An Acquired Taste

By Associated PressJuly 10, 2010, 9:50 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods fell in love with St. Andrews the first time they saw it.

Not so with Bobby Jones.

Or Sam Snead.

Legend has it that Jones tore up his scorecard and stormed off the course the first time he played the Old Course. That’s not entirely accurate. In his debut at the home of golf in the 1921 British Open, he went out in 46 during the third round, made 6 on the next two holes and picked up his ball without finishing the 11th hole. This from a man who went on to win the claret jug there six years later, and the British Amateur in 1930 on his way to the Grand Slam.

Such is the essence of St. Andrews.

It is a links course that can inspire immediate affection.

“I fell in love with it the first time I ever played it,” Woods said. “I played it when the tide changed right when I was at the turn, so I played all 18 holes into the wind. Absolutely fell in love with the golf course.”

And it is a course that can evoke eternal disdain.

“Worst piece of mess I’ve ever played,” Scott Hoch said.

Snead was somewhere in between.

He made his first journey to St. Andrews for the 1946 British Open, and as his train pulled into the old gray town, Snead gazed out the window at the Old Course and said, “Say! That looks like an old, abandoned golf course. What did they call it?”

It grew on him, for he went home with the claret jug after a four-shot victory. Years later, he still wasn’t sure what to think. “Down home, we wouldn’t plant bow beets on land like that,” Snead said.

But there is no denying one aspect to the 150th anniversary of this British Open. There is something magical about playing golf’s oldest championship on the linksland where it all started.

“If you’re a golfer, how could you not be a little bit in awe when you get to the first tee, with the R&A building, the 18th green, all the things that have happened over the last 400 or so years?” Scott Verplank said.

Then he added the ultimate compliment: “It will teach you everything you need to know about playing golf.”

“Course management and the strategy of golf is all on that golf course,” he said. “If you want to play conservatively, you go further left and leave yourself a tougher shot. If you want to play aggressive, you play further to the right and have a better angle at the flag. People who don’t like it don’t understand it. If you understand it, then it’s brilliant.”

First impressions can be misleading.

Justin Leonard first played the Old Course on a golfing trip with his father when he was 12. He was old enough to understand the historical significance of St. Andrews, but little else.

“I thought it was the nuttiest place I had ever seen, to be quite honest. Has it changed today? Not a whole lot,” Leonard said with a laugh. “It’s pretty quirky, and that’s not always a bad thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you play it, you’ve got to sit there and look at your yardage book and figure out where you’re aiming.”

Curtis Strange first went to St. Andrews with a 1975 Walker Cup team that included Hoch, Jay Haas and Craig Stadler.

“We all thought we had been transplanted to the moon,” Strange said, who went on to set the course record with a 62 in the 1987 Dunhill Cup. “I will say that I hated it, like some guys, because you wonder what’s going on. But the more you play it, the more you realize how special it is.”

Australian Geoff Ogilvy first went to St. Andrews with his father when he was 16, and like so many others, he loved it the first time he played it.

“I think it would be fair to say that I really wanted to like the course, so it is perhaps hard to be completely objective about a place you have decided to like before you even play it,” Ogilvy said. “I liked the width of the place, and enjoyed that there seemed no prescribed way to play the course. The route you take around it is up to you.

“I’m not sure if I understood any of this at 16, but I remember having lots of fun that first time.”

Nicklaus, meanwhile, was equipped with a scouting report.

Much like Jones, his idol, Nicklaus first played the Old Course as part of a trip to Britain for the Walker Cup at Muirfield.

“My father went over before and played with a couple of his friends, and he said it was the worst golf course they’d ever seen – what a cow pasture it was, horrible conditions,” Nicklaus said. “Of course, they three-putted 13, 14, 15 greens. And they didn’t have a very good time because they didn’t understand the golf course.

“When I went there, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I went down there and I saw this village and this big, beautiful pasture out there. Then I went out and played the course and I loved it. I suppose I loved it because all kids try to do the opposite of their father. I just fell in love with the place.”

What a love affair that turned out to be. Nicklaus won the British Open at St. Andrews in 1970 and 1978, received an honorary degree from St. Andrews University, and the Royal Bank of Scotland produced a 5-pound note with his image when he chose St. Andrews to be his final major championship in 2005.

That year, Woods matched Nicklaus by winning his second Open on the Old Course, and he returns this year trying to become the first player to ever win three times at St. Andrews.

Woods’ first impression was that it was easy to hit the fairways. Then he realized how little that mattered.

“I though it would be a little bit more narrow,” Woods said. “But then again, once you start playing, you realize it’s not that wide. To get the angles you need to have into these flags, it narrows up very quickly. Then you add wind, and where you need to put the golf ball to give yourself a chance of getting the ball close, it gets really narrow.

“You can hit every fairway there and still never have a shot at a flag.”

What makes St. Andrews unique is that all but four holes have double greens, and they may as well share the fairways. Because it has no trees, and so many of the pot bunkers are not visible off the tee, it can be difficult to sort out where to hit tee shots.

Verplank’s problem the first time he played St. Andrews was what to do after the tee shots.

“I spent three days figuring out the lines off the tee, with however the wind was going to go,” he said. “I thought I had it down perfect. So I get to the second hole and I stripe a 3-wood right down there perfect. I had sand wedge to the green. And I had no idea where to hit it. I had six three-putts the first day because I kept hitting it 80 feet away.”

Like with any links, there can be some funny bounces along the way. But there’s something different – something special – about St. Andrews that perhaps former British Open champion George Duncan summed up best.

“St. Andrews has got a character and features that you find nowhere else,” Duncan once said. “You can play a damned good shot and find the ball in a damned bad place. That is the real game of golf.”

That’s the home of golf.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 11:56 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match-play format provides fireworks. Almost always.

In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.

This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.

The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the latter when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.

“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and [the championship] needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”

Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. The Wildcats were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed only to be inside the top eight after 72 holes to advance to the match-play portion of the event.

But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.

On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match-play stalwart the past three years.

Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a hell of a ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.

But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.

Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.

Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.

Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to decide the NCAA title.

Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, gnarly rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.

With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore missed her birdie putt and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.

In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.

“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”

Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite a while but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.

“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot - that’s all we can ask.”

Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2

Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3

Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3

Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2

Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up

Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.