Two generations of Nicklaus in Tucson: La Paloma and Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain

By Travel ArticlesFebruary 21, 2012, 3:50 pm

TUCSON, Ariz. -- La Paloma Country Club and The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club's Dove Mountain Course, home of the Accenture Match Play Championship, have a few things in common beyond their location about 30 minutes apart from one another in Tucson. 

Both are 27-hole desert golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. And both courses are semi-private with luxury resorts and real estate attached. Each rank among Tucson's elite class of golf courses and are kept superb shape.  

But a lot can change in 25 years. 

From the time Nicklaus constructed La Paloma (1984) to the opening of Dove Mountain (2009), his maturation as a course designer is evident in his designs. 

Tucson has changed too. The differences between La Paloma and Dove Mountain illustrate the growth of golf in the area - and modern equipment. 

Omni Tucson National hosted the PGA Tour's Tucson Open and Chrysler Classic from 1965 thru 2006. But the traditional parkland course became a birdie festival for PGA Tour pros. In 1975, Johnny Miller won the tournament by shooting 61 in the final round. Don Triplett won the last event at 22-under par. 

Tucson simply didn't have a course that could host the 64 best players in the world at the Accenture Match Play Championship. 

But that all changed with Dove Mountain. It was further evidence that the Tucson golf scene was growing up -- and that over 25 years, Nicklaus the designer had evolved as well.

Little room for error at La Paloma Country Club

Nicklaus, as any ardent golf fan knows, was a terrific long iron player. So it's not surprising that many of hisearly designs, including La Paloma, require precise long-iron play.

On La Paloma's three nine-hole courses, each features narrow fairways, elevated greens and forced carries, particularly on long par 3s. It's as if Nicklaus thought every golfer could stripe a 2-iron.

Take the two par 3s on the Hill nine. The fourth hole is 185 yards, and at least 180 yards are all carry. Even worse, the drop-off is completely vertical. Hit a drive 178 yards, and it's lost in the desert. The same goes for No. 8, a 157-yard hole without a safe landing area. There's no bump-and-run option; golfers have to hit high and accurate shots, a Nicklaus trademark.

As for Dove Mountain, it may play over 7,700 yards and hosts the WGC Match Play Championship, but it's an example of Nicklaus thinking more about the average golfer. Unlike La Paloma (which plays 7,088 yards in its longest combination), the fairways at Dove Mountain are wide and welcoming. Nicklaus also cut down on the number of long, forced carries.

Consider The par 3s at Dove Mountain. There are six on the property, and five of them are at least 200 yards -- with the longest measuring 253 yards. But on each, Nicklaus gave golfers an out with either a safe area in front of the green or on either side of the green. 

At La Paloma, there is no such safe haven.

Dove Mountain demands stellar a short game

In designing Dove Mountain, Nicklaus seemed to understand that golf technology was taking the bite out of courses. So he fought back the only way he could: by making the greens unbelievably difficult to putt.

La Paloma's greens, while elevated, are soft and generally forgiving in their undulation and breaks. To say Dove Mountain's greens break a lot is like saying Rush Limbaugh leans a little to the right. Dramatic ridges often run through the middle of the greens, turning even 5-foot putts into an adventure.

'Jack's gone on record as saying greens really are a golf course's only defense anymore when it comes to the best players in the world,' said Jeff McCormick, director of golf operations. 'If you're going to have a golf course here in desert and not have 22–yard fairways and 6-inch deep rough, the greens need to be the challenge.'

Cavernous bunkers are commonplace at Dove Mountain, both on the fairway and around the greens.
Fortunately, Nicklaus had a soft spot for the average golfer. Many of the greens feature a backstop or sideboard that make it easier to access the pin, and the front of the greens are available for bump-and-run shots.

It's those greens, more so than the length, that distinguish Dove Mountain from La Paloma.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.