Pebble Beach views can overshadow course quality

By Rex HoggardFebruary 6, 2014, 12:30 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Some PGA Tour types will tell you Pebble Beach Golf Links isn’t even the best layout in the National Pro-Am’s three-course rotation, forget about naming the Monterey gem the circuit’s best 18 holes.

But in an impromptu debate that was born from the morning fog on Wednesday at Pebble Beach the esoteric debate took on a more definitive tone.

“By far, the best,” said Joe Ogilvie, one of the circuit’s most astute armchair golf course architects.

No, Ogilvie wasn’t declaring Pebble Beach the best on Tour; that conversation is often too emotionally charged depending on personal preferences and past performances, although the course ranked fourth on Tour among players in a poll taken last year by Golf Digest.

Ogilvie was simply naming the layout that winds its way around Stillwater Cove the best on the Monterey Peninsula, and that’s a lineup that includes venerable Cypress Point.

Pebble Beach’s detractors claim the course is given too much credit because of the three simple rules of good real estate – location, location, location. Dig up a west Texas muni and piece it along the picturesque coastline and it would earn instant classic status, the argument goes.

But that assessment misses a few simple realities.

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The U.S. Golf Association has played five U.S. Opens on the northern California coast and is set to add a sixth to that legacy in 2019. The PGA Championship was played at Pebble Beach in 1977 and the old Crosby Clambake has been contested on the windblown layout since 1947.

Mediocre doesn’t have that kind of staying power and it takes more than postcard-perfect vistas of the Pacific Ocean to secure that kind of major championship calling card.

In many ways Pebble Beach is the perfect combination of form and function.

“Beyond the scenery, the architecture, having to hit different shots, it is arguably one of the best (on Tour). Whether it’s the best I don’t know,” allowed Joe Durant, firmly, yet fairly, planted on the fence.

Although Pebble Beach is not consistently ranked among the circuit’s hardest - it ranked 29th out of 43 courses last year on Tour - players warn that when the wind comes up, as it is predicted to do on Thursday, and the “Crosby weather” arrives it is as challenging as anything one will find on the east coast of Scotland.

In a converse way, Pebble Beach may lack some critical acclaim because of the picturesque visuals that draw observers out to sea and away from the challenging shot values and subtle slopes.

“Pebble is the most underrated second-shot golf course on Tour. You’ve got to have precision into the greens,” Durant said. “If you put it on the wrong side of the hole you can be out there all day. The greens are fast, they have a lot of undulation and television doesn’t do it justice.”

Beyond the layout’s championship resume, the list of greats who have played their way to victory at Pebble Beach is as telling a litmus test as there is in golf. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Phil Mickelson all won at Pebble Beach and the ultimate calling card for any course is its ability to identify the best players.

Throughout its storied history Pebble Beach has also delivered some the game’s most memorable moments, from Tom Watson’s historic shootout with Nicklaus at the 1982 U.S. Open to Woods’ historic 15-stroke romp at the 2000 national championship.

That Pebble Beach delivers that kind of substance as well as a considerable amount of style is why the course is among the Tour’s best.

“This is probably my favorite place in the world, let alone favorite places to play golf,” said defending champion Brandt Snedeker.

Whether it’s the circuit’s best is a debate that will have to be decided on another practice tee because as the fog cleared players quickly headed out for practice rounds. They would rather be on the course than talking about it.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.