An Elite Field Comes to Play on Public Domain

By Associated PressOctober 4, 2005, 4:00 pm
For much of the last three decades, it was difficult to see Harding Park as anything but a tattered municipal golf course taking up valuable property along Lake Merced.

Sandy Tatum only saw opportunity.

Never mind that the greens were brick hard, chewed up by disease and pitch marks. Or that weeds had pushed their way through the sparse grass in the fairways. Harding Park, built in 1925, once held its own against the two courses it adjoins -- Olympic Club and the prestigious San Francisco Golf Club -- but neglect left it a pauper among princes.

And that broke Tatum's heart.

'This golf course, one of the most effective golf courses you can find, had deteriorated so grievously that something needed to be done to even keep it alive,' Tatum said.

Thanks to Tatum, Harding Park is back in its glory this week.

The municipal course surrounded on three sides by Lake Merced hosts a World Golf Championship that brings together Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and the best players from around the globe.
 
'It's certainly not the golf course when I was pretty young playing it,' Woods said Tuesday. 'It's unbelievable how much they've changed the golf course. It used to be basically a clover field out here. The greens are unbelievable, perfectly smooth. It's just hard to believe what they've done here.'

Tatum, 85, considers the resurrection of Harding Park the most pleasing project of his career, no small statement coming from a well-heeled attorney, Rhodes Scholar, NCAA champion at Stanford and former USGA president.

'I can't think of anything I may have done that gives me quite the level of satisfaction as having participated in this process,' Tatum said.

And what a process it was.

It started with a phone call to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in 1997, the day after Finchem created The First Tee program aimed at making golf more affordable and accessible to kids.

'Sandy had this idea of rebuilding Harding Park, and we decided to work together on getting it rebuilt,' Finchem said. 'And then it took awhile -- it takes awhile to do things in California. But it works for the community. And we'll see how it works for the big boys.'

It took six years for the project to weave its way through a maze of politics in San Francisco, a miracle in itself. Tatum's stately blend of acumen and passion persuaded the 11-member board of supervisors to go along with a $16 million renovation that took 15 months.

The final touch is the American Express Championship, which Tatum believes will serve as a worthy test while putting Harding Park back on the map as an elite golf course everyone can afford.

'The fundamental was, and is, that you can provide those who can pay $45 for a round of golf with a premier experience that will add something significant to the life they live,' Tatum said. 'The way to do that is to give the golf course an identity -- a cache, if you will -- that a premier tournament could give it.

'I couldn't ask for a tournament that has more to offer for that project.'

It will be the first time a World Golf Championship is staged on a truly public venue. The American Express has been played at Valderrama (Spain) and Mount Juliet (Ireland) twice, along with Capital City Club, an exclusive piece of property north of Atlanta. The NEC Invitational is at Firestone Country Club, with one trip to Sahalee.

The Accenture Match Play Championship is at La Costa Resort, available to the public, but at a steep price.

The only question is whether Harding Park can hold its own. The renovation added about 400 yards, and the course will play as a par 70 at 7,086 yards. Among those concerned is Ken Venturi, the former U.S. Open champion who grew up at Harding Park and won his last PGA Tour event there in 1966 at the Lucky International.

'These guys, where they hit it, they're going to shoot some low scores,' he said.

More relevant than the scores, however, is the message it sends by staging such a big event at Harding Park.

USGA executive director David Fay worked hard to bring the U.S. Open to Bethpage Black in 2002, the first time it was held at a truly public golf course. A few years later, the USGA again promoted the importance of public golf by awarding the 2008 U.S. Open to Torrey Pines in San Diego.

'I just think the game took a wrong turn 20 years ago when public golf became denigrated to a third-rate experience,' Tatum said. 'The game became so desperately expensive to play, particularly on premier golf courses, that the game lost its fundamental appeal.'

He pointed to Bethpage and Torrey Pines as a significant steps toward a return to more big-time tournaments being staged at public golf courses, a trend he would like to see continue.
 
There would appear to be ample opportunity.

Imagine how many other public courses are wasting away in America, needing only the vision, a smart financing plan and some nurturing to become as worthy as the private clubs in town.

'My guess would be there are legions,' Tatum said. 'Maybe this will move the game in the right direction.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-American Express Championship
  • Getty Images

    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

    Getty Images

    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

    Getty Images

    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

    Getty Images

    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”