The Hogan We Never Knew

By Adam BarrNovember 25, 2006, 5:00 pm
I have this recurring dream in which Im playing golf with the great Ben Hogan.
Of course, this is something akin to an apprentice barn painter on professional probation dreaming that he is talking shop with Rubens, Picasso and Da Vinci. But the dream persists.
At first, I am nervous about making mistakes and disturbing the great mans rhythm. But as he says very little and maintains an even demeanor, I soon relax and find that Im able to keep pace and enjoy the day.
Long about the 13th hole, after hearing no more than Youre away and Check behind the palmetto, we see a bald eagle fly low over the pond fronting the green of the par-3 where we are about to tee off. We watch it sail into the distance. Mr. Hogan stares into the sky, pronounces a single word ' Pretty. ' and sets up over the 6-iron that he will soon cut to about 18 inches.
Ah, another side. Trouble with history is that it can miss facets, those intriguing tributaries that run parallel to the mainstream of a personality. The stuff that doesnt make it into the primary source material, the basis of written history, is often left outside to erode in the shifting currents of memory.
Fortunately, some material, even some memory, survives. Tom Stites, the veteran club designer and director of product creation for Nike Golf, grew up in Fort Worth, as Mr. Hogan did, and worked at The Hawks right hand when Mr. Hogan was making clubs under his name. Much of what he knows about club design, Stites learned in those years. In the new Nike club development center near Fort Worth, Mr. Hogans loft-and-lie machine still occupies a place of honor.
Researching a story earlier this year, it struck me as odd that Stites, a Hogan disciple, has designed some of the most modern-looking clubs in the market, including the Slingshot irons and the CCi, a players iron that features a half-cavity and tungsten weighting. And how about the square Sumo2 driver?
Or was Mr. Hogan less of a chrome-plated, classic-shape traditionalist than we all took him for?
You are the first to ever ask this or scratch close to the real truth, Stites said. Fact: Mr. Hogan was a pros pro who had knowledge, talent and a love for pure clubs. But another part of him was a self-trained and motivated scientist. From what I have learned about his early career, he was constantly working on his own clubs and finding creative ways to improve. He was much more radical in his experiments than most would ever believe.
Radical? Mr. Khaki-pants-white-shirt-my-eggs-better-be-cooked-just-so? I mean, I understand he was a nice fellow. But Mr. Hogan had a reputation for exacting standards.
He was such a perfectionist (who made and sold pure players clubs), Stites said, that his creative wild side was never really known. He showed me how to fan off the toe of a wood. He was the first (to my knowledge) to put a multiple face bulge on a wood. Both of these things were not obvious, but some of his lab experiences were very non-traditional.
Mr. Hogan cut in a geometry channel in the toe ' essentially, a speed slot. During my time working with him we did several very non-traditional designs that would shock anyone who thought Mr. Hogan was only a pure blade and persimmon block man. These prototype projects came directly out of his head and mouth. I saw how he could have a traditional love of pure clubs and still have a kids fascination for creating unusual prototype clubs.
And ' this is the best part ' there is a legacy.
I learned that it was O.K. to be a traditionalist and a wild inventor, even on the same day, Stites said. So for the last 20 years I have tried to guide my work this way. We make clubs that are pure for look and traditional performance; these clubs have won over one hundred PGA TOUR events and every major several times. We also work hard to craft new techniques and technologies that might be unconventional -- but performance-enhancing ' for those who are less skilled.
Which might lead the dream Hogan to utter another pithy sentence ' Nice shot. ' in the next episode of my dream.
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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”