Birth of a Tradition
My first trip to Desert Mountain was unforgettable. The main road from the entry gate wasn't yet completed. The Seventeen million dollar Cochise-Geronimo clubhouse was impressive, if only in the blue print phase and the temporary clubhouse, known as the 'Log Cabin' was among the most spectacular vistas I had ever seen in golf. Surrounded by mountains and looking down into the Valley of the Sun over largely undeveloped desert landscape, the panorama from the summit at Desert Mountain was equal to any view you might find at Augusta National or Pebble Beach.
I was immediately in love with the place and the people. Lyle Anderson had developed Desert Highlands and was instrumental in launching the first Skins Game at that very site. His course designer at Highlands was Jack Nicklaus and the two became fast friends. Sharing an uncompromising respect for the traditions of the game, the two men began brainstorming about the ingredients of a premium golf event. Jack was a few short years removed from the Senior Tour and Lyle decided that the over 50 set needed an event which would celebrate all the good things in the game; a senior version of The Masters, if you will. With his typical combination of foresight and moxie, Anderson named his new event The Tradition.
With a keen understanding of the game, Anderson knew there would never be a senior equivalent to the early April masterpiece, but he went about securing the talent he needed to stage the best possible senior tour event, and he spared no expense. He hired Western Golf Properties, headed by past Presidents of the PGA of America, Joe Black and Mark Kizziar to consult on all facets of the Club and event. He scoured the industry for the best club and tournament staff he could find to throw a shindig that could not be over looked. The inner sanctum of Anderson, Schneider, Nicklaus and Western Golf developed a structure that would ensure a wonderful tournament and a spectacular week.
The recipe was as follows: start with a terrific site; Desert Mountain has more natural beauty than a Victoria's Secret catalogue. Give them a tough, but fair test; Western Golf worked with the Senior Tour staff months ahead of time to create course conditions voted best on tour each of its first five years. Respect your forbearers; The Tradition field has special exemptions for Tradition Honorees, who are invited each year to Desert Mountain for a week of reminiscing, whether or not they compete. Focus on the event; no pro-ams or other obligations to detract from the pursuit of the trophy over four championship rounds. Corporate involvement was strictly limited; the pursuit of the trophy was all-important. Finally, throw a good party; crab claws in the locker room and filet on the buffet table (some honorees stayed until the following Tuesday).
The first event of the week was Tuesday's Honorees' Dinner. Anyone who has won a major championship on the Senior or PGA Tour is a lifelong Tradition Honoree. The dinner is attended by major championship winners and only a very small handful of Tradition/Desert Mountain executives and organizers. Wednesday marked the most wonderful, unpublicized day in golf. The few spectators who skipped work and drove the length of Pima Road were treated to a golf fantasy. In the morning, Honorees who would not be playing in The Tradition, would compete in an event known as the Grand Tradition, and was it ever Grand. Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Charlie Sifford and a host of others played the Cochise Course for a payday greater than some of their major championship victories, and thrilled the crowds once again. In the afternoon all the honorees, Tradition, Grand Tradition and non-competing, were invited to the Champions Clinic. Fourteen honorees would select a club and each would give the audience 3-5 minutes on how to hit certain shots. Imagine spending 45 minutes listening to Chi-Chi talk about wedge play, then Sam Snead hitting the 5 iron followed by Nicklaus with a one-iron and Arnold on the Driver. I've witnessed some of the greatest moments in the history of our game, and my Wednesday memories from the Tradition will always be among my most favorite.
So, the game plan was set, and in 1989 an oxymoron hit the Senior Tour the week after The Masters, the inaugural Tradition was played. Don Bies beat Gary Player by a stroke, and over the next 7 years the event was won by Jack Nicklaus (back-to-back twice), Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd and Tom Shaw. All the effort and pedigree paid off. When the Senior Tour declared the four major championships, The Tradition was on the list. The Senior Open and PGA Seniors were no-brainers and the Senior TPC was the Tour owned and operated major that the Ponte Vedra crowd had always craved. The final tournament had to be one that stuck out of the crowd, and the Tradition answered the call. It was the classiest, purest, most picturesque tournament on the Senior Tour. The only drawback was actually one of its charms; the remote location made for a somewhat difficult trip, but the destination was absolutely worth it.
Most of the early ingredients of The Tradition remain. Desert Mountain is still a breathtaking venue; even with a somewhat more developed landscape. Corporate sponsorship exists, but only where they don't impact the feel of the event. The course remains a challenge and the operation is still exquisite. If you see a multi-colored tent or sagging gallery rope, email me. I'll refund the cost of your badge.
There is a golf gem hidden in the slopes of the mountains of North Scottsdale. It is The Tradition, and it is still the best event on the Senior Tour.
Editor's note: David Marr III was the Executive Director of The Tradition from 1993-1997.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.
How The Open cut line is determined
Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.
The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:
• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.
• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.
• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.
The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.
The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.