Monday, July 27, 2009

Tournament Time - Philadelphia Country Club Flynn

As a COF (Certified Old Fart in the golf world that's over 55), one gets to play Senior Amateur events. Occasionally you get a dog but you sometimes get real nuggets. Best of the year will be Philadelphia CC and CC of Scranton with not-so-bad at all Galloway National and a notch below to Huntsville.

Philadelphia CC is a Flynn course, one of many in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania. Many of the greens were modified (for the better) by Perry Maxwell, a good example being the current first in which several pimples are added to a Flynn potato chip green. Flynn's original routing was such that the current third, a really wonderful mid-length to long par 5 was the famous 18th that Sam Snead chopped up to lose his first USGA Open and perhaps set the tone for the future Opens that he outright lost or gave away. The remains of the old clubhouse are still there and the current 18th hole was greatly altered to allow construction of a functional but unattractive new clubhouse. The Gordons, who never learned a single thing from Flynn, were responsible for the anticlimactic sore thumb that is now there.

I think Philadelphia CC stands out as the best design or at least my choice as best design of Flynn in the area. Along with my home course Lehigh CC, and not being a homer I promise, there are notable problems with all the other Flynn designs well-known to top 100 seekers. Philadelphia has a wonderful set of threes including the severely uphill 15th which requires a wooden type club from most players, two redan variants and a lovely dropshot hole over and around a creek.

The par 5 third is where Sam met his Waterloo, trying to make a birdie when a six would do, he wound up with the proverbial snowman. The par 5 sixth played as a par 4 of basically 500 yards for the Penna Golf Association Amateur two years ago, we'll see what happens as a par 5 of 492. Byron Nelson's famous holed 1-iron for eagle to win that 1938 Open that Mr. Snead lost was on the hole that is now 17. Biggest problem there is that you have to cut your high-tech tee shot to keep in the fairway.

Lots of interesting architecture and history are at the Philadelphia CC and it is always a joy to play. There are uphill, sidehill, downhill and perfectly flat holes of character, and yes even the 18th isn't a bad hole, it just a Gordon, not a Flynn. It shows by just not being as remarkable.

You can find it all in the link below

Live Scoring

Well, Philadelphia is in the books and I actually had a chance to win with five to go. Never won a real important tournament and I'm trying before I fall apart completely. I tried not to think of it, but I did and loosely putted my way to equal ninth. First top 10 anyway, believe me with all that talk you hear o you have to get there to try and fail before you can do it, it's true. I really cruised, calm and cool, no muss no fuss, just golf shots and fun. After a birdie on 13 and going to level par, I knew no one had torn it up. I made a conscious attempt to not look at the scoreboard on the teeminders cart. Seeing the cart I thought about it and instinctively knew one birdie might do it and two would. I did make a near birdie on the very difficult par three 15th, nearly holing a very makeable bunker shot. 1-under was indeed the winner, our local BMW dealer Gary Daniels, of SVCC. He has qualified for the USGA Senior Open in 2000 when it was at his home course, so not getting to Gary was not in itself a disappointment and I beat about 10 guys I really wanted to. I'm still very happy with what happened and especially because it was fun. Anyone can zip around in a cart and shoot 72 at their club and say "I left 8 shots out there" but there's something to be said for really getting it done. I'm maybe bragging, yeah, but I'm overcoming a couple of things that could have ended my golf and I am limited to how I can do it, but mostly I enjoyed it and that's the most satisfying.

Big thanks to Susan, my teacher.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A link for a friend who missed this

North Shore

I'll have more, I'm never finished .... I promise I'll have more. Remember, I do this because I love to, not because I get paid.

Tom Watson Gentleman and Golfer

He needed a Watson Par on the last on Sunday but came up short. We started calling any non-routine par, but especially one out of the khack or off a tree or out of a bunker a Watson Par. We marked the card with a capital W, the guys in Chicago I played with and I - in honor of our Tom. That's how we played! Oh how we wished that he had one more on Sunday 19 July, 2009. So many hearts were broken. We would all have given him one.

Reports say that maybe he had only one hour's sleep on Sunday night, but Monday he showed in London and played a practice round at Old Sunningdale. Today he played one of the top rounds after giving himself Wednesday off before the Senior Open.

There is true love for the game and more importantly respect. He shows us with actions not hystrionics what he feels and what he stands for without an entourage of media hacks, publicists, trainers, a chef and bottle washer. Certainly without a tossed club like a petulant boy. A true gentleman with respect for all human beings - showing us that he is not in any way bigger than the game.

Perhaps forgotten in the past 30 years of sports superstardom was a stand that Tom Watson took at his beloved Kansas City CC. Arthur Block of H & R Block, a Jew was denied admission into the club. Tom Watson on humanitarian grounds resigned his membership over this discriminatory act. A humanitarian stand. Eventually Mr. Block became a member and Mr. Watson was reinstated into the club, but his position was taken immediately and on gentlemanly grounds.

In many ways Tom Watson is a very admirable man. Only he can know what he feels about all of the events of the past week, but one thing he has done is to talk to us every single day and answer every question. In America today on TNT's pathetically abbreviated coverage of the MasterCard Senior British Open, Mr. Watson's interview with the elegant and stylish Jim Hueber was unedited. Mr. Watson never hesitated nor calculated an answer and as always, Jim (a most under-rated announcer) asked some rather pointed questions rather than lobbing puff-balls.

My hat's off to you, Mr. Watson.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Next Men's Major 2009 US PGA at The Cow Pasture

I don't have any photos of this one and I also don't give a Craig Ferguson's "Rat's Ass". I don't care, I don't care, I don't care, I don't care. Hazeltine? OFFICIAL WEBSITE HERE I have long wanted to see the US PGA dumped for the Australian Open Championship as the fourth Men's Professional Golf Major. Such a group of courses to choose from and another set of fast and firm venues.

I mean now seriously, who here really likes to play golf in the USA in August?
80% of the time no one remembers who won the damned thing because, I don't know - we're all off at the beach to finish the summer? And lastly why should three majors be played in the USA? If not the OZ Open, a good rotating Euro Event? A Seve Invitational? I say: Let's drop the US PGA and add OZ.

My takes
Masters -sure, nice that it's spring, but it's bad for Supers everywhere due to members expectations. One day I fully expect that I will put a gun in my mouth listening to Jim Nantz, I swear. He is so awful and a local News scribe picked Jimbo as the best Golf Announcer this week in his column! All the sucking up around ANGC makes me want to well, make like Linda Blair to be polite. Honestly, I get really really tired of seeing the same golf course year in and year out. However, it's most folks' favorite so Worth Keeping

USGA Open - used to be a great tournament now it's a joke with Tiger or a one-off alternating winning, it seems. Worth Keeping, but needs serious work as it has become a chore to watch.

THE Open Championship - Worth Keeping, nothing to say about why. If you need help and you are on this blog, you really need help.

US PGA - Somebody defend it, I got nothin'. Lose It ASAP

Anyway, as to the 2009 US PGA Championship at the Farm - who cares? We know Tom Watson doesn't care.

A Whimper

The Open Championship that gave us all such joy failed us at the last hole, the penultimate shot actually. Tom Watson played nearly every shot, certainly every full shot with a preternatural calm that was present even on the approach onto the 72nd green. He would make up his mind, swing the club sans any hystrionics modern fans have become accustomed to; there, just leaning the shaft of the club on his chest watching the shot to its conclusion, he was fully expecting and anticipating the result.

When it was all over Stewart Cink sheepishly seemed apologetic for having won and we'll likely look back at 2009 Turnberry and remember that Tom Watson let the Open run away just as his approach to the 72nd did rather than Cink in any way won it.

Worrisome to me was Watson putting the ball from the fringe like most old farts do, not even using a 5-wood or rescue. He got away with it on the 71st with a far more appropriate shot than the one he tried on the final hole. That is where he doomed the Open as I see it. He got away with a birdie on the 71st - a much longer shot with the putter than at the last and from a much better lie. Watson, the Jack the Giant-slayer back in his prime would never have considered the putter from that last lie, he was always a masterful chipper of the ball. I feel that the success on the 17th led to the choice on the 18th. The putt was worthy of a 25-handicapper and the play-off was even less worthy or interesting. He had a plan, but it clearly never included a playoff.

So it ended with a whimper; but for golf lovers, not the sports fans that Tiger has dragged over from the steroid-fueled world of ball and team sports and their ESPN SportsCenter World will have a wonderful set of memories with what properly ought to be considered an epilogue of disappointment.

It was a whimper, indeed.

a p.s.

From the USGA July, 2009 calendar ...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In New England we call it Wicked Good

It has gone beyond and into the surreal, transcending our sport as one Tom Watson is where he wants to be and has a 36-hole plan that he is half done with. Suspending believability we golfers are witnessing such serenity only an old golfer can appreciate. Memories cannot be imparted to one, each must live them and with the depths of those memories golfer Tom Watson is on the virtual precipice of sports history.

Unprecedented does not begin to write the story. Golf in the Open Championship has its lore and champions of legend, Tom Watson can in the sports greatest championship which dates from when the United States of America was entering Civil War and no one knew if the nation would survive. Abraham Lincoln was President of these United States when Willie Park, Sr. won the first and Old Tom Morris won the second Open championship at the sublime Prestwick Links, much of which survives today. Old Tom won four Opens. Young Tom Morris won four and three in a row 1868-70 consecutively retiring the Open Belt, given in those early years. By winning three times in succcession, he retained permanent possession of the belt. He won in 1872 the next year the Open was contested.

Tom Watson has won five Opens at five venues: Carnoustie, Turnberry, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale. If he repeats at Turnberry tomorrow, he will tie Harry Vardon as record six time winner. After winning his fifth he dropped and slightly dented the claret Jug in a minor mishap, some saying that he invoked a curse of the Golf Gods further preventing his sixth victory.

A sixth win will secure Oldest Tom's place in all of sports with such a supreme achievement.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Open Championship - the greatest of them all?

Turnberry Ailsa Course is a very popular links course, often quoted by many in lists of favorites, often top 3-5. I cannot say that it holds such a place for me, but I understand its appeal. It is full of views and lovely, less quirky, more fair golf holes than perhaps any other links course. I won't get into that too deeply as that is not the point of a competition, but the play is rather more important. I admire the R&A for their course sets-up lately as weather has become the final determinant of difficulty the past few years.

Friday has seen the exit of Tiger Woods, now two Open championships in a row without him on the weekend - and I feel that golf is the better for it. The Open Championship is truly a celebration of golf and all of its unfairness and inequities. This year as last we are also seeing that links - the birthplace of golf - is the great equalizer. Last Year senior professional golfer Greg Norman entered the final round tied for the lead and then faltered. This year Saturday morning will bring us a round in which the oldest golfer ever to lead a Major championship test, already five-time champion golfer Tom Watson, less than two months shy of his sixtieth birthday will be in the final group. In no sport but golf are we able to retain our heroes and champions so late into life.

With the real possibility of winning and more importantly his own belief that he can indeed win a record-tying sixth time engraving on the Claret Jug suspends fiction. Extrordinary, amazing, astounding, Epic - words will fail to describe the monumental achievement of sports history that such an event would become. It is indeed all the better that the possibility of endless replays showing Tiger Woods round faltering in fiftieth place - just for rating points - is not available to the producers of television. No disrespect to Tiger's to-date achievements, but this possibility for Watson far exceeds anything Woods will ever do. The magnitude of winning a second Open event at Turnberry, the first immortalized as The Duel in the Sun (after winning a Senior Open Event there) widely considered the most epic Open championship finale is heretofore unimaginable.

This is history I want to see. I cannot wait to see.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

USGA Women's Open at SVCC

It is this week, July 6-12, 2009. As I have noted earlier, one cannot call this a "Strong course" anymore just a "strong Fazio course" using strong in the Fazio fashion. I'm getting started. There are a few interesting attempts (misguided a bit at least twice) by the USGA to be creative. Comments along the way ...

First tee shot (regular ladies tees, over 100 yards up from 549 used for Championship)Approach to 4, one of the more distinct shots on the Old Course. Front green bunkers removed and green advanced to water, I'll show better later. A similar change to Fazio's change at Kiawah River #1. Here
View of hole 5 from fairway beginningView of hole from "Orphan" championship Tee with post at tee used by Ladies Open 409 yardsTypical tee shots on 7 taking all the bunkers out of play at 453. Even last year's USGA Open Champion Cristie Kerr on this tee said "I can't get there; when I played here before I played up a tee, I didn't figure on playing from here". Mike Davis of USGA was quoted yesterday "We're not going to use every back tee every day, we just set up the course all the way back today". (Not known if before or after LPGA players demanded Commissioner Bivens resignation)Players chipping (repeatedly) at the front of this green. Most attempts for this group from the fairway actually missed right, presumably from swinging too hard and none hit the green. Ninth Hole, two tees will be used (announced)210 yard 9th tee. For those unfamiliar, the teeing ground intended for use in USGA Major tournaments are covered with green mesh (chicken wire) to maintain pristine turf for tournament days.178 yard tee - players used both in their practice rounds. I found it interesting that the tree overhangs the tee as it does. There is at least 35 yards of width to this tee, yet this portion under the tree was covered with mesh.Ten tee at 332 yards, to be used majority of days.Ten tee at 252 yards, reportedly to be used one day, perhaps Sunday to tempt players to hit green off tee with Driver, or other club. Note trees dictating a fade. Players in the group I followed who tried to carry the tree failed to hit the ball hard enough.Par 3 Eleventh at 165, one or more clubs uphill and the most severe green on the course. The front has been flattened since the USGA Seniors in 2000, but Mr. Nicklaus a competitor at that time - voiced an opinion something like 'They ought to blow up that green'. Thankfully that did not happen. It is a charming old-timey par three, mostly severely back-to-front sloped.12 back tee at over 600 yards. The USGA is using one tee up at about 550 for the women. Just another of Fazio's Orphan tees that technology has apparently mandated.As used by "top notch club players" - note divots and their orientation on a par 5 (driver) over 600 yards. I cannot understand this logic.Newest iteration of the bunkering of the Iconic Club's 18th played as number 15 for the USGA.

Two years and countless millions of dollars yielded the most perfect turf conditions the USGA could have wanted, but despite the infrastructure, it is not a course for the USGA Men's Open, in fact Trump's Old Course in nearby Bedminster, NJ, is notably better and more appropriate for the men. BTW, The juniors, boys and girls simultaneously are there next week. Anyone nearby get off your ass and go, it is FREE for god's sake! July 20-26, 2009, visit Trump for free. See me there, let me know when you are going.

Back to the ladies:
Over the weekend of the tournament, it became more and more clear that in no other tournament is it more important to "Not screw it up" than in the USGA Women's Open. Not about just doin' it, but not messing up. The 10th hole alone with conservative play would have on the weekend at 252 and 242 yards par 4 kept Paula Creamer with all the other mistakes that she might have made from winning. I was there in person on Sunday for her errors and it was really something considering how hard she fought not to let her thumb get to her to lose by that margin: Two pars on a 240-250 par 4 was all she needed. Christie Kerr just let it slip away with a case of the dwindles and to be honest, she should be steamed. (She really kicked the hell out of her bag on the 71st hole tee box as seen on Golf Channel.) She knew that that did her in for the last time. Until the 70th, she still had a chance.

One comment that I have to add as regards the women is the surprising number of entrants - 1200 or so tried to qualify for the arguably most prestigious women's golf tournament in the world (I happen to think that the R&A Open is more universal in recognition). Nearly 40 amateurs were in the field with many of them teenagers who will be competing in the USGA Junior Girls Tournament at Trump National in Bedminster, NJ, the week of July 20-25. At the same time, there were notable absences such as Michelle Wie, rightly or wrongly given exemptions in recent years and the ever-popular Natalie Gulbis (On premise Sunday for a Lexus Media event. I encourage the USGA to continue trying to get players into the field from all the aspects of elite women's golf, but more than the Top 10 from the LPGA Money List is the only area where I can quibble with them for their process this year. By merely expanding that to 25, I feel proper reward and merit will be meted out.

All in all the event ended with a bang after many whimpers with Ji a deserving champion. Kerr will be wondering for many a sleepless night the rest of her life over and over a few little errors that eventually wee devastating. All in all great spectacle.

The USGA and the LPGA so well represented in this event are truly the best value in spectator golf available to the fan today. Truly a wonderful family entertainment event, I wish the LPGA well in the next 18 months.

A few more photos to come.