IN THE BUNKER WITH MICK THE GRIP
A VIEW OF my old club, Barton on Sea, Hampshire, with the Isle of Wight seen from the 18thisland green. That green had as much power to terrify as Sawgrass. I wonder how many of my old Srixons still lie at the bottom of the lake.
GOLFSIXES, WHICH AIMS to be golf’s answer to cricket’s 20-20, will be held for the 2ndyear at the Centurion Club, St. Albans on May 5-6th, and will include women for the first time. European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn will partner Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew, and the field will include Georgia Hall and Charley Hull. Shown on Sky Sports, teams from around the world will split into groups of four, before the top two teams from each group progress to quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, the winners receiving £100,000 each. As before, the format is Greensomes Matchplay and the six holes will be themed, with the shot clock hole returning (a penalty imposed if players take longer than 30 seconds per shot.)
“Come and join in the fun everyone,” enthuses European Tour’s CEO Keith Pelley, sounding like Gladys Pugh at the knobbly knees contest, “We want great interaction from both teams and spectators.” Hi de Hi Campers!
PATRICK REED may have won the Masters, but he’ll never ‘Bend it like Bubba.’ Bubba Watson made a jaw-dropping looping hook out of the pine straw on the 11th, just as he did on the 10thsix years ago (although this time around he didn’t make the putt.) If tournaments consisted solely of curling impossible shots round immovable objects Bubba would win every time.
AN INVESTIGATION has shown local and county governments in Florida are inefficient at both managing and maintaining public courses; they have lost over $100 million since 2013. There are well over 1,000 courses in Florida all chasing customers, but golf participation is well down while local governments still splash out on improvements. One course has lost over $6 million since 2015, but a $12.3 million clubhouse and course redesign is still planned. We have a few councils like that back home.
A POLICE RAID on a little Staffordshire bungalow yielded more than 40 crates of fake golf equipment and clothing, including Taylor Made and Under Armour, estimated retail value £35,000. Police said: ‘The occupier reluctantly revealed a purpose-built room full of paperwork and parcels awaiting delivery.
Fake golf gear and clothing sold on Ebay is costing the golfing industry millions. Manufacturers Brand Fusion said: “We can only advise people that if an offer looks too good to be true, it usually is.”
THE U.S.G.A. HAS DECIDED to abandon it’s 18-hole playoff set-up in favour of a 2 hole aggregate playoff, meaning this year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills will finish on the Sunday regardless.
The last 18-hole playoff was in 2008 at Torrey Pines when Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate on the first sudden-death hole after an 18-hole playoff, winning his 3rdU.S. Open (and 14thmajor.) A spokesman says: “18-hole playoffs were great once, but television rules everything now.”
Tell me about it, it was nearly dark by the time the Boat Race started this year, and the Grand National clashed with Coronation Street.
COBRA’s F8 DRIVER is the first of it's kind to use automated computer milling to form its titanium face inserts. Milling apparently saves weight and allows subtle curvature of the driver face for more speed and higher launch on mis-hits.The high-launching F8 and low-spin F8+ feature movable sole weights (slice-control on F8, spin-control on F8+.) Rickie Fowler, who has used Cobra/Puma since turning professional in 2009, tried out an F8+ in the Hero World Challenge and took the trophy with an 11 under par 61. It’s not surprising Cobra renewed his contract.
HAVING SPENT the past two weeks on Grandparenting duties, I am now receiving sideways looks from my fellow golfers as I walk round the course warbling ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Elephants have wrinkles.’ Sorry about that lads, it will pass.
MAY: AMERICAN INDIAN OPEN
IN THE BUNKER WITH MICK THE GRIP
SITE OF NEXT MONTH’s U.S. OPEN, and situated on the millionaires holiday paradise of Long Island, N.Y., Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was constructed in 1891 with the help of the local Shinnecock Indians, and it’s clubhouse was allegedly the first to be constructed in America. It was one of the founding members of the USGA, and hosted the 2ndU.S. Open in 1896, being also the first golf club in America to admit ladies. The superb course is said to test golfers’ ability to the utmost, with constantly changing wind direction, and requires every club in the bag. Unfortunately ownership of the land is still hotly contested by the Shinnecock Indians, who reckon they were cheated out of it, so players this year should watch out, as the spectators coming over the hill could be waving bows and arrows.
SPEAKING OF STIRRING up the natives, Donald Trump will be lucky to escape a claymore up his kilt the next time he travels to Scotland after banning the brightly coIoured Irn-Bru from his Turnberry resort because the nation’s 2ndfavourite drink apparently ‘stains the carpets.’
ARNOLD PALMER’S ONLY U.S. Open victory came in 1960 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado. He was thought to be out of contention, commencing the final round 7 strokes behind the leader, but he drove the green on the 346-yard first hole setting up an opening birdie. Arnie shot 65, at that time the lowest round in U.S. Open history, and scored a two-shot victory over an amateur named Jack Nicklaus. His driver is still on view at the club.
THE SHOT CLOCK MASTERS (June 7-10th) in Austria will be the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every shot as part of the European Tour’s Pace of Play policy, introduced last year. Each player in the 120-man field will have 50 seconds for the first in a group to play any given shot, 40 seconds for subsequent players. A one-shot penalty will be imposed for each transgression, and will be shown as a red card against the player’s name on the leaderboard. Each player can call two ‘time-outs’ per round which permit twice the allotted shot time.
Another new event on the European Tour, the ‘Belgian Knockout’ was hosted by Ryder Cup star rookie Thomas Pieters and held at Rinkven Golf Club, Antwerp, on 17thMay. Part of the Race to Dubai, and combining aspects of match and stroke play, the four-day event culminated in a two-man battle over nine holes. European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, fresh from Golf Sixes success, said:“This brand new format expanding the definition of tournament golf is further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation.” No-one could accuse Mr. Pelley of not embracing innovation.
THE LATEST CLIMATE REPORT suggests that higher sea levels could see all of Britain's historical links courses washed away by 2100. Coastal erosion, rising sea levels and more extreme weather means we will see 'golf courses crumbling into the sea.’ Oh well, by 2100 they will probably have found a way to solve the problem, and anyway us oldies will be playing on a perfect course by then. Heavenly, in fact.
SPEAKING OF HEAVEN, A pro golfer died and was met at the Pearly Gates. “We’re not quite sure what to do with you,” St. Peter said. “Did you actually do anything that was for the common good?” The golfer pondered for a bit and said, “Once in a hotel parking lot I saw a young woman being tormented by some Hell’s Angels —revving their engines, circling her and calling obscenities. So I got out of my car and went up to the leader. He was much bigger than me, very muscular and covered with tattoos. Well, I bonked this guy on the nose with my 5 iron and I told him and the rest of them they’d better stop bothering this woman or they would get more of the same!”
“Wow, that’s very impressive,” St. Peter replied. “When did this happen?”
“About five minutes ago,” the golfer replied.
JUNE: THAT JACKET AGAIN
Image Credit: AFP
DESPITE MELTING in 38 degrees Justin Rose triumphed at the Fort Worth Invitational, then smiled gamely after being presented with a hot tartan jacket and a two-ton cake stand. His eight birdies in a 6-under par 64 gave him a 20-under par victory and a 9thU.S. PGA Tour title, matching Sir Nick Faldo’s record. His wife no doubt said as he staggered in with the trophy: ”If you think I’m polishing that thing ….”
When Justin won the Turkish Airlines Open the (mercifully smaller) trophy was flown in on a drone. Very trendy. Will we see the Captain of the esteemed R & A descending on a drone at the Open with the Claret Jug? Probably not.
PLACING THE JOHN DEERE CLASSIC, Illinois, on the PGA Tour schedule just before the Open caused some whingeing (sorry, criticism) from U.S. pro golfers. Illinois is six time zones behind the UK. In addition, Bob Harig, golf columnist commented: “ Our golfers feel they don’t get enough time to acclimatize themselves and practice on a type of course they are not able to play regularly.” Who’s stopping them?
The John Deere Classic now sponsors a charter flight that leaves on Sunday night and arrives in Britain the next morning, so the golfers can head straight for the nearest links. There, happy now?
BEN HOGAN’S 1953 victory at the home of this year’s Open, Carnoustie, was his only appearance at the Open. Always a perfectionist, he travelled to Scotland two weeks previously to acquaint himself both with Carnoustie and with the smaller golfball used in England. The victory was his fifth win in six starts that season, including three majors. He couldn’t have a shot at the PGA as in those days it clashed with the Open.
Australia’s Peter Thomson, five times Open champion who died this month aged 88, tied for second place behind Ben Hogan, before going on to win the next three consecutive Opens in 1954, 5 and 6 at Royal Birkdale (with a set of borrowed John Letters irons) St. Andrews and Hoylake. Thomson dominated on the British links between 1952 and 1959, never finishing lower than 1stor 2nd. Critics frequently suggested he was winning in an era when the world’s top players avoided the Open because there wasn’t enough prize money, but Thomson silenced them by winning the 1965 Open at Royal Birkdale, in competition with Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. A worthy member of the Hall of Fame.
Another lasting memory of Carnoustie: Jean Van de Velde’s eight on the 18th in 1999, with the famous image of him paddling in the Barrie Burn now written in Open folklore. Needing only a double bogey to win, he made a triple bogey and lost the playoff to Paul Lawrie.
Incidentally, Tommy Fleetwood waltzed around Carnoustie last October with nine birdies and nine pars, including a three on the 18th where the Frenchman came unstuck. Tommy must be worth an outside bet for the Open.
ALL FOUR MAJOR trophies currently belong to Americans, all aged under 30. U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka, Masters: Patrick Reed, PGA: Justin Thomas, Open: Jordan Spieth. Let’s hope a European wins the Open, or our cousins from over the pond may get delusions of grandeur before the Ryder Cup.
THAILAND’s ARIYA JUTANUGARN claimed ‘thinking happy thoughts’ helped her get back on top after her collapse at the U.S. Women's Open. After losing a seven-shot lead on the back nine she prevailed on the fourth hole of a playoff against S. Korea’s H.J. Kim to win her 2ndmajor championship.
TODAY’S GOLFER says: “Poor reaction to bad play can turn one bad hole into three or four. Try using facts rather than opinions. Say to yourself: ‘I left the face open,’ or ‘I looked up.’ Instead of thinking: ‘I'm hopeless’ think of something definite (no, not I’m definitely hopeless!) A positive reaction will make you more confident that your next shot will be better.” Failing that, like Ms. Jutanugarn, think happy thoughts.
JULY: DIG THOSE NORTHERN LIGHTS
LOFOTEN, NORWAY. Situated inside the Arctic Circle there is a ”Cool golf links with the hottest light show on earth.” Summer visitors come to stay in lodges and play 24 hr. golf in an utterly spectacular setting on the Norwegian Sea, and from August to October they get the Northern Lights thrown in.
GOLFERS WHO COMPETE in the Longest Day challenge (four rounds in 24 hours) should tip their caps to H. Lumsden, of the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, who set a formidable record for the most golf played in 24 hours on a light summer night in 1910. Starting at 2.20. a.m. he proceeded to play 12 rounds of golf, or 216 holes, a distance of around 40 miles, averaging 82.5 shots per round, and finishing at 9.00 p.m. I wonder if his wife greeted him with ”And what time do you call this, H. Lumsden?”
LEONIE HARM WON the Ladies' British Amateur title, defeating American Stephanie Lau, 3 and 2, at Hillside Golf Club, Southport. An impressive accomplishment for the 20 yr. old German, who nearly died in 2013 when she was hit while out jogging by a 45 mph drunken driver who left her in a coma with multiple injuries. Her family were told there was no hope.
But Leonie Harm survived, and after lengthy rehabilitation resumed her golf, eventually earning a scholarship at Houston University. This year she won the German International Amateur and rose to 33rd in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. She now qualifies for the Women’s Open at Royal Lytham. It takes a lot to knock out a golfer.
WINNERS OF THE OPEN now receive a replica Claret Jug while the original resides at St. Andrews. Tom Watson, however, was given the original Claret Jug in error after his 1982 Open victory, and compounded the mistake by accidentally knocking it off a table at his home while practising his swing, causing a major dent in it.
UNFORTUNATELY, not even winning the Open entitles you to a refund from EasyJet. While Francesco Molinari was smartening himself up for the Champions dinner, his name was being called on the tannoy at Edinburgh airport; before the Championship he had booked himself a return flight to Italy, and he was supposed to be on the 9 p.m. flight. For some reason it had slipped his mind. However, his $1.89 million winnings should compensate him, and if he decides to risk Ryanair the Claret Jug can go in his hand luggage F.O.C.
TIGER WOODS’ $26 million yacht Privacy sleeps 12, has a crew of nine, an inflatable decompression chamber (a what?) gym and theatre. It was docked close to Shinnecock Hills during the U.S. Open.“Staying on the ‘dinghy’ means you avoid the traffic,” Woods explained. “You might get a fender bender and maybe miss your tee time.” And of course, you never know when you might need decompressing.
PETE COWAN:“If you assume the top tour players are unimaginably happy and content, I assure you it’s not the case. A good many of them aren't. They are healthy, rich and living the dream, but something - the perfectionist tendency, perhaps leads to them not being happy people. I see it on a daily basis: money isn’t everything.” A $26 million yacht can really cheer you up though.
IAN POULTER is not one of golf’s miserable millionaires. He loves the fleet of 14 Ferraris in his Florida stable (there were 15 but he sold one to Rory McIlroy for £225,000) and says not winning a major hasn’t cost him a wink of sleep. “If it happens it happens” he says happily, “I’m having a fabulous life, and I can always be a second hand car salesman when I retire.” That’s the spirit!
TAYLOR MADE’s advertising just gets sillier:
“Our ALL-BLACK P790 irons create a look and feel that inspires an aggressive mindset, enabling bolder players to confidently attack the course.”
So if your opponent has a set of these aggressive irons watch out, if he doesn’t win he may clobber you with them!