Category Archives: tournaments

My Day With the LPGA

I went to the Amazingcre Portland Classic yesterday. It is the oldest continuous tournament on the LPGA circuit, having begun in 1972. These are my impressions.

First of all, these ladies are good. Really good. Remember the last time you went to the range and hit one really good shot, the best you can do?

I watched them warm up, and the shot they hit is better than your best shot and they hit it every time. That good.

It looks on TV like they all swing the same way, but from up close, and we got really close on the tees, they are all different. Some swing smoothly throughout. Some give it a little oomph just before impact, some just wind up and whack it. But you know? The oomphers and whackers are gals you haven’t heard of and likely never will–a word to the wise.

Nelly Korda. I watched her warm up. The rhythm, calmness, and grace of her swing was breathtaking. It is something that doesn’t show up on TV. You have to see it in person to understand it.

On a 546-yard hole, she waited for the green to clear before she hit her second. A woman next to me in the gallery had a laser range finder and measured Korda’s shot. Asked her, “What did you get?” and she said, “267”. Sure enough, Korda hit the ball just a few yards short of the green. She chipped on from about 60 feet to three feet and sank the putt for an easy birdie.

Overall she played very well from tee to green. Her approach shots left her with one makeable birdie putt after another, but they wouldn’t go in. One frustrated gallery member commented, “She should be 12 under by now!”

The problem is that the greens on this course look pretty flat, but they aren’t. I was watching lip-outs all day.

Coming down the 18th fairway, following the Georgia Hall group, there was a head cover lying the rough. I picked it up and found that came off one of her clubs. I gave it to her caddy, and while she was hitting, he gave me a ball from her bag!

In the morning, it was very quiet. Not many people had shown up yet. Often my buddy and I were the entire gallery.

We followed Anne van Dam for a while, because she hits it a ton. Then we followed Leona McGuire for a few holes, but she wasn’t having her best day and ended up missing the cut.

We also followed Christina Kim for a few holes. She has slimmed down, and isn’t really that big to begin with. She wasn’t doing her silly thing, but had a doing business face on the whole time and played well.

It used to be that we would see fairway, fairway, fairway off the tee, but these gals are hitting it so hard and so far now, that the misses are starting to show up. Still, lots of fairways get hit.

Slow play has been mentioned as a problem on the LPGA Tour, but I didn’t see any of that. Everyone was ready to play when it was their turn. One the green, they tended to take one look, stand up, and hit their putt. Of course, you can do some of your green-reading ahead of the time.

I only saw one player who was using the Aimpoint method, along with her caddy. She missed a ~20-footer about a foot to the left. Aimpoint is a gimmick, in my book.

One thing is clear above all. Like I said, everyone out there is really good. But a shot here and a shot there, just that much, is what separates the stars from the weekly grinders from the ones who just aren’t good enough.

Go see an LPGA tournament if there is one near where you live. Unlike the men’s game, the ladies’ game is similar enough to yours that you can understand it, and be inspired by it.

2021 U.S. Open – 4th Round

Winner: John Rahm (-6) by one stroke over Louis Oosthuizen

The fourth round of golf’s premier tournament looks like it will be the best one in years.

Thirteen golfers are close enough to win as the round starts. Five of them are previous major winners (Oosthuizen, McIlroy, DeChambeau, Johnson, and Morikawa) and two others (Rahm and Schauffele) are in the brink.

If I were one of the leaders at -5 (Hughes, Oosthuizen, and Henley) I would force everybody else to take chances to catch me by my shooting for the center of the green, playing for pars all day, and taking birdies when they come.

-7 wins.

Don’t miss this one.

U. S. Women’s Open – 2021

Winner: Yuka Saso in a three-hole playoff against Nasa Hataoka
Lexi Thompson was five over par on the back nine to miss the playoff by one shot.

The U.S. Women’s Open will be played at the Olympic Country Club this weekend. See my preview of the 2012 U.S. Open for course details. There is also a link to a hole-by-hole description of the course, by Ken Venturi, on that page.

You should see Sports Illustrated’s preview of the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic. The table-top models of its key holes are a work of art.

Here’s a fact sheet about the history of the course.

And this is the link to the USGA’s official site for the tournament.

Just to get ahead of the first two links, the course has doglegs on which the fairway slopes away from the bend, it has small, no, tiny greens, and there is the wind coming off of the ocean nearby.

And there is no first cut off the fairway. Off the fairway, you’re in the deep stuff, period.

The hardest part of the course comes early. Anybody who plays holes 2-5 in even par has stolen strokes from the field.

Here’s the take from LPGA veteran Angela Stanford.

Shooting par for the four days will be no mean feat.

You have to watch.

A Unique Masters

There were many things about this year’s Masters that made it unique. Start with it being played in November.

This Golf Digest article gives you 18 more reasons why this was a Masters to remember.

I will add, that without spectators, we got to see the entire course in a new way–where holes are in relation to each other, where tees are in relate to the preceding green, like we never have before and will never see again.

Unless you can angle an invitation to play there. Good luck.

2020 Masters Preview

Winner: Dustin Johnson by five shots over Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im .

Before a major championship, I introduce the tournament, who I think will win, put in a bit of history, and all that. Not this year.

This year the message is different. This year might be the beginning of the end of The Masters at Augusta.

I got this off Alex Miceli’s The Morning Read a few days ago:

“Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…According to Carl Paulson, co-host of “Inside the Ropes” on SiriusXm PGA Tour Radio, DeChambeau teed it up last week with Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters champion, and the reports from Lyle were ‘jaw-dropping.’

“Here’s a recap, per Paulson via Lyle, of what DeChambeau hit into some of the holes”

No. 1 (Par 4, 445 yards): Sand wedge
No. 2 (Par 5, 575 yards): 8-iron
No. 3 (Par 4, 350 yards): Flew the green with 3-wood off the tee
No. 8 (Par 5, 570 yards): 7-iron
No. 9 (Par 4, 460 yards): Sand wedge
No. 10 (Par 4, 495 yards): Pitching wedge
No. 11 (Par 4, 505 yards): 9-iron
No. 13 (Par 5, 510 yards): 7-iron (hit 3-wood off tee)
No. 15 (Par 5, 530 yards): 9-iron
No. 17 (Par 4, 440 yards): Sand wedge”

And here is what Miceli said on today’s TMR.

Six years ago I posted in this space that the distance the pros were starting to hit the ball could make Augusta obsolete in a few years. That time might have arrived.

Bryson dismantled Winged Foot. We’ll see if he does the same thing to Augusta, which was no rough to speak of.

And then, since there is only one course on which The Masters and be played, and in, say, five years it cannot stand up to just being run over, what then?

If this year is the beginning of the end of The Masters at Augusta, is it also the beginning of the end of The Masters?

U.S. Open Preview 2020

Winner: Bryon DeChambeau by six shots over Matthew Wolff.

This week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot in New York is just the tonic for this golfer. When I was a young golfer I imprinted on this tournament, sometimes called the National Open back then.

It was the greatest tournament in the world. “U.S. Open champion” was the greatest title to hold. The Masters was still a springtime novelty, the British Open hadn’t been discovered in this country, and the PGA was something of a head-scratcher.

Winged Foot is where Bobby Jones sank an impossible downhill breaking 12-foot putt in 1929 after having lost a commanding lead in the final round, to tie Al Espinosa and win the next day in a playoff. Jones said later that if he had missed he would have given up competitive golf. Today the members will challenge you to hit that putt. You can’t sink it.

Then there was the Massacre at Winged Foot, where the USGA got its revenge in 1974 for Johnny Miller shooting a 63 in the final round to win at Oakmont a year earlier. Hale Irwin won at seven over par.

It was the site of the most famous fonebone in recent U.S. Open history as Phil Mickelson had the trophy in his pocket on the 72nd tee and made a double bogey to lose by one to Geoff Ogilvie. Let’s not forget Colin Montgomery, who took four to get down from the fairway on the same hole also to lose by one.

Here are a few sites you might want to go to to get an idea of what the pros are up against this week. It ain’t pretty.

Official web site

Every hole at Winged Foot West

Seven important shots at Winged Foot

Playing the drivable par-4 sixth hole.

Bryson is going to bomb it.

Players comment on the course.

I think the course will produce a winner who follows what used to be U.S. Open formula–hit straight off the tee and putt the lights out. It should be fun to watch.

[Note: DeChambeau hit only 23 of 56 fairways, a U.S. Open records. So much for hitting straight off the tee.]

A Day With the LPGA

Yesterday I went to the Cambia Classic in Portland, a new sponsor for the longest-running non-major tournament in LPGA golf. Here are a few of my observations.

– It had been about a dozen years since I saw the women play. It is very different now. They hit the ball hard. 250 off the tee isn’t long. It’s not even the middle of the pack. It’s not your mother’s LPGA any more.

– Brooke Henderson is not very big. She takes the club back slowly, then WHAM going down. She’s the 9th longest driver on the Tour.

– I saw both Anne Van Dam and Angel Yin, the two longest hitters on the Tour, who both average over 280 yards off the tee. Ouch. Poor golf ball.

– Even Morgan Pressel, who topped out at 235 in her early days, now averages almost 260.

– They all pay very careful attention to their setup. They set up deliberately, precisely, and each follows her setup procedure the same way every time.

– Remember the suspension point? With the exception of a very few golfers who launch their lower body into the forward swing, EVERY player kept her suspension point still. EVERY player.

– Most of the players pick the ball cleanly off the ground. The sound is a gentle crack. Lexi Thompson, however, hit the ball hard and the ground hard. It was loud, and after a day of relatively quiet strikes, startling.

– Most, but not all, of the players started getting ready for a shot from the fairway while someone else was hitting so when it was their turn, they were ready. Only one player, Suzann Pettersen, did this on the putting green as well.

– They hold the club firmly, but gently. No choking the handle. Their hands look like they were made to hold a golf club.

– They have the pin positions scoped out, and they put the ball on the green on the spot where they want it. Would that we were that good, too.

– All that said, man, were they slow on the putting green. Real slow. I wasn’t impressed by their greenside chipping, either. I hate to be negative, but those things were true, too.

– You know what I liked most? It was quiet. I go to baseball games and football games. Lots of noise. The only sounds we heard all day were golf balls being hit and putts dropping. Otherwise, quiet. I like that.

It was a good day. It’s enjoyable to watch people play golf who are that good, shot after shot.

2019 Open Championship Preview

Winner: Shane Lowry by six strokes over Tommy Fleetwood.

The 148th Open Championship will be played this weekend at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. The tournament was last played there once before, in 1951, when England’s Max Faulkner won by two strokes over Argentina’s Antonio Cerdá.

This year the course will play at 7,344 yards to par 71. Graeme McDowell grew up in Portrush and played there hundreds of times. Rory McIlroy, at age 16, set the course record of 61, which has still not been equalled.

The photo shows the course, looking westward with the town behind it, and the sea behind that.

This Golf Digest article shows stills of all the holes. This course is different, believe me.

Hole-by-hole flyover videos are available at the official website.

It’s hard to pick out one hole over another for mention because they are all so good, and each one presents a unique challenge.

But we must mention the 16th hole, a par 3 playing at 236 yards into the prevailing wind, with the appropriate name of Calamity Corner. The green sits on a perch that slopes severely away on the right. The merest slice will be disastrous (photo). It’s no fun if you’re short and right, either.

Two new holes, which will play as the 7th and 8th, were created just for this championship to replace the traditional 17 and 18. They were considered somewhat lackluster, and are in a spot on the grounds better suited for the tent village that is a fixture at major championships anymore, so for that purpose will they be used.

Through a re-routing of the holes from the 7th onward, which I won’t go into, the round will finish with the traditional 15 and 16 serving as 17 and 18 for the Championship.

The course is by the sea, but only the 5th green and 6th tee come near it. The new 7th and 8th are out there, too, but not as near to the beach.

One thing that all holes save the 1st share: they curve. Only the 1st plays straightaway. In addition, if the rough is allowed to grow inward, the fairways will be very narrow.

Those two factors might convince golfers who have a hard time hitting their driver straight to retire it for the week. How about the bombers, though? Will they find a way?

There are few bunkers on the course, especially around the greens. They are guarded by hills, mounds, and hollows. Greens can be difficult to hold if approached from the wrong spot of the fairway.

It should be noted that during the Championship in 1951, only two golfers, not including Faulkner, broke 70.

What would a major championship be without controversy? This year it involves John Daly. Daly, because of osteoarthritis in his right knee, was allowed to use a cart at Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship, but the R&A has offered only their sympathy.

Daly’s request to use a cart at Royal Portrush was turned down, because the R&A felt that golf is a walking game, and besides, the course is not set up for, and does not have places for carts to be driven.

Who will win? I know who wants to win, and that is Rory McIlroy. His A game beats everybody else’s A game. Let’s see if winning the return of the OC to Ireland is sufficient motivation to bring it with him this week.

So get up early and watch golf played the way it should be played. Whatever you think of the other major championships, this one is the most fun to watch.

2019 U. S. Open Preview

Winner: Gary Woodland by three shots over Brooks Koepka.

The 119th United States Open will be played from June 13-16 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California. Defending champion Brooks Koepka will try to make it three in a row, last done, and only done, by Willie Anderson in 1903, ’04, and ’05.

Many people say that Pebble Beach is the quintessential U.S. Open venue. I am partial to Oakmont, but PB isn’t a bad choice.

It first hosted a national tournament in 1929 when the USGA held the U.S. Amateur there. East Coast opinion was that the USGA had lost touch with reality as the best courses were, naturally, in the metropolitan (New York) area.

Bobby Jones was the co-medalist in the seeding rounds, but lost in the opening round of the championship to Johnny Goodman, who would later become the last amateur to win the U.S. Open, in 1933. Goodman also won the U.S. amateur, in 1937.

Forty-three years later, the first U.S. Open was held there, the first of now six, the debut won by Jack Nicklaus on the wings of a 1-iron that hit the pin the 17th hole the final day for a kick-in birdie.

See the USGA’s hole-by-hole flyover of the course.

Part of my life in golf involves Pebble Beach. During WWII, my mother was in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii. One of her close friends there had a brother who became a physician in the Bay Area later on, a very successful one, and who had an apartment on the Monterey Peninsula a sand wedge away from the 18th green at PB. Maybe I should have said a VERY successful doctor.

It was in one of the white buildings behind the green in this picture, copied from the flyover video at 11:38.

In 1962, my family went to visit my mother’s friend and family, who were living in San Jose. While we were there, we took a trip to that apartment for a few days. I went out on the course and walked the front nine all the way to the eighth fairway. Believe me, you just don’t know how beautiful that little peninsula in the photograph below is until you have been there.

There are no significant upgrades to the course for this tournament. The last time, the USGA used mowing to shift the location of some of the fairways, most notably the 9th and 10 holes, two seaside par 4s. Wouldn’t you guess, they put the fairways closer to the ocean. But as some people say, you have the entire North American continent on the left, so there is no reason for you to go right.

(Click to enlarge)

It is said that Pebble Beach consists of eight memorable holes and ten holes that are, well, not so memorable. The ocean holes are indeed spectacular, especially the stretch from 6 to 8 (above).

Number 6 launches you uphill into what the weather is doing that day, with a splendid ocean view. No pictures or the television show you how big this hole really is. Number 7 is the shortest hole in major championship golf at 109 yards, but it can play anywhere from a flip wedge to a 5-iron, depending on the wind.

Number 8 rises uphill with a tee shot blind to the landing area, and then perhaps the finest second shot in all of golf—over a cove to a tiny green well below the surface you’re standing on.

Watch them putt on 16, a green that slopes noticeably from right to left. Players finding themselves with a long uphill putt seldom reach the pin. They just can’t bring themselves to hit the bill hard enough.

The course is quite short by modern standards at 7,072 yards. That means shorter, straighter hitters, such as Jordan Spieth, who is playing much better now, are in the hunt if the USGA finds a way to neutralize the uber-long game while not being stupid about it.

Traditionally, the U.S. Open has been a survival contest that favors the straight hitter who can keep his mind together for four rounds of golf on a course that punishes every mistake. That’s not what the tournament has been for a while, but it was the reason why the U.S. Open was once my favorite tournament. It can be again, with inspired leadership.

Who is going to win? Phil could. He plays well on this course. He had better play well, because this might be his last serious chance to add a first to his six seconds. One thing for sure, he won’t be wearing these pants.

But if I knew who was going to win, I would keep it a secret and head down to Vegas to put down a TON of money on a sure thing.

Since I don’t know, I’ll retreat to Ben Hogan’s advice to Nick Faldo on how to win the U.S. Open: “You shoot the lowest score.”* That’s who’s going to win.

The final round of the Open is on Father’s Day. If golf is part of his life, what better way to spend the day than watching the Open with him? I always did.

* Vasquez, Jody. Afternoons With Mr. Hogan.