The Local Knowlege

U.S. Open

USGA's Davis stands by his Chambers Bay warning to players, but says reaction is "overblown"

FAR HILLS, N.J. -- Mike Davis would never request a mulligan, for either a misdirected golf shot or a perceived misstatement, so it should be no surprise that the USGA executive director wasn’t about to retract a pointed observation he made last month about the upcoming U.S. Open at Chambers Bay that drew the ire of several would-be competitors.
 
“I was simply trying to be helpful by pointing out that preparation for this year’s U.S. Open might be more critical than any in recent memory given the uniqueness of the golf course,” Davis said Wednesday at Golf House, the USGA’s headquarters. “I think things have gotten a little overblown, but the point is still valid.”


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Davis caused a stir during media day at Chambers Bay, in University Place, Wash., when he predicted that intense advanced preparation was all but mandatory to have a chance to win the 115th U.S. Open. “I would contend that there is no way, no way, a player would have success here at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it,” Davis said April 27. “The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person's done. Will not win the U.S. Open.”
 
Among those with sharp retorts was 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who snarked, “We’ll play for second.”
 
“My point was this is really a unique golf course that was going to require a lot of study,” Davis said. “[There’s] more elevation changes than a normal U.S. Open course. It’s wider. It’s all fescue. They had never seen it before. There’s a lot of local knowledge needed.
 
“This is going to be my 26th U.S. Open, and I’ve noticed that players just don’t play as much golf there [at the Open site]. They’ll play nine holes a day, rely on their caddies instead of coming in early to play three or four rounds the week before like they did in the past … it’s just the way things have become. And what I wanted to communicate is that the advantage really goes to the player who knows the course inside and out. There is so much bounciness to that course that you just can’t learn it quickly. You certainly can’t learn it well from a yardage book. It is not a straightforward test, like, say Oakmont next year, which many of them have already seen.”
 
As Davis was talking, the embodiment of a well-prepared U.S. Open player was within earshot. The USGA officially opened the Jack Nicklaus Room Wedndesday at the USGA Museum. Nicklaus won four U.S. Open titles, starting in 1962 when he beat local hero Arnold Palmer in a playoff at Oakmont CC, near Pittsburgh. Nicklaus captured the first of his 18 major titles after an extensive visit to Oakmont the week before the championship, and throughout his career he made it a habit, whenever possible, to visit a major venue early to learn the layout and acclimate himself to the challenge.
 
“I think Jack knew which players would be the toughest to beat based on preparation, and he also knew which ones he could eliminate,” Davis said.
 
“A little bit of this is just things tend to get, I think, lost in translation, and I should probably be used to it,” Davis added. “Look at last year, when there was talk that back-to-back Opens at Pinehurst was going to be a disaster. ‘Why are the women playing second? Are the greens going to be unplayable?’ Two years ago at Merion it wasn’t going to work; they were going to demolish that golf course. The year before that was Olympic, and players weren’t going to like that style of architecture because of the doglegs and the fairway slopes cantering the other way.
 
“In the end, the best thing is to just let the golf course speak for itself.”
 

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Throwback Thursday

Arnie started cashing tour checks 60 years ago, and tour players are still cashing in today

Forget Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. A better example of connectedness, at least in the game of golf, is Arnold Palmer, who has millions of fans feeling part of the Arnie's Army, as well as thousands of tour pros, including Tiger Woods, who can trace their personal largesse to A.P.

loop-arnold-palmer-1955-canada-300.jpgIn fact, the big money machine that benefits the PGA Tour and its players can celebrate an anniversary this week. Sixty years ago on Friday marks the day Arnold Palmer started making money as a tour player. On May 29, 1955, after finishing his fourth round at the Fort Wayne Invitational, Palmer pocketed $145 for finishing T-25. It was the first official PGA Tour payday Palmer was allowed to keep, having served the long-since abandoned, six-month probation against earning money in tour events after turning pro. (Imagine a tour pro today being told he had to wait a half-year to take home money he earned.) 

Prior to Fort Wayne, Palmer had played 10 tour-run events in 1955, having turned pro at the end of 1954. He finished "out of the money" in five, missed the cut in one and had to pass on $1,144.86 he would have gone home with in the other four. (He was allowed to take home the $695.83 he earned for a T-10 finish at the Masters in April 1955 because it was not run by the tour.) Three months later in August, Palmer won the Canadian Open (shown) for his first tour title and a top prize of $2,400. 

The 145 simoleons from Fort Wayne were the start of Palmer's launch into making golf in general -- and the tour specifically -- financially lucrative. His star power helped the tour grow in popularity, which in turn increased prize money substantially. He was the first to make $100,000 in a season, first to $1 million in career earnings and the first to make advertising marketability an art form, something he still excels at today at age 85. The huge tour purses he helped grow came much after Palmer was capable of winning on tour, but the money he was able to keep at the Fort Wayne Invitational 60 years ago must have felt like a fortune at the time, which is what he turned it into.

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News & Tours

These five stats put Rory's opening-round 80 at the Irish Open into perspective

There was a lot of carnage at Royal County Down on Thursday. And the World No. 1 -- who is also hosting the Irish Open this week through his charity -- was not spared from the tough conditions. An opening-round 80 has the Northern Irishman sitting in last place after 18 holes.

Literally, last place.

Some other top-name players got off to equally brutal starts. Martin Kaymer, playing in the same group as Rory, finished with a 79. Sergio Garcia was 5-over at last check. Lee Westwood had a 74. It's never an easy round at Royal County Down -- but Thursday it was playing even tougher than usual.

These five stats from Rory's round tell the story of how bad it really was.

1. This was Rory's worst competitive round since the final round of the 2011 Masters.

We know how that ended. We also have a feeling Rory will be a lot less disappointed by Thursday's round than he was after the snap-hook at the 10th hole at Augusta. But to put today's round in perspective, it was as bad as that 80 Rory had in 2011.

2. Rory hit only six of 14 fairways.

Rory talked about that after the round. That'll happen at tough, windy Royal County Down.

3. Rory made nine bogeys.

Couple nine bogeys with nine pars and no birdies? That's how you get an 80. And which is also how you get ...

4. A scrambling stat of 1-out-of-9.

When you miss six out of 16 greens, like Rory did on Thursday, then don't get up and down eight out of nine times, you're going to be bound for a round in the 80s. Average golfers know that all too well.

5. A total of 36 putts.

Ouch. That number kind of speaks for itself. You don't often see pro golfers have 36 putts in one round. We know Rory can struggle at times on the greens, but this was a pretty poor showing by the World No. 1.

And now Rory looks like a good bet to miss the cut for the third straight year at the Irish Open.

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Trending

Oklahoma men's golf team makes epic trick-shot video to prepare for this weekend's NCAAs

Before NCAAs even start, Oklahoma can say it's won the trick-shot game.

The men's golf team is heading to its fifth straight NCAA finals this week -- and what better way to prepare then showing off your skills with random trick shots? That's got to psych out your opponents.

If the Sooners make it to match play, I wouldn't want to play these guys. Imagine playing against a guy who can drain shots into a little plastic cup? You know he's never out of a hole. That's scrambling like no other.

There's something so college about making one of these videos. Hundreds of golf-trick shot videos are out there. And we respect you all for keeping us tuning in.

And now we'll be paying close attention to the Sooners at NCAAs. If they make it to match play, watch out!

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College Golf

Just how good is Stanford's Mariah Stackhouse? Her handicap index is +4.3

We know Mariah Stackhouse is good based solely on her performance in the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship on Wednesday.

Stackhouse, a Stanford junior, was two down with two holes to play in her match with Baylor’s Hayley Davis, then birdied the final two holes of regulation to pull even and won the first extra hole to give the Cardinal the national championship.

But if you need more evidence, check out this scorecard for the second round of the 2013 Peg Barnhard Invitational on the Stanford University Golf Course that she won by 10:

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And she plays to a +4.3 handicap index out of four different clubs in her home state of Georgia: Braelinn Golf Club, Flat Creek Club, Planterra Ridge Golf Club and Whitewater Creek Country Club:

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News & Tours

Why Stanford winning the NCAA title is the best thing that could happen to women's college golf

BRADENTON, FLA. -- Everywhere you turned late Wednesday afternoon at The Concession G.C. you saw the usual emotions on display from coaches and players and family that accompany the conclusion of the NCAA Women's Championship.


Cheers, tears, elation and relief.

That they used match play to decide the women's team champion for the first time in NCAA history didn't change any of that. On the contrary, it only amplified it. Baylor senior Hayley Davis' missed par putt on the first extra hole of her deciding match with Stanford junior Mariah Stackhouse was all the more gut-wrenching because of the finality of the moment set up uniquely because of the new match-play format.

Stanford's 3-2 victory over Baylor in the championship match ended six grueling days of play in the warm Florida sun. You can add one new emotion then to the 2015 championship: exhaustion. If there was a valid criticism of the new schedule it was the sheer amount of golf played overall -- seven competition rounds in six days -- something both Stanford coach Anne Walker and Baylor coach Jay Goble noted in their post-round interviews.

Ultimately, though, women's college golf got not only what it had hoped for but what it deserved: An exciting finish, national TV exposure (with the Golf Channel broadcasting the championship for the first time), even a little controversy to spice things up (the grumbling about The Concession G.C. playing too long and having hole locations that were too severe muted somewhat by the amazing play down the stretch of Stackhouse and Davis with the national title in the balance).

Oh, and a new national champion.

For only the second time in the last 12 years, a program that had never won the NCAA title walked away the victors. While a perennial top-25 program under coaches Tim Baldwin and Caroline O'Conner, the Cardinal's previous best showing was a runner-up finish in 2000.

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Coming off a Pac-12 title last spring and with two All-Americans in Stackhouse (above) and fellow junior Lauren Kim leading the charge, expectations were big in Palo Alto at the start of the 2014-'15 season. And yet the team struggled to find its way. Walker's squad won just one tournament during the regular season (its home even in October), enduring injuries to Kim as well as sophomore Quirine Eijkenboom, and seeing talented freshman Shannon Aubert (who won three matches this week) undergo surgery in February to remove an ovarian cyst. Walker, in her third year as head coach, had her own mid-season adjustments to make, giving birth to daughter Emma in December.

Related: Stanford women's team shows you how to hit golf's scariest shots

Yet despite entering the NCAA postseason with finishes of 10th, sixth and seventh in its final three starts, Stanford shinned, letting its NerdNation followers (led by former Stanford student Michelle Wie) rejoice.

For a sport that has grown so much in the last decade, with so many programs around the country investing time and resources to build national contenders, it's a good thing to have a little new blood step up to help maintain the sport's upward momentum.

Six years after the men started using match play to help crown the team winner, the women went kicking and screaming. And by and large found out what the men have: That match play simple creates a more exciting NCAA championship.

"I was the first one to be hesitant about it originally," said Goble moments after watching his squad painfully lost the championship. "I didn't originally believe that it was a format that was broken. But you know, again, going through the last two days, it's really exciting. It's really fun. It's an emotional roller coaster out there, but I think that to go out there and to fight it out the way you have to do in match play, it shows a lot of guts.

There will continue to be some dissenting voices who question whether the format change makes it less likely to identify the nation's top team. Had the format not been altered, traditional power USC would have won its four NCAA title in 12 years. But when the Trojans fell to Stanford in the semifinals, their title quest came to its own painful end.

Ultimately, just as college sports evolve so do their championships. Look no further than the most popular college sport in the country: football. Ohio State wouldn't have won its national championship this year under the format that sport traditionally used, yet the Buckeyes performance made them a legitimate national champion.

The same should be said for Stanford, deserving winners of the most exciting six-day endurance test women's college golf has ever seen.

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Courses & Travel

Westchester golf course adds really cool floating 19th hole "to settle your bets"

Your match just ended all square after 18 holes. In most cases, your next move of heading to the 19th hole would mean going to the clubhouse bar. Never a bad plan.

But what if your course actually had a 19th hole? And what if that 19th hole involved a floating green?

Behind The Camera: Life on TPC Sawgrass' other island

Westchester Magazine has the story on this cool concept recently introduced by GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Following their rounds, golfers there can hit a shot from near the clubhouse patio onto a green in the middle of a lake.

"It's the coolest shot in golf," GlenArbor head professional Brian Crowell told Westchester. "It's the perfect way to settle your bets -- or make a few more -- at the end of your round."

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Nineteenth holes are becoming more common, but having a floating green is unique. The idea was the brainchild of Crowell and Michael Lehrer, owner of Home Green Advantage in Armonk.

GlenArbor's 19th is a 14-by-21-foot green that's a replica of the club's 14th green. The shot is 80 yards long, but it plays about 60 with the elevation drop and there are three different pin placements. No, you don't take a boat out there to putt out, but the tee shot alone is fun enough.

"There's also nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent's ball splash into the lake after yours lands safely on the green," Crowell said.

Related: Watch Brian Crowell's "Quick Tips" video series

Well, that and knowing golf's traditional 19th hole -- let's call it the 20th in this case -- is just a few steps away.

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Add golf to the full Branson experience

Travelers on the coasts sometimes sniff at Branson, Missouri as a potential vacation destination, but nearly 10 million people visited the Ozarks entertainment hub last year for shopping, shows, fishing and golf. 

The problem with heading to a place that has more than 50 theaters, some of the best bass fishing in the U.S. and a collection of natural attractions like Marvel Cave is parsing out the time to see everything. 

With its Platinum Experience package, the Thousand Hills Golf Resort aims to solve that problem. For rates starting around $200 per night, you get a two-bedroom condo adjacent to the Bob Cupp design and $750 in coupons for a laundry list of shows, attractions, activities and restaurants. Golf costs $49 per player, and isn't included in the price. 

The coupons range from practical (free rental clubs for four at the course) to the prosaic (see Yakov Smirnoff live!), and cover virtually every cultural taste, from Mickey Gilley to the Osmonds.

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Using Thousand Hills as a base, you can branch out and play some of the area's other strong tests. Buffalo Ridge is one of Tom Fazio's toughest tests, and played host to the Champions Tour's Legends of Golf last year. Payne Stewart Golf Club was designed by Chuck Smith and Bobby Clampett as a tribute to the PGA Tour star and Missouri native. Both courses are on the outskirts of Branson proper. 

The vast majority of travelers get to Branson by car and bus--it was the most popular charter bus destination in the U.S. last year--but air travel has gotten way easier in the last few years. The privately-owned Branson Airport opened in 2009, and has daily flights from Denver, Chicago, Houston and Baltimore. 

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News & Tours

The buzzkill that ended the otherwise incredibly exciting NCAA Women's Championship

BRADENTON, FLA. -- For as energizing as the final 40 minutes of the NCAA Women's Championship played out Wednesday at The Concession G.C., it was the last 10 seconds that were the most stunning.

All that excitement replaced with chilling silence.

No one -- players, spectators, officials, Golf Channel commentators -- knew exactly how to react when Hayley Davis, the senior leader of the Baylor women's golf program and arguably its all-time best player, missed her five-foot par putt on the 19th hole of what turned out to be the deciding match of the championship. When her ball slid right of the hole, it allowed Stanford junior Mariah Stackhouse, already in with a par, to win her third straight hole and complete a comeback from 2 down with two holes to play to give the Cardinal and coach Anne Walker their first NCAA women's golf title.

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Mariah Stackhouse (second from right) won the deciding match to give Stanford
its first NCAA women's golf title.

Such a thrilling finish -- the final three holes in regulation were won with exceptional shots that set up birdies -- wasn't supposed to end with such a painful miscue.

"I looked back at the team like, 'Do we celebrate? What happens now?' " Stackhouse said.

It goes without saying that the much publicized change in format to include match play to crown a team winner brought with it the drama and thrills that everyone had hoped. But along with it came an unintended -- or at least unfortunate -- consequence: heartbreak.

"It was tough because I know all of my teammates . . . I kept hearing they're playing for you," said Davis, a 22-year-old from Wimborne, England, her tear-soaked face making her disappointment obvious. "That was the hard thing.They gave me the chance to win it for them and I wasn't able to make it happen."

Related: Stanford women's team shows you how to hit golf's scariest shots

The missed putt sadly dampened the incredible shot Davis pulled off on the 16th hole to seeming take control of the match and put Baylor in position to win the program's first national title -- after having finished no better than T-16 in two previous NCAA appearances. Standing 1 up on the tee and knowing that their match would decide which program walked off with the title (the four proceeding matches had been split 2-2), Davis hit her tee shot into a hazard. The good news was that the ball was playable, coming to rest on a patch of muddy dirt. The bad news, was the glob of the mud stuck to the ball.

Undaunted, Davis pulled out an 8-iron and nearly holed her 134-yard approach, leaving herself a four-foot birdie try that she converted to win the hole. "That was the thing," Davis said, "when I got up there, just to see that it was playable, I was excited, like I've been given a chance, like I'm going to make the most of it, and it paid off."

"That shot on 16, under the conditions, might have been the best shot I've ever seen," said Baylor coach Jay Goble. "I can't say that I walked up to her and had a warm and fuzzy feelings that she was going to hit it up there four or five feet away. But if anybody can do it, Hayley Davis can do it."

Given such a stunning change in momentum, with Stackhouse now dormie, the Stanford All-American and 2014 U.S. Curtis Cup player could easily have folded. Instead, she responded with inspired shots of her own. On the par-5 17th, she hit the green in two with a 3-hybrid from 209 feet, setting up a birdie to win the hole.

"That shot, as soon as it came off the clubface, I was just like, 'This is money,' and it felt really good," Stackhouse said.

Then on the par-4 18th, she hit her approach to eight feet and made another birdie putt to extend the match, the large crowd now following this everything-on-the-line match abuzz with a "can you believe what we're seeing?!?" astonishment

"I think I kind of had the easier hand because I had to go for it versus protect [a lead]," Stackhouse said. "I've never been more excited about a couple of finishing holes. I was like, we've worked hard for this all year. It's do or die. There are two holes left. You've got to get through to even have an opportunity to win the championship. That's the kind of stuff you dream for as a golfer."

While Stackhouse played at a higher level as the match wore on, overall the play on Wednesday was a little ragged, a byproduct likely of the seven straight days of practice or competition for the two teams in the finals.

"This is all adrenaline," Stackhouse said. "At this point, it's the last match. You're not going to get tired because it matters too much."

So much will be forgotten in the aftermath of Davis' miss. For instance Stanford sophomore Casey Danielson winning the final two holes of Match No. 1 against Baylor's Laura Lonardi, to make Stackhouse's match matter in the first place. And Cardinal freshman Shannon Aubert winning her third match of the week in Match No. 2, beating Lauren Whyte, 4 and 3.

What will also be forgotten -- or maybe just go unnoticed -- is how Davis reacted in the aftermath of arguably her worst moment in golf. Five minutes after her miss, the tears were still coming down her cheeks. Yet Davis walked back on the green where her opponents were celebrated, and proceeded to give each one a congratulatory hug.

"I don't know, forever," Davis said when asked how long it might take to get over what happened. "It's a five-foot putt. I've made probably thousands of those putts in my life. And that one didn't go in."

Davis paused, still sad, but composed.

"I mean it's tough, but I know I tried."

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Equipment

Jack Nicklaus was so good he used the same 3-wood for 37(!) years

Of all Jack Nicklaus' accomplishments -- 18 professional majors, 73 PGA Tour titles, etc. -- one number might stun golf fans more than any: 37. As in the 37 years Nicklaus used the same MacGregor Tommy Armour 3-wood.

Related: The most important clubs in Masters history

The magical club is on display with other artifacts from Jack's storied career at the USGA's new Jack Nicklaus Room in Far Hills, N.J. Nicklaus used the 3-wood from 1958 through 1995, meaning he won all of those majors (beginning with the 1962 U.S. Open and ending with the 1986 Masters) and PGA Tour titles with it in the bag.

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This would be incredible in any era, but in an age when even amateurs update clubs on an annual basis, it's downright astonishing. Can you imagine Rory McIlroy winning the 2035 Masters with the same 3-wood he had in the bag to win his first major at the 2011 U.S. Open? Will the 3-wood even exist in 2035?

And it wasn't just that 3-wood. Our Mike Johnson wrote about Nicklaus' tendency to stick with clubs he liked in the June 7, 2010 edition of Golf World.

"Jack hardly changed anything," said Clay Long, who worked on Nicklaus' equipment at MacGregor.

Sounds like an easy gig.

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