Vigilance is key for Tour's security since '96 incident

By Rex HoggardFebruary 26, 2014, 9:35 pm

Fans lined up to brave the elements and Sunday’s extended matches at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship grumbled as they waited to pass through security, but – as is the case in nearly every avenue of modern life – they endured the wait and moved on.

Following last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, the PGA Tour’s enhanced security measures – including wanding and a limit on bag size – is widely considered the price of vigilance and the twisted realities of a dangerous world.

Even the Tour’s own website seemingly references the incident on a page explaining the new procedures, “Due to the events earlier this year and heightened security measures across our nation, the PGA Tour will . . . expand screenings for all patrons, sponsors, volunteers, media and vendors attending or working at all events.”

But shortly after the two finalists set out on Sunday at Dove Mountain, commissioner Tim Finchem’s mind raced back nearly two decades to another incident that, although not even remotely as devastating as the Boston bombing, was nonetheless alarming for Tour officials.

“We had an incident in Akron (Ohio), quite a while ago. Back before 9/11. There was a device that had exploded on the first tee. The final group had left the first tee, everybody had left. Nobody got hurt,” Finchem recalled.

“There wasn’t much to it. Whoever did it, my recollection is, they put it in a trash can and that sort of contained it. It was homemade, it wasn’t a significant thing. It just reinforced to us that while our fans are really solid fans, anyone can get in.”

The incident occurred in the 1996 NEC World Series of Golf  just as the leaders, including Phil Mickelson, set out at Firestone Country Club. The report filed with the Akron Police Department considered the incident a “dangerous ordinance” which caused “minor injuries” to a few fans but no major damage.

Although no one was seriously hurt, and the incident received little attention in the press, it prompted an intense evaluation of the circuit’s security policies.

“That got everybody’s attention,” said Jim Cook, the tournament director at the Tour’s Akron, Ohio, stop in 1996. “That incident came down to being a prank and the Tour took very strong action and made it a priority because of the access fans have to players at a golf tournament.”

The Tour’s policy has evolved from that incident and during last year’s winter meetings of the tournament directors, the circuit held a special break-out session with security officials to go over the policy adjustments.

Some have suggested that one of the byproducts of the new procedures, specifically the added cost of screening at entry points, is that some tournaments, like the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, have closed their Tuesday practice rounds to the public.

One tournament director estimated the additional security costs to tournaments would range between $10,000 and $20,000, and if tournaments are not selling enough tickets to cover expenses on Tuesday they have discovered it’s better to simply keep their gates closed, although Finchem dismissed that cause-and-effect relationship.

“I don’t see a correlation,” he said. “In some markets it seems like some tournaments have concluded that when they do that it helps their tournament out later in the week and they like that.”

As many as 10 events are expected to close Tuesday rounds to the public this season, but many tournaments – like the Wells Fargo Championship and Wyndham Championship – have been wanding for years and have no plans to close Tuesday rounds.

“Heck no,” said Kym Hougham, the executive director of the Wells Fargo. “We have thousands of people out there on Tuesday. You can save a lot of money (closing Tuesday rounds), but there are some of us that do a good business on Tuesday.”

Last year’s Wells Fargo Championship was held just three weeks after the bombing in Boston and for Hougham the policy changes were easy choices. Simply put, whatever tradeoff individual tournaments and fans may have to endure is the price golf has to pay.

No athlete in any other major sport is as exposed to potential threats as professional golfers.

“We’re out here on 200 acres of property with 40,000 or 50,000 people sometimes,” Finchem said at Dove Mountain. “You have to be real careful and do anything you can. That’s when we up scaled it. Anything we have done since has just been to fine-tune it.”

Completely securing 18 holes will never be an option, and last year’s bombings in Boston brought that reality into sharp focus. But for Finchem and the Tour, doing nothing is not an option. It was a lesson learned on a summer Saturday in Akron, Ohio, 18 years ago.

“We’re always looking to upgrade security. Security in today’s world has to be as vigilant as you can make it and we ask ourselves, are we doing it as good as we can? How can we do better?” Finchem said.

In that context, longer lines to get into PGA Tour events doesn’t seem like that big of an inconvenience.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.