course isn't for everyone, but fortunately for resort guests and visitors there are three more courses to choose from – the no-frills Valley Links and the recently restored Ross Course at the resort as well as Sultan's Run down the road in Jasper, Ind.

Many consider the Ross Course to be the real gem at the resort.  Challenging in its own right, it's definitely more forgiving that the Dye Course and fairly dramatic with its views, elevated greens that slope back to front and classic architecture. The Ross' condition is also pristine, and considerably cheaper to play than the Dye. Plus it has a distinguished golf history, having staged the 1924 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen and the 1959 and 1960 LPGA Championship, where Betsy Rawls and Mickey Wright respectively were the victors.

Even more historical, though, is the resort itself, which is divided into two hotels. In 2010, after being abandoned for 10 years, the Cook Corp. painstakingly restored the West Baden Springs Hotel as part of a half-billion renovation project. The hotel was the largest free-standing dome structure in the world when it was built in 1901 and dubbed the 'eighth wonder of the world.' (The Astrodome in Houston later claimed that moniker when it opened in 1965.)

West Baden

French Lick's famous West Baden Springs Hotel

No detail was overlooked in its restoration, including its separately domed lobby and 28,000-square foot spa that features marble inlaid floors, fine wooden cabinetry and hand-blown glass. There's also a spa at the resort's other hotel, as well as a sports center that includes indoor tennis, a casino and numerous restaurants. In total, the resort has nearly 700 rooms. It will need every one of them and then some when the Senior PGA comes to town in 2015.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.