British Venue Improved
One Good Turnberry
This is an article from the July 31, 2000 issue
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is understandably
chary about drastic changes to the courses that host the British
Open. The venues on the Open rota--Birkdale, Carnoustie, Lytham,
Muirfield, St. Andrews, St. George's, Troon and Turnberry--have
undergone only minor alterations in recent decades. That could
soon change when Turnberry, the most visually spectacular of all
the Open courses, completes the reconstruction of its second 18,
the Arran Course.
A section of the Arran is being built on 30 acres of prime
coastal land adjacent to the Ailsa Course, and gives Turnberry
the option of having the most coastal holes in championship golf.
That distinction is now held by Pebble Beach, which has nine
ocean-hugging holes (the 4th through the 10th and the 17th and
18th). Turnberry currently has eight seaside holes (the 4th
through the 11th), but could have 10.
Veteran course designer Donald Steel has located the heart of the
Arran course on a bluff called Banes Hill, which abuts the 11th
green of the Ailsa Course. That is where Steel built three new
holes. Two of them--a 340-yard par-4 that tumbles down to the sea,
and a 500-yard par-5 hard against the shore--could be inserted as
the 13th and 14th holes in a British Open composite course, with
the current 12th on the Ailsa becoming the 15th. To make room for
the holes, Ailsa's first two holes, a pair of nondescript par-4s,
would be eliminated, and the course would begin on the 3rd hole,
a 475-yard par-4. To complete the composite course, the third new
hole, an uphill par-4, would become the 12th at the Ailsa, and
the current 17th and 18th would be replaced by the Arran's new
18th, a 550-yard par-5.
Colin Montgomerie, who has lent his name to a new practice
facility at Turnberry, says the hole changes and potential
composite course "make perfect sense," and R&A captain Michael
Bonnallack also likes the idea. But the man with the most sway in
the matter, R&A secretary Peter Dawson, is circumspect about the
chances of a composite course being used for the first time in a
British Open. "We are very happy with the existing Ailsa Course,"
Dawson says, "but there's no philosophical objection to a
composite course. The new holes look spectacular, but before we
evaluate any possible change, we want to see them mature."
The Open, which has been held at Turnberry three times, most
recently in '94, will not return there until 2004 at the
earliest, which leaves plenty of time for the new holes to settle
Gearing Up for The Old Course
The weather and extreme course conditions at St. Andrews had
several players tinkering with their equipment, and the biggest
change involved wedges. According to Bob Vokey, Titleist's
director of wedge development, a dozen players asked him to
remove bounce and add loft to their 60-degree wedges. Bounce--the
angle between the leading edges of both the flange and the club
face--became a liability because the short grass and hard turf
made it difficult to get the club under the ball. The players
also wanted extra loft to escape the steep-faced pot bunkers.
Tiger Woods made no equipment adjustments. His two scoring
wedges--a 56-degree and a 60-degree model--have only six degrees of
bounce (half that of many Tour players' wedges) and were
well-suited for the conditions. Among others, Sergio Garcia, Paul
Lawrie, Adam Scott and David Toms asked Vokey either to grind
down the flanges on their wedges or provide them with a new club.
A few players, including Seve Ballesteros and Hal Sutton, took
their 60-degree wedges out of their bags, reasoning that it was
useless trying to hold the rock-hard greens with a high spinning
shot. In fact, many players used their putters on approach shots
of up to 70 yards. Lee Trevino went one better, frequently using
a newly developed chipping club from off the greens.
Famous Foursome Might Be Back
Despite all the acknowledgments from the fans, the photo op on
Swilken Bridge and his own preseason pronouncement that this
would be his last British Open, Jack Nicklaus, who shot rounds of
77 and 73 to miss the cut by six, wasn't ready to let go last
Friday. "You never say never," said Nicklaus, 60, when asked if
he would play in next year's Open at Royal Lytham. "Why would I
say, 'I'm not going to ever be there again,' when I might start
to play well and decide to go?"
Gary Player, 64, and Lee Trevino, 60, also left open the
possibility that they would play in future championships. "I'd
come back to Lytham with pleasure," said Player, who shot 77-79
and donned the same pair of black and white pants he had worn in
1960 to protest apartheid. To return he will need a special
invitation from the R&A, because next year he will be 65, beyond
the age limit for automatic exemptions for former champions. He
will probably be invited because he won at Royal Lytham in 1974
and because the R&A made a similar exception for Arnold Palmer,
who was 65 when he was invited to bid adieu to the Open at St.
Andrews in 1995. As a three-time Open winner--as well as the
oldest player to make the cut (at age 59, in 1995)--Player expects
the same treatment.
Trevino was, as usual, the most enigmatic. After shooting 80-77,
he was asked if he had made his last trip over the Swilken Burn.
"I've been over a lot of bridges," he replied. "I'll never let
you know if that's it. I truthfully don't know." Trevino loved
every minute of his week at St. Andrews, chatting with the fans
and using his 70-year-old Scottish caddie, Willie Aitchison, as
his foil. "The last time I hit him with a practice ball," Trevino
said, "I was driving it so straight, I hit him two more times
before he got up." All kidding aside, Trevino said, "This course
is the one that does it to me. I know I'll come back in 2005 and
probably after that as well. Maybe they'll just throw me in one
of those pot bunkers and put a little sand over me."
Nicklaus, who had hip replacement surgery last January, has made
the cut in only one of three majors this year and also failed to
contend in the Senior majors. Still, he loves being in the arena.
"A lot of great things have happened to me," said Nicklaus. "It
just so happens, though, that there aren't many things better
than playing in a golf tournament."
That same spirit was best embodied at the Old Course by
88-year-old Sam Snead, the '46 winner at St. Andrews. After his
drive at 18 during the four-hole exhibition for former champions
on Wednesday, Snead got out of his cart and did a jig on the
Swilken Burn Bridge. In 2005 he'll be 93 and may fill out a
famous foursome at St. Andrews.
Why the Fuss?
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I
was convulsed with laughter," Groucho Marx wrote a rival
humorist. "Some day I intend on reading it." His words came to
mind two weeks ago in Scotland when the European tour's
tournament committee met to decide whether Mark James should be
stripped of his Ryder Cup vice captaincy for things he wrote in
Into the Bear Pit (Virgin, $27.00), a captain's memoir of the
1999 matches at Brookline, Mass. Excerpts published in the Daily
Mail portrayed English star Nick Faldo and former Ryder Cup
captain Tony Jacklin as self-centered malcontents (this is
controversial?) and caused Faldo and a handful of Continental
pros to question whether James should be allowed to carry on in
the position to which he was appointed by Sam Torrance. On July
11 the committee--of which James is, conveniently, chairman--voted
10-0 to keep him.
Anyone who reads the book will wonder what the Euros are fussing
about. First, most of the prose is funny, a fandango of
facetiousness. Second, it's not about Faldo or Jacklin; it's
about us--or rather, the U.S. Like a modern-day de Tocqueville,
James dissects American culture and finds things to admire (the
Boston Pops, the Four Seasons, the friendliness of the natives)
and things to deplore (the Boston Pops' conductor, undercooked
lamb, early bedtimes). But mostly to deplore.
"Fashion trends in America always seem to be four or five years
behind ours," he writes when discussing the U.S. team's
appearance at the opening dinner. In one inspired passage, James
brings down two foes with one shot: "If [Faldo] seeks his own
company and wants to keep his head down without saying hello to
anybody, then that is his business and I have absolutely no
problem with it, but I do think a player like that fits in better
on the U.S. Tour."
Can't tell if he's joking? Of course you can't. We live in
America, "where irony tends to fly over heads at Concorde
height," according to James. Unfortunately, the fun stops when
James gets to the final day at Brookline, when the U.S. stormed
from behind to win the Cup. There's no irony in his declaration
that gallery misbehavior and excessive celebrating by the
American players made Day Three "the ugliest day in the game's
history...the day the Ryder Cup about died of shame."
From our side of the Atlantic the indictment appears flawed.
James makes no distinction between the loutish behavior of a
small minority of Brookline spectators--denounced by the U.S.
players and media alike--and the actions of the players
themselves. He refuses to accept that the European camp has hurt
American feelings at past Ryder Cups by celebrating victory by
singing soccer anthems and cheering wildly in the press center.
Most damning of all, James refuses to credit the apologies of
U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw and a number of American players. James
even dismisses a conciliatory letter from Tom Lehman as "not much
better than a waste of ink."
No matter. Into the Bear Pit is a slap-slap-slap to American
golf, and it behooves us to blink and swallow and say, "Thanks,
we needed that." As for James, he should turn to page 30 and
consider this sentence, which apparently flew at Concorde height
over his head: "When you are an ex-captain, people will always
listen to you, but I think you are better off keeping your mouth
Must be a typo. --John Garrity
The reason Tiger Woods always underclubs when assessing his
accomplishments is not that he's dull. Rather, he has
calculated that coming up with self-congratulatory and
ultimately self-limiting pearls for the press, such as "'That's
as good as I can do, fellas," is not the percentage play. He
prefers to let his clubs produce the poetry.
What do these players have in common?
They're the last men over 40 to win a major. Crenshaw won the
1995 Masters at 43, Irwin the '90 U.S. Open at 45 and O'Meara the
'98 British at 41.
Which course is the best stage for a major: Augusta National, the
Old Course at St. Andrews or Pebble Beach?
--Based on 11,141 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will Tiger Woods ever win all four majors in the
same year? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for HEAVY WIND
A bit blowy, blowin' brass monkeys, blowin' a hooley,
flag-bending, hair-hurting, heavy turbulence, howlin' wolf,
seagulls are walking, the big fan is on, the hawk is out, too
windy to stack BBs.
Tiger Woods isn't the only golfer making history this year. By
winning the U.S. Open, Karrie Webb qualified for the LPGA Hall of
Fame, and her 2000 statistics are comparable to Woods's.
Starts 13 13
Wins 6 5
Majors 2 2
Scoring Avg. 67.77 69.71
Avg. Margin of Victory 5.7 4.0
Joe Quiroz, Tucson
Quiroz, 81, a retired machinist, made two holes in one during a
round of one-under-par 71 from the back tees at El Rio Golf
Course in Tucson. Quiroz, who regularly shoots his age, used a
driver on the 216-yard 8th hole and a nine-iron on the 124-yard
13th hole. The aces were his third and fourth.
Molly Cooper, Tumwater, Wash.
Cooper, 21, defeated Leila Chartrand of Victoria, B.C., on the
37th hole to earn the Pacific Northwest Amateur title. Cooper
forced sudden death with a 13-foot birdie putt at the 36th and
won with a tap-in birdie on the first extra hole. An Arizona
State senior, Cooper took the Washington Amateur in June.
John Holmes, Campbellsville, Ky.
Holmes, a senior at Taylor County High, was victorious for a
second straight year at the National High School Open, firing an
eight-under 208 at Orange County National Golf Center in Winter
Garden, Fla. Kentucky's 1998 schoolboy champ, John is the only
player to earn All-America honors at the Open the past three
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.
Talk of the Toon
Change has come slowly to St. Andrews, the Auld Gray Toon of
16,000 on the Fife of Forth, but while the place still looks
medieval, everything is up to date. Here's the proof.
AULD GRAY TOON NEW GRAY TOON
Most famous citizen Old Tom Morris Tip Anderson
Favorite golfer Bobby Jones Tiger Woods
Degree holders from Three signers of the Seve Ballesteros
St. Andrews U Declaration of Colin Montgomerie
Freedom of the City Benjamin Franklin John Daly
Rectors of St. Andrews U John Stuart Mill John Cleese
Favorite workout spot West Sands beach Old Course Hotel
Favorite course at Latin Feminist Theology
St. Andrews U
Most popular pub The Dunvegan The Lizard Lounge
Most popular restaurant The Vine Leaf La Posada
Most popular Woolen Mill Costa Coffee
Most popular garden Janetta's Ice Just Juice
of indulgence Cream Parlor
Greens fees Free (residents) 80[pounds]
Hot new course New Course Kingsbarns
On the Old Course, Turf Mats
players hit off...
Noise comes from... Trains along the RAF Jets
Outside town there's... Farmland St. Andrews Bay
resort and conference
Most famous quote Bobby Jones: Scott Hoch:
"I could take out of "The worst piece
my life everything of mess I've seen."
except my experiences
at St. Andrews, and I
would still have a rich,
The bunkers are Revetted walls Revetted walls
known for their...
Pet of the Week
SCOTT WATKINS' PIG, Daisey
The director of instruction at the Phoenician Resort in
Scottsdale, Ariz., Scott Watkins, says Daisey, a 5-year-old,
160-pound pig, is low maintenance. "She's much cleaner than a
dog," says Watkins, who played on the PGA Tour in the early '80s.
"She doesn't shed or get ticks and she's housebroken. Daisey even
sleeps with my daughter."
Not that Daisey doesn't have moments worthy of Babe. Shortly
after Watkins bought Daisey, she started headbutting his wife,
Stephanie, hard enough to bruise her. "Turned out Daisey was in
heat," says Watkins. After having Daisey spayed, the Watkinses
pig-proofed their kitchen by putting locks on cabinet doors to
halt Daisey's proclivity to root for food. Daisey's playpen is
the Watkinses' 2,500- square-foot backyard, where she romps with
the family's dogs--Abby, a cockapoo; Lucky, a Lhasa apso; and
Murphy, a 130-pound golden retriever. To combat the Phoenix heat,
the pet pig plunks down in her own plastic play pool. Daisey is
always a big hit at parties, during which, Watkins says, "She
walks around lapping up spilled margaritas."