Royal County Down or Royal Portrush?

By Jay CoffinJuly 11, 2011, 6:57 pm

Jay Coffin and Rex Hoggard played two classic courses – Royal County Down and Royal Portrush – while in Northern Ireland. Now to debate. Which course did they prefer?


BELFAST, Northern Ireland – You can’t go wrong with either, but if you have to make a decision Royal Portrush gets the nod.

Royal County Down was great but would be much better the second time once you know the layout. We did not have that luxury on this trip. Royal Portrush was a complete joy to play the first time without knowing anything about it.

The par 3s are spectacular – the 210-yard 14th will get your heart thumping – the views of the town are a treat and the holes that run near the beach with a backdrop of a huge rock cliff are breathtaking. It’s tough, but playable. You’re penalized severely for missing the fairway on many links courses. At Portrush, you still want to find the fairway, but if you don’t, you have a fighting chance of finding it and advancing it.

Ambiance goes a long way with me. Royal County Down has it, but Royal Portrush has it in spades. After a nearly 90-minute drive from Belfast you’re just hoping the course will live up to expectations. Then, you come to the end of the B62, look down over the links and immediately know you’re in for a treat.


BELFAST, Northern Ireland – Royal County Down or Royal Portrush. Blondes or brunettes. Convertibles or fast backs. No one wins these esoteric debates, but we love trying.

Royal County Down, all towering and twisting 7,204 yards of it, is the gem of the Northern Irish coast, but only because golf course architecture is a multiple-choice exam with no incorrect answers. There’s a reason Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

Royal County Down is an acquired taste, but only after multiple visits and only when one embraces its blind beauty. For all of Portrush’s majestic simplicity it is Royal County Down’s ubiquitous blind shots, scolded by many as the storied layout’s Achilles’ heel, that bring out the best in links golf.

The tee shot at the 404-yard, par-4 11th hole is played to a white rock perched atop a towering dune, too far right of the aiming point and it’s unplayable, too far left and the approach to the green is much more difficult.

These shots require equal doses of commitment and execution, and a reward unequaled by the target-oriented confines of parkland golf.

Both courses enjoy an embarrassment of visual and historical riches, but for our money we’d prefer an aiming rock and a tee time at Royal County Down.

Read the running blog of Jay and Rex's Irish adventures.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.