Walking in the footsteps of Tom Watson at Turnberry Resort

By Travel ArticlesMay 24, 2012, 4:00 am

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- I'm back on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry Resort for the first time since its centennial in 2006. And this time, I sense the ghosts.

In 2009, something supernatural decided Tom Watson would come up one firm, unfriendly bounce shy of becoming the oldest major champion in history. Was it the spirits of the Ailsa Craig offshore that summoned Watson's demise? Or was it Martyrs' Monument? Maybe it was the ruins of Robert the Bruce's home by the lighthouse?

Throughout my two days at Turnberry, moments from the 2009 Open raced through my mind. It's tough to walk by the 18th green on the way to the first tee and not size up Watson's 72nd hole chip shot and missed putt, visualizing thousands of fans waiting to break into one of the wildest cheers a golf course has ever known.

Starting at the fourth hole on the Ailsa, the course winds beside the sea but hides mostly behind a wall of dunes until you arrive at the ninth tee, which is perched beside the coast's black rocks and plays closest to the lighthouse. Here, I tried to grapple with how Tiger Woods could have slammed clubs and let expletives fly in such a setting -- as he did here en route to missing the cut.

My caddie, veteran looper Lee McCallan, was one of three locals to earn a player bag in the '09 Open, caddying for Ryo Ishikawa, who was paired with Woods the first two rounds. That gave McCallan a front-row seat to Woods' meltdown, to which he recalled memories to our group.

When Woods blew a tee shot so far right on No. 10 that it ended up closer to Muirfield, Lee kindly suggested he re-tee, much to the dismay of Woods and Steve Williams, who walked off the tee. They would be stopped by officials en route to the stray and told to head back toward the tee; there would be little hope of finding this Nike, and Woods would head home shortly afterward.

Turnberry's '09 renovations bring new dining concepts and guest rooms

Staff members at Turnberry seems to have their own '09 stories of Woods, and they can also tell you exactly where they were when Watson walked up the 72nd hole and how the subsequent deflation could be felt throughout Ayrshire.

But the five-time Open champ's grace in defeat only solidified his status as Turnberry's most beloved.

When the resort reopened after extensive renovations the week of the '09 event, their new lounge was named 'Duel in the Sun,' which has TVs, a snooker table and a first-class whisky menu.

Also, four suites have been named after each of Turnberry's Open champions, and Watson's, complete with a private balcony overlooking the Ailsa, is the most popular of the lot. All but Stewart Cink's suite will be occupied by their namesakes when Watson, Greg Norman and Nick Price compete in the Senior British Open from July 26-29.

The major renovation also revamped the lobby, which was redesigned back to the days when guests would step off the train (where the parking lot is located now) and head through the doors and into the lobby, where they could have a welcoming cup of tea. Today's guests can do the same after making the transcontinental flight and drive down the coast to the resort. For a post-round or pre-dinner beer, you can order up an Ailsa Amber Ale, a new offering brewed locally for the resort at the nearby Strathhaven Brewery.

For dinner, the resort strives to use as many ingredients from within 50 miles of Turnberry as possible. The kitchen buys scallops off the shores of Arran, grass-fed lamb and beef from the island of Orkney, halibut from the North Sea, shrimps and Dungeness crabs caught that day in Troon, or whatever else is fresh out of the sea.

Once prepared, the resort has made an effort to bring showmanship back into dining. In their main restaurant (called 1906) certain entree dishes are made at the table. Guests can inquire about an evening at the 'Chef's Table,' an eight-course menu drawn up that morning based on what arrives in the kitchen. Or select guests, by invitation only, can dine in the kitchen at 'The Pass,' a granite countertop where meals are prepared, and get a front-row seat to the back-of-the-house operations. An invitation to this experience can be achieved by becoming a regular guest to Turnberry. The easiest way, however, is by buying a bottle of Krug Champagne (starting at 175 pounds).

Of course, winning an Open here would probably get you a standing invite, too.

Golf at Turnberry Resort: Beyond the Alisa Course

Turnberry's golf product, managed by Troon Golf, is as complete as Scottish resort golf has to offer, with perhaps only Perthshire's Gleneagles Resort in a similar class.

Beside the Ailsa course is the Kintyre Course, a championship links designed by Donald Steel that is tough enough to host Open qualifying. Boasting a few seaside holes of its own, the lighthouse is in view and holes circle around the last remaining wartime airstrip on the property.

In addition to the two championship courses is the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy, which includes a short-game area with multiple greens, complete with the deep, sod-walled bunkers you'll eventually encounter on the Ailsa or the Kintyre. This facility, along with the nine-hole Arran Course next door, is used often by the instruction staff to teach links golf primers to Scotland first-timers. Or, golfers can receive tour-caliber club-fitting at the TaylorMade Performance Lab, which uses body and club sensors with 3D technology to analyze the golf swing from all angles to produce a most precise fit.

And for the most casual golf at Turnberry, a pitch 'n putt on the front lawn is always open and free to anyone. Hotel guests can ask the concierge for a couple of clubs and enjoy a post-dinner match while taking in a gorgeous sunset that falls over the isle of Arran and Kintyre Peninsula.

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What's in the Bag: CJ Cup winner Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 23, 2018, 12:50 am

Brooks Koepka closed strong to win the CJ Cup in South Korea, and he also took over the No. 1 ranking. Here's a look inside his bag.

Driver: TaylorMade M3 (9.5 degrees)

Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3); Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.


1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.



4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.



7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

“I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

“Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”


Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

This week's award winners ...  


Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.



The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Web.com Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."