Category: British Open
GULLANE, Scotland -- The Royal and Ancient held its annual press conference here Wednesday afternoon, and the club's chief executive Peter Dawson endured a tense 45-minute session that included several questions about Muirfield's men-only membership policy and drug testing in golf. The highlights:
ON HOSTING THE OPEN AT MUIRFIELD, A MEN-ONLY CLUB
Q: As you said, single-sex clubs are legal, but morally, what's the difference between men only and whites only?
DAWSON: Oh, goodness me. I think that's a ridiculous question, if I may say so. There's a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly, indeed. And to compare that with a men's golf club I think is frankly absurd. There's no comparison whatsoever.
Q: To reference your earlier remarks, you made it seem as if there was a restless urge to drive Muirfield into extinction. But I'm not sure that's really the case. No one disputes Muirfield's right to cite its membership policy, but is the issue that the R&A is avowedly committed to growing the game throughout the world, and yet you bring the Open to a venue that excludes half the population. Is that not a moral dilemma?
DAWSON: I understand the point, obviously. What I dispute is the fact of the matter that is does harm participation. I think the Open Championship at this absolutely magnificent venue enhances participation hugely. It's going to be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world…and I think that we will find that golfers, men and women, are inspired by what they see. I don't think people are sitting there thinking, 'Oh, this wonderful place, but…' I really don't. But we're aware of that view. I don't quite regard it as a moral issue. I think the practical side of it takes over my mind. To think that it would be a good thing for the Open Championship not to play it here, and perhaps to reduce the number of venues from nine to six in the UK, I could only imagine would do great harm to the championship, and not enhance it at all.
Q: You got a bit upset earlier about the comparison between whites-only and men-only clubs, but you said you don't regard it as a moral issue. It doesn't do anyone any harm. Could you just explain to the 10 women in the room why racism is unacceptable and sexism clearly still is?
DAWSON: Well, I don't really think, to be honest, and we could sit here all day and debate this, but I don't really think that a golf club, which has a policy of being a place where like-minded men or, indeed, like-minded women, go and want to play golf together and do their thing together ranks up against some of these other forms of discrimination. I really just don't think they're comparable, and I don't think they're damaging. And it's just kind of, for some people, a way of life that they rather like. I don't think in doing that they're intending to do others down or intending to do others any harm. It's just a way of life that some of these people like. And realistically, that's all it is. You can dress it up and be a lot more if you want, but on Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that's not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things. It's just what people kind of do.
ON PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS IN GOLF
Q: It's been six years, almost to the day, since Gary Player spoke about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs in golf. In the years that have passed, have you spoken to Gary Player about what he knows? And what have you done about it?
DAWSON: Yes, I have spoken to Gary Player, and I don't think I found very much out, to be honest, in specific terms. But you just can't be complacent about these things. All you can do, I think is to ensure that players are properly educated, and that your drug-testing regime or anti-doping policies do as much as they can to trap miscreants. We must not be complacent here. I have no particular evidence of a problem. Everything I hear is anecdotal and hasn't had very much specific behind it that I can latch on to, to be honest.
Q: You said you didn't learn much from your conversation with Gary Player. Can I ask, did one of the world's greatest ever golfers confirm to you that he knew of players that were taking banned substances?
DAWSON: No, he did not.
Q: That is what he said six years ago, he said he knew of players --
DAWSON: Just to make that clear, what I mean by that is, he certainly didn't name any names, and therefore, I'm not sure what you can do with that information, other than be aware there may be a problem, and put in the policies to deal with it.
Q: How hard did you press him? Because there are quite serious allegations from a very, very, very respected golfer.
DAWSON: Yes, well, quite frankly, I don't remember how hard I pressed him. It's quite a long time ago now.
(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson showed his wedge wizardry during a Muirfield practice round Monday, hitting his famous backward lob shot. Geoff Shackelford of GeoffShackelford.com caught it on video:Mickelson also did a version of this shot on his instruction DVD a few years ago if you want to try it out on the course this weekend:
Phil Mickelson celebrates his Scottish Open win with his wife, Amy, and his children, Evan, Amanda and Sophia (Getty Images).
Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open in a playoff over Branden Grace on Sunday at Castle Stuart in Inverness, Scotland.
The final round was a roller-coaster even by the daring Mickelson's standards. Starting the day two shots behind, Henrik Stenson, Mickelson made a double-bogey on the first hole, then rallied with a barrage of birdies to take a one-shot lead over Grace to the par-5 18th hole, only to three-putt for bogey from less than 20 feet. Stenson shot 73 to finish T3.
On the first playoff hole -- the par-5 18th -- Mickelson pitched his third shot to inside six-inches for a tap-in birdie.
"I almost let it slip away but to come out on top feels terrific," Mickelson said.
Mickelson was using the tournament to hone his links game ahead of next week's British Open at Muirfield and he looks in great shape to challenge for a first claret jug and a fifth major title.
He should tee off on Thursday as No. 5 in the world and 500,000 pounds ($740,000) richer.
Mickelson and Grace shot 3-under 69s in the final round to finish on 17-under 271 and overhaul overnight leader Henrik Stenson, who bogeyed three of his last six holes for a tie for third with unheralded Dane J.B. Hansen on 15 under.
Mickelson had to dig deep to earn his first win on European soil since a capturing a title in Paris on the European Challenge Tour in 1993.
When Mickelson drove into the rough on the first hole, topped his second shot and then three-putted, he dropped four shots behind Stenson, who started in a manner befitting his nickname "The Iceman" in the toughest conditions of the week.
After three calm and sunny days, the wind had picked up off the Moray Firth coastline and made the Castle Stuart course much more challenging. Only five players shot lower than 70.
Mickelson was in more trouble when his chip from just off the third green came up short and rolled back down the hill to his feet. He was now five shots off the leader.
Urged on by a Scottish crowd that has really taken to the American -- a long-time supporter of this tournament and a lover of Scotland and its links courses -- he birdied the next three holes and then picked up shots at Nos. 11, 12 and 14 to take the sole lead, after briefly sharing it with Stenson and Hansen.
With the two Scandinavians dropping shots coming home, Grace became Mickelson closest challenger, but the American only needed to par the 72nd for victory.
He reached the green serenely in three but slid a putt five feet by the hole, and again back up.
"I was so mad at myself after mentally losing my focus," said Mickelson, who embraced his family before returning back up the 18th hole where he was forced to wait to tee off again after organizers had removed the tee markers, clearly confident Mickelson would finish the job the first time around.
Mickelson held his nerve in the playoff, though, with his approach shot bringing roars of approval from fans in the grandstands.
"The people here in Scotland have treated us so well," he said. "I've really enjoyed my time here."
He now hopes to take his form into Muirfield.
"Although I did a lot of things well, I have certainly things to work on," he added. "Today was great for us to have this type of weather."
The win at Castle Stuart comes on the eve of the British Open, which starts Thursday at Muirfield in Scotland. Mickelson has never won the British Open, although he finished second in 2011.
--The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tiger Woods said on his website Saturday that he is "full go" for next week's British Open at Muirfield after resting his injured left elbow the past couple of weeks.
"I'm very confident that my left elbow strain won't be a problem and I will be able to hit all the shots I need to hit," Woods said. "That's why I took the time off, so it could heal, and I would feel comfortable playing again. I'm still taking anti-inflammatory medication for my elbow and getting treatment, but the big thing at Muirfield Golf Club will be to avoid the rough."
Woods said the injury first occured at the Players Championship in May, and he was clearly in pain when hitting shots out of the thick rough last month at the U.S. Open. Woods tied for 32nd at Merion.
Woods, who hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, will try to end his drought next week at Muirfied, where he tied for 28th in 2002 while seeking the third leg of the Grand Slam. Woods was among a large group of players in the third round who got caught in one of the worst storms ever to hit the Open. He shot an 81, the worst score of his professional career.
"That's just the nature of links golf," Woods said. "Luck plays a big part in it, and you never know what you're going to get."
(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)
The 47-year-old Stricker, who announced early in the season that he would play a limited schedule, has decided to skip next week’s British Open at Muirfield to celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary.
A little apprehension about not going to the British. I've played in a lot of majors, consecutive majors over the last six or seven years, and to not go over there, it will sting a little bit when I'm watching it on TV. But we are going to be in a better place. I'll be around up north, like I said. We'll be doing some fun things. So my mind will get off that rather quickly. But for a guy who has not won a major and trying to win one still, that's probably not the best way to go about it, but that's the way I made up my mind earlier in the year and sticking with it.
Despite being one of the world’s best players, Stricker has never won a major championship. He has played in 27 consecutive majors and 59 majors in all.
Well, obviously we would all love to win one. They are hard to come by. You know, I'm not disappointed in my career if I were not to win one. Obviously it would be icing on the cake for me, but I'm kind of ‑‑ I went through a period of years there where I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and win one, and I'm kind of over that now, too.
--Posted by Graylyn Loomis
Photo: Steve Stricker in the first round of the John Deere Classic on Thursday.
When Rory McIlroy felt out of sorts before this year's Masters, he decided over lunch with his caddie to play the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas, as a last-minute tune-up. (He was runner-up at San Antonio and finished T25 at the 2013 Masters.)
However, McIlroy won't be adding an event to get ready for the British Open after missing the cut at last week's Irish Open because he has commitments to his sponsors, according to Ewan Murray at the Guardian.
McIlroy, pertinently, will not have an opportunity to play competitively again before the Open Championship in three weeks' time. The French Open and Scottish Open would have provided him with such a window, but neither European Tour events will be afforded McIlroy's presence despite hints from the man himself that he wished the situation were different.
"I have got a couple of commitments next week and the week after as well," McIlroy said. "If I didn't have those couple of things to do over the next couple of weeks, I probably would have added an event."
Included in McIlroy's off-course duties are work for his sponsors, plus some work with Nike in relation to the specifications of drivers. "I had a new driver in my bag this week," he added. "It was still not 100% what I want so I will do some testing next week. I will also probably stay around here for the weekend, practicing."
Famed golf architect Tom Doak said he is "horrified" by the R&A's proposed changes to St. Andrews' Old Course in preparation for the 2015 Open Championship. Doak, who counts Pacific Dunes in Oregon and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand among his designs, said the Old Course was "sacred ground" and should remain "untouched architecturally," according to The Scotman's Martin Dempster.
American Tom Doak, who said he was “horrified” to hear about the work planned for the historic venue over the next two winters, has written to four golf course and greenkeeping bodies around the world asking for them to support his bid to overturn the changes.
He described the Old Course as “an international treasure that should be guarded” and is disappointed that the R&A, having already played its part in stretching the course as much as possible in terms of adding new tees, has now turned its attention to bunkering and contours.
“I was horrified to read of the changes proposed to the Old Course at St Andrews,” said Doak in a letter he has sent to the presidents of the Australian, American and European societies of golf course architects as well as the Scottish regional administrator of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
“No longer content just to add back tees for championship play, the club (R&A) and its consulting architect, Martin Hawtree, have planned to move bunkers, add contouring around the greens, and soften slopes in other places prior to the next Open Championship. I have felt for many years that the Old Course was sacred ground to golf architects, as it was to Old Tom Morris and C. B. Macdonald and Harry Colt and Alister MacKenzie before us.
“It has been untouched architecturally since 1920, and I believe that it should remain so. I understood this to be the feeling of many other architects who attended the World Forum on Golf Architecture in St Andrews, three years ago. I don’t believe it should be impossible to change the Old Course, or any other historic course. But I think it should be a lot harder than it currently is, where only the management of the club and any consulting architect they hire have to agree.
“I think that the default position should be that such an international treasure should be guarded, and that there should be a high burden of proof that changes need to be made, before they can be made.”
Fans of the game have come together to display their opposition with the proposed changes, adopting the twitter hashtag: #savetheoldcourse, and even creating a petition to stop the changes.
In news that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of golfers everywhere, the R&A is planning changes to the most sacred ground in golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews. The alterations will be made with an eye toward keeping the course challenging in the face of modern equipment and Tour talent. Here's the complete press release outlining the changes:
A number of improvements are being planned to the Old Course to help maintain its challenge for the world’s top golfers ahead of the return of The Open Championship to St Andrews in 2015.
Renowned golf course architect Martin Hawtree was commissioned by St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the Old Course and the other six courses at the Home of Golf, and The R&A Championship Committee, which organises golf’s oldest major championship, to assess potential changes which would enhance the challenge for elite players without unduly affecting club and visiting golfers while remaining true to the special character of the Old Course.
Martin Hawtree’s recommendations have now been agreed by the St Andrews Links Trustees and Links Management Committee and The R&A Championship Committee.
The work is planned to take place in two phases over this winter and next. The first phase involves work on the 2nd, 7th, 11th and 17th holes. The second phase will take place in winter 2013/14 with work on the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th and 15th holes.
The work will widen the Road Bunker on the 17th hole by half a metre at the right hand side and recontour a small portion of the front of the green to enable it to gather more approach shots landing in that area.
A new bunker will be created on the right of the 3rd fairway and another on the left of the 9th fairway 20 yards short of the green. Bunkers will be repositioned closer to the right edge of the 2nd green and the right of the 4th green. A portion of the back left of the 11th green will be lowered to create more hole location options.
Euan Loudon, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said, “The Old Course is renowned as one of the great Open venues and its continued prominence on the Open roster is crucially important to the economy and reputation of St Andrews. The Old Course has evolved over time and the Links Trust is delighted to be working with the Championship Committee in order to maintain the challenge of the course for elite tournament players and the thousands of golfers who play here each year.”
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have considered the challenge presented to the world’s top golfers by each of The Open Championship venues and carried out a programme of improvements over the last ten years. While some holes have been lengthened on the Old Course in recent years it has otherwise remained largely unaltered. The Championship Committee felt there was an opportunity to stiffen its defences in some places to ensure it remains as challenging as ever to the professionals. The proposals from Martin Hawtree should place more of a premium on accuracy and ball control while retaining the spirit and character of the Old Course.”
(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)
In 2012, the most successful guy in golf isn't even a close call. And no, it's not that kid, Rory. Or that Tiger, Eldrick.
Ladies and gentleman, it has to be the Jungle Bird, who managed to interrupt yet another major award ceremony Sunday, rushing through the coronation at the Women's British Open.
Oh, we're serious. Just look at the evidence (and the photo). No other player has accomplished his or her objective in not one, but two majors during the 2012 season.
After making his stunning debut during the U.S. Open in June, and following David Feherty all the way to Ireland for the Notre Dame-Navy football game earlier this month, The Bird made another magisterial swoop across the stage in front of 2012 Open Champion Jiyai Shin. Check out the video, via the YouTube user officialjunglebird. Wonder who that is.
Look at that. We're so accustomed to his success that no one's even surprised by his trademark ca-caw.
Better squeeze it in now though: If The Bird tries that routine in a couple weeks at Medinah, we'll mistake him for just another British fan...