Welcome to "The Golf Nerds," a video series created by Golf Magazine senior editor Alan Bastable at xtranormal.com. In this week's episode, Lester and Richard debate changes to the most sacred sod in golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Welcome to "The Golf Nerds," a video series created by Golf Magazine senior editor Alan Bastable at xtranormal.com. In this week's episode, Lester and Richard debate changes to the most sacred sod in golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews.
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)
There are a few things I wouldn't let John Daly do to me. A lot of things, actually. But none of them are higher on that list than letting him slash a drive teed up in my mouth.
I'm not David Feherty. The Golf Channel host let Long John do just that on the season finale of his TV show, Feherty, which aired over the weekend. Watch the clip below:
Now, as the video mentions, John is a pro. But some might say pegging a ball on a head the size of Feherty's is a high tee indeed. We think Ernie Els may have taken a little divot.
T-Minus Four Years 'til Rio
Pro golf has a pretty strong couple of weeks coming up, with a World Golf Championship event (Bridgestone Invitational) and one of the world's biggest tournaments (PGA Championship) occuring in the next fortnight. But the Sport of Kings is going to be fighting for attention with some big to-do going on in the Queen's backyard. It's tough for anyone to compete with gymnastics’ quadrennial moment in the sun.
But golf will get its due in four year's time, and golf writers are already curious about who might be playing for medals in Rio. So if you can't beat 'em, join the hype.
Ryan Ballengee gets the ball rolling, running the numbers for Golf News Net to give us a (very) early look at the possible fields for men and women. Apparently, if the men's field were set today, it would include eight Americans and reach down to the 334th ranked player in the world to fill out the 60-man lineup.
The women's field would dig even deeper, pulling 446th ranked Paola Moreno of Colombia into the fold.
The reason, Ballengee explains, is the selection criteria. The top 15 men and women will automatically qualify; after that, 45 players are added by rank. The catch is -- after the top 15 -- no more than two representatives from any single country can play. So Moreno and Norwegian Espen Kofstad would get the call.
But before they book flights remember this -- along with really any other aspect of the golf event -- is subject to change. In the meantime, we recommend any Norwegian with Olympic dreams to hit the range. Your tee time may only be four years away.
Tweet of the Day
Tiger Woods is recovering from another knee injury, but we can rule out any future visits from Anthony Galea, one of his former doctors. According to the New York Times, Galea may be negotiating a plea deal with the feds.
Galea is accused of treating more than 20 professional athletes in the United States between July 2007 and September 2009 and providing many of them with human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs. He did not have a license to practice medicine in the United States at the time. Galea faces charges that include conspiracy, fraud and lying to border agents.
Galea, despite being unlicensed, treated both Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Tiger Woods during their recovery from injuries, although Galea has insisted he never administered performance-enhancing drugs to his athlete clients.
The federal docket in Galea’s case shows no activity since his indictment on Oct. 14, an indication either that his lawyer is trying to persuade federal prosecutors to drop the charges or — more likely — that he is in plea negotiations, said Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Columbia University.
And this is something to keep an eye on ...
Galea has said that although he used H.G.H. himself, his treatment of Woods and Rodriguez was limited to blood-spinning therapy and an anti-inflammatory medicine.
Any cooperation agreement could involve Galea’s changing his account of what he did with the athletes he treated.
Times are a Changin'
After 168 years, the St. Andrews Golf Club may finally allow women members, according to the Guardian.
In a letter to members, club officials wrote that a ban on women could be a "retrograde step" and set out options.
The letter, excerpts of which were printed in the Courier newspaper, reads: "Firstly, it could operate as at present with members and their male guests being permitted to use the members' lounge.
"This would result in no lady guests being permitted at all in the clubhouse, as all guests must be given the same rights of access under the Act."
The second option would see the members' lounge used for members only.
Officials reportedly recommend that members back a third option, which allows members and guests into all public areas of the clubhouse whatever their gender.
Tweet of the Day
@HankDHaney: Might not be good long term RT @Jason_Long: What's your take on Tiger's rash of injuries? The knee and achilles, to me, is a troubling sign?
What’s the opposite of must-see TV? Watching an unheralded South Africa golfer lap the field on Sunday at the British Open.
Louis Oosthuizen won praise for his play and his amiable manner at the 2010 British Open, but he didn’t attract many television viewers. In fact, Oosthuizen’s seven-stroke win on Sunday at St. Andrews was the lowest-rated final round in tournament history, according to Bloomberg News.
ESPN averaged a 1.4 rating, or about 1.86 million U.S. households, through the first three rounds and was set to be the highest rating since 2006. Then South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen pulled ahead, winning by seven strokes over world No. 3-ranked Lee Westwood.
“Oosthuizen dominated and the lack of drama had a significant impact on the ratings,” spokesman Mark Mandel said in an interview. The final round rating of 2.1 represents about 2.97 million U.S. households, Mandel said. Last year’s final round received a 3.8 rating, or about 5.55 million U.S. households, for Tom Watson’s playoff loss to Stewart Cink.
Poll: Tiger Woods still America’s most popular athlete (along with Kobe)
If Tiger Woods had a secret plan to lessen the endless autograph requests he receives by involving himself in highly publicized sordid affairs, it didn’t work. A Harris Poll released Tuesday shows that Woods is tied with Kobe Bryant as America’s favorite sports star, according to The Detroit News.
Despite his personal troubles, Tiger Woods is tied with Kobe Bryant as America's favorite sports star, according to a just released Harris Poll. Woods had enjoyed the No. 1 ranking by himself since 2006. Bryant, who led the Lakers to a second consecutive NBA title, was ranked fourth in the poll last year.
Derek Jeter of the Yankees was ranked third, followed by Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
But Woods’s indestructible popularity hasn’t helped the latest version of his EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf game. Sales are down 32 percent from last year, according to The New York Times.
NPD Group, which tracks video game sales, said that first-month sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 were down 32 percent from the previous version of the game a year ago.
Jeff Brown, a spokesman for Electronic Arts, blamed the slower sales on “a lot of factors,” including the slowdown in sales of the Wii and the fact that last year’s version of the game was bundled with the Wii, leading to strong sales.
No more changes to St. Andrews, R&A boss says
Prior to last week’s Open Championship, the R&A lengthened the famous Road Hole, a controversial move, but one that R&A chief executive Peter Dawson deemed a success, according to The Courier, a Scottish newspaper.
“The new tee was a great success in terms of stiffening the test. We were hoping the road might come back more into play and it did, so we are very pleased."
However, Dawson said he doesn’t expect any major changes to the course when the Open returns to St. Andrews, even though Tiger Woods and other long hitters were treating the iconic 18th hole like a pitch-and-putt, effortlessly driving the green on the 357-yard par 4.
"We could go back more yards, but I think it's fine now," said Dawson. "I'll be proved wrong when the Open does return to St Andrews, no doubt, but we have no plans at all the lengthen the course further."
The home hole played more than half a shot under par on average on Sunday but changes there would be almost sacrilegious, he agreed.
Dawson continued, "You'd have your legs cut off for even contemplating that. This week it played downwind and it did serve to split players, but it's a very famous hole and we're still more than happy with it."
The Open is held at St. Andrews every five years, but some speculate that the R&A might wait until 2016 so that St. Andrews is on schedule to hold the 150th championship in 2021.
Some things we saw while wondering if Tiger Woods will drop himself as a sponsor after his performance on the greens at St. Andrews...
They tried to get Rachel Uchitel to go to rehab, and she said, “Well, OK, as long as I get to be on TV.” (Via E Online)
Charles Barkley is now trying golf left-handed. No joke here. Barkley’s struggle with the game is something to which we all can relate. (Via Ryan Ballangee’s Waggle Room blog)
Louis Oosthuizen’s caddie figured out a great way not to get fired: help your boss win the British Open. (Via Golfweek)
A fan at the British Open didn’t believe the prickly gorse bushes surrounding the course were all that sharp, so he grabbed some branches in a clenched fist -- then let out a scream. You'll never believe it, but he was from Australia. (Via Wales Online)
Years ago a friend and I came upon an unofficial Lee Westwood website (don't ask), and were pleasantly surprised to find the designer had picked Gerry Rafferty's fromage-filled classic, Baker Street, as the background music. True, it was Rafferty's first big release, sans Stealers Wheel, but something about it seemed to fit the burly Englishman, like the idea of settling down in a quiet little town and forgetting about everything might agree with him. Particularly when Westwood, who was a rising/legit star on the European Tour had all but fallen off the map in the early 2000s.
After a couple of years spent reconstructing his swing and getting physically fit, Westwood became one of the very best players in the world. In fact, he's finished in the top-5 of a major seven times now, including top-3 finishes in four of the last five. At this point, one might think Westwood might be more into CSN's Judy Blue Eyes than Baker Street (you know it -- "it's getting to the point where I'm no fun anymore"), but according to The New York Times the latest in what's quickly becoming a Monty-esque string of major disappointments has done little to deter the world's third-ranked player.
“Whether I won the tournament today was in the hands of other people,” Westwood said. “Louis has obviously played great and thoroughly deserves to win, so there’s not even any real disappointment. If you get close and you lose, then there’s disappointment. I don’t know if it’s around the corner, but hopefully it’s about three weeks away. But I don’t know, you know. Like I said, I can’t do much more than I’m already doing. I’m trying to improve all the time, and I’m sticking myself in contention.”
The bottom line: Westwood's an outstanding player who could easily win a couple of majors, but he simply might not have the mental toughness to get the job done.
McDowell to play PGA Tour for rest of '10 season
The PGA Tour reports that reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell will compete on the PGA Tour for the rest of the current season. Evidently McDowell, who earned a five-year exemption after winning at Pebble Beach, notified PGA Tour officials of his decision just this week. The Northern Irishman also said he wants to try to qualify for the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup. In his quest to accomplish this task McDowell will play in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as well as the PGA Championship.
McDowell denied rumors that he was ditching the European Tour for good, saying that he liked the idea of playing flexible, worldwide schedule.
"I've played quite a lot out here this season," McDowell said. "I think the great thing about golfers in Europe is we play all over the world, and I think we're better players and better people because of that."
The bottom line: Great news for both tours but he's a bigger draw in Europe.
Tiger's reign over for good?
We've all been thinking it, but someone actually said it out loud, or at least wrote it. In a story today on CNN.com, sports anchor Rafer Weigel posted the headline, "Tiger Woods days of dominance, done," and it's unlikely too many objective-minded golf fans out there would strongly disagree. Anyone who watched coverage from St. Andrews this weekend saw the world's No. 1 player look extremely human on a golf course he completely dominated during his prime. Factor in the earlier failures at Augusta and Pebble Beach, and it was the third time this season Tiger struggled at courses where he once crushed the field.
So is it really the end of the El Tigre era? Will he ever intimidate and dominate fellow competitors as he once did. Will TV ratings really return to what they were in the Tom Kite era? Please give us your opinions as comments. We'd like to know what you think.
The bottom line: Tiger will win more majors and probably top The Golden Bear's record, but his days of true domination are basically over.
4ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Golfers looking for a reprieve from the windy conditions that halted play for over an hour on Friday and made scores soar should not look at the green sheet of paper being handed out in the media center.
If they do, they will see that on the very top, in bold capital letters, is the word HAZARDS, followed by this sentence:
Strong winds today, but about 5mph lighter than Friday.
In other words, scoring conditions could be nearly as brutal as they became yesterday afternoon, when Rory McIlroy, who shot 63 on Thursday, carded an 80.
A 15-20mph wind is forecasted to come from the west and southwest—the prevailing direction—with occasional gusts up to 30. However, the wind is expected to start coming from the south late in the afternoon and in the evening, so the leaders (who tee off last), can expect to play into the wind on the challenging 17th hole.
Here’s Sunday's forecast from Met Office, the national weather service of the UK:
Cloudy at first with a little patchy light rain. Soon becoming dry with bright or sunny intervals. Wind south to southwesterly 10 to 15mph, increasing to 15 to 20mph with gusts to 25, occasionally to 30mph. Cloud increasing again into the evening with rain likely before midnight.
St. Andrews, SCOTLAND — When he decides to hang up his spikes, U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell has a future as a wisecracking TV weatherman.
"We always joke that they should try to play the British Open in the summer this year," McDowell said.
But on an overcast Thursday morning with light rain, St. Andrews was a balmy-feeling 60 degrees and the players who went out early took advantage of the calm conditions and rain-soaked greens to post a lot of red scores, especially John Daly, who started with five birdies on the front nine.
The forecast for the rest of the day is relatively mild, and the extended forecast doesn't look as rough as predicted. The rain, which came down with Biblical fury Wednesday night and left puddles of standing water throughout the course, should clear this afternoon and it's possible players will see some spells of sun today.
Friday's weather sounds even more benign, starting with rain then turning drier and brighter, although the wind will stronger (15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 25 mph, compared to 5 to 10 mph today).
Here's the extended forecast from Met Office, the national weather service for the UK:
Saturday: Cloudy. A good deal of dry weather but some occasional light showers from time to time. Wind SW 15 to 25 mph.
Sunday: Cloudy. Dry at first and again later. Outbreaks of mainly light rain expected during the afternoon. Winds south to southwest 15 to 25 mph, occasional gusts to 30 mph at first, moderating during the day.
Temperatures should stay around 60 degrees throughout the tournament.
Roaring Rory or FIGJAM Jr.?
Very few people were likely surprised to see Tiger Woods's name at the top of the British bookies' odds this week, but they'd be forgiven if they were taken aback by the name right below his: Rory McIlroy. The Irish young gun's 16-1 odds put him as the second favorite, and as he tells Neil Cameron of the UK's Daily Record, McIlroy thinks even those odds are generous.
He's just plain honest. At 21 and after only two years as a tour pro, McIlroy is the ninth best golfer in the world with £5million already in his bank account.
Add to that the fact he has never shot more than 69 on the Old Course and he is indeed incredible value. Last night McIlroy said: "A lot of guys will be backing me because they want me to do well more than anything else.
"I knew I would come here as one of the favourites but that doesn't put extra pressure on me because I know that if I go out and play this golf course the way I can, I should have a good chance.
"I've never been afraid to talk myself up. I don't think you should be. I have played well here in the past and if I don't let the occasion get the better of me, there's no reason why I can't do so again.
"I'm not putting myself under pressure to perform. I'm just quite confident. I feel I'm hitting it well coming here."
There's a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and it's great to see McIlroy just (but firmly) on the right side of it. With all of the comparisons the media and fans have made between Tiger Woods and every young player to come through the ranks since (from Anthony Kim to Rickie Fowler), it's McIlroy who reminds me most of the early Tiger. Here's a kid who not only knows exactly how good he is, he knows that all the talent in the world doesn't matter if you don't play well on the weekend. Speaking of Kim, McIlroy may have learned from some of his American counterpart's mistakes. Cameron posits that the young Irishman's promise "to keep as low a profile as possible" will likely keep him out of the local pubs for the week.
If Rory McIlroy is attempting to blend in at the Open Championship, John Daly is trying to do the exact opposite. According to Reuters (via the New York Times), Daly made a splash at the Champion's Dinner with an eccentric outfit.
If former Open champion John Daly's Technicolor dreamcoat that had spectators clambering over one another for a glimpse is anything to go by then this week's British Open could be a sight for sore eyes.
Daly, the winner here in 1995, was the talk of the champions dinner when he sported a luminous green and orange jacket, in a refreshing contrast to the sober-suited likes of Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson posing for a photo in front of the 18th green as the sun set on the Old Course.
Daly has long been the most colourful player on the tour, and he and his girlfriend were sporting equally eye-catching matching harlequin-style trousers for a practice round earlier in the week.
[R&A's chief executive Peter] Dawson was all in favour of Daly's eccentricities even after enjoying his sartorial taste at rather too close quarters. "I was sitting opposite him at dinner, so I had it all night, and my eyesight survived," he joked.
Daly's been making waves the past couple years with some truly outrageous (and outrageously terrible) costumes, but I'm a little surprised he's being as bold in golf's hallowed home at St. Andrews. Regardless, I can think of few things that would be more exciting for golf (and for lap-band surgeons everywhere) than Daly making another shocking run on the Old Course, so hopefully his game will be as sharp as his clothes on Thursday.
Big Ben's Bathroom Break
Ben Roethlisberger has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for the last few months, and it seems like his luck isn't getting any better. As the Columbus Dispatch's Bob Baptist reports, the Steeler's QB is under fire for recent unconventional irrigation techniques...or something along those lines.
That Ben Roethlisberger left his mark at the Country Club at Muirfield Village last week is not in question.
The nature of the mark is.
Multiple reports yesterday suggested that a Dublin homeowner saw the troubled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback urinating on the course during a round of golf early Friday evening.
The woman reported the incident to the club and then called police, who investigated. But Roethlisberger and his friends had left the course by then, the woman did not press charges, and no citations were issued.
A source close to Roethlisberger told ProFootballTalk.com that the man seen urinating was another member of Roethlisberger's group.
A woman who answered the phone at the club, after hearing the caller describe the man, reportedly told the caller that it was Roethlisberger. The caller then told police that it was Roethlisberger, according to the police report.
Okay, I'll preface my thoughts on this by saying that, while I've never personally committed this "offence," it's obviously not such an uncommon thing to do (although I'd have to think a decent human being would have found a tree). Normally I would say "what's the big deal" in a situation like this, but that's before reading this part:
Before playing the Country Club at Muirfield Village, Roethlisberger attempted to get a tee time at the more prestigious Muirfield Village Golf Club across the road. But according to a source at that club, he was denied.
"His reputation precedes him," the source said.
If you're a Super Bowl MVP quarterback (not to mention former star at Miami of Ohio) and you can't get a tee time at even the most exclusive clubs in the state, you must have a questionable reputation. Something tells me that this isn't the sort of relief Roger Goodell was hoping to get from the Roethlisberger situation.
(Photo Credit: Tim Hales/AP)