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Jack Fleck, who 'out-Hoganed Hogan,' dies

By John Strege

He was David only in the sense that Goliath went down, but it was not a feel-good story at the time. Ben Hogan was the prohibitive favorite, however the word was defined, and even history was on his side. It was supposed to have been, anyway.

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Hogan was on the threshold of winning a record fifth U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, when along came an obscure Iowa farm boy with no credentials, none, at least, that would portend his turning history on its head.

Jack Fleck shot 69 and defeated Hogan by three in a Sunday playoff, one of sports' most notable upsets that simultaneously was Fleck's greatest triumph and an enduring disappointment in one regard.

"[I]t has always been thought of as the U.S. Open that Ben Hogan lost, not the one Jack Fleck won," Fleck said in a My Shot column in Golf Digest in 2005. "I never felt I was given credit for how well I played."

Related: My Shot: Jack Fleck

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Fleck, 92, died at 6 a.m. Friday in a rehabilitation home in Fort Smith, Ark., where he had been admitted only a week-and-a-half earlier.

"Earlier in the year, they had diagnosed him with brain cancer," Jeremy Moe, head professional at Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, said. "He was not responding very well to the treatment. He was having a hard time with it. They recently moved him into the home. Once he went downhill, he really went fast."

Moe had visited him only two days earlier and Fleck's decline was visible. "We were used to seeing him every day," Moe said, "so we've been worried about him. He came over every day until recently. Jack was a great ambassador for golf. Very friendly. He'd spend a good part of every day around here."

After the '55 Open, Fleck would win two more tournaments -- the Phoenix Open Invitational in 1960 and the Bakersfield Open in 1961 -- in a respectable, but otherwise undistinguished career. Hogan, meanwhile, declared he was through with competitive golf after the loss to Fleck.

"Listen," Fleck told Karen Crouse of the New York Times two years ago. "Hogan was my idol. You know what my 4-year-old son said? He said, 'I rooted for you, Dad, but I was sorry Ben Hogan lost.'"

Eventually the golf world came around, however, and history will recognize what Fleck understood all along.

"I out-Hoganed Hogan," he said.


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News & Tours

USGA's Mike Davis takes skeptical LPGA members questions about twin U.S. Opens

By Ron Sirak

PHOENIX -- When the twin U.S. Opens were announced in 2009 it was all blue birds and butterflies. Having the men and women's national championships played on the same course in consecutive weeks would be a great thing for golf.

But as the double feature at Pinehurst No. 2 this June grows nearer, the realization of all that also could go wrong looms larger -- and more real.
 

Related: Is the USGA making a mistake with the Pinehurst experiment?

To ease those concerns, USGA executive director Mike Davis addressed LPGA members at a players meeting Tuesday night at the JTBC Founders Cup and for the most part found a quietly skeptical  audience. There were questions about divots around greens and in mutual landing areas as well as about housing and practice time, said sources at the meeting.
 
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According to those in attendance, Davis told them that Pinehurst No. 7 would be open to the players on Saturday and Sunday before the U.S. Women's Open -- and during the U.S. Open -- and that the greens on No. 7 would be set to the conditions the greens on No. 2 will be at for the championship. The players will also be allowed on the practice range at No. 2 beginning at noon on Sunday with access to the locker rooms and hospitality areas.

The biggest fear is a weather interruption that would create a Monday finish for the men. And the worst-case scenario is a Monday finish for the men followed by an 18-hole Tuesday playoff.
 
Stacy Lewis, the top American in the Rolex Rankings, said Davis did not go into what would happen if there was a Tuesday finish in the men's Open -- some say there is a scenario for at Saturday through Tuesday U.S. Women's Open -- but she did reveal his plans if the guys have a Monday playoff.
 
"The playoff would begin at noon and we would be allowed on the course beginning at 7 a.m and then again after the playoff is over," Lewis said.
 
You can't help but wonder what the men will say when they hear that.

Among the reasons the USGA cites for why the Women's Open should go after the men's is that, while women can putt greens at the same speed as men they need softer greens that hold better since they do not spin the ball as much. That can be achieved by throwing water on the green after the men's Open is finished.
 
"Let's see if they can pull that off," Lewis said, adding: "Yeah, I'm still apprehensive. They tried to spin it that everything is under control, but the general feeling of the players is that it is going to be a bit of a challenge. The main concern is divots, both in the landing areas and in the collection areas."
 
Lewis, who has not played No. 2 since it was refurbished, plans to go in a couple of weeks early to play some practice rounds. "And I guess I'll practice hitting out of divots," she said. "There was one point when Davis said, 'Divots are part of the game,' and that got a pretty good giggle from the players."
 
The overwhelming feeling among players, according to Lewis is that the women should have gone first. "But, she said, "we will just have to make the best of it."
 

Related: America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses

One hope by the USGA is that having the women go after the men's tournament will provide a public relations springboard into the women's event. That is already the case. Simply the fact people are talking about the U.S. Women's Open in March makes it the most eagerly anticipated women's national championship in years -- maybe ever.

The ultimate gauge of success, of course, will be if the talk after the Twin Opens is about how great the idea it was -- and not about how the women had to play a battered course to crown a champion.

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News & Tours

U.S. Open a boon to city once called 'Enron by the Sea'

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(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

It is apparent why the United States Golf Association wants to return the U.S. Open to San Diego's Torrey Pines in 2021: Weather, the setting, space, attendance and television ratings.

Here's why the city of San Diego wants it to return: Money. Or, as the city's official Request for Council Action puts it, "Fiscal Considerations."

San Diego's City Council has called a special meeting on Monday to approve the U.S. Open agreement between the city and the USGA. The City Council website has posted the meeting agenda, and Subitem-A begins to lay it out:

"Authorizing and directing the Mayor to execute...an Agreement for the 2021 United States Open Championship between the United States Golf Association and the City, for the hosting of the 2021 Championship, including lease of the Torrey Pines Golf Course for both exclusive and non-exclusive periods of time for a total rental amount of $2,500,000."

The $2.5 million rental fee does not even fall under Fiscal Considerations, which in essence is the windfall the city expects to realize, based on the success of the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines.

"It is anticipated that the 2021 U.S. Open will bring significant direct and indirect revenue to the City," San Diego's Request for Council Action states under the heading Fiscal Considerations. "The 2008 U.S. Open generated a regional economic impact of $142 million with specific benefits to the City of San Diego of $1.5 million in TOT [Transient Occupancy Tax] and $1.6 million in local sales tax."

Attendance for seven days (not including the playoff round) was 273,832, second highest in U.S. Open history, and 64 percent were non-local attendees, according to an Economic Impact Analysis conducted by San Diego State University's Center for Hospitality and Tourism Research.

Related: Is the USGA making a mistake with its Pinehurst U.S. Open experiment?

Among a host of other statistical information included in the analysis is that hotel and motel room nights for out-of-towners numbered 74,318, generating nearly $15 million alone. And sales of logo merchandise in the run-up to the Open totaled $11 million, with $14.5 million in merchandise sales at the Open itself.

Suffice it to say that the U.S. Open is a boon to a city that only a decade ago was dubbed "Enron by the Sea."

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News & Tours

Torrey Pines in line to host 2021 U.S. Open

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

The 2021 U.S. Open looks to be heading back to Torrey Pines -- 13 years after Tiger Woods' thrilling victory over Rocco Mediate in what many consider one of history's most dramatic Opens. 

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Joe Goode, managing director of communications for the USGA, confirmed the news first reported Tuesday by U-T San Diego.

As the website noted, the proposal is not yet finalized because it needs to be voted on by the city council, although San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer expects it to approve the measure. Goode says the vote is anticipated to come next Monday. The 2008 U.S. Open was estimated to have had an overall economic impact of $142 million on the area, according to a San Diego State University study, and boasted the second-largest attendance in Open history.

The USGA faced competition for the site from the PGA of America, which was reportedly interested in bringing the PGA Championship to the Southern California public facility. The PGA of America and the USGA occasionally spar for the same courses, notably for Whistling Straits in the early 2000s. In that instance, Whistling Straits aligned themselves with the PGA, serving as the host of the 2004 and 2010 PGA Championships, and the 2020 Ryder Cup.

Similarly, the USGA brought the U.S. Open to Bethpage Black in 2002 and 2009, but the PGA of America is now aligned with the facility to host a future PGA Championship and Ryder Cup.

A quote from USGA president Tom O'Toole Jr, from the U-T San Diego piece:

"There are a lot of chess pieces. It's a process that takes some time," O'Toole said. "We wouldn't have gone back to Torrey Pines any sooner than 10 years, and we're slightly outside that range now. We had a fabulous Open there; the city was great; and the community was incredibly supportive."


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News & Tours

A second course for Chambers Bay?

By John Strege

Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., which will host the U.S. Open in 2015, is not for everyone, given its difficulty quotient and the fact it's a a walking-only course. But is a more accommodating second course in its future?

A Los Angeles development company, Sonnenblick Development, has entered into a preliminary agreement with Pierce County, which owns Chambers Bay, to build a 220-room hotel there, according to the News Tribune, which also reported that a second 18-hole golf course is included in the agreement.

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Robert Trent Jones II, who designed the Chambers Bay course, said it is premature to reach any conclusion. "We're doing a study on behalf of [Sonnenblick Development]," Jones said from Chambers Bay on Friday. "He [Robert Sonnenblick] has an opportunity to build a hotel there and he would like to see more golf.

"But the whole thing is up in the air. There may or may not be [a golf course], but it won't be anything like Chambers Bay. It would be more like a family course."

The question is whether there is enough room on the Chambers Creek property to the south of the existing course to accommodate another course. Jones suggested that in the event there isn't enough room that a nine-hole course with different sets of tees that would allow it to be played like an 18-hole course is an option.

Related: Laudable Audible

"There's a whole resort golfer community who won't play [Chambers Bay] right now because they don't walk 18 holes," Sonnenblick told the News Tribune.

A hotel has long been planned for the site, but a previous developer was unable to secure financing and the project was put off until after the U.S. Open.

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News & Tours

Kudos to Calcavecchia: 53, portly, still grinding on PGA Tour

By John Strege

It will otherwise merit almost no notice, unless he makes a weekend move on the leaders at the Honda Classic, but Mark Calcavecchia's performance warrants mention because, well, because he's Mark Calcavecchia. Oh, and he's 53 and somewhat portly these days.

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Calcavecchia is self-deprecating, honest to a fault, and always entertaining, as this anecdote illustrates:

"June 12, 1995, my birthday," he said several years ago, recalling that he lost $1,000 to Phil Mickelson in a practice round prior to the start of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. He missed six four-foot putts, he said. "That was the day my putter left me. And I've putted like crap since."

If his putter hadn't left him, he might be in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Calcavecchia has 13 PGA Tour victories, including a British Open. The unofficial standard, based on Fred Couples' induction, is 15 wins, one major. Calcavecchia has finished second 27 times.

Related: 10 Rules From Mark Calcavecchia

At any rate, when he won the Bell Canadian Open in 2005, he was lamenting his inability to compete with the younger set. "I was just trying to figure out how I was going to make it to 50," he said then. "I'm hoping they lower the age for the Senior Tour down a couple of years. I really don't enjoy playing against Ryan Moore and Chuckie Howell and all of those 23-year-old young guys that hit it 30 yards by me."

So, that as the background, consider this: Calcavecchia, who first played the Honda Classic in 1982 -- or more than seven years before leader Rory McIlroy was born -- has invoked his career money list exemption to play PGA Tour events this year.

Now he has a reasonable chance to make the cut in his third straight tournament by following an opening-round of one-under-par 69 with an even-par 70. He is tied for 48th at the moment. Not bad for a Champions Tour player who couldn't wait to leave the PGA Tour behind.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

A major for Spyglass Hill? 'The ownership would welcome it'

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(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

The first time Jack Nicklaus played Spyglass Hill Golf Course, in 1967, Bing Crosby bet him $5 that he wouldn't break par. Nicklaus shot a one-under par 71. "I've got a nice five-dollar bill at home, signed by Bing," Nicklaus said.

Crosby made his point nonetheless. From day one, Spyglass Hill, part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am rotation since 1967, has been a formidable test. In Golf Digest's ranking of America's 75 Toughest Courses two years ago, it came in fourth, behind the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Pine Valley and Oakmont.

The question, then, is this: Should Spyglass Hill, 48th in Golf Digest's most recent ranking of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, be considered for a major championship?

"That's a very good question," said Robert Trent Jones II, a renowned course architect whose father, Robert Trent Jones, designed Spyglass Hill. "It actually has been considered from time to time. I think it should. That would be a great idea.

"Pebble Beach would love to have another major championship, even Arnold Palmer [among the Pebble Beach Company owners]. The ownership would be for it. They would welcome it."

The U.S. Open is out; Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the Open five times and it returns there in 2019. But Spyglass Hill would seem an attractive venue for the PGA of America to consider when awarding courses for a PGA Championship for a couple of reasons.

One, it's on the West Coast, where major championship venue options are limited. Moreover, playing a major in the Pacific time zone enables the tournament to end in television prime time in the east.

Then there's this: Jones said it is "a commonly held view" of many tour players that Spyglass Hill, if not as historic or scenic, is actually a better course than Pebble Beach, certainly more challenging.


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News & Tours

Is the USGA making a mistake with its Pinehurst U.S. Open experiment?

By Alex Myers

When the USGA announced in June 2009 it would hold the men's and women's U.S. Opens on back-to-back weeks at the same site, it seemed like a neat, almost noble undertaking. Now as that fortnight at Pinehurst approaches, some observers are wondering if it's such a good idea.

Related: 10 bold predictions for 2014

"I'm not sure they should have done it, period," NBC's Mark Rolfing said on a conference call with reporters earlier this week. "I don't necessarily think it was a great idea to have two U.S. Opens at the same venue in the same year, back to back."

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Pinehurst No. 2 will host the men's and women's U.S. Opens this year.

Beyond the question of why the USGA is attempting the double Opens at all is why the men are going first.

"They should have played the ladies first," Frank Nobilo said. "Less traffic, they could prepare the golf course, but I guess they figured the men deserve a tougher challenge, they want better fairways, maybe they can have a different set of hole locations. That's the thing, too, is you've really got to find eight hole locations, otherwise those areas are going to get punished as well. It's interesting how they're going to cope with it."

Nobilo and Rolfing both fear the greens will be in rough shape by the time the two tournaments conclude, especially since the USGA is known for pushing course conditions (See: Shinnecock, Olympic, etc.) to the limit in order to provide the world's best golfers with their toughest test of the year. In keeping with that theme, having the men play first would allow the USGA to prepare its trademark extra-thick rough, which could then be cut to what length they choose for the women's tournament.

Johnny Miller agreed that the greens and the hole locations will be the biggest problems as well, noting that the men and women will be hitting their tee and approach shots from different areas. Although he doesn't think the order matters, he does see the potential for the USGA's image taking a hit.

Related: It may be 2014, but Johnny Miller is still Johnny Miller

"I haven't heard anybody else talk about it, but I was thinking, man, they can't let these greens get rock hard and burn out and scuffed up with the women coming in because it's not good press," Miller said. "You've got to be careful about that."

Miller and his NBC colleagues don't have to be as careful with what they say about the USGA since the network's longtime relationship with the U.S. Open ends after this year. And what a talked-about finale it should be for NBC, with one of golf's meccas hosting this historic double dip. Let's just hope people aren't talking about it for the wrong reasons when it's over.

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News & Tours

What will Johnny Miller do without the U.S. Open?

By Alex Myers

Johnny Miller's playing career was highlighted by his 1973 U.S. Open win at Oakmont (Think: 63!). His announcing career has been defined by that tournament as well (Think: "choke").

Related: Our favorite Johnny Millerisms

But his nearly-two-decade run of being the voice of the event for NBC will come to an end after the 2014 edition at Pinehurst thanks to Fox's new deal with the USGA. A month after that announcement was made, Miller seemed like he's still getting over it.

blog-johnny-miller-0904.jpg"It's something that's pretty sad for me," he said during a conference call previewing the final two FedEx Cup Playoff events. "My whole year, the U.S. Open was always my championship and it's what I was groomed to do, to play; growing up at Olympic Club and Pebble Beach, and I just always got up for the Open and loved it. But, I'll still love it. I just won't be covering it."

Miller sounded like a person being forced into giving up a beloved pet. He'll miss the tournament, but ultimately, he wants it to have a great life.

"All of us put our heart and soul into it," Miller said. "So I just hope that Fox does the same . . . I absolutely wish them the best. It's such a great championship."

As for his job, Miller, 66, remained non-committal about how much of any golf he'll cover when his contract with NBC runs out at the end of 2015. He's scheduled to work 13 events next year and 10 in 2015, the first year of Fox broadcasting the U.S. Open.

Related: Details on the TV deal that brings the U.S. Open to Fox

"It's not going to really impact my decision on what I do as an announcer," Miller said of NBC losing the U.S. Open. "I really don't know what NBC/Golf Channel has in store for me after two years. I would think they are starting to think about grooming a new Johnny Miller-type announcer but I don't know who it is, and I'll probably do some things, I just don't know how much. We'll just have to see."

Did he really say "a new Johnny Miller-type announcer"? Classic Johnny. Good luck with that, NBC.

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News & Tours

Golf's majors by the numbers: Learn from our interactive stats tool

By Alex Myers

We all know who won golf's major championships in 2013, but there's still a lot to be learned from sifting through the stats from the game's four marquee events. How much did distance matter? Did anyone gain an edge from accuracy off the tee? Was greens hit in regulation or how players fared when they missed greens a better indicator of success?

Related: Try GolfDigest.com's majors interactive tool

Thanks to our new interactive tool, you can sort through the data yourself to get a better understanding of why the leader boards turned out the way they did. For instance, everyone focused on Jason Dufner's performance from tee to green at the PGA Championship, but did you know a big part of why he took home the Wanamaker Trophy was because he led the field at Oak Hill in scrambling?

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A cold putter was a big reason why Woods didn't win a major in 2013.

Did you know that only 13 players made the cut in all four majors? Did you know that Martin Kaymer was one of those players? How did Jason Day tie for the lowest score in relation to par and not collect a first major trophy?

And what about Tiger Woods? The World No. 1 has five tour wins in 2013, yet his drought in majors grew to five years. The 14-time major champion didn't excel in any of the statistical categories we tracked. And while a wayward driver got most of the attention from his critics, it was the shortest club in his bag that really let him down.

Related: Our review of 2013's major championships

Visit our special section to do your own investigating of those who made the weekend at the majors. Who knows, the research you do now might just come in handy when you enter next year's office pool.

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