Hondas Legacy - Malfunction at the Junction
You may have heard of the Honda then again, you may not. It has perennially been sandwiched uncomfortably between the more glamorous Doral on one side and Arnold Palmers Bay Hill on the other. It has fitfully struggled to find its rightful place on the PGA Tour schedule, and no tournament in history has had more comical results. Now, with the WGC-Accenture Match Play in California causing most of the stars to bypass Doral ' along with the considerable presence of Dubai ' Honda is finally is getting its due after 32 years of hijinks.
The Jackie Gleason was highly successful in the 70s. Its first winner was Tom Weiskopf, followed by Lee Trevino. Jack Nicklaus won twice and finished second three times, Johnny Miller won twice, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite won once. But in 1984 the tournament moved to a beautiful little track on the north side of Fort Lauderdale, the TPC at Eagle Trace, and the hilarity started. Honda was in control now, and almost every year, another side-splitting antic ruled the news.
You see, Eagle Trace was a perfectly good course for most of the year. But it was terrible during March, which was when Honda was played. Set on the edge of the Everglades, the winds howled back and forth across the layout and the greens were cut too close to the water hazards to allow for the frequent gales. The result: the players were continually embarrassed, and the golf course was continually the target of very tough criticism.
Here are a few of the strange follies which are part and parcel of the Hondas legacy:
1986 ' Kenny Knox wins the 86 tournament despite shooting an 80 in the third round. The culprit, of course, was a Saturday windstorm which sent all the scores soaring and hats flying.
1986 ' Winner Mark Calcavecchia provokes a PGA Tour lawsuit against Ping when Calc rips a Ping 8-iron out of the rough and it has enough spin to back up a considerable distance. The box groove suit is settled in the early 90s with the tour enduring a costly settlement.
1990 ' Winner John Huston wears a shoe ' endorsed by him - manufactured by a Tampa-area company, built up more on the side that the other. The shoe is ruled non-conforming and Huston must change footwear. Before Hustons win, however, the Storm of the Century rips through the course on Saturday night, blowing down tents and scoreboards before spreading its havoc throughout the Northeast.
1991 ' In a fit of anger and frustration, Greg Norman lashes out in a verbal tirade against the course, calling it carnival golf. Incidentally, he made a quadruple bogey on the sixth hole, hitting into the water twice on the hole and shooting a 77 Saturday.
Steve Pate was the winner, but only after almost losing his ball on the final hole. Funny, but it was adjacent to the green, Thousands of people were around ' yet no one saw it.
Runner-up Paul Azinger was also incensed by the course. Its not often you finish second and say youre definitely not coming back, he said in vowing not to return to Eagle Trace.
Pates reaction to this course from hell? Maybe I hate myself, but I like playing here.
1992 ' The tournament course goes up the road 10 miles to Weston Hills, but still the funny stuff persists. Brit Sandy Lyle attempts to drive from Doral to Weston, a distance of maybe 30 miles, but inadvertently neglects to take the Sawgrass Expressway turnoff. He winds up clear across Alligator Alley 100 miles away in Naples ' on the western side of the state. Cursing and yelling, he has to backtrack all the way to Honda.
Corey Pavin holes out from the fairway with an 8-iron on the 72nd hole to tie Fred Couples with an eagle, then birdies the 18th in the playoff to win.
1995 ' Three weeks earlier, Mark OMeara had shown up at the Nissan in Los Angeles but had forgotten to enter. Reject! So he hastily penciled in Honda as a substitute. And what do you know ' he won! The wind was ' once again ' a major factor. Wednesdays hurricane-force gales destroyed the commissioners skybox. OMeara, playing Sunday in the face of biting gales, held off Nick Faldo for his first win in three years.
1996 ' The Honda played Can You Find theTournament? It was supposed to move to a new home on a Mark McCumber-designed course, but 60 inches of rain during the previous summer meant that the new course still wasnt finished in time for the tournament. Tournament organizers checked in with Weston Hills about staying one more year, but a couple of BAR MITZVAHS, for goodness sakes, were scheduled at Weston and the fathers refused to change the dates. So reluctantly Honda returned for one year to good old Eagle Trace. Norman did indeed return, and he and Nick Price pulled up for their opening rounds on a firetruck, of all things.
In addition to the yuks it has provoked down through the years about the fierce winds, Honda became known for the youngsters who have competed in recent years. Sixteen-year-old Chris Couch played in the 90s, and later 16-year-old Ty Tryon caused a ruckus in 2001 when he opened with a 67 and closed with a 68.
The tournament moved to Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens last year, and now its time to start a new reputation. But - uh-oh - it was so difficult that players had a diffiult time completing their rounds Wednesday. The hilarity continues at this event, known as the wackiest on the PGA Tour schedule.
Email your thoughts to George White
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.
Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.
There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.
Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.
“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.
In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.
“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.
“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”