Roll the dice: A Las Vegas vacation is not complete without golf

By Travel ArticlesNovember 21, 2012, 5:00 am

LAS VEGAS -- It happens in a flash, almost on a daily basis in celebrity-rich Las Vegas.

One minute you are unsuspecting, doing your rubber necking tourist thing. The next moment someone gets spotted. Even celebrities of the golf world can be victims.

Way down the eighth fairway two familiar specks appear and golfers having lunch stop, leave their tables, take their drinks out to the patio and watch Butch Harmon tutor a world-ranked golfer named Phil Mickelson. This time the scene is played out from Janelas Restaurant at Rio Secco Golf Club, where the seventh, eighth and ninth holes are within veranda view.

Mickelson has hit a high cut into the wind about 300 yards past a corner bunker on the 566-yard par 5. He makes birdie.

'The crowd that gathered was awe-struck witnessing how far and how flush he hit the ball,' recalled Charles Packard, formerly the head professional at Rio Secco. 'It was impressive.'

Impressive might also describe another gallery-like day at Rio Secco when Harmon's former pupil, Tiger Woods, set the course record of 64 just a week before his wire-to-wire, 15-stroke U.S. Open victory in 2000 at Pebble Beach. Tiger opened the day on the 10th, a 378-yard par 4, by holing his second shot from the fairway for an eagle.

These days your golf vacation to Las Vegas may never realize such celebrity-sighting stories to pass on -- The Rat Pack and Elvis are but distant memories. But you won't forget a visit to the city that is forever changing.

My family certainly remembers our first visit to Sin City. It was 1955, and the vision runs like an old black-and-white movie in my mind. Waves of mirage heat rolled over the asphalt, and a ribbon of hotels, casinos and colorful lights appeared. That Las Vegas Strip was nothing like today's full-color, upgraded glitz of carnival neon -- more like Xbox 360 or Apple's iPhone -- not the unpolished 16 mm film I first saw from a now-classic turquoise Buick Roadmaster. Golf never entered my mind.

Desert heat bakes today's irrigated golf courses in summer, when fees take a dip lower, but the game can be played all year. Weather reminds me of West Texas -- too hot, too cold, too windy -- but the golf courses are sculpted spectacularly and desert-rugged. In winter you can tee it up one day in snow showers and enjoy the rest of the week in 70-degree windless sunshine. You can be spoiled with $500 rounds at Cascata, Shadow Creek and Wynn Golf Club, or you can pay a lot less for numerous scenic layouts.

Here are some Las Vegas golf courses you might consider:

Rio Secco Golf Club

Rio Secco Golf Club, home to the Butch Harmon School of Golf (he's ranked No. 1 on Golf Digest's list of America's 50 Greatest Teachers), is an enviable start to a golf trip to Vegas, not only because it teams with Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, but it's the sister course to Cascata. Both are Rees Jones designs.

Play is fast and firm on this 7,332-yard par 72, with quick and undulating greens and six broad desert holes, six plateau holes and six diving into a steep canyon. This landscape rolls across 240 acres of craggy scenery, perched 800 feet above the Las Vegas Valley.

TPC Las Vegas

Formerly named TPC at The Canyons, this par-71, 7,063-yard adventure was designed by Raymond Floyd and Bobby Weed. TPC at Las Vegas is brawny and tawny, has striking views of Red Rock Canyon and was co-host to the PGA Tour's Open.

This is an Arizona-like desert golf course you will have to think your way around. It traverses canyons, rocky arroyos and has elevation changes.

The 12th hole -- a 145-yard par 3 -- plays to a canyon mesa island green. It is followed by a 423-yard, par-4 13th, called 'Death Valley.' It has a blind tee shot and arroyo trouble the length of the hole.

Bali Hai Golf Club

Just a minute from the vintage, famous 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign on The Strip, Bali Hai Golf Club was built to recreate a tropical, Indonesian land of golf fun.

Designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley in 2000, Bali Hai is a lush seven acres of water and palm trees. It totals 4,000 trees with 2,500 stands of towering palms and 100,000 tropical plants. Transition and out-of-play areas are accented with Augusta white sand and black volcanic rock outcroppings.

The par-71 course measures 7,002 yards from the tips and opens up views of the Luxor pyramid and other hotels on The Strip.

Bali Hai's 16th is a a par-3 island green that frequently comes with an audience from the Cili Restaurant patio, and the third hole, which is a 468-yard par 4 with a creek running the entire right-side. Some call this hole 'Shipwreck.'

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

The Paiute Tribe thought big when imaging this complex that includes 54 holes of desert golf and lush conditions. The Resort is 25 minutes from the strip, and stars with its boondocks location. Golfers enjoy the only Pete Dye-designed golf courses in Nevada.

Select the Wolf, Sun Mountain, or Snow Mountain Courses, as well as some widely varied golf that includes water features, rolling terrain, and rugged mountain vistas.

Snow Mountain Course is the original at Paiute, and according to some, it's still the best. The 7,164-yard course features a progressive layout with wide rye grass fairways, traditional Dye railroad tie-decorated bunkers and dogleg finishing holes. Water plays on seven of the holes at Snow, from a peninsula green on the 16th hole to an 18th hole that seems to wrap itself around a lake.

Paiute's Sun Mountain Course is tamer, they say, and considered a 'kinder, gentler' Pete Dye course. Golfers will be by the natural rolling terrain, the course's isolated location within the resort and the mountain backdrop. Easily the most scenic of the three courses, Sun features blue lakes and Joshua trees.

The Wolf Course is the most difficult of the three, as well as the longest course in Nevada at 7,604 yards. Swales, bunkers, arroyos and undulating greens test you along with the fairways. The par-3 15th hole is an island green where half the challenge is simply getting on the green.

Wynn Golf Club

When you visit Las Vegas, you gotta splurge on one decadent round of golf. Wynn Golf Club's rack rate is $500 -- but that includes bunches of extras such as country club locker room amenities and attendants, no-charge rental clubs, shoes and forecaddies -- all included.

Wynn Golf Club occupies the land that was once the storied Desert Inn Golf Club. When it operated from 1952 until 2002 every celebrity golfer walked these fairways -- entertainers such as Bing Crosby, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore and the Rat Pack.

Construction on Wynn Golf Club began on Feb. 11, 2003. The first day of operation for Wynn Golf Club was opening day of Wynn Las Vegas, April 28, 2005.

Wynn, a Tom Fazio design, is compact in acreage -- a par-70 course that is 7,042 yards in length with Tifway II Hybrid Bermuda grass on the fairways and tees.

Taking completely flat terrain, they moved more than 800,000 cubic yards of earth to create the elevation changes and a rolling landscape that includes 100,000 new shrubs to the 1,200 existing trees that were salvaged and relocated from the former Desert Inn Golf Course, some more than 50 years old and more than 60 feet tall.

Where to stay

On your golf trip to Las Vegas be sure and stay at Caesar's Palace. Request the resort's brand-new Octavius Tower, a 668-room hotel. It has a private entrance and easy access to the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis and Gardens.

The Octavius Tower, with 550-square foot rooms, marks a major milestone in the two-year renaissance of Caesars Palace, which began in March 2011 with the return of Celine Dion and encompasses the recent launch of Rod Stewart at the Colosseum.

Other projects also include the return of Elton John, Old Homestead Steakhouse, Nobu Hotel, Restaurant and Lounge and Shania Twain's Colosseum headlining.

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 10:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 1: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

Group 13: (61) Kevin Na def. (13) Alex Noren, 4 and 2: The biggest upset from the early matches came here, as Na turned a close contest into a blowout. The two men were all square after 11 holes, but Na won three of the next four and then closed out the match when Noren conceded on the par-5 16th.

Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.

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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

“Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

“He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1