Punch Shots: Top three Jack Nicklaus Signature courses

By Brandon TuckerMay 30, 2012, 1:58 pm

Nicklaus Design has 365 courses in 34 countries, including 289 designed by the Golden Bear himself, so it's easy to stumble upon one of them during your golf travels. Our experts weigh in on the top three Nicklaus designs they've played. 

Brandon Tucker

Of the 18 Nicklaus Signature I've played, I tend to favor his firm's stuff from the last decade far more than his work from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.

My favorite of the bunch is the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Golf Club in Bend, which recently became public and stay-and-play accessible. Armed with a beautiful, high desert setting and prime playing conditions, the hole variety (especially on the back nine) makes for a most exciting round thanks to two potentially drivable par 4s and back-to-back par 5s. Sunny and dry Bend is a five-hour drive from Bandon Dunes, and absolutely worth the detour if you have a few extra days. 

A close second is Kauai Lagoons Golf Club in Hawaii (pictured above). While it's been in a state of transition for a few years, the new back nine stretch beside the ocean is reopened, re-turfed and better than ever. But as show-stopping as the mile-long stretch of oceanfront at Kauai Lagoons can be, I also love the inland, junglier holes on the front.

Lastly, though unfortunately private and apparently doing well enough to shield off public play, Cordillera Ranch Golf Course, north of San Antonio, is the best course I've seen in the Texas Hill Country yet. Primo conditions to go with some of Nicklaus' most fun green complexes that allow for a lot of ways to attack pins -- plus a show-stopping par 3 over waterfalls -- will please both shot-makers.

Jason Deegan

Some of my favorite rounds have been on Nicklaus courses. Before Tom Doak came along, Nicklaus was “the guy” getting the best coastal sites to design courses. He didn’t disappoint, either, mixing eye candy with strategy for some world-class golf.

First off, the Punta Espada Golf Course at Cap Cana, found in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, spoils visitors with a Caribbean golf course so visual and interactive with the ocean, it’s almost not fair. Eight holes play directly along – or over – the salt water. Two of the most dramatic tee shots you’ll ever hit come at the par-3 13th hole and the par-4 17th hole. Your spirits will soar as the waves crash around you.

For the second, it’s been more than a decade since I’ve played Great Waters at Reynolds Plantation in Lake Oconee, Ga., but the visions of the nine lakeside holes continue to dance in my head. I visited long before the Ritz-Carlton opened and still came away mesmerized by the resort. A greens and bunker renovation in 2009 has kept Great Waters on any must-play list, even as the club sorts out its highly publicized financial issues.

Thirdly, when I put up a photo of the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol on Facebook, my wall came alive with comments and likes. The scenery of the course's seven ocean holes is profound, even on a computer screen.

Located in scenic Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, the club recently tinkered with its back-to-back par 3s at No. 6 and No. 7 to move them even closer to the shore. Nicklaus calls ocean holes No. 16-18 the “best three finishing holes in all of golf.” I’m not one to disagree with the greatest golfer in the history of the universe.

Mike Bailey

Hands down, my favorite Jack Nicklaus Course is the one the pros love: Muirfield Village Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Memorial. I had the chance to play this private club a few years ago, and it's the closest thing to Augusta National I've ever experienced. That's no surprise as Nicklaus paid homage to the Masters site in many respects with Muirfield Village. And like Augusta, Muirfield keeps getting tweaked pretty much every year.

Runner-up is the Pacifico Course at Punta Mita Club just north of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, which is simply on one of the most beautiful settings in the world, with eight ocean holes. Pacifico actually has 19 holes with a 3A and 3B -- the latter of which is the world's only natural island green -- dubbed 'Tail of the Whale.' (Most people choose to play both holes for fun.)

My third favorite may be somewhat surprising; the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, just outside of Tucson, Ariz., is fascinating. It's where the PGA Tour plays the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and to me, that's what makes this course so cool. Nicklaus designed it specifically for match play, which is exactly how we should play it.

The best example is the 15th, a short par 4 that the pros often try to drive. With desert left of the green, pulling the big stick has its risks, and even if you hit the green -- if you get on the wrong side of the hole -- avoiding a three-putt is nearly impossible, even for the best players in the world.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”