Category Archives: tournaments

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.

Why I Won’t Be Rooting for Justin Rose Today

… or Brooks Koepka.

Earlier this year, the Saudi Arabian government sponsored a golf tournament on the heels of the vicious murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi.

When confronted with the Saudi crime, Justin Rose said, “I’m not qualified to speak on any other subjects, to be honest with you, on great detail or authority. I know people obviously have their opinions. It’s never straightforward.”

Actually, Justin, the brutal murder of a journalist is straightforward, especially to anyone who has a shred of human decency in their bones.

Koepka said, “People are always going to have different views on politics wherever you go. Hopefully, you can spread some goodwill through golf when you’re there.”

Or, to re-state having insert the facts, “People are always going to have different views on murdering, dismembering, and dissolving in a vat of acid the body of a journalist who writes articles critical of the Saudi regime wherever you go.”

Differing views on crimes against humanity. It’s all relative. If Koepka plays golf in Saudi Arabia he will spread goodwill and turn a toxic regime into hugs and bunnies.

Listen, guys, this is not politics. This is not about tax cuts or immigration bills or anything like that.

This is about cold-blood, pre-meditated murder that was sanctioned by Mohammed bin Salmann, the head of the Saudi state.

And you two guys didn’t get it, or at least couldn’t see around your seven-figure appearance fee.

Go, Gary Woodland.

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.

2019 PGA Championship Preview

Winner: Brooks Koepka by two shots over Dustin Johnson.

A major championship comes back to Bethpage Black in Long Island, New York. On May 16-19, the 101st PGA Championship will be contested on, what can I say, a ferocious golf course.

Official website.

I spent two days in 2010 walking around Oakmont. If you hit the ball straight and putt, you’ll do alright. I’ve seen the Pine Valley flyover on Youtube. Same thing. But Bethpage Black, that course scares me. Watch this.

The U.S. Open was played here in 2002, won by Tiger Woods by three strokes over Phil Mickelson. Woods was the only competitor to finish under par. In 2009, Lucas Glover on the Open by two over Mickelson, Ricky Barnes, and David Duval, in the most dramatic final round at the Open I have ever seen. Only those four and Ross Fisher finished under par.

The PGA likes birdies, though, and the rough will definitely not be U.S. Open style. I’m guessing the winning score will be -10.

Read this fascinating article about why The PGA at Bethpage will be different from a U.S. Open at Bethpage.

(Click to enlarge)

Moving the PGA to May was a stroke of, well, not genius, but of common sense. It was once a highly respected major championship, and can return to that status by being in the middle of the majors crunch instead of on the tail end. Playing it at the finest courses will help, too.

Patrick Reed has commented that this course challenges every club in the bag. I believe him. The winner will be determined by who makes the fewest big mistakes.

One thing everybody is hoping for is that Phil doesn’t wear these pants again. (Who dresses him???)

2018 PGA Championship Preview

Winner: Brooks Koepka by two shots over Tiger Woods.

The 100th PGA Championship will be played this coming weekend at the Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo.  Missouri.  August.  Maybe the best reason why the PGA is being moved to May beginning next year.

Bellerive has hosted a major championship only two times before.  In 1965 Gary Player won the U.S. Open to become the 3rd player to win the career slam, following Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan.  In 1992, Nick Price won the first PGA played here.

Official website.

The 7,329-yard par-70 course is built around a creek that winds through the grounds.  Water comes into play on eleven holes.  The championship course normally plays at 7,547 yards par 71, but 54 yards were shaved off the par-5 4th hole, turning it into a 521-yard par 4.

The 10th green is shown below.


The PGA lacks an obvious identity the other major championships possess.  The Masters has a fine course everyone recognizes.  The U.S. Open takes a difficult course and turns it into an impossible one.  The Open Championship takes a fine course and lets it stand on its own, which it never fails to do.

But the PGA? Its identity is subtle.  It has the finest field of the four majors, club pros notwithstanding.  Winning it is difficult because there are so many players in the field who are capable of winning.

So who are my picks?  Justin Thomas can repeat.  Tommy Fleetwood is due.  Xander Schauffele plays well in majors.  Jordan Spieth needs this one to win the career slam.  Dustin Johnson hasn’t gone away.

What this tournament means to me is this.  Starting next year, golf ends in July with the Open Championship.  I’ll just take a break from sports for a few weeks afterward nd then get ready for college football without my attention being divided.

2018 Open Championship Preview

Winner: Francesco Molinari by two shots over Kisner, McIlroy, Rose, and Schauffele.

The USGA takes difficult golf courses and makes them even harder for the U.S. Open.  And you know how that’s working out.

The R&A takes difficult golf courses and leaves them alone.  Welcome to the Open Championship, which this year is being played at Carnoustie, one of the hardest golf courses in the world.  See the Open Championship website, click on Spectators/Course Guide, for a hole-by-hole description of the course.

(Click to enlarge)

This amateur course guide features photographs. Not all the holes are reviewed, but the photos give you an outstanding look at the course and make you wish you could try your hand at it.

By the way, the name of the course is Car-NOOSE-tee.  Car-NASTY was clever the first three million times we heard it, but has become as tired as “Get in the hole!” or “You da man!”  Please don’t say it that way.

The fairways are baked out and hard.  Some players have said the fairways are faster than the greens. During a practice round, Padraig Herrington drove into Barry Burn (creek) fronting the 18th green, which is well over 400 yards from the tee.  Were it not for the burn, the 499-yard par 4 would be drivable for more than a handful of contestants.

That means players have to decide how much roll-out they are willing to have lest the ball rolls into places it shouldn’t go.  For example, Jockie’s Burn fronts the 3rd green on a 350-yard par 4, and can easily be driven into even on a layup.  And the fairways are not flat. A ball catching s slope can roll out 20 to 40 yards farther than planned.

Might it be that length off that tee will not be a factor this year, because course conditions mean everybody has it?  If so, players who control the ball off the tee wisely should have lots of short irons and wedges into the greens.  If the weather is benign for four days, the winner should have a very low score.

But let’s not leave out mention of the wind.  The course does not lie on the ocean, but the sea is only a 5-iron away.

Carnoustie will be brutally hard this week, and no one can blame the setup.  It’s all Nature’s doing and that’s the way golf should be.

Notable holes include the 248-yard par-3 16th hole (see photo).  You think the 12th at Augusta is hard?  Try this one on for size.  The green is domed, which can throw errant shots off to the side.  The green is also long and narrow, making it a difficult target.  The hole often plays into the wind, making a back pin difficult to get to.  The 16th gave up the second-fewest number of birdies the last time the OC was played here, in 2007.

Another hole to pay attention is the 580-yard par-5 6th.  This is the famous Hogan’s Alley hole.  In 1953, Hogan chose the line between the bunkers and the out of bounds stakes on the left–a narrow target, but the best line for a clear shot into the green.

One of the courses quirks announces itself at the very start.  The green for the first hole is not visible from the tee, and not even from some parts of the fairway.  A tall pole marks its direction.

Players complained last month about Shinnecock Hills being different in the morning and afternoon on Saturday’s third round.  It is not unusual in the OC for a storm to wipe out the chances of groups playing in the morning, with clear, calm weather prevailing in the afternoon.  Or vice versa.  That’s one of the things I like about this tournament.

Get up early and watch golf played in a way like no other tournament requires. Whatever you think of the other major championships, this one is the most fun to watch.

2018 U. S. Open Preview

Winner: Brooks Koepka by one shot over Tommy Fleetwood.

This week the USGA will host the 68th U.S. Open that I have not played in (but I can say my name is on the trophy four times) at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.   This is the Number 1 tournament of the year and I can’t wait for it to start.

There are golf courses and there are U.S. Open courses, and Shinnecock Hills is one of the latter.  Though there aren’t really many hills to speak of on it.  But it does have wind.

Sited next to Long Island Sound, the wind will be a factor if blows, and every hole will be affected differently.  If all the holes were lifted and set down with the tees on top of each other like the hub of a wheel, every hole would be a spoke reaching out in a different direction.


In the wind, expect par to be a very good score.  If it is calm, low scores will abound.  The prevailing direction can be seen in the photograph as a line connecting the word Range and the number 14. (Click to enlarge)

Get a close look at all the holes at the U.S. Open web site.  You’ll easily see for yourself where things can go wrong.  

The par 3s are considered to be the best collection at any major championship site.  There are several short par 4s, but they play into the wind and the safe landing zone is not generous if a player wishes to take on the hole with one shot.

The course looks like it will be a throwback Open course.  Though it’s long, 7,445 yards, the big hitters had better be straight because the fairway is very narrow when the long drives land.  But then, the tee shot is the key to scoring here.  A short, straight hitter has a very good chance at winning.

Shinnecock Hills is one of the oldest course in the country, built in 1890 and hosted the 1896 U.S. Open.  At 4,423 yards and so little of a challenge, many players shot scores below 80.  A redesign in 1931 by Dick Wilson brought the course up the level it’s at today.

For some reason, the traditional 1st and 2nd round pairing of the reigning U.S. Open, British Open, and U.S. Amateur champions will not be featured.  They usually have quirky pairings, but I can’t find any references.  If I do, I’ll update this post later in the week.

Enjoy it.  This is the finest golf tournament on a real U.S. Open course.  Who do I pick to win?  Phil, of course.  I’ll pick him until he gives up trying.