Q&A: Hall hits 200th 'School of Golf' episode

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2016, 2:16 pm

Most people hate going to class, but that all changed in 2011 when “School of Golf with Martin Hall” debuted on Golf Channel. Five years later, the award-winning golf instruction show is set to air its 200th episode, Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. Hall was a world-renowned teacher long before he was The Professor. He won the 2008 PGA Teacher of the Year award, worked with major champions and is currently eighth on Golf Digest’s ranking of the Best Teachers in America. Hall recently sat down to answer some questions about the show.

How did you become the “School of Golf” host?

Golf Channel held a national instructor search and I was not going to enter because I thought I’d be too old. I thought they’d be looking for someone younger. Then T.J. Hubbard [a Golf Channel producer] called and told me to put my name in the hat because he believed I’d be looked at favorably. I sent in my audition tape and obviously it all went quite well. I ended up one of three finalists along with Karen Palacios-Jansen and Wayne Player [Gary Player’s son], we each aired a demo show, there was a popular vote and, to my delight, I won!

When you first started five years ago, could you imagine doing 200 episodes?

Absolutely not. When I first drove up to Orlando to meet Kevin Schultz [Senior Director of Lifestyle Content] and he said here’s your schedule, I expected to see probably eight shows for the year. I thought I’d do eight shows and that would be that, maybe. And here we are now at 200.

You’ve had so many great guests on the show, including seven members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Are there any guests that were extra special?

They’ve all been very, very special for all sorts of reasons, but the two that stand out to me are Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo, eight Opens between them. Early on in the first season we had tapings scheduled with Watson on Monday and Faldo on Tuesday, and I was terrified! I was like a naughty schoolboy, I didn’t want to get out of bed. We got halfway up the turnpike to Orlando and I absolutely, seriously, totally wanted Lisa [Martin’s wife] to turn the car around. I said “I can’t do this,” because I was terrified of doing an interview with Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo. My how it’s changed now because if I had half a chance to grab a Tom Watson or Sir Nick Faldo on the range, I would put them in handcuffs and drag them on camera. I wouldn’t be phased by it at all, anymore.

What is the most common question or reaction you get from fans that recognize The Professor in public?

I like that people say, “Wow, you’re exactly the same in person as you are on TV.” I decided when I started doing this that the Martin Hall you will see on “School of Golf” is the Martin Hall you will meet at the grocery store or on the range at The Club at Ibis [where Martin is the Director of Instruction]. I’ve been seen all over the world, but I’m absolutely no different of a person than I was six years ago when we started.

You’ve taught so many people, but what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started hosting the show?

I think like everything else in life, it’s all about preparation. I’ve tried to study people who are very good at their craft on television, and I think people who make it look relatively straight-forward and relatively uncomplicated have prepared at great lengths. They work very hard to make it look very easy and I try to do the same.

How do you come up with so many original drills?

That’s because I still teach four full days a week and the game still fascinates me. I love to read about stories of successful people. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, would tell his team every day, “There must be a better way.” Every day I teach I keep thinking there must be a better way.

You’re not the only “Hall” to make an impact in the golf world. Your wife Lisa has played on two European Solheim Cup teams. How has she helped you with the show?

She’s a great sounding board. Every idea I’ve ever had that I thought was great, I run by her, and many times realize it’s not so great. Before speaking with my producer, Bret Brillante, I’ve gone over a draft with Lisa two or three times. In terms of preparation I’m mindful of what Ernest Hemmingway said. “The first draft of anything is …” let’s say garbage because I think he used a stronger word than that. So I like to go through three or four drafts to sharpen the show.

What’s the one tip, drill or advice you believe every single golfer needs to know?

All golfers need to know the start direction of the golf ball depends almost entirely on the angle of the club face. I like the say, “The face sends it and the path bends it.” A lot of people think it’s the other way around but we have a lot of science now to prove it isn’t that way. The angle of the face is the most important thing in golf for direction, and just one or two degrees open or closed will put the ball in the hay somewhere, which makes it all the more remarkable what we saw last week with people like Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon, or Dustin Johnson at Oakmont. They can swing so fast, hit it so hard, and essentially they are error-free with the club face at impact. Absolutely mind-boggling to me.

What does the future hold for “School of Golf”?

Well, I hope a lot more seasons. I’m going to keep doing “School of Golf” until they tell me they don’t want me, and hopefully that will be a long time. I made a promise to myself and the people that watch “School of Golf” that I will give every show 100 percent and that I’ll treat every show as if it’s my last. Every show I do is important to me, my personal Super Bowl, and I give it everything I can.

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.”