You can clamor all you want about Tiger Woods winning five tournaments this year, (three of them early, limited field events and one – Sawgrass – besmirched with an ugly asterisk for a highly questionable drop), but Adam Scott had by far and away the best year of any golfer.
A. Scott won the Masters. Woods wasn’t competitive in a single major except the first two days of the Masters where he was almost disqualified for – you guessed it – an improper drop). Indeed, Scott outplayed Woods at every other major this year.
B. Scott won a FedEx Cup event. Woods flushed a gargantuan lead – and the 10 million bucks – by foundering in the nether-reaches of the leaderboard for a month, often finishing before the leaders reed off.
C. Scott won the Grand Slam of golf. Tiger didn’t even qualify.
D. Scott nearly won the entire triple crown of Australian golf, taking to events and leading the third late before bowing to eventual winner Rory McIlroy.
In the biggest moments of the year, Scott was there, Woods wasn’t. He was too busy deflecting criticism for rules disputes, threatening a journalist for his published opinion, and showboating with Lindsay Vonn while also wagging his finger and demanding we respect his privacy. It’s not even close. Tiger was good from Jan to May…Scott was truly great from April to December. Game, set, match, Scott.
2012 Rory McIlroy
2011 Webb Simpson
2010 Graeme McDowell
2009 Geoff Ogilvy
2008 Padraig Harrington
2007 Zach Johnson
What a clutch comeback for Ernesto the Prediction Iguana! He takes a two week vacation and the cats go .500. He comes back – BOOM! ROASTED! A perfect 4-0 overall and 2-0 in teasers, bringing the season totals to 54-15-1, 22-12-1
RAVENS EVEN vs. vikings
BRONCOS -5.5 vs. titans
The surging Ravens straight up against a limpid ViQueens team? At home? Sign me up! The Broncos have to much firepower for the hit-and-miss Titans.
BRONCOS-titans OVER 42.5
PATRIOTS -4.5 vs. browns
The scoreboard’s gonna look like a Lite Brite in Denver…and on the Pats side of the board in Foxboro…
SAINTS-panthers OVER 39
CHARGERS-giants OVER 39
Since silly season is upon us, it’s time to turn our attention to the yearly Jay’s Golf Awards, known around here as the Jazzys. We’ll recall all the best and worst of the year while mixing in some new course reviews, Cybergolf pieces, and various holiday bric-a-brac before kicking off the new year with Phish at MSG. We’ll highlighting Best Modern Courses, Best Classic Courses, what great architects are doing, some great writing, and some terrible gaffes as well.
Of course, we kick off the awards the day after Thanksgiving with the Dry Stringy Turkey Award to the Turkey of the Year, in conjunction with our wingman Tony Korologos of the Golf Space, who’ll do his annual Top 10 roundup).
For the third time in five years, Tiger Woods wins the booby prize.
No, Tiger, not those kind of boobies, but thanks for playing…
As I was saying – before our resident horn dog starts treating women like a buffet table again – Tiger pulled a disappearing act worthy of David Blaine this year…when the big moments came, he vanished form the leaderboard faster than you could say Jack Rabbit Slim. Sure, he won five tournaments… but A) he didn’t win a major; B) he was nowhere near contention at three of the four majors – already gone from the course before the leaders teed off; C) He blew a gargantuan FedEx Cup lead and fizzled the last four weeks of the “Playoffs”; D) he was involved in four separate rules flaps that raised a reasonable question as to whether he was intentionally breaking the rules without taking the same penalty other golfers would face; and E) he ruthlessly, crassly, and hypocritically bullied poor Brandel Chamblee.
However, Woods couldn’t disappear from either the cameras or the headlines…and few of the headlines were good. Sure he won five tournaments – four of them early in the year and none in the clutch. Even his win at Sawgrass earns two asterisks: one for the ludicrously bad drop on the 14th hole and another for his bru-ha-ha with Sergio Garcia. Of course many in the media golf media are not only giving Teflon Tiger a free pass because he used to be the straw that stirred the drink, but more because they are preconditioned, afraid of change, and slaves to casual eyeballs/website visits.
…and some people want to give that man the Player of the Year award? I smell a one-sided bromance! To quote R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket fame, Woods wouldn’t even give you the courtesy of a reach-around.
No, while too many in the golf media/broadcasters booth are playing ostrich and burying their heads and credibility in the sand with the same “See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no Evil, Turn their back on the flat-out truth” behavior they exhibited before the sordid sex scandal that showed the rest of the world what a louse Woods really is, investigative journalists are still sifting through the ashes of Woods’s past to remind us about the perils of repeating our mistakes. Here’s Steve Czaban:
“Of course, Tiger isn’t a cheater. Nah. The two dozen skanky mistresses were the result of his “sex addiction.” The association with known PED-quack Anthony Galea was pure coincidence.
The four “incidents” this season were only because Tiger is the subject of unfair TV camera scrutiny and a bunch of nosy armchair rules officials at home….Got it….Don’t blow it. Not for this guy. Not with his track record. It’ll be the worst decision you’ve ever made.”
Then there’s the NY Post’s Maureen Callahan, who reminds us all about what happened exactly what she says happened that night four years ago right now – everything from the fake Tiger outside the Mississippi sex addiction clinic to the bimbos, the lies, the flaming lie about Elin “rescuing” Tiger from the car with the golf club she allegedly creamed him with…on and on and on in loving detail.
And people still want this guy to win? Still think he’s the face of golf? Deserving of more chances? Could possibly be telling the truth about not realizing he was breaking the rules of golf four times? Even though he’s played the game since before he was two years old? Fool us once shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us…
And then he tries to threaten to sue Chamblee for having the stones to tell what Chamblee considered his opinion based on the incontrovertible video evidence? Sorry, Tiger…Fox Sports, ESPN, and panderers and enablers everywhere…the video does not lie, the video does not care, and the video does not spin. In my opinion, Tiger was caught with his pants down again, metaphorically, but just as despicably. We discussed the four alleged cheating flaps in detail here.
So the next time some broadcaster is waxing beatifically about Woods, engaging in vomit-inducing hagiographic hero worship, (and D.H. we are looking straight at you…), just remember this…
I know it’s Thanksgiving…but pardon this turkey? What for? He’ll just strut, gobble, and preen all over again, without earning it, of course.
P.S. Tune into Tony Korologos over at Hooked on Golf for his top 10 turkeys of the year!
2012 Lance Armstrong
2011 – Steve Williams
2010 – Tiger Woods
2009 – Tiger Woods
2008 – ESPN/NFL
2007 – Tom Farrey, ESPN
2006 – Turning Stone Casino
[Editor's Note: Happy Thanksgiving! We begin our yearly Jazzy Awards on Friday. (Three guesses who gets Sports Turkey of the Year Award and the first two don't count! Hint: He's a multiple Turkey award winner already!) One of the winners will be Casa de Campo's tremendous Dye Fore, (Marina-Chavon nines), so to set the table for that, let's take a look first at the 27 private holes on property - the excellent La Romana Country Club.]
LA ROMANA COUNTRY CLUB
Begun in 1986, La Romana is a bridge between Pete Dye’s early work from the late ’60s and ’70s and his modern courses from the ’90s forward. It has many of the playing angles and shot requirements as Teeth of the Dog: length, precision, and careful planning and placement of your drive. It also has smaller-sized greens, (read: not oversized), where one side dramatically slopes off into bunkers, (of which there are 126!), or grassy hollows well below the level of the green, while the other side is more playable. While it lacks the more severe penalties at Teeth for those who spray off the tee, (fairways are wide enough to hit driver on every hole), strokes can bleed away quickly and the round can get out of hand in a matter of moments: one bad swing, one poor decision, one bad break and – BOOM! – there go four-to-six shots, (yet not one of them unfairly).
Again Dye employs the line of charm to keep the golfer honest – the direct line to the hole is perilous, if not impossible, and you must pick the correct angle off the tee to have the optimum angle into the green. The greens have lots of internal contours, the fairways have excellent strategic angles, and the terrain moves up and down constantly – great movement in the earth both horizontally and vertically.
It’s thinking man’s golf all day, relentless in its requirement that you carefully plan your shot and then execute, a good, fair, interesting, tough test of golf. Set over 144 acres, it’s a tough walk, with some longer distances between tees and greens and some hills to traverse, but it’s certainly walkable. Though it’s the least scenic of the Casa courses, (the New nine has prettier and more expansive views), nevertheless La Romana grows on you as the round progresses.
“It’s a member’s course, but a member’s course for good golfers,” said sprightly septuagenarian Marion Demko, a frequent member of Alice Dye’s regular foursome.
“It is a member’s course, so it shouldn’t beat you up too badly,” agreed Pete Dye, “but I put in several huge grass bunkers in bail out areas to keep guys honest. There’s a big one right on eight for example.”
Dye is right about both assertions. First, La Romana is an excellent players club, meaning many great golfers belong there, much like Winged Foot or Garden City or Quail Ridge in Palm Beach area of South Florida. Excellent players and a commitment to both amateur golf and playing competitively are a part of the club culture. Second, those closely mown grass bunkers are a benefit – you have more options to choose from than just your lob or sand wedge.
The opening holes of La Romana are particularly good and set the tone for the entire day. No fountains, no lakes, no waterfalls, no railroad ties, no island greens: nothing too fancy, just great golf shots required. On the opening hole, much like the other courses at Casa, if the golfer follows the Rule of Thirds off the tee, it will serve him well, keeping him away from the most dangerous hazards and providing a reasonable angle to the flag. In this case, the plateau fairway angles sharply around a deep rough filled depression that guards the entire length of the hole, leading up to a small, two-tiered green.
After driving from a tee box set next to a home with a regulation size soccer net (or is it “futbol” net?) in the back yard to a fairway severely sloped from left to right, one approaches one of the best green complexes in the entire Dominican Republic. While it’s not a true false front, a severe roll off to the front and right will leave golfers a long and extremely difficult pitch back to the green from sod-faced greenside bunkers set deeply below the level of the green, a staple design tenet right out of Macdonald, Raynor, and Banks’s architectural repertoire.
“Three may be the strongest par-3 we have here,” notes Casa de Campo Director of Instruction Eric Lillebridge, and he may be correct. At 210 for mortals, a bloated 252 for experts, it’s all carry over a bunker and valley to a long, deep green designed to accept a fairway wood. The two tiered green actually rolls somewhat away from the player, making the tee shot even harder.
The rest of the front nine is equally strong. After an interesting par-5 which wanders around some steeply faced fairway bunkers, two of the best greens on the course appear at five and six. The green at five is two-tiered and features a long hump that rolls all across its horizontal axis, the front half rolls towards you, the back half rolls away.
The par-4 seventh takes the player to a completely different portion of the property, cutting through some homes, indeed playing to a green set nearly in someone’s yard, but it is an idyllic scene, not too unlike the warmth and charm of other neighborhood courses such as Rockaway Hunting Club. With the green set in its own little dell, the hole works quite well. The par-3 eighth is also strong, setting up in the shape of a reverse Redan, but without the green running away from the player. Don’t be short and right since the pitch back to the green is not only steeply uphill, but the green is shallow from that angle.
Nine is the only head-scratcher on the golf course. Highly unusual for Dye, the hole not only plays straightaway, but sharply uphill. A lake guards the back of the green, as well as particularly long rough.
Like Sawgrass, 14 and 15 form the backbone of the inward nine. Possibly the best hole on the course and the best short par-4 at the entire complex, the fourteenth is a true Knoll holl, where the green is obscured on the right side by a tall mound. The green is also crowned, set below fairway level, and surrounded by bunkers, so the approach shot is petrifying even with a wedge in your hands, and recovery from any of the deep bunkers surrounding the green is a sandie worth remembering for your entire golf career. 15 features a false side, (as opposed to a false front), with deep, sod-faced, Raynor-esque bunkers set well below level of green. 18 is a great finisher, if a little different form the rest of the course. A short par-5 with water guarding the entire right side, it’s a great chance to end the day with a birdie.
LA ROMANA (NEW 9)
While completely different from the original 18, the New 9 at La Romana is wonderful. Dye explores themes he continues at the Lakes 9 at Dye Fore: enormous width, (sometimes upwards of 80-90 yards with no rough!), pot bunkers peppered everywhere, and wall-to-wall paspalum over a vast 91 acre plot just to the east of the original 18 holes. It’s long – stretching back to a brutal 3,900 yards if necessary, with a solid amount of fairway undulation and a total of 69 (seemingly) randomly placed bunkers, which dot a verdant landscape lined with palm trees, sugar fields, native grasses, quaint homes.
The first hole is the prettiest at La Romana, with a gorgeous picture window view of the sea off in the distance. The fairway is saddled to help keep errant drives in play. The second fairway not only bends hard right, curving like a scimitar, it also tilts severely left to right. Again the “Rule of thirds” is in play again off the tee as the right third of the fairway dives off into a bunker set well below fairway level. A similar challenge appears at four, where the left of the fairway and the front of the green are level, but the right side plummets into a deep depression. The green contains a false side, a fold in the left middle portion, and a hump on the right portion of the green.
Indeed, the greens are all scintillating at the New 9, each featuring either folds in the green, (again at five), or crowns, rolls offs, and false fronts, (at six).
“It looks easy, but can play hard if you hit it in the wrong place,” explained Demko.
Also like La Romana’s original 18, the only strange hole is nine. This time, Dye gives us a par-3 with a 95 yard long runway teebox
Doak called lining a golfer up at a hazard off the a “dirty trick,” and vowed never to employ such a feature. To my knowledge, Dye’s never done this before and hasn’t since, so it proves he’s good at distingui9shing the wheat from the chaff…or perhaps he was in a puckish mood and wanted to have a little joke on us. After all, he’s allowed one…
Hey everybody, Ernesto is back from his two-week vacation. Thank good news too, because the cats went just over .500 in their replacement gig. Last week in particular, Jazz went 3-1, but only 1-1 in teasers, bringing the season totals to 50-15-1 overall, 20-12-1 in teasers. But hey! A perfect score this week and we go over 2/3rds in teasers on the season.
steelers-RAVENS OVER 33
raiders-COWBOYS OVER 39
Ordinarily you take the under with the Steelers and Ravens, especially against each other, but there have been some OVERS in the series of late. 33 is still a really low number as you draw with a 17-16 game. The Raiders and Cowboys don’t have defenses, so that 39 is a bargain.
patriots -1 at TEXANS
bears +3.5 at VIKINGS
As we go to press, the Pats and playing Patsies to Peyton Manning. They’ll be licking their chops to lay a pasting on the toothless Texans. The Bears should win outright.
Tough week last week as guest prognosticator Navi the Cat went 3-3 overall, 1-2 in teasers. But the season totals are still a solid 19-11-1 in teasers, 47-14-1 overall. Go figure Vol. 1: The Steelers bench Ike Taylor, (who’d you think is St. Ike to the folks in Pittsburgh), gets benched and Megatron doesn’t catch a pass in the second half. Go figure Vol. 2: Geno Smith can beat the Saints and Patriots, but can’t beat the Titans or the Bills. Anyway…
So this week, while Ernesto the Iguana enjoys his second full week of vacation, Jazz the Cat will take time off from his pool game to make this week’s picks.
steelers +8.5 at BROWNS
steelers-BROWNS OVER 35
cowboys-GIANTS OVER 39.5
CHIEFS +1.5 vs chargers
Already one of the best golf values in the country…let alone overpriced New York City…Tallgrass has announced their super-cool winter rates. From the press release:
“Tallgrass Golf Course, named one of the top-10 “Best Courses You Can Play” in the state of New York announces winter rates now in effect until March 14, 2014:
Weekday rates $40 (walking) and $50 (riding) until 12:00 p.m.
Weekend winter rates $50 (walking) $60 (riding) before 12:00 p.m. Afternoon and nine-hole rates are also available. There is also a “Football” Special promotion: after 11:00 a.m. on Sundays during the football season, play 18 holes of golf for only $45 (includes cart).”
We here at AWITP played last Sunday in perfect conditions – sunny, warm, but windy – exactly the way links golf was meant to be enjoyed. The turf played fast and firm, and the green rolled as true as a parquet floor.
“The course was in phenomenal shape, and with the wind whipping and howling through the property we really had a great time. Standing atop that 15th tee box overlooking the valley floor below and sending a tee shot into the teeth of that and watching it fly 350 yards took our breath away. And seeing the fescue wave in the wind as we played in the vale of the 11th hole was amazing – it was like being in the heathlands of England,” said AWITP correspondent Rodney Zilla, a regular at Tallgrass. “We love it here – it’s so old school, and it’s really convenient to NYC!”
Indeed, for golf-savvy New Yorkers, there are only three public golf options of any note: Tallgrass, Bethpage Black, and the Knoll Club…everything else is overpriced, under-designed, or both. Gil Hanse, designer of the Rio Olympics course said he took design ideas for golf holes at Tallgrass from National Golf Links of America, Garden City Golf Club, and Pine Valley – that’s pretty good company. And at 50 bucks a round, that’s champagne quality at beer prices. They’ll be open al winter, so no need to freeze at Chelsea Piers!
Another perfect week last week – 3-0 in teasers, 6-0 overall – puts us at a season high 18-9-1 in teasers, 44-11-1 overall as we start our new gig as a sports correspondent for the Daily Caller. (First article later today!) That’s right, I’m with my boy Tucker Carlson! Go Trinity Bantams!
Here’s this week’s winners before they happen…and we have a special guest picking them this week! Meet Navi the Russian Blue Cat! She’s filling in for Ernesto the Prediction Iguana while he takes a vacation to Casa de Campo, so enjoy cashing in this week’s winnings!
ravens-BEARS UNDER 52.5
SEAHAWKS -5.5 vs. vikings
They ought to call them the Vi-Queens, they play so badly. They’re going to gt smushed like purple floppy grapes in the 2nd loudest stadium on earth. The Ravens and Bears defenses will show up like they have been lately.
BRONCOS -2.5 vs. chiefs
chargers-DOLPHINS OVER 38.5
The Broncos are just too good. The only thing that can stop Peyton manning is snow. Great run, though, Chiefs. Two good offenses and two mezza-mezza defenses meet in Miami.
YOU’RE PICKING THEM???!!! AS ROAD TEAMS???!!!
jets +8.5 at BILLS
lions +3.5 at STEELERS
Navi may regret that Steeler pick, but the Lions have a nearly unstoppable passing offense and the Steelers D, up and down all year, is particularly bad at stopping the pass. That’s too many points to give a decent Jets team against a cruddy Bills squad.
Congratulations to you Page, Mike, and Fish on another stellar Fall tour and, in particular, on another excellent Halloween show. You guys totally killed it! It was both fun and interesting to see you perform so many new songs on such a special occasion. Here’s my best wishes to the four of you that the new album is a tremendous success, and I look forward to seeing you over the New Years run, where I know you’ll once again send MSG into orbit. And, hey! – How great would it be to one day see Phish supplant either Elton John or Billy Joel with a banner in the rafters for most MSG shows?!
As you remember, besides being an Entertainment/IP/Sports lawyer here in the City, I’m also a sports writer who has covered nine U.S. Opens, eight PGAs, and the Masters. So I couldn’t help but take note of the lyric in your song “Wingsuit” that, “You’ll never win a major only shooting par.” With great respect to someone whose music has been an enormous part my life for the last 27 years, (yes, I go back that far!), and from one sports fan to another, please allow me to share some fascinating sports history with you: Golfers frequently win majors shooting par…or worse!
Before I begin, please don’t mistake this for “correcting you” – I wouldn’t presume. I know your lyric is a metaphor, I get that. Still, I love telling sports stories and I know how much of a sports fan you are. Look at this more as me sharing some great sports stories with my friend who has told me so many great musical stories over the years.
I know what a great sports fan you are, (and even a former athlete – some of my closest friends played lacrosse with you at Taft at the same time I was at Deerfield…). After all, you once praised “Cam Neely! Kicking the Penguins ass!” in 1991, (although that didn’t turn out too well…), and your devilish little “Duke 72…Arkansas 76!” from the Flynn Theatre show brought the house down. You even referenced the U.S. Open back in 2009 when you were on Long Island, and of course the golf gag last New Years was off the charts. So as a sports fan, enjoy this little walk through history for the journey.
It’s quite common for golfers to win the U.S. Open with scores of even par or higher. The Open brands itself as “Golf’s Toughest Test,” and the U.S.G.A. likes to call it a “Final Examination” in golf. They actually try to make the winning score approach Even par, though they deny that to their graves in public. They sometimes even “trick up” the golf course with ankle-high rough, supermodel thin fairways, and gargantuan length in order to suppress scoring. For decades the mantra has been that 280 wins the Open – meaning an aggregate of 280 strokes over the four days, even par over a par 70 golf course. Sometime courses that are normally a par 72 or 71 are actually lowered to a par of 70 so that the “score to par” will be closer to Even.
Just last year, for example, Justin Rose came from three shots back on the final day to beat Phil Mickelson at Merion Golf Club to win the Open. His winning score was 1-over, (281). The year before Webb Simpson shot the exact same score to win the U.S. Open at Olympic Club’s Lake Course, although he had a lot of help from Jim Furyk, who threw up on his shoes all day. He wears a hat advertising “5 Hour Energy” but watching that was more like 5 Hour Agony…
Although Rory McIlroy shattered every major U.S. Open scoring record in 2011 with his 16-under (268 aggregate) dismemberment of Congressional Country Club, (and because of that Congressional may never get another U.S. Open…it’s just too easy), the year before saw Graeme McDowell win at Pebble Beach with an Even par score. So that’s three times in the last four years that par or worse took home the trophy. In fact, scores as high as 5-over won twice recently, Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot in 2006 followed by Angel Cabrera at Oakmont the next year.
Experts point to several historic milestones in U.S. Open history as to when and why this “Harder is better” mentality took over the U.S. Open. Some say it was Ben Hogan romping to victory at Riviera in 1948 with an 8-under score that led the U.S.G.A. to toughen up the tournament. By illustration, Hogan won again in 1950 and 1951 with a score of +7 each time (287): once at Merion when he returned from his near-fatal car crash, hobbling to victory on all but shattered knees, and then again at Oakland Hills over a golf course so tricked up with rough that one writer called it “the toughest course ever designed by man, ghoul, or Robert Trent Jones.”
After that, over par scores won the Open every year from 1954-1959, and continued to win after that at about a 50% clip until we get to 1973. That is the other watershed year/defining moment for the U.S. Open being “Golf’s Toughest Test.” That year, at previously (and thereafter) unconquerable Oakmont, Johnny Miller shot a final round 63 to close and stole the tournament with the greatest final round ever seen at a U.S. Open. His winning score was 5-under, but it was that 63 that stuck in the U.S.G.A’s craw…so badly that next year’s tournament became known as the “Massacre at Winged Foot.” They made the course so hard, Hale Irwin won with a 7-over 287. The next best score was 9-over and some golfers finished with scores of 30-over or more. It was a bloodletting worthy of a horror movie franchise.
Now the U.S.G.A. really didn’t have to go all Freddy Kruger on the field in response to Miller’s 63, there was a reasonable explanation for it. The course had been flooded by rain for the entire week. Golfers had been playing lawn darts all week. They could fire at the pins with impunity. It was Soakmont, not Oakmont, the course was defenseless. The only reason why we “ooh and ahh” over Miller’s 63 is because it happened on a Sunday where he came from behind to win. Frankly, everyone is sort of getting sick of it because Johnny Miller never shuts the hell up about it. Nevertheless, measures had to be taken to protect the imprimatur of the tournament as being the hardest test of the year. So when the Open rolled around next June, the only thing missing from Winged Foot was fire breathing dragons guarding the flagsticks, and believe me, if the U.S.G.A. could have gotten away with that, they’d have tried it.
When we talk about the Masters or the British Open, your lyric is much closer to the mark. Since World War II, the British Open has been won with a score of even par or worse exactly six times. More recently, Padraig Harrington won his second consecutive Claret Jug in 2008 at Royal Birkdale with a score of 3-over, but that tournament was plagued with freezing rain for its first three days. Though golfers are well-used to the sometimes shockingly cold, rainy weather that can hit England or Scotland even in July, they called it among the worst conditions they’d ever had to play golf in.
“It was as bad as Muirfield in 2002…I wouldn’t leave my ex-wife out in this,” quipped one pro.
It happened again in 1999 at Carnoustie in Northern Scotland, when an unknown named Paul Lawrie won with 6-over, defeating another unknown named Jean van de Velde. You might remember Van de Velde as the guy who tripled bogeyed the 72nd hole, blowing a three-shot lead. The pictures of him with his shoes and socks off and pants rolled up as he stands in Barry Burn looking at his golf ball are some of the most surreal in golf. That tournament also was a bit of a statistical outlier, though. Carnoustie wasn’t a golf course that year, it was an obstacle course, choked with rough, stretched to an ungodly length, and with fairways so criminally narrow, you had to walk down them single file.
Similarly, in its entire history (since 1934) the Masters has only seen four winners with scores of even par or worse. While it happened three times in twelve years – Sam Snead in 1954, Jackie Burke in 1956, and Jack Nicklaus in 1966 – the only other time was when Zach Johnson won in 2007 with a score of 2-over 290. That, again, was a tournament plagued by freezing weather, possibly the worst in Masters history, ever since the first Masters where golfers were huddled in tents eating cold chicken and distilled moonshine. The book on Masters weather is, “one day rain, one day cold, one day wind, one nice day,” but all four days in 2007 saw everyone head-to-toe in fleece, turtlenecks, sweaters, and jackets. They looked like Phish fans going to a December Albany show
All right, they were a little better dressed than that…but you get the idea.
I was actually surprised how many PGA Championships have had winning score over par because that’s usually the easiest major to win. The courses chosen tend to be mildly easier than the crucibles of the U.S. Open, and the American parkland style of golf is more accessible to most Tour players than the links courses of the U.K. But five times between 1960 and 1976 scores of +1 or Even par took home the Wanamaker trophy. It came close to happening twice in recent memory. In 2008, the PGA of America set up Oakland Hills so hard, balls wouldn’t hold fairways sand greens and everyone was over par after only two days. Thankfully, a storm out of the pages of the book of the Apocalypse soaked Michigan and turned Oakland Hills back into a golf course instead of a torture chamber. The boys could start flying at the flags and good players started to make a move. As a result, we got a historic finish. Playing 33 holes on Sunday, Padraig Harrington ending up winning back to back majors after a brilliant 66-66 to finish at 3-under. (He started the day 5-over!)
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the stories. As for your lyric, it’s a metaphor, I know, I get it…poetic license and all that. Let’s discuss it on the golf course some time, either playing or watching the pros at a major. The PGA Championship returns to the NYC area in 2016 when they play Baltusrol, a course which got its name after the farmer who was murdered there! (Baltus Roll, for those of you scoring at home…). And any time you’d like to play with me at some fabled ancient stronghold of American golf history, you just say the word and I’ll make it happen. Until then, I’ll be looking forward to New Years!
All the best,
P.S. Since I have the floor, pretty please, with sugar on top, bring back Forbin’s->Mockingbird. Incidentally, if you see someone wearing a Pittsburgh Pengiuns hockey jersey with “Forbin” and number 98 on the back, that’ll be me. I’ve worn it to a few shows off and on since you guys came back hoping to get lucky and see it, but so far I haven’t hit paydirt. The “98″ by the way is a tribute to one of my other favorite songs, Genesis’ “Supper’s Ready,” a song you guys would absolutely kill! (Page would also rock “Firth of Fifth”, “Los Endos” would be a great encore/set closer, and “I Know What I Like” would be great for the “call and response” thing you guys have been doing with the audience lately…
—“I think the reverse pivot in their golf swings is as wild as the reverse pivot in their music” – some chump who doesn’t know shit about rock music after he saw the video of NYE set III—
Get ready for a night of fun, laughs, and sports! I’ll be hosting Sports Writers Night in Queens, reading some of YOUR favorite pieces and interviewing/bantering/listening to the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro and Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Cook, along with other special guests. Join us at Odradek’s Coffee House in Kew Gardens, 82-60 Austin Street – right at the Kew Gardens LIRR stop, and just steps from the E/F/R subway stop! It’s the city’s best sports writers, the city’s best coffee and you – the city’s best sports fans!
Too much candy? Too much running aorund after the kids? To many dentists appointments and tummy-aches for the kiddies? Too many vampires, zombies, and werewolves? It’s time to gorge yourself on the best NFL picks in the country! We went a perfect 4-0 overall, 2-0 in teasers last week to raise the season totals to 15-9-1 in teasers, 38-11-1 overall. Here’s this week’s winners before they happen!
GIANTS +1 vs. raiders
rams +18 at COLTS
Both Sam Bradford and Reggie Wayne are out for this game, so look for it to be close with lots of running. Giants, if you lose at home to the putrid Raiders, get ready to be egged on general principle.
broncos -1 at CHARGERS
seahawks EVEN at FALCONS
Like the Chiefs, ride the Broncos as far as you can, especially against an improved, but over-matched Charger team in a battle of the horsey mascots.
bills-STEELERS UNDER 49
lions-BEARS UNDER 56
Yes. the Lions can score, but the Bears have a stingy defense…and a stingy offense! 56 is a lot here. Who sucks worse? The Steelers or the Bills? The Steelers shouold fire OC Todd Haley soon…and what happened to their once proud defense?
Indeed perhaps all of the PGA TOUR’s integrity us at stake too. On the one hand we have Simon Dyson facing a three-person disciplinary panel for one offense last week. On the other we have Tiger Woods, the face of golf, not only involved in four eye-raising rules flaps, but facing no disciplinary investigation at all…just a quick chat with Timid Tim Finchem before one of his rounds.
Proof of a star system? You be the judge.
Then comes poor Brandel Chamblee, just doing his job being objective – Heaven forbid when dealing with St. Eldrick – just saying his opinion on what four rules flaps in one year looks like to him and BOOM! Like a petulant child angry for being scolded, Tiger threatens to sue, Tiger Team Tiger complains to Golf Channel and the PGA TOUR, Tiger acts like Tiger usually acts, like the jerk he is.
What was it Shakespeare said, “Methinks thou dost protest too much…”
“If you touch Chamblee, you’ve lost me.
Not because Brandel’s opinions – while excellent, in my opinion – are irreplacable.
But because you will have made a bold declaratioin that you don’t care about me. You care more about appeasing a shallow bully, whose only time saying sorry was in front of a blue curtain in hopes of salvaging whatever was left of his fleeing corporate sponsors.
You will have forfeited your reputation as an honest broker for legitimate issues in the game, and traded that in for cheap “Team Tiger” t-shirt.”
Czaban, the crowd is cheering. Come out of the dugout and tip your cap, because that was an upper deck blast that cleared the bases.
By not demanding further inquiry into the four rules flaps this year, and by not circling the wagons to protect Brandel’s freedom of speech and freedom of the press – as well as their own, the golf media is repeating their mistakes when it comes to Tiger Woods…not being objective enough.
1) Tiger Woods is a public figure, so he has a much tougher row to hoe to prove slander over ANYTHING;
2) Brandel is media, a journalist as well as a broadcaster, so his freedom as a member of the press is a strong protection;
3) Contrary to what Tiger thinks, there is still freedom of speech in this country so some one can express the opinion, “Hey! I think he’s cheating” and their opinion is protected as opinion;
4) Tiger is not going to sue because then he’d have to sit for a sworn deposition and take a stand in court, and his character would be sternly examined. Here’s what Czaban says – sarcastically – about that:
“Of course, Tiger isn’t a cheater. Nah.
The two dozen skanky mistresses were the result of his “sex addiction.” The association with known PED-quack Anthony Galea was pure coincidence. The four “incidents” this season were only because Tiger is the subject of unfair TV camera scrutiny and a bunch of nosy armchair rules officials at home…”
As Jim Belushi said in the movie About Last Night, “Yeah, right…pull this leg it plays ‘Jingle Bells’…” And by the way, don’t forget about Tiger’s supposed connections to Keith Kleven, a trainer tainted by connections to the infamous BALCO. Once the link between Tiger and Kleven was exposed by the New York Daly News, Kleven disappeared faster than a rabbit in a conjuring trick. Here’s what the Daily News Steroids/PED investigative team had to say about that:
“The drug questions also bring new scrutiny to others who have trained or treated Woods, including Mark Lindsay, a Canadian chiropractor who worked with Galea and treated Yankees star Alex Rodriguez after his 2009 hip surgery; and MaryAnne Catalano, as assistant to Galea who was arrested on Sept. 14 at the U.S.-Canada border near Buffalo and found to be in possession of HGH and medical equipment, along with Galea’s medical bag.”
Czabe wraps it up with this poignant, pertinent, and perfect observation if they discipline Chamblee:
“The next time Tiger takes a bad drop, or moves a giant boulder, or slams a club, I am sure your crew will freely speak their minds as to what they really think. Why would I care what Frank Nobilo has to say anymore about anything? You move on Chamblee, you will poison your entire cast, and your brand forever.
This is your moment of truth, Golf Channel. You’ve got a great thing going. Don’t blow it. Not for this guy. Not with his track record. It’ll be the worst decision you’ve ever made.”
Agreed. We are journalists first and entertainers second. Tiger promised us he’d make his behavior more respectful of the game, but has he? Was it more respectful when he cussed out Slugger White? Was it more respectful when he went around threatening people over their right to free speech and free press? Wass it more repsectful when he still throws clubs and lobs F-bombs like a gangsta rapper? We’ll analyze these issues much more in depth later this fall when I lay out the case against Tiger in detail, like a court case being prepped for trial. I(n the meantime, Tiger Woods will not get my vote for Player of the Year partly because I think Phil Mickelson came up bigger in the year’s biggest moments, but also because these – in my opinion – seedy rules flaps cast – in my opinion – a disparaging light on Tiger and his attitude.
Brandel should never have apologized. he should have stood up to the bully that Tiger is: (in my opinion) a club throwing, F-bomb-dropping, lawsuit threatening, bad drop-taking, wife-cheating, bad tipping, pancake waitress banging, simoniacal troglodyte. (Simoniacal – adj. Taking something sacred and using it for pecuniary benefit.) That’s the face of golf. Tiger, you should have been a basketball player. It’s more your speed.
When Tiger and his “Team” started banging on doors demanding whatever they demanded, everyone should have told him to go pound salt. What’s he gonna do? Not give the vapid two word interviews he ordinarily gives anyway. What has Tiger Woods ever done for the media? He’s at best civil and obliging, at worst petulant and inaccessible.
Meanwhile, the European Tour begins its investigation of Simon Dyson over one incident, one time. He may face three months off simply because he’s not the money printing machine Tiger Woods is. As Mikey Z, my intern said, “Every time I try to like golf, something else happens that turns me right off again…and it always seems to revolve around Tiger Woods.”
Yee-hah and hoo-eey! we went 6-0 overall, 3-0 in teasers last week to raise the totals to a reasonable 13-9-1 in teasers, 34-11-1 overall.
This week the numbers look too close for comfort, so we’re only going with two picks this week. After all, rule number one around here is don’t bet anyhing but the good numbers!
bengals-DOLPHINS OVER 34
saints-JETS OVER 38
The saints could score 38 themselves. The Bengals have been solid the first half of the season and the Dolphin defense isn’t all that great.
chiefs +1.5 at BILLS
PATRIOTS -1/2 vs. steelers
Okay, the Pats are only a touchdown fave over the sucky Steelers?? Who picked that line?? I’ve been riding the Chiefs to the payout window all year…
SOUTHAMPTON, BERMUDA – I learned something interesting from Bermuda tourism P.R. maven Lauren Pike: John Lennon got the idea for calling his seminal solo album Double Fantasy while visiting Bermuda.
“A double fantasy is actually a flower,” she explained. “It’s indigenous to the island. That’s where Lennon got the title.”
Well done, Lauren! As a music lawyer, it will be good to have that arrow in my quiver should a discussion of Double Fantasy ever come up with my clients or colleagues. Pretty cool.
That being said, Lennon’s Double Fantasy is too preachy for my taste. If anything surpassed Lennon’s stratospheric talent as a musician it was his insufferable ego. For example, he insisted the double fantasy flower he saw in Bermuda was a freesia, (a particular genus or species of the flower), when subsequent research has proven it to be a form of hibiscus. But you couldn’t tell Lennon that. He insisted. He always knew better. Kinda like Tiger Woods, but I digress…
“John Lennon, you’re a swine,” his manager would repeatedly chide to him, and from most film clips of Lennon I’ve seen, it could be true. After all, Lennon boasted that the Beatles were “Bigger than Jesus” and he did tend to believe his own press clippings to a shocking degree. It led him to behave, occasionally, in a most disagreeable and egotistic manner, and Double Fantasy, at times reflects that in its lack of realism. (Hence the name is actually quite appropriate…Double FANTASY…)
While I admit the work is transcendent and that Double Fantasy is one of his masterpieces, hippie-dippy kumbaya is not my cup of tea. I much prefer the dark, brooding angst and gnawing, growing sense of tragedy of Quadrophenia, the infectiously joyous world beat groove and genius social commentary of Stop Making Sense, the primal, yet spiritual purity of Exile on Main Street, and of course the soaring, passionate, rocking awesomeness of my boys Phish. Nevertheless, like Lennon, I too found a Double Fantasy of my own in Bermuda – Mid Ocean Club and Tucker’s Point. Together with Port Royal, home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, they form a Bermuda Triangle of golf all connoisseurs must play at least once in their lifetime.
The Mid Ocean Club
“There are no more beautiful golfing vistas in the world than those from the National Golf Club unless it be those from Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda,” wrote C.B. Macdonald in his book Scotland’s Gift Golf, high praise indeed, as all study of golf course architecture in America must begin with National, the course where he bragged he was going to show everyone the best of world-wide golf course architecture, then delivered big time. As always, Macdonald talked the talk, but also walked the walk, and he’s right: Mid Ocean makes a perfect bookend to National.
Macdonald further explained that, “When the 18th amendment was passed and the 19th hole abolished,” he discussed with a number of friends the propriety of having a golf course in Bermuda. So Macdonald took the ship Moorish Princess across the ocean, and sought for the perfect land on which to build a proper rejoinder to National: a course on which, if you left New York by ship at noon pm a Saturday in the dead of winter, you could be teeing off by 10:00 a.m. Monday in 70-degree sunshine.
Along a wild stretch of coastline, amidst heaving and tumbling hillocks framed by stands of fragrant Bermuda cedars, oleanders, bougainvilleas, stately Bermuda palms and colorful hibiscus – a vibrant, variegated palette of pink, white, orange, and green on which to work – Macdonald found a 600 acre parcel with 1,500 feet of oceanfront cliff-top property which his investors purchased for 600,000 USD, and he set to work.
“The contours of the property are unsurpassed, delightful valleys, one to two hundred yards in width, winding through coral hills from 20 to 75 feet in height,” wrote Macdonald, and he used those valleys like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to complete an ingenious routing. At Mid Ocean, the seaside opening holes are connected to the inland holes by playing through these valleys, as well as up and over two hills – once at the fourth hole, and again at 16, in order to return to the clubhouse for the closing two holes. True to its links roots and architectural brethren, Mid Ocean plays out and back, not in two loops of nine.
Happily, although Robert Trent Jones, Sr. did some work at Mid Ocean around 1953, he did not homogenize the golf course (or, worse still, force one of his penal redesigns onto it), and by the time Tom Doak got to Mid Ocean in the 1980s he found the course much the same as Macdonald had left it in 1921.
Doak was enjoying the heady, halcyon days of his post-college career, spanning the globe and playing the greatest courses in the world. Traveling with his girlfriend, (who ultimately became his first wife), it’s clear Doak became enamored with the course from his first look at the property. When I asked him what holes he thought were the best, he instantly answered “Number 1…” – there wasn’t even a heartbeat of hesitation.
“It’s one of the great opening holes in golf,” he beamed, and he’s right. High on a bluff over looking the ocean on one side and with the Bermudan jungle bordering the other, “the second shot its one of the scariest second shot in golf especially into the wind, playing back up to that cliff with the ocean roaring beneath you,” Doak continues. “It’s a bit of a skyline green even though you’re not below it that much. But you have nothing to judge the distance visually, and first time I played it I hit over the green and off the cliff!”
Doak basically supervised the transition of the greens from Bermuda grass to TifEagle, bringing the green speeds from six on the Stimp to close to 10. He did have to soften some of the greens’ tilt, most notably at (1) the par-4 fourth, where he lowered the back portion by a good foot-and-a-half, (2) eight, the Valley hole, with it’s green high atop a windswept hillock with a broad vista 360 degrees around several holes, and (3) at 16. But besides those small nips and tucks and a few bunkers being reworked, preservation was more the order of the day rather than drastic change. After all, changing Macdonald’s work here would be tantamount to signing the Mona Lisa with a spray can and calling it art. (That’s more what Roger Rulewich may have done to Tucker’s Point, but we’ll get to that in a moment…)
After a stirring opening three holes playing along the south shore of the island, including perhaps the only oceanside Eden hole in the world, the fascinating par-4 fourth climbs the hill leading inland to Mangrove Lake and the famous Cape hole 5th. Four is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which are its slightly crowned fairway and its spectacle bunkers fronting the green like an alligator lurking beneath the surface of the swamp with only its hungry eyes and the top of its head above the water, stalking its prey, waiting for the right time to strike. (There’s also a deep fairway bunker guarding t5he right side of the fairway, a certain half stroke lost, if not a full. Avoid it at all costs.)
“That approach shot reminds me of the 10th at St. George’s in Lower England,” confirmed noted golf design expert Rodney Zilla. “There too you must avoid the spectacle bunkers, like Darren Clarke did with his seeing eye ground ball out of the rough that miraculously avoided the bunkers en route to his winning the British Open in 2011.”
The Cape hole fifth follows, and is one of the great holes in golf, with it’s diagonal carry over mangrove Lake and its approach to a teacup green, which is also guarded by the lake.
“That’s the famous hole, the one everyone looks forward to, and it lives up to its lofty reputation,” stated Doak. “From all the descriptions I’d read before I played it, I still didn’t know I was teeing off a mountain, and it is a big carry. It’s also one of the wildest greens I’ve ever seen. When we rebuilt the fourth green, we would watch everyone play five.”
Rather than taking slope out of the par-3 seventh hole, a “Short” in the Macdonald-Raynor-Banks lexicon, Doak actually thought about adding contour. This version of the “Short” lacks the usual trademark thumbprint or horseshoe as an internal contour. One reason could be its unusual length – most “Short” holes don’t exceed 150 yards, but this can stretch back to 170 if needed, (it’s also downhill, playing over a pair of ponds).
“Seven may have had more slope or contour in the green originally, (and I know they had trouble growing grass on that green because of its location on the property and the amount of sunlight it gets), so it could have been re-done by someone in the intervening years. We thought about putting more contour in the green, but we didn’t have info on what it might have been like, so we didn’t,” Doak affirmed.
The other two par-3s are the typical Macodnald-Raynor-Banks choices – a Biarritz (the 13th) and a Redan (the 17th).
As you know, the defining characteristic of the Biarritz (besides its remarkable length for a par-3) is the deep swale, and there are two types: 1) where the swale is part of the green itself, (Yale, St. Louis, Forsgate) and 2) where the swale is placed before the green, (Knoll (West), Creek Club, Essex County C.C., Piping Rock, and here at Mid Ocean). Almost all; the classic features of the Biarritz are here – extreme length, (in the old days it was meant to require driver or 3-wood), strip bunkers framing both sides, and the deep swale defending the green.
Now I had the good fortune to play Mid Ocean on the same day as Malcolm Gosling purveyor of both fine rums and crisp iron shots. (He’s quite the stick, you know. He shoots in the 70s regularly.) His world famous Gosling’s Black Seal is the quintessential ingredient in the Dark and Stormy – not only the Bermudian national drink, but one of the island’s greatest contributions to world cuisine.
“I want you to write in your article that they ought to restore the 13th green so that the front of the swale is green too!” opined the jovial Gosling, and I was glad to heartily agree with him. After all, Stephen Kay’s successful restoration of Forsgate’s 17th hole by returning the front of the swale to actual green (rather than fairway) made their Biarritz one of the world’s great golf holes. Besides, most golfers find it more fun with the swale in the green, so they can try to putt through it. Practically buoyant after my talk with the affable Gosling, and just as desirous to see a green restored to its former Golden Age glory, I gleefully promised him I’d address the idea with Tom Doak.
Malcolm, there’s just one problem…
“The earliest aerial photos we have show that the front of the swale was NOT green,” Doak replied.
“We’ve been checking, believe me,” confided Doak, “but we haven’t uncovered anything to indicate to us that the front was ever green.”
A core sample might confirm this. After all, many Raynor/Banks greens are built on a layer of charcoal ash. That’s how Kay confirmed that the front of the swale at Forsgate was actually green, lost over time by lazy maintenance practices and tight budgets. But Doak is nothing if not thorough. If he had reason to tell the club to restore something worthy of restoring, you know he’d have brought it up. Disappointing? Yes, but hey Malcolm, it’s nothing a few Dark and Stormies can’t fix.
Even so, the Biarritz is still a museum piece, as is the Redan at 17, the last of the usual par-3 quartet the Bloodline liked to reproduce. It’s a classic example of the template with a severely fall-away in back. With the prevailing wind howling in the golfer’s face, it can play long.
There are many other outstanding moments as well. The hilltop 8th green at the Valley hole commands wide vistas across the property and is one of the most exciting approach shots of the day. The tenth green, benched precariously beneath Mercer hill is a stirring sight. And when one crests the hill of the 16th hole and beholds the green silhouetted against the Atlantic, it takes their breath away. Moreover, all of those approaches are treacherous as there is so much movement in the terrain from 75 yards in. There is a premium on accurate approach shots, and greenside, the golfer will need to be creative and patient, as he’ll encounter any number of uneven lies, quirky humps and bumps, and deep bunkers.
The other great defense to the golf course is the wind. Stephen King once wrote that the wind can imitate all ranges of human voices, from a bare whisper to a banshee shriek. It was the latter that faced me on the day I played: loose clothing flapping like the Union Jack in the maelstrom, tempest raging all around us.
In other words, it was perfect links golf weather – nae wind, nae golf! – and members travel from the four corners of the world since, as Macdonald put it, “the course will stand in golfing circles as an achievement in a semi-tropical climate as great as the National Golf Links of America has been in the temperate zone.”
Indeed, Mid Ocean has its place in history having been the venue for significant summit meetings between the world’s most renowned and powerful leaders. In 1953 President Eisenhower met with Winston Churchill there. He returned four years later. Many other heads of state have played Mid Ocean as well, including George Bush 41 and the Duke of Windsor.
“It’s a special place, better still since it’s more accessible to the public,” said Doak. “It’s private, but resort guests can get on it occasionally. Most people will never get a chance to play National Golf Links of America, and most of Macdonald and Raynor’s work is private, so this is their best chance to see that style of architecture. Plus it really is beautiful.”
He’s got that right. And whether your day is bright and sunny or dark and stormy, you’ll still treasure it as one of those rounds that stays with you for the rest of your life. You can even toast both Macdonald and Malcolm Gosling at the 19th hole. After all, they have both made monumental contributions to Bermuda. ***Glasses clink*** “Thank you, Malcolm.” “You’re welcome, Jay.”
The work of the great Macdonald-Raynor-Banks Bloodline came to a rousing conclusion in the United States in 1931 at fabled Forsgate Country Club. Eden, Hog’s Back, Punchbowl, Knoll, Reverse Redan, Short, and one of the greatest Biarritz holes ever built – there’ll all there, a grand summation of the work of Banks and his predecessors.
But Banks came back for one final curtain call, an encore so to speak, albeit in Bermuda. With Mid-Ocean right next door, a course Banks helped build, he knew he’d have to follow up Act I with a rousing reprise.
The result was Castle Harbour, a 6,022 yard par-71 course which ended on a par-3, quite possibly a Biarritz, and had a number of other of the usual Macdonald Bloodline templates such as a Cape, a Punchbowl, an Eden, a Valley, and a Hog’s Back.
Over the years many people had a hand in making changes to the golf course. When a new clubhouse was built, the course was completely re-sequenced. Other may have had a hand in adding and removing bunkers, changing mowing patterns, and other alterations. Even the original out and back routing was reconfigured into two loops of nine. In 2002, Roger Rulewich redesigned several holes dramatically, narrowing fairways, adding penal bunkering, and modernizing the course more in the flavor of his mentor Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
The original routing of the course remained roughly the same, however. And, happily, PGA Director of Golf Paul Adams has engaged architect Mark Fine to design a master plan to bring back as much of the original Banks design as possible, while recreating Banks’s style where necessary.
“The object is to restore whatever we can, and renovate the rest so that the entire course will be in the style of Banks,” Fine stated. As such, fairways have been widened to their original widths. (“Wider fairways means more playing angles,” said Fine.) They removed a large number of trees. (“Now the wind whips through like it should, adding a defense to the golf course…so that extra width comes in handy,” adds Fine. “Besides, people come to Bermuda to see the turquoise waters, not the back of some pine tree…”.) And they removed bunkers that did not reflect the strategic nature of the original design. (“We took out any bunkers that were architecturally insignificant or didn’t look anything like Banks would have designed,” Fine concluded.)
It’s been both a walk in golf history and a labor of love for both Fine and Adams.
“We’re dedicated to recovering the covering the look, feel, and playing angles of the 1932 design. We want to preserve and promote that heritage,” Adams stated energetically. “It’s been tough for us since no one is left alive from when the course was built, but we have uncovered a lot of our rich history, and been able to start to translate that to the golf changes. Happily, we really need only cosmetic changes. The bones of the course are still the same as when Banks laid it out.”
Like Mid Ocean, Tuckers has terrific vertical movement in the terrain, tremendous wide sweep of its fairways, and excellent green contours. Along with the fickle ocean winds, those are all excellent defenses to the golf course. From the first shot of the day, you know you’re in for a special round, as the wide sweep of the fairway, the rolling, tumbling terrain, and ocean views are a summation of what you’ll face all day.
Not all of the Banks attributes were erased over the intervening decades, and you’ll find several of the Bloodline’s design concepts still in existence. There is a marvelous saddle fairway at the par-5 third hole, leading to a green benched onto the hillside, while the par-4 fifth has as perfect a Lion’s Mouth green complex as one will find anywhere in the world, an almost perfect copy of the one at Country Club of Charleston. Hopefully the club will extend the wings of the green so that they wrap around the sides of the center-line greenside bunker and add some contour to the back of the green. That way they can place the pin on the wings and golfers snookered by the bunker can spin their putts from one side to the other, as is intended in the original hole.
The rest of the front side is equally good. All the angles are present for the restoration of he par-4 sixth to become a true Road hole, while the Valley hole at seven need not be touched at all. While the par-3 eighth is not a Biarritz, it’s still one of the highlights of the golf course, with its long carry over a yawning chasm.
The tenth hole takes to the ocean, with its green perched on a bluff overlooking the harbour. A long Reverse Redan (to some, a “Nader”) follows.
“11 is a solid hole. Long, but with the kickplate on the left to bounce balls onto the green,” explains Fine. “One of the changes we had to make was to get rid of a left side bunker that was completely superfluous. It not only erased the entire strategy of the hole, it made it almost impossible. Now it plays like a Redan again.”
There are also Banks footprints at the Eden hole at 14 (which seems to be untouched from 1932), and the 17th, which appears to be a “Narrows,” with the ocean jealously guarding the entire left side.
Among the few drawbacks that need to be addressed, the finish needs to be stronger. The 90-degree dog-leg 16th is a strange hole, with its mushroom-shaped tree in the fairway, and 18 needs to be more of a summation of all that came before. There are also some long walks between greens and tees on the back.
Nevertheless, with Adams and Fine stewarding the course, preserving and promoting its Golden Age heritage, this already solid course will return to its former glory. It’s not so much “back to the future” as it is “forward to the past,” and when the work is done, Tucker’s Point will be not so much a little sister to mighty Mid Ocean, but a bookend, the other half of the Double Fantasy, so to speak.
Designed in 1970 at the height of the “harder is better” golf design doldrums era, Port Royal looks great but plays okay. Yes there are greens on cliff-tops. Yes, the conditioning is pristine. And yes, the pros play there. But why do the pros play there? Because it’s the hardest course in Bermuda and looks the best on TV. But too much penal architecture, too many 90-degree doglegs, too many severe uphill approaches, and cookie-cutter five o’clock-seven o’clock bunkering make it a strategically uninteresting course. It’s center-line, Doctrine of Framing golf, requiring little to no thinking to play the course.
As we have learned time and again over the last 15 years through the rise of the strategic school of architecture and the rise for minimalism: IT’s not how a golf course looks that matters, it’s how a golf course plays.
As we have further learned, harder is not better – wider is better.
That being said, tourists and the “play where the pros play” crowd will love it. It’s pretty, it’s pristine, it’s predictable. They can just hit it down the middle, hit it on the green, and try to make a putt. But woe to anyone getting in those bunkers, they’re murder.
There are a fistful of good holes, most notably the par-5s at 7 and 15. (Both are really par—4.5s, a good thing!) The two cliff-side par-3s at 8 and 16 are good too.
Thankfully, the club cut down 1,000 trees so that instead of the course resembling the Black Forest in Germany people can actually see the ocean and tell they’re in Bermuda.
“There is one reason why Port Royal is near and dear to my heart,” admitted Robert Trent Jones, Jr. “My mother and father honeymooned in Bermuda by taking a ship across the ocean in the old days. It brings back fond memories for us. And I do remember being there with Dad while it was being built. I love Bermuda, it’s totally British, classy in every way.”
That’s fair comment – there’s no question you get bthe white glove treatment Bermuda is so famous for and what sets it apart from any other U.S. offshore destination. You’ll get treated like a tour pro when you visit Port Royal, and you’ll get plenty of great photo ops. But when it comes to ranking golf courses, the experience of playing a course touring pros play does not trump the critical importance of strategic architecture that allows all levels of golfer a fighting chance of playing a hole without a penalty because they are not laser accurate. Port Royal does not have the playing angles or the width necessary to be considered among the world’s great golf courses.
Still, while in Bermuda, give it a play and cross it off the list, so that you can say that you’ve seen it for yourself.
So as the island recedes from our sight like a reverie in the mist and our jet wings us back to mainland U.S.A., there’s a gnawing sadness that comes over the traveler. One can’t help falling in love with Bermuda. It’s completely civilized. Like an elixir, it refreshes and invigorates the visitor, restorative both in body and spirit – there is a place not completely overrun with commercialism, celebrity, and crassness – the vices that have poisoned America of late. You can see why it helped John Lennon break out of his “Writer’s Block” funk that gripped him before he visited and penned Double Fantasy.
Now golfers have a Double Fantasy of their own, along with a pretty good side dish as well. And best of all, with this Double Fantasy, you don’t have to deal with Yoko Ono telling John he’d be better off kicking Paul McCartney to the curb. But hey, at least we got “Band on the Run” out of the deal. So I guess that’s something.
STONY BROOK, NY – Your heart sings every time you step out of the car in the parking lot at St. George’s Golf & Country Club on Long Island. Whatever weight you carry with you lifts, and your cares dissolve as you behold the White Tree stately standing beside the clubhouse next to the tall American flagpole where Old Glory gallantly streams in the whistling wind. From this point, high on a hill, one can look across vast expanses of the property and drink in heady the wine-like essence of their sparkling, indeed enchanting Devereux Emmet-designed golf course, restored to its Golden Age splendor by Gil Hanse.
“It’s enchanting,” explained golfer Bruce Moulton, tightening his windshirt against the building gael. “Absolutely captivating. On a windy day like today, you’ll think your playing on the windswept heaths of Upper England.”
Indeed, there is a feeling of transportation, of escapism when playing St. George’s – rugged, tumbling hills make perfect terrain for golf. It’s astonishing that this tremendous acreage sits within a Long Island town. It’s like finding an emerald lying in the sidewalk of 55th street between 6th and 7th Avenues. One minute you’re in Stony Brook, the next you’re 100 years in the past, hitting low punch shots that bounce once or twice in front of the green before bounding on and filtering slowly to the pin for a birdie op.
Here’s how it goes the first time you see St. George’s: by the second hole and its majestic shared fairway with 18, your eyes are wide open with the possibility that this could really be something, by the fourth hole with it’s devilish approach to the square green completely encircled by sand and shaggy mounds you know you’re someplace special, and by the tenth hole with its thrilling downhill approach to the roadside green, you never want to leave.
Oh, and by the fifteenth tee, as you look out at the diamond shaped green guarded by a berm and pot bunkers, you’re looking at your watch to see if you can squeeze in another round, and be damned stopping for lunch…
There’s so much that’s memorable about the round at St. George’s besides the shots we just described. There’s the false front green at the first hole, a testy approach shot over a devilish swale right out of the gate with a walk of shame as much as forty yards back down the fairway for golfers careless enough to leave a shot short. There’s the idyllic punchbowl green setting at the par-4 fifth. There’s the visually arresting saddle fairway at 12, a favorite of almost everyone who plays St. George’s. There’s the terrifying, dastardly pitch to the tiny 16th green, hole that clearly demonstrates that you don’t need length to defend a golf course – you need terrain with undulations and greens with internal contour to defend a golf course.
Didn’t the U.S. Open at Merion teach us anything?
And, of course, there’s 17, a Bonhomme Richard of a par-3 that may be pint-sized, but can sink your scorecard faster than the Serapis went down that fateful day during the Revolutionary War. (American history buffs will get the reference…)
By the time you crest the last hill and arrive a the 18th green, with the flag and the White Tree – yes, capital “W”, capital “T” – with the flag and the White Tree standing sentinel over the course as they have for a century, you’re exhilarated. A gnawing sadness also rises, knowing your day is done, but then, like seed germinating after a long winter, the longing grows for the next time you return and behold St. George’s once more.
And that thought will keep you warm for a long time.