What I Saw in Scotland
I saw the continuing rise of a truly great young player in Martin Kaymer. With crowds lining the road along 17 and 18 and hanging from their balconies in a timeless scene unique to the Old Course, Kaymer birdied both holes to shoot 66, winning his third straight stroke-play event.
I saw the roiling sea in front of me and the cathedral of St. Andrews to my left in the distance as I walked to the back of the sixth green at the new Castle Course, and thought, “this is one of the prettiest pars I’ve ever made in a nine-hole tussle in which I didn’t make a whole lot.”
I saw just how lucky the locals are here. They pay, get this, roughly $270 per year and that gives them access to all seven golf courses in the St. Andrews Links Trust. Yes, that includes the Old Course.
I saw Chinnaswamy Muniyappa, the 2009 Indian Open champion, hitting balls, one after the next exploding off his club with a rhythmic and powerful swing, and thought, they really are coming from all over the world now.
I saw Samuel L. Jackson go “Pulp Fiction” as a fan badgered him to sign a Star Wars picture as Sam was getting ready to hit balls. “Samuel L, Samuel L, Samuel L,” the guy said over and over. Finally, Samuel L turned and yelled, “I heard you, %^*@#!” With a sly smile Samuel told me, “They want me to call ‘em that. They’re disappointed if I don’t.”
I saw Neels Els, Ernie’s dad. He told me his soon-to-be Hall of Fame son had “great ball sense” when he was 4 years old, good enough to have won local tennis tournaments without ever taking a lesson. Neels said that when Ernie won the South Africa Amateur at 16, it was clear that golf would be his calling.
I saw very little sun.
I saw Douglas Montgomerie, Colin’s older brother. To watch his follow through is to know instantly that he is a Montgomerie.
I saw an amazing new book called, “Golf Links of Scotland”, a visual and narrative tribute to the Old Course and the other 18 top links courses in Scotland. With overlays and double-gate folds it’s over 300 pages. There are only 145 being sold and it retails for $4,600. This is a major collector’s item and will stand as a definitive work for a long, long time. With photographs by Ian Macfarlane Lowe and words by George Peper, book details can be found at golflinksofscotland.com.
I saw hedge fund heavyweights and private equity wunderkinds and developers mixing it up with the pros just the way they do at Pebble Beach.
I saw Lee Westwood hit a 3-iron from 158 yards at 13 at the Old Course and come up a bit short.
I saw Rory McIlroy’s dad and we had a laugh. I could see where Rory gets his likable personality. In the words of one of his friends, Rory’s an extraordinary talent but an ordinary guy.
I saw Graeme McDowell with his U.S. Open trophy, Martin Kaymer with his PGA Championship trophy and Monty with the Ryder Cup trophy, together for a photo shoot in front of the R&A. In what may have been Europe’s greatest season, three of the four major winners in 2010, including Louis Oosthuizen, plus five of the top 10 in the world came off the European Tour.
I saw plated meals and white linen every day in the media center with duck and lamb and risotto and all manner of weight gaining delights. Dunhill, with Johann Rupert as the driving force, spares no expense in making this a first-rate event.
I saw a lesson in positive thinking. Manuel del los Santos is one of the best physically challenged golfer in the world, a one-time draft choice of the Toronto Blue Jays who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident when he was 18. A product of the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Manuel was given a copy of the movie, “Legend of Baggar Vance.” Inspired, he went to the driving range the next day. He’d never played golf. On his fourth shot, he hit it 220 yards. Today he plays to a 3 handicap. I watched him hit balls on the Old Course range and he striped one after the next 260-270 yards, his grip, his plane and his fundamentals absolutely textbook. Swing expert Robert Baker looked on and said the manner in which he clears his hips is extraordinary. Manuel says with a smile, “Golf is my second leg.”
I saw Jean van de Velde and we sat on the steps behind the 18th at the Old Course. He told me the only shot he’d like to have back from the final round of the 1999 Open Championship is the third, the one he hit in the burn. If he had it over again, he’d go sideways to the fairway, pitch on and two-putt for his double and the claret jug. “Why not just tee off with a 7-iron, then hit another 7-iron and a wedge?” I asked him. “No,” he replied emphatically. “It is not in me to do it like that.” He shot 82 the next day at Carnoustie.
I saw the Tip Anderson plaque at the Dunvegan Hotel. Tip caddied for Arnie in his early ‘60s British Open wins and always enjoyed a drink at the Dunvegan after a long day looping on the links. Arnie liked Tip so much he wanted to bring him back to the States but Tip wouldn’t get on a plane or a boat. When Tip died in ’04 Arnie couldn’t make the funeral. He sent flowers with a card that read, “Good bye old friend.” That inscription is on a small plaque on the wall where Tip used to sit at the Dunvegan. When Arnold returned for an appearance this past summer at the Open Championship, he walked into the Dunvegan and asked, “Where’s Tip’s seat?” The King sat down and raised a glass to his old friend.
I saw Lee Westwood’s agent, Chubby Chandler, and he explained how Lee will approach the majors in 2011. He’ll take as much as three weeks off and work out at his home gym in England before coming to the U.S. for a one tournament tune up prior to the major.
I saw Shakespearean prose in the Scottish sports sections, passages like this from Graeme Hamlett writing about a Monty comeback in the Sunday Express: “No one takes pleasure in seeing a once great sportsman railing against the dying light of his talents, fighting forlornly to prove he still has it when the ravages of age provide evidence to usurp that belief.”
I saw an 8-iron of mine reasonably well struck from 100 yards die in a 30-mile-per-hour wind 15 yards short of the green. Links golf is so different, so much more rugged with head-down walks into whistling winds and a bag on your shoulder, with hard pan fairways and moon-like landscapes, with knockdown draws and punch cuts and battles with the elements and a hundred other twists on the game.
I saw an airplane that was set to take me home to Florida where it’s 80 degrees and not 45, and was thankful that an immensely satisfying two weeks in the U.K. has come to an end.
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.
Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.
And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.
The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.
The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''
Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.
Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.
That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.
''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''
Off the course, they're also different.
The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.
Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.
Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.
''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.
Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.
Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.
Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.
On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.
In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.
Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.
Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.
''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.
The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.
''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.
LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.
Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.
''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''
Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss
Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.
Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.
"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."
At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.
Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.
"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."
Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win
South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.
Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.
Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.
“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”
Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.
“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”
Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.
“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”