Changes to the Old Course are Nothing New

By Associated PressJuly 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland --The last time Tiger Woods played at St. Andrews, he went back 100 years in time by hitting a replica of the gutta percha golf ball during a practice round. Despite a mighty drive on the 352-yard ninth hole, he still had a 5-iron left to reach the green.
 
And to think that might still be the standard ball if the Old Course never changed.
 
Take a Hole-By-Hole look at St. Andrews
 
Even with Jack Nicklaus playing the first practice round of his final major championship, and Woods teeing off so early Monday that he was done before some people got out of bed, the buzz at the British Open was the new look of the Old Course, at least on five holes that added a combined 164 yards.
 
``They leap out at you,'' Jim Furyk said.
 
For those alarmed by adding yardage to such a historic track, perhaps they should wander across the street to the British Golf Museum. One exhibit contains the rubber-core Haskell golf ball, which phased out the gutta percha - which came from a tree substance - and was all the rage at the turn of the 20th century.
 
The Royal & Ancient was so worried about how far players were hitting the Haskell that it lengthened the Old Course and added pot bunkers to protect against low scores. It must have worked, for there were only a dozen scores below 80 and James Braid won that 1905 British Open at 318, the highest winning score in 10 years.
 
One hundred years later, people are still talking about tradition and technology.
 
``It's just evolution,'' Stuart Appleby said. ``It wasn't long ago everyone was playing in tweed jackets and ties.''
 
Traditionalists made a passionate case for the gutta percha to be the standard ball for championship golf. Alas, the R&A declined to outlaw the Haskell because it seemed to make the game easier and more enjoyable for the majority of players. Ultimately, it helped make golf more popular.
 
Now, the R&A is simply keeping up with the times.
 
``The changes are good. You've got your thinking caps on 12, 13 and 14 now,'' said Nick Faldo, who won the 1990 British Open at St. Andrews. ``I don't think it sets up for Tiger, but I think Tiger is the favorite. He's played, he's won, and he comes here with a mission.''
 
The changes start with the second tee, which has been moved back 40 yards and to the right, so that players now face a blind tee shot over gorse bushes. Brad Faxon decided to aim at a crane in the distance, and only later figured out that the door of a corporate chalet was a better target.
 
What really got everyone's attention was the 480-yard fourth, which is only 16 yards longer than in 2000 but now requires a carry of some 290 yards to reach the fairway.
 
``If that gets any wind at all, they might have to move the tees,'' Mike Weir said. ``I smoked one today that carried a little left and got into the fairway. Then I hit another one that a little to the right - and I hit it pretty darn good - and it was in the stuff.''
 
Peter Thomson, the five-time Open champion who won at St. Andrews 50 years ago, still has a house in the gray old town and plays the Old Course about six times a year.
 
The change to No. 4 was the only one he criticized.
 
``The fourth doesn't need a tee, it needs a fairway,'' Thomson said.
 
Clearly, this isn't the same place where Woods broke a major championship record at 19 under par when he won by eight shots in 2000. Some argue that the British Open now is held on four courses - the new tees on the 12th and 13th actually are part of the Eden course; the ninth tee is on the New Course; and the second tee is part of the Himalayas putting course.
 
Nicklaus has been criticizing the governing bodies for years about the golf ball, and he told the British media in May that he worried the Old Course would be obsolete.
 
Faxon is among those who believe that golf is doing just fine adjusting to the times.
 
``It's not just the evolution of golf, it's the evolution of life,'' Faxon said earlier this year. ``Guys that used to play basketball can't even start on any team now. I love Bob Cousy, but could he be a starting point guard today?''
 
Others, Nicklaus included, would say that the Old Course changes even if nothing is done at all.
 
Nicklaus played with Faldo, Fred Couples and Memorial winner Bart Bryant on a day as spectacular as it gets in these parts - brilliant skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. The three-time Open champion had already seen the changes, and he says only Nos. 4 and 14 will make a difference.
 
Everything else depends on the weather, which is the way it has always been at St. Andrews.
 
``The course is a surprise each time you look at it,'' Nicklaus said. ``No matter how many times you play it, you'll still find things that you've never seen before. Every time, the conditions change and you have to make adjustments.''
 
Even players with far less experience have figured that out.
 
Appleby was asked about the changes and drew a blank. He has played St. Andrews four times - the Open in 2000, and three times in the old Dunhill Cup.
 
``I don't think this is a course that's as easy to measure as Augusta, because the course can change so much with wind,'' Appleby said. ``It needs to be 10 to 20 mph before it gets tricky, and above 20 mph to be difficult. Scores in the mid-60s are no problem with no wind. But it's not likely you'll get four days without wind.''
 
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    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


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    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”