Living History

By Randall MellSeptember 12, 2009, 1:23 am

USGAARDMORE, Pa. – Golf’s best like to play with ghosts.

It’s no different today.

Ask two-time Oklahoma State All-America selection Rickie Fowler.

In Walker Cup practice with fellow Americans Adam Mitchell and Nathan Smith at Merion Golf Club, the trio couldn’t resist.

Peter Uihlein
U.S. team member Peter Uihlein hits an approach on the 18th Friday. (Getty Images)
They dropped their balls on the East Course’s 18th fairway near the plaque that commemorates the famed 1-iron shot Ben Hogan played into the 72nd hole when he won the 1950 U.S. Open. It’s a shot that was immortalized by photographer Hy Peskin, who captured Hogan’s perfect follow through from behind.

The 1-iron got Hogan into a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio that would win Hogan more than a trophy. Just 16 months after his car collided head-on with a Greyhound Bus, Hogan limped to that U.S. Open title, changing the way golf fans mostly viewed this cold and aloof competitor.

Hogan’s memory is so inescapable at Merion that Fowler, Mitchell and Smith couldn’t resist trying to duplicate Hogan’s shot.

“Took a picture with the background the same as Hogan,” Fowler said.

Except Fowler hit 4-iron.

The Walker Cup begins Saturday at Merion Golf Club, where the young members of the American and Great Britain & Ireland teams are relishing gallivanting among the game’s great ghosts. The East Course, created by Hugh Wilson, a club member, was opened in September of 1912.

Merion’s full of great memories.

“It’s fabulous coming back here,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competition. “You almost get tingles coming, the place reeks with such history.”

The history here can feel more like mythology with Merion’s rich past remembered mostly in grainy, black-and-white images.

Though Merion has been host to 17 USGA championships, more than any other club, its mostly ancient history to today’s young players.

Smith is the only player in this week’s Walker Cup who was alive the last time a U.S. Open was played at Merion. He was 3 years old.

This venerable course is where Bobby Jones played his first and last U.S. Amateur. He completed the Grand Slam here, defeating Eugene Homans, 8 and 7, to win the U.S. Amateur in 1930. A plaque commemorating Jones’ victory can be found at the 11th hole, where he clinched that match. On the last Friday of every September, Merion’s membership honors the victory in a black-tie affair, marching behind a bag piper out to the 11th tee, where the club president offers up a toast.

“Probably one of my favorite holes here,” Fowler said.

Merion’s also where Lee Trevino threw that rubber snake at Jack Nicklaus before beating the Golden Bear in an 18-hole U.S. Open playoff in 1971.

This year’s Walker Cuppers are part of Merion’s resurgence as a championship venue.

Time seemed to have passed Merion by after David Graham won the ’81 U.S. Open. The ’89 U.S. Amateur title won by Chris Patton looked like it was going to be the club’s last hurrah. The East Course appeared too short for the modern game, not suitable for meaningful lengthening within its smallish boundaries. The U.S. Open also seemed to have outgrown the venue logistically. The property couldn’t hold enough spectators to suit the championship’s growing needs, or enough hospitality tents, but this weekend’s Walker Cup is proving to be part of Merion’s big comeback.

After successfully hosting the 2005 U.S. Amateur, Merion was awarded the 2013 U.S. Open.

Merion membership and the USGA did some hard work making sure the championship test was more than strong enough, and that property on the club’s West Course could be used to meet U.S. Open hospitality and other needs. Attendance may be limited when the U.S. Open is played here, but the possibilities no longer are. The demanding exactness of Merion’s East Course layout, its rough and diabolical greens still make it a supreme test.

“Merion has always been the poster child for what equipment’s done to championship courses,” Davis said. “To be able to bring the Open back here, it’s one of the most exciting things that’s happened in the 20 years I’ve been with the USGA.”

Today’s Walker Cup competitors hope to add to the club’s great memories this week.

“Knowing some of the history here just makes it even more special,” GB&I’s Wallace Booth said.
    <tgcitem value='5.11381' showthumbnail='yes'>Event: Walker Cup</tgcitem>
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.

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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

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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.

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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.