Golf Writer Blighton Dies
Blighton, a native of the London area, married and moved to the U.S. approximately 10 years ago. He had formerly worked for the Exchange Telegraph agency before becoming a golf correspondent.
A member of both the Golf Writers of America Association and the British Association of Golf Writers, Blighton moved to northern New Jersey last year from the Chicago area. He was a constant attendee at every major U.S. golf tournament.
Blighton leaves a wife, Margaret, two stepdaughters and two children in England from a previous marriage.
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Path down the not-so straight and narrow
Try as I might, I can’t remember a single one of my professors at the University of Texas asking me what we would like to be tested on. What I would have given if my freshman classical lit teacher, Miss Gross (really her name), had asked if we preferred Hemingway, the master of the short story, to the Russian novelist who apparently got paid by the word, Leo Tolstoy. The innate laziness of students, individual bias and consensus, as it turns out, runs counter to the academic goals of professors and Miss Gross had the temerity to think she knew better than her students what curriculum would be appropriate for a proper education.
She was right, of course, but “consensus” has become much more en vogue, as the world via social media bows to groupthink. This has become more evident in universities, politics and even golf, where the game has become almost unrecognizable from what it once was.
The top-five players in the world (Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose) rank 128th, 126th, 108th, 127th and 100th, respectively, in driving accuracy. The top-five players in the world are pitiful at what Ben Hogan called the single most important shot in golf. Hogan looked at his target through a scope, these players use a scattergun. Yes, I know we now have something called strokes gained: off the tee, but given the current status of the game that is just a metric to tell us who the longest, straightest, most crooked players are.
The hardest thing to do in golf is to hit the ball long AND straight.
Hogan not only understood this, he obsessed over the idea and spent a lifetime building a golf swing that allowed him to hit the ball as far as he could and as straight as he possibly could. His only metric was the ribbon width fairway of a U.S. Open. The reason Hogan would be sick to his stomach if he walked up and down the ranges of PGA Tour events today is because many of the golf swings are built for half of this equation, to hit the ball long. In fairness this is not the player’s fault, at least not as far as they know.
The most popular golf course architect remains Alister MacKenzie, a man who died over 80 years ago. MacKenzie’s guiding philosophy was to build courses that brought the greatest pleasure to the greatest number and his work, aesthetic gems like Cypress Point and Augusta National, built on ocean cliffs and on a former nursery farm, have gained immense and lasting fame.
But perhaps more enduring, and I argue more damaging to the professional game, is his philosophy of design to appeal to the greatest number.
Wanting to imitate links golf, MacKenzie favored little rough, few fairway bunkers, the imitation of nature for aesthetic appeal and rolling greens and surrounds. Testing professional golfers was never the primary objective. Understandable given that when MacKenzie was designing golf courses the game was, besides being much harder than it is now, relatively new in the United States. Making it more popular was the goal.
Players, professional and amateur, loved the forgiving nature of his designs, and budding architects wanting to imitate MacKenzie’s work, adopted philosophies along similar lines. To this day when having a debate with a group of Tour players or golf course architect nerds, the consensus will be to have little or graduated rough off of the tee, “to allow for the recovery” they will say, followed by “to give the greatest pleasure to the greatest number.”
The year MacKenzie died, 1934, was notable: it was the year what is now called the Masters began, it was the first year the PGA Tour began recognizing the leading money winner and, far less widely known, it was the first year of a three-and-a-half decade reign for Joseph C. Dey as executive director of the USGA.
“From the moment I met him I could tell he was in charge of the game of golf,” Jack Nicklaus once said about Dey.
Dey shepherded golf in the United States and almost single-handedly instituted a uniform code of rules for the USGA and the R&A and helped start five USGA championships and four international team competitions. Beyond that, he was the man in charge of setting up the courses for the U.S. Open.
His course setups were not built around consensus, they were driven by one simple overriding philosophy: to find the one player who was most in control of his emotions, mind and golf shots. U.S. Opens were often punishing to the best players and unforgiving, both off of the tee and around the green. There was no thought to the recovery, which is by definition bowing to the next shot. U.S. Opens were about great execution of the shot at hand, right here and now. The demands of precision were intimidating but they made the best players think. Hogan, in particular, thought longer and harder than anyone about the demands of a U.S. Open, and conquering them.
Hogan had a Euclidean determination to build a golf swing that would withstand the greatest pressure in the game, U.S. Open pressure. What he built was an immaculate marriage of tenacity and technique, a swing that transfigured the game and remains the single most compelling example of beauty in golf. Now try to imagine what his swing would have looked like if driving the ball straight were of very little importance.
Sure Hogan gets credit for building the golf swing, but Dey should get the assist. If the executive director of the USGA had sought a consensus and conferred with the players, it’s doubtful that his setups would have been as demanding. Necessity being the mother of invention though, Hogan invented something nobody had ever seen before or since.
Which brings me back to the state of the game today, where players flail away with impunity off of the tee, claiming to be great drivers of the ball because of something called strokes gained: off of the tee. The implications here are far reaching, far more than just being able to scatter shots all over a course and still win.
Because golf course setups have become far more forgiving – owing to the MacKenzie philosophy, incessant complaints and suggestions of the players and to the social media chorus that we want more birdies – players seek to launch shots as high as they can, with as little spin as they can, with as long of a driver as they can handle. Distance has become a means to an end so much, that many are crying for a roll back of the ball when all that needs to happen is to roll back to an era when one man had the guts and the acuity to not listen to the players, or the pervading philosophy of fairness.
Imagine if the U.S. Open and several other events returned to this demanding philosophy. Players out of necessity would choose balls that spun more, heads that were smaller so they could shape shots, shots that would start lower for more control and golf swings would evolve to find the balance of distance and accuracy. In time an athlete would come along who could solve the puzzle of how to hit the ball far and straight.
Players are not hitting the ball so far today because that’s the way the game is going, they are doing so because the set ups of golf courses do not make them think.
Finau returns to action 3 weeks after Masters injury
AVONDALE, La. – Nearly three weeks have passed since Tony Finau suffered a gruesome high-ankle sprain while celebrating a hole-in-one at the Masters.
And to some surprise, he’s already back on the course.
Finau was on the range at TPC Louisiana on Tuesday morning, preparing to return to competition alongside fellow Utah resident Daniel Summerhays at the Zurich Classic. After a half-hour warmup session in which he was able to shift into his left side, he walked slowly but without a limp.
“The only way we’re going to know where we’re at with the mobility is to continue to do what my foot normally does – and that’s walking and playing golf,” he said. “With this golf course and the setup of the tournament” – a flat course, with two days of alternate shot – “what better way to gauge where we’re at than by playing this tournament?”
Finau said that he mostly tried to stay off his injured ankle and foot the week after the Masters. Last week was more physical therapy and strength training, to test his limits. He’s been working with the Utah Jazz trainers, as well as the physical therapists at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center, to return to the Tour as quickly as possible.
“The journey is far from over as far as dealing with the foot,” he said. “I’ve dealt with ankle injuries before, and they can linger. I don’t think it’s going to be 100 percent for a while, but I do feel like it’s ready to go and play and compete and continue to get better as I do that.”
Finau said he was shocked by the amount of support he received after his fluke injury in the Par 3 Contest – “A lot of guys who I didn’t know had my number reached out” – and that he only posted the gruesome photos of his leg after the Masters, so that fans knew what he endured to tie for 10th (including a Sunday 66) in his first start at Augusta.
“I didn’t want anybody to think that I had excuses,” he said. “I’m there to play. I was ready to play once my tee time came around. Obviously people knew the scenario I was dealing with, but after the fact people could respect the process I had to go through throughout the week, during the round, after the round, taping it, and then seeing the condition it was in.
“Hopefully people were able to respect what I was able to do with limited action on my left side.”
Longtime pals Furyk, Duval the 'rustiest' Zurich team
AVONDALE, La. – Jim Furyk and David Duval are the winningest two-man team here at the Zurich Classic, combining for 30 PGA Tour titles during their careers.
These days, they’re also known for something else.
“We’re probably the rustiest team in the field,” Duval said with a laugh Tuesday. “Certainly the least rounds played.”
Of the 80 teams in the field at TPC Louisiana, the Furyk-Duval partnership may have raised the most eyebrows.
Furyk, 47, has scaled back his schedule over the past few years, after dealing with a variety of injuries. As the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, he also has more on his mind than choosing clubs and reading greens. Duval, 46, has made only 11 Tour starts since 2014, transitioning instead to the broadcast booth.
And yet they’re here, together, paired for just the second time in a Tour event. Furyk found that hard to believe. Of the dozens of rounds these two aging warriors have played over the past two-plus decades, they teed it up together in only one Tour event – the 2002 Invensys Classic at Las Vegas.
“I know we played a lot on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Furyk said. “So playing in a tournament, that’s going back 15 years ago. I can’t remember last week who I played with, so …”
More vivid are his memories of their time together on what was then known as the Nike Tour.
“We had a span there where I think we played eight to 10 weeks in a row and we played practice rounds together,” Furyk said.
Duval mentioned the idea of teaming up at the Zurich last year, and Furyk accepted. This is just a one-off, a chance for old friends to reconnect, even if their own expectations are low.
“When the folks out there go play golf, their idea of golf is hanging out with their buddies, right? Folks that they love playing golf with, enjoy being around,” Furyk said. “That’s what this event gives us. To get back together is really what it’s all about.”
GOLF ADVISOR EXPANDS TRAVEL CONTENT TO BETTER SERVE THE AVID TRAVELING GOLFER
New Golf Channel Travel Series, Golf Advisor Round Trip, and Fan Trip Experiences Highlight Additions
Preview Clip: Golf Advisor Round Trip: Danzante Bay
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 24, 2018) – The leading source of golf course ratings and reviews, Golf Advisor, is expanding how it super-serves the traveling golfer. The Golf Advisor portfolio now will include a new Golf Channel travel series and premium travel experiences at world-class resorts and clubs.
“Since founding Golf Advisor in 2014, the site has grown dramatically to become the number-one course rating and review platform in the game. Golfer’s opinions are complemented with a veteran staff of writers, including Matt Ginella, Bradley Klein and Brandon Tucker, that provide expert travel advice on how to maximize your experience,” said Mike Lowe, vice president and general manager, Golf Advisor. “Now, we are excited to be elevating the brand and its offerings to not only showcase some of the most exciting golf destinations in the world on Golf Channel, but also to allow the traveling golfer to come along with us.”
Premiering May 2 at 8 p.m. ET, Golf Advisor Round Trip, will be a 30-minute series taking viewers around the world to showcase amazing golfing destinations. Matt Ginella, who has traveled more than a million miles since he began reporting for Golf Channel in 2013, will serve as series host and become Golf Advisor’s Editor-at-Large.
“There is no better education than travel, and it’s a buyer’s market in the world of destination golf,” Ginella said. “It’s a dream come true for me, my crew and the entire Golf Advisor team to be given the chance to inform, inspire and entertain our viewers and followers, alike, and to tell the stories about the places they may venture to next.”
In addition to his role as television host, Ginella also joins an expert Golf Advisor editorial team, including award-winning golf travel, history and architecture journalist Bradley S. Klein, Senior Managing Editor Brandon Tucker and other leading voices in golf travel.
The Golf Advisor Round Trip premiere episode will visit the stunningly beautiful Danzante Bay on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and will feature its dramatically picturesque golf course that runs through beaches, cliffs and canyons, and was designed by famed architect Rees Jones. Watch a clip from the show Here.
Other destinations scheduled to be featured on Golf Advisor Round Trip in 2018 include:
- Big Cedar Lodge, a wilderness resort experience in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.
- Reynolds Lake Oconee, golf in the rolling lake country of northern Georgia.
- Myrtle Beach, S.C., one of the world’s most popular golfing destinations offering more than 90 courses.
- Ireland, one of the world’s most popular international golfing destinations and home to some of the most iconic golf courses.
Golf Advisor Getaways will provide opportunities for individuals and groups to travel with Ginella and other Golf Advisor personalities to the destinations featured on the Golf Channel series. They will serve as host and trip “captain,” responsible for organizing itineraries that not only include great golf, but also destination side-trips, entertainment and varied dining experiences. More information can be found on how to join these trips at www.GolfAdvisor.com/getaways.
Scheduled Golf Advisor Getaways in 2018 include:
- Sept. 9-12: Big Cedar Lodge
- Oct. 14-17: Reynolds Lake Oconee
- Dec. 6-9: Danzante Bay
As a rapidly growing digital destination for the avid golfer, Golf Advisor has achieved record growth in the last year, highlighted by all-time records across various key metrics (pages views +16%; unique visitors +32%). The site features more than 700,000 user-generated golf course reviews of more than 15,000 golf courses around the world from its active community of golfers, as well as its popular Best of Lists.
-NBC Sports Group-