The Sea the Golf and Punta Cana

By George WhiteOctober 30, 2003, 5:00 pm
If only there were seals squawking and the cool, foggy mists of morning, this could be the 18th hole of Pebble Beach.
Instead, its the 18th hole of Punta Cana. This is the Punta Cana Resort and Club in the Caribbean, on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic. Together with the 17th, which also curls in tandem with the ocean at Punta Cana, they are eerily similar to the great finishing hole at Pebble.
This is the essence of Punta Cana. The course is testing, yet user-friendly; difficult from the back tees (it stretches more than 7,100 yards), but eminently playable from the middle and front tees; demanding at times, yet always with a touch of intrigue. It is the latest golfing gem in the Caribbean, a course that has been in existence for only two years at this gorgeous resort.
By the time it is done, this will be nothing short of a golfers paradise. There already is one very strong course, designed by P.B. Dye. P.B.s father, Pete Dye, designed the Teeth of the Dog course just up the coast in the Dominican. And another course, even more Pebble-like, will shortly go up.
The rhythm of the course is what makes it outstanding, said the director of golf, Olivier Brizon. You start with a little par 4, then you have a stronger par 4, then you have a par 3 with water, then you have a par-4 against the wind, a par-3 against the beach the course just gets progressively more testing, but with little lulls to keep it exciting. That rhythm of play is what makes it so interesting.
Brizon himself is a very interesting study. He worked with architect Trent Jones for three years. He has worked with instructor John Jacobs. He has built 20 courses, at a rate of two course per year, and has lived and been in golf administration all over the Western Hemisphere ' Venezuela, Canada, Switzerland, France, Guadalupe, now in the Dominican Republic.
Ive always been in the golf business, he says.
While holes 17 and 18 play alongside the shore, with two other seaside holes giving breath-taking views of the Caribbean, Brizons favorite hole is, surprisingly, a par 3.
The 14th, he says ' that is a great hole.
Fourteen plays to 160 yards from the middle tees, stretching all the way out to 239 yards from the tips, but only 105 from the foremost tees. There are also tee boxes at 135 yards and 200 yards.
The hole plays from an elevated tee, looking down perhaps 20 feet to the green. The right side is guarded by a series on bunkers that extend almost the length of the hole. The green angles away from the player, showing just a portion of its surface, left side farther away than the right side.
The wind blows constantly from left to right, said Brizon. The entrance is very narrow, its really a typical Scottish-style hole. The hole has considerable elevation and movement ' its just a great hole.
Number 17 plays 413 yards for the long-knockers, 374 for most players, but only 321 from the forward tees. But its not the length that adds to the test ' its the narrow fairway. Its the tee shot which is so reminiscent of the drive at 18 at Pebble. The tee sits back at an angle to the fairway, meaning you have to flirt with the sea on your first shot. And down the right side, covering the entirety of the hole, a waste bunker sprawls.
You must start your drive over the ocean to have a chance of hitting the fairway, says Brizon. But the second shot, you are afforded a magnificent view with the green on top of the beach. There again, you have to play again over the water to bring the ball back to the green. Psychologically, its something.
And the par-5 finishing hole is a match-play hole, he says. A birdie possibility for the better player, it is a very makeable par for the average player. A second-shot try for the green will have to negotiate a very narrow entrance. And you have to play the second shot with a fade over the water, says Brizon. But you can play it safe ' a driver and a 5-iron in front of a series of bunkers which cross the fairway, then a wedge to the green.
The course is a delight to play because it is only as difficult as you make it. Each hole has five distinct tees, affording the opportunity to play as much golf as one chooses.
Everyone can play this course, says Brizon. Its fair for everybody. You can play it from the black (back) tees for tournaments, with the pins placed properly, and it is very difficult. But from the middle tees with the pin placements fairly easy, its just a delight to play. And I would say that from 14 through 17, those holes are fantastic.
The fairways are exceedingly generous on this resort course, but the test is all on the approach shots. Hitting the green isnt the problem ' the greens are vast expanses of carpet. But each one, often 175 feet from side-to-side or lengthways, is segmented into several distinct plateaus. Hit on the wrong side of a slope and you are practically assured of a three-putt. Hit onto the proper plateau and you are given a relatively smooth 20-footer.
Theres even a boat lodged up firmly in a long waist bunker. Set on hole No. 9, the old vessel is halfway down the fairway, perched at a perilous angle with days of past glory on the briny deep long behind it.
The course project, incidentally, was a huge undertaking. The land on which it sits was originally coral, solid rock. Builders had to carry two million cubic centimeters of gravel to the site, using it to create contours in the course. Then the sand was spread and the course grassed in.
The grass was Seashore Paspalum, which can be irrigated with salt water from the sea ' most grasses would be killed by such treatment ' or recycled water. The Paspalum is a conservationists dream, requiring only half the pesticide and fertilizer of grasses in the U.S.
The Paspalum grass grows vertically, said Brizon, meaning that the ball sits straight up on it. It doesnt grow horizontally, like Bermuda, for example.
And, because the grass grows straight up, you dont have nearly as much break on the greens. There are plenty of ridges and plateaus, but much of the subtle breaks (of Bermuda, rye or Bent grass) is taken out.
The resort itself comes complete with an airport. Punta Cana airstrip was built almost 20 years ago and now carriers such as American Airlines, U.S. Air, and Air France have regularly scheduled service, as well as numerous charters from Europe. New Yorks JFK, Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Paris are the present gateways, with more to come in the future.
Here, 420 guest accommodations share the three miles of white sandy beach ' the longest in the Caribbean. Just recently, the Grupo Punta Cana developers have begun offering homesites for those interested in a Caribbean home.
Rates at the golf course are quite reasonable, $69 for resort guests, $93 for others during much of the year. During high season from Nov. 1 to April 30, they are still just $88 and $121. Nine-hole rates are also available, as well as several golf packages.
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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”