The story of Bobby Jones and Royal Lytham

By Martin DavisJuly 16, 2012, 10:55 pm

Golf is fortunate to have great venues for the Opens – St. Andrews, Muirfield and Carnoustie in Great Britain; Merion, Pebble Beach, Winged Foot and Oakmont in the United States. They are sacred ground.

But in the British Isles one site seems under-appreciated for the greatness that took place there – Royal Lytham and St. Annes, the site of this year’s Open Championship. 

Perhaps Lytham doesn’t receive its just due because it’s located in England and not in Scotland, or for the reason that the compact layout is only 7,086 yards long, or because that the front nine begins with a par-3 hole. Whatever the reason, it certainly isn’t due to the spectacular play that has taken place over its links land, especially in the first Open Championship contested at Lytham in 1926. 

It all started in grand fashion with Bobby Jones’ dazzling victory. But it almost never came to be. It’s a wonderful story.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jones did not come from a wealthy family, so travel to play in the famous British championships was restricted mostly to those years where he was selected to play on the U.S. Walker Cup team. Typically, the U.S. team would come to the U.K. to play in the Walker Cup – with the travel bill footed by the U.S. Golf Association – and also play in the British Amateur; sometimes the players would add the British Open.

Jones played in the first international team match between the U.S. and Great Britain in 1921, an informal affair at Hoylake won by the U.S. He then played in the British Amateur the next day and several weeks later, played in the Open at St. Andrews. He came to Britain again in 1926 as a Walker Cup team member and played in the British Amateur scheduled just prior to the Walker Cup.

 “Jeannie Deans”

Although Jones had won the U.S. Open in 1923 and the U.S. Amateur in 1924 and 1925, he was eliminated in the sixth round of the British Amateur at Muirfield by unknown Andrew Jamieson. In the Walker Cup at St. Andrews, he had two dominating wins – the first, a 4-and-3 victory in the foursomes while partnered with Watts Gunn, over burly Cyril Tolley, Britain’s best amateur, and partner Jamieson; the second, a thorough thrashing of Tolley by the lopsided margin of 12-and-11 in the singles. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Jones’ fine play gave a hint of great things to come.

Scheduled to return home after the Walker Cup, Jones had a change of heart and entered the Open Championship at Royal Lytham. However, due to the heightened interest in the Open, the R&A instituted a series of sectional qualifying tournaments for the first time. Jones chose the southern one, at Sunningdale, not far from his favorite hotel in London, and perhaps more to the point, the club where his favorite club maker, Jack White, was affiliated.

On the eve of the first qualifying round, White delivered a new driver to Jones who promptly named it “Jeannie Deans,” after novelist Sir Walter Scott’s heroine. It was a match made in heaven as Jones’ results with his spanking-new driver would make an indelible impact on the golf world over the next five years.

Jones, with “Jeannie Deans” in his bag, shot a first round of 66 in the first round of the qualifier. In fact, it was a perfectly symmetrical round – it featured 33 strokes out and 33 strokes in, 33 putts and 33 other shots, not a two nor a five on his scorecard. One well-respected writer even referred to his round of 66 as the “perfect round of golf.”

In the days when sub-70 rounds were rare, Jones followed with a 68, winning the qualifying medal by seven strokes.

Jones’ Open Championship at Royal Lytham

In his first round in the Open, Jones was four shots behind leader Walter Hagen’s 68; in the second round, he added another even-par 72, leaving him tied with professional “Wild” Bill Mehlhorn at 144. 

Paired with American professional Al Watrous in the double-round finale on the third day, Jones shot a 73 to Watrous’ 69, leaving “Wee Bobby” two behind the leader Watrous with the fourth round to go. 

But a funny incident intervened at the lunch break. After the morning third round, Jones decided not to go back to the hurly-burly of the clubhouse for lunch, but rather go into town for a quieter meal before the fourth round. On his return, the gatekeeper demanded to see Jones’ ticket. Jones proceeded to show his competitor’s badge, but that was not enough for the overly officious gentleman who steadfastly refused Jones entry. Ever resourceful, Jones went to a nearby ticket booth and bought a spectator’s ticket, thus becoming the only person ever to have to buy a ticket to gain entrance to a major championship so could get back into the course to try and win.

In the fourth round, Jones putted erratically, but was still two back with five to play. He parred 14 and 15, as Watrous bogeyed each. All even on 16, the co-leaders each parred the hole.

On 17, Watrous’ drive split the fairway, while Jones hooked his tee shot into a gourse-strewn sandy area – not quite the formal bunker it is today – on the left side of the fairway where it doglegs to the left about 175 yards from the green. It was not a good tee shot, especially under the circumstances, but what was about to happen is the thing grand legends and great reputations are made of. It would electrify the golf world on both sides of the Atlantic.

“… the greatest shot in the history of British golf.”

First to play, Watrous – feeling the pressure of being in contention for a major championship – hit a weak shot to the front edge of the green. Jones, faced with a semi-blind shot off loose sand to a rock-hard green, selected a mashie – about a strong 5-iron by today’s standards. Jones picked the ball cleanly off the sand, lifted it over the dunes and onto the green, just inside Watrous’s ball. All who witnessed it recognized it as perhaps the best shot they’d ever seen. 

One Scottish writer later called Jones’ mashie “… the greatest shot in the history of British golf.”

Watrous nervously three-putted 17 for a bogey, to Jones’ two putts for his par. On 18, Watrous three-putted once again to bogey, as Jones parred the last to win his first British Open with a then record 291 total. 

As a result, Jones became the first amateur in 29 years to win the Open Championship and also the first American amateur ever to do so. At the conclusion of the Open, another British journalist summed up Jones’ win  “… his victory was one of the most popular in the history of athletic sports. He not only won the cup with his golf, but the hearts of Britishers by his demeanor and character.”

To this day, a metal plaque is located on the spot just off the 17th fairway where Jones hit his miraculous shot. There is also an oil painting of Jones, along with the mashie he used on 17, proudly on display in the clubhouse. 

A Ticker Tape Parade

Jones returned home to an unexpected welcome, a raucous greeting at the Port of New York and a hero’s ticker tape parade up Broadway to City Hall. A contingent of 200 Atlantans greeted him on a chartered boat at Quarantine, watched him proceed with great fanfare amidst crowds of cheering New Yorkers and stood by as Mayor Walker greeted him on the steps of City Hall. It was quite a day for America’s new hero. 

With Jones winning the first Open Championship held at Royal Lytham, he established the standard of excellence for play over these hallowed grounds. Future Open Championships at Lytham would live up to the high standard Jones set as they would feature many of the greats of the game – Bobby Locke in 1952; Peter Thomson in 1958; Tony Jacklin in 1969; Gary Player in 1974; and Seve Ballesteros with two wins at Lytham, the first in 1979 and the second in 1988. Including Jones, there are 19 Open Championship victories among this majestic group – seven of them at Lytham.

So when you watch the Open at Lytham this week, remember it started with the greatest amateur of them all, as Bernard Darwin referred to him – the spectacular, but modest, young Atlantan Bob Jones. 

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

Getty Images

McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

Getty Images

Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

Getty Images

Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.