Sometimes, getting married has benefits you don’t even anticipate. Rory McIlroy admitted to one Wednesday in his pre-Irish Open press conference.
Let’s circle back two weeks ago to the US Open. Rory had just missed the cut at Erin Hills and Steve Elkington, as he is known to do, offered his unsolicited opinion on Twitter:
Rory is so bored playiing golf…without Tiger the threshold is prolly 4 majors with 100mill in bank — Steve Elkington (@elkpga)
Rory came right back with this response:
More like 200mil… not bad for a “bored” 28 year old … plenty more where that came from--Rory McIlroy (@McilroyRory)
New you were a money guy Jack won 18 and never mentioned his total cash.. It was 5 mill
— Steve Elkington (@elkpga)
More like 200mil… not bad for a "bored" 28 year old… plenty more where that came from.
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory)
That's why jack designed 100's of golf courses… and it's knew… mustn't have taught grammar in the 50's….
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory)
Yeah you right
Youre the 200 mill guy
— Steve Elkington (@elkpga)
Whoa! You know things are heated when we start going below the grammar belt! Maybe Elk's iPhone autocorrect was just off. Maybe that's what he was taught in Australia. Maybe "new" (knew) is like "G'day" (hello) for Aussies. Anyway...
Twitter is an amazing arena. Never could you imagine, in 140 characters or less, that people can get into such arguments/back and forths…and stupid ones at that. A few weeks ago, I followed some top teachers in the country arguing that you could not tell anything about ball flight from a divot. Today, there was a back and forth on how to make the golf ball stay on the clubface longer, thus influencing the amount of curvature (draw/fade).
In Rory’s case…thank goodness for his new wife Erica. When asked about the Twitter exchange with Elkington, Rory said that his Twitter account password was changed by Erica and she has not revealed the new one to him. He has temporarily banned himself from social media after the online argument. Rory has learned his lesson and Erica will most likely be the one to determine when he can return to the Twitterverse.
Communicating through social media is very easy and there are benefits. However, opinions are numerous and many times from the extremes of logical thinking. So, if you have found yourself needing to take a break from social media because of trolling, feel free to contact Erica McIlroy…she can take care of your account for the time being.
Brandel Chamblee, as he is prone to do, caused a commotion on Twitter this weekend, decrying the enforcement of the anchoring bar in putting. During the US Senior Open, he tweeted:
'With regard to the anchoring ban on the PGA Tour Champions, it's appalling, I have never seen such gross disregard for the spirit of the game.'
He was obviously referring to not only Bernhard Langer, but also other PGA Tour Champions players that have slightly modified their old anchoring stroke to comply with the new rule in 2016.
If you have seen Bernhard Langer, instead of placing the end of his long putter against his sternum for his stroke, he pulls it slightly away after his practice stroke, before he hits his putt. His hand and the end of the putter are still touching his shirt, but you can see (barely) that the end of the putter is not touching or ‘anchored’ against his body. I watched Ian Woosnam do the same thing while I walked with his group during the first two rounds of the Senior PGA Championship in May.
Chamblee’s comments opened up others to question the enforcement of the anchoring rule. According to sources (other caddies and players) inside the tour, many are not happy with the lack of enforcement of the rule. Many feel Langer and the others using the broomstick putter with the slight adjustment to the position of their left hand are still not abiding by the spirit of the rule.
Let’s face it, when the USGA and R&A changed the rule, they were taking the path of least resistance to getting rid of the long, broomstick putters. Obviously, it would be easier to change the rule, rather than outlaw the club and have battles with equipment companies over the ban.
So maybe the uproar over this goes away until the next Senior major. Nobody on the PGA Tour uses the broomstick (at this time), so you are not getting week-in and week-out focus on it. It was only brought up because the PGA Tour Champions just had one of their majors. If this was the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, nobody would be talking.
My feeling is that the PGA Tour Champions will continue to apply the rule just as they have been since it’s inception. As long as they see daylight between the end of the broomstick and the players chest, they will allow it.
What really needs to happen is the USGA needs to revisit the wording and application of the rule. If it wants the long putter gone from the game…do it! It certainly hasn’t been proven to be the superior method of putting, otherwise, you would see everyone in the game putting with the broomstick design. I have long been an advocate of banning the long putter, and would have no problem if the USGA did so. However, they do need to provide more detailed language and clarity in 14-1b. All the change has done is move the bar, I mean the end of the long putter, a few inches.
Our hole of the day is sadly one which no longer exists. The old 17th hole at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland (along with the 18th) have just been replaced with two new holes to be played on the front nine in preparation for the 2019 Open Championship.
The old 17th hole at Portrush was a mid-length par 5 that had one of the most defining features in golf…. the Big Bertha bunker. The hole design, by Harry Colt, was masterfully done. The tee set you up pointing right at Bertha. There was mounding that encroached on the left side which hid half of the fairway. The tee shot required a draw (or fade in my case) off Bertha to find the short cut. If you found Bertha, you were basically pitching out of the 20-ft. deep hazard.
Up by the green, there were three cross bunkers which your needed to navigate before you reach the putting surface.
It’s a shame this hole will not be seen by the world in a few years. The new 7th hole on Portrush has a bunker in honor of Bertha. While they have tried to replicate Bertha, there is no way the new bunker is a duplicate of the original Harry Colt designed on old #17.
This will be a very special week on the PGA Tour and in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia.
Devastating rain and floods washed away the town of White Sulphur Springs and most of the Greenbrier Resort’s golf courses last year around this time. What was usually a beautiful green valley nestled between the mountains became a muddy torrent of water from Howard Creek, as the water from the 10 inches of rain in the area rolled down the mountain sides and collected in the usually calm creek.
The historical rains forced the cancellation of the Greenbrier Classic last year. After the flood waters subsided, the Greenbrier’s TPC Old White Course a mess. Burt Baine, VP of Golf Operations, and his golf staff were shocked at what they saw. Tons of dirt, silt and debris littered the golf course. The sod was contaminated and grass would not grow back, bunkers were nothing more than exposed drainage systems, and trees were uprooted from the flood.
Today, players will arrive back at the Greenbrier for the re-birth of the Old White Course and this year’s Greenbrier Classic. They will see a golf course, while the layout is for the most part the same as the Charles Blair McDonald design it, that has come a through a year-long renovation and restoration to get it ready just for this event. In many ways, the golf course staff had to start from scratch to rebuild the Old White. Green complexes and bunkers had to be totally be built.
The Old White is truly a gem of a design. Only a few PGA Tour events get played on get played on classic old-school designs such as the Old White. It is not a course which one will overpower. Players must plod and plan their way around this 7200 yard, par 70 layout.
The first unique hole the players comes across is the 3rd…the Biarritz Hole. At 200 yards from the back tee, players will hit anything from a 9 iron to a hybrid/fairway wood on this hole. Why is that? The green measures around 70 yards in depth and features a 4 ½ foot deep gully that runs through the middle of the green. The long slender green is surrounded by bunkers. When the pin is located on the back of the green, players will have to fly their long irons all the way to the back tier to avoid having to putt through the gully.
The other par 3 on the front nine if also one of my favorites. The Redan Hole, modeled after the 15th hole at North Berwick in Scotland. Playing as long as 230 yards to the middle, this green slopes from right to left and from front to back. Players must account for release when figuring out what to hit. A large deep bunker protects the left side, making par a challenge if you find your ball there.
The 13th is a difficult par 4. Running along the base of the mountain, it measures 489 yards from the back tee. Avoiding Howard Creek on the left and finding the fairway is imperative. As you come down the fairway and the green comes into view on the right, you will now realize why they call this the ‘Alps’ hole (modeled after a hole at Prestwick in Scotland). A large mound (would be a dune if you on a links course) guards the front right of the green. Mishit your shot or misclub, you can easily find your ball ‘in the mountainside’ guarding the hole. A slick green that runs from back to front also doesn’t make getting a par here easy either.
Very rarely will a course end on a Par 3, but the Old White does. From the tee, it looks very simple and beautiful. With the clubhouse in the background, the 170-yard hole crosses Howard Creek (not coming into play) and sets built into small hillside. It is the green complex which makes this finisher a challenge. With a pronounced hogback running in a horseshoe shape through the green, you must find the right distance to put your ball on the proper tier. If you don’t, especially when the hole is in the front, you will face a difficult two putt.
Having played this course several times, I am looking forward to its rebirth this week. It is a classic gem that I always find enjoyable to play and worthy of its Top 100 ranking in the US.
Often overshadowed by it’s Open Championship rota neighbor Royal Birkdale, Formby Golf Club offers a spectacular layout and challenge for any player. Perhaps a bit different than other links courses, Formby’s layout winds its way through a combination of pine forest and sand dunes along the Merseyside coast It is truly a gem of a golf course and one that you could see yourself playing everyday the rest of your life without getting bored.
The first three holes parallel the Merseyrail Railroad which borders the east side of the property. Hole 2 is a 400 yard Par 4 which requires an accurate tee shot to avoid three bunkers down the right hand side. Avoiding the bunkers is only half the battle on this hole, as your approach miss hold a slightly elevated green, with a deep bunker on the left and a fall-off area to the right and rear of the green.
The first of Formby’s par 3’s, the fifth hole, marks the beginning of a challenging stretch of holes to end the front nine. Typically, playing into the prevailing wind, the 183 yard hole has three deep bunkers to the left of the green and a severely sloping green from back left to right front.
The sixth hole also plays into the prevailing wind and at 428 yards, is all the par 4 you could ask for. Bending slightly from right to left, your drive must avoid the three bunkers down the right and the fescue down the left. From the fairway, the approach will be blind, as some sand dunes block your view of the green. No greenside bunkers around this green…the dunes are all the protection it needs to make this hole difficult.
The seventh hole, a 410 yards Par 4, winds it’s way through the pine forest. The hole, somewhat shaped like an ‘S’ requires and accurate tee shot to put you in position. I chose to hit 4 hybrid the times I have played here, leaving myself a short iron approach. Driving down the right side of the fairway, you will leave yourself a blind second shot because of a large dune at the corner. Your approach shot must be played wisely, as the green slopes severely from back to front…anything above approach left above the hole will leave a testing challenge for a two putt.
#9 nine is my favorite hole at Formby and its most challenging. From an elevated tee, the 450 yard par 4 playing back into the prevailing wind is all right there in front of you. Distance and accuracy are required on the tee shot, with pine forest bordering the left and fairway bunkers on each side of the fairway. With the green nestled up against a grove of pines and among small little hillocks, your long iron or fairway wood approach will need to be solid and straight..no telling the bounce you may get if you miss this green.
To start the back nine, #10 is a long par 3 of 215 yards. From the slightly elevated tee, your shot must navigate two green side bunkers, that because of the terrain, tend to be magnets for just the slightest of off-line shots.
Holes 11-15 begin a stretch of testing Par 4’s and look like what you typically picture when thinking of links golf courses…rolling links land with tall fescue on each side of the fairway. Measuring from 400-433 yards, these holes look like the greens and tee were just placed perfectly among the dunes, with nothing to protect the player from the winds.
You will hear about Royal Troon’s #8 Postage Stamp Par 3 during the upcoming Open Championship as the best short par three in the world. However, Formby has one that may be just as good. The 16th hole measures only 139 yards from the back tee and hitting the green could be one of your more challenging shots all round. The green complex is almost like an upside-down bowl, with three deep bunkers and fall-off areas all around. I have been fortunate that the times I have played Formby, I have had to hit no more than 8 iron…some members have told me there are instances where the wind forces you to hit a long iron or hybrid to reach the green.
A good finishing hole should be more than just a challenging well-designed hole. It should leave you with a nice image of the club in your mind. Formby accomplishes this with its 18th hole. At 440 yards, you tee off from a chute of pine trees. The drive must thread fairway bunkers lining both sides of the fairway. As you walk up to your drive, off to the right you will notice Formby’s charming clubhouse and it’s Clock Tower just to the right of the green emerging out from behind the treeline. Having played here three times, the walk up the 18th has been more enjoyable each time. The success of your second shot will depend largely on appropriate club selection…the green is 55 yards deep and can be a challenge to judge where the flag is located.
A stop in the Formby clubhouse is a must. As you enter the bar area, you will immediately notice the Formby Hippo. The Hippo was shot by one of the early members at Formby and given to the club upon his death in 1909. If you are looking for accommodations, the club also has a Dormy House for overnight visitors. When you stop in at the Golf Shop, Head Professional Andrew Witherup and his staff will give you a warm welcome and offers a fine selection of apparel and items to remember your visit. There is also a separate 18 hole Ladies Club and Clubhouse.
When I am in the Merseyside, Formby is a must-play. It offers everything you could be looking for in a round of golf.
Also, right down the street, you will find a restaurant that is perfect for the post-round meal and pint. The Freshfield is a neighborhood pub with delicious food and a selection of ales that is unmatched. They even produce 14 of their own ales. Family friendly (and dog friendly), I never visit Formby without stopping by the Freshfield.
** DISCLAIMER** This blog is devoted to golf. I realize given the recent Twitter comments from our President that some may have an issue with this post. Yes, the President's comments on Thursday morning were tasteless and beneath the office of the President of the US. I have chosen a narrow focus in examining his impact on golf. His conduct and impact on the issues confronting the future of our country and the world are for debate in other forums, not here.
You probably did not notice this week , but Trump Turnberry had another re-opening of a golf course. While the acclaimed Ailsa Course was renovated and re-opened last year, highlighted by a personal visit by Trump himself, the old Kintyre Course at the resort was also undergoing renovations.
Today, the newly-named Robert the Bruce Course was re-opened. And, while you may not politically agree with our current President, one must admit that his company’s overseeing of re-shaping and producing great golf courses and facilities must be applauded.
Martin Hawtree designed Trumps International Golf Links in Aberdeen Scotland in 2007. It opened and was immediately recognized as one of the top courses in the United Kingdom & Ireland. There is another 18-hole course rumored to being built there.
Architects McKenzie and Ebert worked on the recent renovations to the Ailsa Course at Turnberry last year. The building of new tees, re-routing of the spectacular coastal holes and restoration of the course to some of its pre-WWII identity has moved it to the top of the GB&I list of greatest courses in 2017. Having played Turnberry prior to the renovation, I can say that it had lost some of its luster, mostly through conditioning. Now, it is truly back to being one of the best courses in the world because of the reimagining of the Ailsa. There is no question in my mind that the Ailsa must be put back into the Open rota of golf courses! Politics may not allow this to happen now, but there is no question the infrastucture is in place and the course is better than when it hosted previous Opens.
Now, to go along with the Ailsa, Trump’s Turnberry team has turned what was a rather bland and pedestrian companion into a true gem, featuring its own coastal holes and own identity. The Robert the Bruce Course renovation was also done by McKenzie and Ebert.
In the US, I personally saw the changes in a course since he took ownership of the old Lowes Island Club and renamed it Trump International Golf Club DC. He has reinvigorated the design and layout, combined with beautiful views of the Potomac River. It was also host to the 2017 Senior PGA Championship a few weeks ago. Trump National Bedminster will host the US Women’s Open in just a few weeks.
Whether he acquired these courses because the previous owners were struggling financially or he decided to build them on his own, there is one simple fact. He has improved the clubs/courses under his ownership and gives golfers (both public and private/members at the clubs) an opportunity to play on some fantastic layouts at some wonderful facilities. I know, our latest view of President Trump was of him driving a cart on the green. I agree, he shouldn’t have done that…but he was at a place he does own. That behavior is an argument for another day. Trump the businessman has offered up some impressive courses in his massive golf portfolio.
My point is that he has an obviously love for the game and made golf part of his business empire. He has hired great architects and has shown a reverence for the game and its history with his designs/renovations (see Turnberry). If you leave politics out of this, all golfers must be thankful for the changes and improvement he has overseen at his facilities and the gems which we can choose to play. His involvement and ownership in golf has overall been positive for the game.
I was never a Tiger fan. Sure, I admired and respected his immense talent. But I was never a fan. Growing up, I was never a Jack fan. I respected Nicklaus, but I have always tended to root for the underdog, so my golfing idol was (and to this day) Tom Watson. In other sports, I support the Seattle Mariners in baseball, the Seattle Seahawks in American football and Crystal Palace in Premier League football. Again, I respect the Yankees, Patriots and Manchester United, but they aren't the underdogs.
So, as the Quicken Loans National begins this week, Tiger’s event on the PGA Tour, I must admit that I miss Tiger, in the same way I miss Jack.
Rarely do you get to see an athlete perform at their pinnacle. One moment in sports history that I find myself watching every year at least once is Secreatriat’s run as a three-year old horse winning the Triple Crown, culminating with his 30 length win at the Belmont Stakes. Three Triple Crown races, three Triple Crown records (which I believe still stand today).
In my opinion, we will never see another period of dominance in golf like Tiger had. Watson had his run in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but it still doesn't match what Tiger was able to accomplish. Tiger’s execution and shot making on the golf course was unparalleled. Some of his performances were like Secretariat winning the Belmont by 30 lengths (US Open and the Masters). It seemed he never made a poor decision and in many ways, played very conservative golf (hitting stinger 2 irons while Phil and other were blasting drivers into the corporate tents, settling for more 8-15 foot birdie putts than most make in a lifetime rather than trying to stiff every shot). Sure, he was very talented…but his mind and thinking on the golf course was the big difference maker and separating factor from the rest of the field. Nicklaus was the same way.
It is probably true that you do not truly appreciate something great until you don't have it any more. I would love to relive Jack’s seven stroke 1980 PGA Championship win. I would love to experience Tom’s 1980 Open Championship and 1982 US Open wins again. Why? Because they were great performances my great players. I miss being able to witness and respect the greatest players playing at an elite level and being at the top of the game.
There are so many training aids in the golf market that it can make you head spin. Even worse, many of those training aids are worthless. I will not take the time to tell you which ones I feel are worthless, but I will talk about some putting aids that are absolutely spot on to help with your putting.
Phil Kenyon is the putting guru of European golf. He is the David Orr of Europe, working with many European Tour players on improving their putting.
He has developed Visio Putting (www.visioputting.com), a line of putting aids designed using Phil’s expertise and insights from his experiences of working some of the best players in the world.
One of my favorites is the Visio Mi Putting Template. It was just recognized as one of the best new training aids in golf and this is one well worth all the plaudits it is receiving. Available in four different putting arcs (from 12-21 degrees), it gives the player both kinesthetic and visual feedback on your path and face angle. You can work on every facet of the putting stroke, including speed, face rotation, direction, aim, path, etc. It is also very portable and can be set up anywhere without much hassle. Using this template shows the student what needs to happen during the stroke. Unlike other putting aids (like a putting arc), the template does not force the student to move the putter without any constraint from the aid itself.
Should you wish, using the holes in the template, you can place tees along the arc if you are a player who needs to physically constrain your stroke in one manner or another. Tees can also be placed at the end of the template to give you a ‘putting gate’ effect to show the accuracy of your start line.
I was introduced to these templates by David Orr in December and I immediately started using them with our golf team at William & Mary. They are without a doubt one of the best training aids that has come out in a long time.
Stop by Visio’s website to check out the Mi Putting Templates and the other training aids. I would also recommend the Start Line Trainer that just came out in the last few months. The pricing is very reasonable and they do ship to the US.
We are only one week removed from the US Open and watching the action at the rather dull layout at the TPC at River Highlands over the weekend has made consider last weekend’s latest version of our national golf championship.
Two of the last three years, the USGA has went ‘outside the box’ with host course. In 2015, we were treated to the visually stunning Chambers Bay, which featured one tree on the entire course, a links-style layout with humps and many bumps (thanks to poa annua) on the putting surfaces. The conditions of the greens and the difficulty in spectator sightlines and access led many to criticize the event.
Move now to 2017 and we were treated to the visually stunning Erin Hills in Wisconsin. With its fescue-lined fairways, the course treated the gallery and viewers to record-setting low scoring for a US Open. If I closed my eyes and just listened to the commentators discuss the low scoring, I would have thought they were playing the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Hope and Gerald Ford would have made good Pro-Am partners for Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman in the final group last weekend.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t a fan of it. Yes, I can applaud the USGA wanting to grow the game and try using different golf courses. But I don’t think the site of the United States Open is a main determining factor in growing the game of golf. While the most visible even the USGA run, making the biggest impact on growing the game starts on the local level with courses, country clubs, local golf professionals, etc. I can discuss this more in another blog. I want to focus on the US Open right now.
Long ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decided on a rota of clubs that would host the Open Championship. There are essentially 10 clubs (with Royal Portrush joining in 2019) that they use for the Open. That’s it…. that’s the list! Essentially, every club hosts the Open once in a ten-year span (with the Old Course typically hosting once every five years). The R&A know the sites well, they know how to setup the course, they know how spectators will get around/see the golf. Essentially, there is not a lot of reinventing the wheel when it come to the R&A hosting at one of their sites. The Open Championship has an identity…you play on a true links golf course and the scoring depends largely upon the weather conditions.
Yes, last week did not feel like a US Open. And it just wasn’t the scoring. While Erin Hills looked like a spectacular golf course and it has received great praise since it opened, it just didn’t feel like a course for a US Open. Maybe a PGA, maybe a World Golf Championship…but not a US Open.
The USGA needs to take a page out of the R&A handbook and come up with a 10 course rota here in the US that are designated as sites for the national golf championship. These should be classic, old-school American designs. You know…the US Open type of course we all grew up with…tight fairways, rough up above your ankles, greens stimping out at 13, par being a great score…that’s what I am talking about. This is the US Open identity! I’m not saying create another Massacre at Winged Foot…but let’s have the US Open stick to the classic designs and layouts! Here are my suggestions for a 10 course rota:
The Country Club
Los Angeles CC
The Olympic Club
Alternates: Oak Hill, Southern Hills, Baltusrol, Congressional
I know geographically it may not be perfect…but these courses are some of the most classic and best designs in the US and have shown they have the infrastructure and space to host a major golf championship. And there is no doubt, to use the words of Sandy Tatum, these courses ‘would identify who they [best players] are.’
Believe it or not, there is already some absurdity being mentioned (usually on Twitter) when it comes to how the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will affect the game of golf. So, I thought I would list some things on how the Brexit will (or will not) affect the golf industry.
1. The US will still play Europe in the Ryder Cup--Even though the UK is leaving the European Union, the Ryder Cup will still be staged between players from the two continents. Technically, the UK is on the European continent...they are just leaving the economic and governing structure known as the EU. So, for all of those people hoping the US could go back to dominating the Ryder Cup by just playing English/UK players....think again.
2. In the foreseeable short term, the cost of playing golf and traveling to the UK will decrease--The British Pound fell to a 30-year low against the US Dollar immediately this morning upon the UK referendum results. The cost for golf trips, greens fees, hotels...really anything in the UK will immediately decrease in cost for US travelers because of the exchange rates. Likewise, any products you like t purchase from the UK (Twining's Tea, HP Sauce, etc.) will also take less out of your pocket. Donald Trump already said Brexit will bring more people to his renovated Turnberry...you may not like him, but he is right on this issue.
3. Travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland MAY be affected--Ireland is part of the European Union and there has not been a border check between there and Northern Ireland since the Troubles. With the UK (which Northern Ireland is a part of) out of the European Union, there is talk of adding a border check at the IRE/NI border. Now, you can stay in Dublin and drive straight up to play courses like Royal County Down or Ardglass in about 2 hours. With a border crossing and customs check...you better add at least a 1/2 hour to this trip...making your golf day-trip just a bit longer and bothersome. Stay tuned on this issue.