No Rest for the Weary
So you think this job is glamorous, all the travel and all the perks that go with it and all the great golf. It is. But sometimes it also is exhausting. I went three-quarters of the way around the world in three days just a couple of weeks ago, and it took a little while to recover.
I'm not complaining, mind you. Sometimes you do unusual things in the name of business. This time it was my course architect company, Faldo Design.
Let me tell you about it. I started my journey in my other home, Orlando, and flew to Toronto Friday. From there it was a 2 1/2-hour trip north to a beautiful site near Lake Rosseau in Muskoka, though on Friday it was actually snowing. The course, temporarily called the Lake Rosseau project, is cut through the forest with these majestic rock outlets, really magnificent. But I have to tell you, I was freezing!
Then it was back to Toronto, fly to Chicago, and from Chicago to Beijing, which is 13-plus hours. I got out of the airport at 3 in the afternoon Saturday and I spent an hour or so walking the golf course. Actually that's not a bad thing, you get some daylight and you get some exercise. That evening was a business meeting, no time for sleep yet.
I got out the next morning, Sunday, about 8 and walked the course again. It's a great project, only 25 minutes from Tiananmen Square called Hong Hua International golf club. So I went from a golf course cut through the forest, very rural, to one surrounded by high rises and tall buildings in a very urban setting.
Then I jumped on a plane out of Beijing to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong flew on to London. I got home to London Monday morning. It may sound rough, but it really was a good trip.
Golf-wise, I had a good Masters, tying for 14th. I played on the Saturday before the tournament started, and the greens were measuring at least 15-plus on the Richter scale, pardon me, on the Stimpmeter. It's really too bad that the rains came throughout the week. If the course had stayed firm all week, it would have demanded a little more strategy.
Just like the analysts predicted, though, it was basically a big-hitters' course, at least on the final day. You look at the leaderboard after three rounds, and they were all long hitters who were out front. They definitely had a little advantage.
Tiger, of course, was brilliant. I guess the papers are going to write for a long time that he isn't really impressive until it comes time for the majors. Then he just plays like a true champion. The guy is really amazing.
His big motivation will be winning the money list each year, and of course winning the majors. He's already in a different league. He is so focused on majors. There is no way anybody could maintain that enthusiasm week after week after week in regular tour events. He just goes and plays the regular tour, and if he happens to win, that's good. The day after the Masters was over, he was already thinking of his playing schedule leading up to the U.S. Open; where he's going to play, what's he going to do, and how he's going to prepare for that. That's how I operated. That's what your measured by, the number of majors you've won. He's won seven, and the truth is, I don't have any idea how many other tournaments he's won. As I said, you are measured by your number of majors, and I do know that number, seven!
That story will be written an awfully lot of times through the years, 'He wasn't really sharp until it came time for the majors.' I will guarantee it. But the majors, that's where he shines. That's where he is so great.
The mental side, that's his strongest club right now. Mental, physical, technical, he's got all of those. But mentally, he just got into the Masters at the start, he made a big move on Saturday, and on Sunday he beat us all. It was a classic case of everybody watching what Tiger was up to. Some guys may not admit it, but still there was something inside them that was conscious of what Tiger was doing. And they couldn't respond to it.
As for my week in Augusta, I was quite pleased. I opened with a 75, but then I had a really good second day and shot 67. It's really unusual - Hal Sutton, who was to be my playing partner, withdrew before the start. I thought to myself, 'What would I do if I had to play by myself during the middle of a tournament?'
Well, I thought I was going to find out. Frank Lickliter, who was my other partner, came up to me Friday morning and told me he had to drop out. I said, 'Oh, no!' I thought, 'What do I do now?' I thought it would be sinful to have a marker, it's only happened to me once in my whole career, last year at Loch Lomond.
But the more I thought about it, the more I could see the advantages. I can see where it really is better playing on your own. You play totally at your own pace, you hit whenever you're ready, you go round just the way you like it.
I did take a marker, however. I was surrounded by three-balls and I took John Harris, a guy who has been an outstanding amateur, a good player, a nice guy. So I came out and shot the 67, birdied the first three holes and just hung in there until the end of the day. It was a great day for me. The whole tournament, actually, went very well.
Actually, it was the continuation of what has been a pretty good year. I finished tied for 10th in the Johnnie Walker in Australia, tied for sixth in the Heineken Classic, and third in the Singapore Masters. And now the tie for 14th in the Masters.
So I am doing well, I think. I have the opportunity now to concentrate on my golf, and the course design business is coming along really well, also. The next few tournaments are on the European Tour, in Germany for the Deutsche Bank, and the Volvo PGA Championship back here in England.
By then, it will be time for us to meet again. See you!
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”