This week, the PGA Tour returns to Firestone Country Club for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the setting for what might be the most impressive decade of dominance in PGA Tour history.
Tiger Woods' 14 career major championships and 74 PGA Tour wins are the fruits of a career that has never failed to amaze. But his record in this tournament stands apart from anything the game has ever seen.
Woods' unparalleled ledger at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational defies all logic. It's simply jaw-dropping. For a decade, Tiger put an MMA-style chokehold on storied Firestone, leaving competitors flailing and mouths agape.
Between 1999 and 2009, Woods played the Bridgestone 10 times, missing the 2008 tournament with injury. In those 10 years, he won the tournament seven times. That's an acceptable percentage for free throws. For golf tournaments, it's insane.
The three years Woods failed to win, he finished 4th, T4 and T2. Over a 10-tounament span, that's an average finish of 1.7.
Let all that sink in for a minute. The WGC events assemble the greatest fields in world golf. The Firestone South course layout is a classic track that has hosted three PGA Championships. Woods has treated the tournament, the course and the field like he was Steve Williams and they were pesky photographers.
Over those 10 tournaments, from 1999-2009, Woods won $9,352,500. That number would rank sixth on an all-time list of single-season earnings, and Woods accumulated it in 10 tournaments. Over that span, Woods averaged 67.5 strokes per round on a course that Arnold Palmer once dubbed a "Monster."
Symptomatic of Tiger's recent decline, he failed to contend at the Bridgestone in 2010 and 2011, finishing T78 and T37, respectively, the last two years.
Consider this week a barometer for the state of Tiger's game. It's his best tournament. Heck, it's probably the best tournament for any player in the game's history.
If he's truly "back," he'll win it for the eighth time.
- by Rob Doster
Follow me on Twitter @AthlonDoster
In Honor of the RBC Canadian Open, We Remember Canada's Greatest Golf Genius
Athlon's Craig Shankland shares his memories of Moe Norman, perhaps the greatest ballstriker in history.
Moe Norman was a painfully shy, eccentric Canadian prone to wearing garish, mismatched outfits. He was also quite possibly the greatest striker of the golf ball in history. No less of an authority than Tiger Woods has said that only two golfers in history “owned their swing”: Ben Hogan and Moe Norman. “I want to own mine,” Woods added with a hint of envy.
Norman’s swing featured an abbreviated backswing and shorter-than-normal follow-through that produced uncanny accuracy. And it was purely self-taught; Norman never took a lesson in his 75 years.
His shyness — some have speculated that Norman might have suffered from a form of autism — precluded a career on the PGA Tour. But Norman did share his unique approach to golf with thousands of fortunate players through a long series of clinics. One of his partners in these clinics also happens to be Craig Shankland, a member of Athlon Sports’ Elite Eight staff of golf instructors. Here, Craig shares his memories of Moe, golf’s greatest ball-striker and most unique personality, a true legend of the game.
Printed here are my thoughts and remembrances of Moe Norman, many of them from the clinics that we did together over 18 years.
I present these with a deep sense of respect for his incredible skill at ball-striking and consistency. There will never be another like him. Watching Moe hit balls was riveting. You could not believe how good he was time after time.
People have asked me why Moe and I got along so well. I reply by noting that many have called me a champion of idiosyncrasies. I have always loved people who would come along with unusual styles and could beat your brains in. I have taught people not to change their style, but to nurture it and show how it could be an asset. I hate people who rebuild something like that and ruin individuality.
Moe had an unusual, brilliant style that I deeply admired. In turn, he also admired and respected what I did. We had a mutual respect.
Moe had some difficulty trusting and relating to people. If someone came up to Moe for an autograph, he would turn away. If I told Moe that the person was a very good player, he would sign the autograph. He only talked to people who could play — if I told him so. He knew then that they respected him and were not there to ridicule him.
When I would ask him if people should copy his swing, he would laugh. “How can anyone copy my swing? They would come and take you away,” he would say. “You can’t be me. Everyone is copying everyone else. Be yourself; don’t try to be me. You can’t be me.”
The first time I met him was during one of my free clinics. He was in the audience. After I finished what I thought was a perfect display of shotmaking and shot-shaping, he approached me. “Do you know who I am?” he asked. “Yes, Moe Norman,” I said. He replied, “How would you like me to come next week and show you how a ball should really be hit?” I told him to come on. We did clinics together for the next 18 years.
He was very comfortable hitting balls. He was uncomfortable around people he didn’t know. Hitting balls was his life; no one could do it better. After hitting balls, he would withdraw, getting lost in his own world where no one else could disturb him.
Moe never gave any credence to putting. “There’s no skill in that,” he would say. “Hitting pins in regulation — that takes skill.”
Moe once told me that during a practice round for the Canadian Open, he was playing with Canadian golf great George Knudson. Moe offered to play for $5 per pin hit in regulation. George agreed with a laugh, thinking that no one hits pins in regulation. After three holes, Moe had hit three pins, and George walked back to the clubhouse.
On the first hole of a practice round, a 230-yard par 3, the media assembled around Moe and teased him about his putting. Moe pulled a club from his bag, struck the ball perfectly, and turned to the reporters, saying, “I’m not putting today.” The ball rolled into the hole for a hole-in-one. It was one of 17 holes-in-one that Moe hit.
Moe broke all the rules of conventional golf mechanics. He held the club in the palms of his huge hands. I always said he had no wrists, only arms with hands. He used an abnormally wide stance; most players, even pros, would whiff while trying to address the ball in his footprints. He started the club at least a foot behind the ball. He reached for the ball, extending his arms as far as they would go, arms and shaft on a single axis. He faced the ball at impact, his feet flat on the ground. His arms did all the work. His body seemed to react to his powerful arm swing.
We went to Bay Hill to do a clinic for a medical company. Moe didn’t know the way from Daytona, so he said he would follow me in his car. We started onto I-95 heading for I-4 and Orlando. When I looked in my rear-view mirror, I didn’t see Moe. I slowed down to 50 mph. Finally, I spotted him in his car, going 45 max. Truck drivers were honking and yelling. But Moe had the volume turned up so high in his Cadillac that he was oblivious to the noise. When we finally got to Bay Hill, the noise from his radio was deafening. Science and math tapes were blaring from his tape player, with the volume turned up as high as it would go. He was in a world all his own.
When we got there, we went looking for the practice area where the clinic would be held. Arnold Palmer came toward us in his cart and said, “Hi. How are you, Moe?” Immediately, Moe shot back, with an obvious reference to Palmer’s lack of accuracy off the tee: “I haven’t had a thorn bush stuck up my ass for the last seven years. How about you, Arnie?” Palmer cracked up. He knew that Moe was never in the bushes.
Over 41,352 people attended our clinics. How do I know? Moe counted every person who ever attended a clinic. He knew the exact number of balls we hit and how many tees we used each time.
Moe showed up exactly at the time of the show, never earlier. He was never late. He would have continued to hit balls forever for the crowd if he could have. If there were golf balls in a pile or on the ground, anywhere, he would hit them. You would often find him hunting for range balls on the edge of the range, on lake banks, in deep rough, off on his own. If there were snakes and alligators in there, he didn’t care.
He came down to Florida each year in a new Cadillac. He would proudly show it to me. Inside the trunk were new clothes and golf balls all over the place. New Titleists out of their packs. “Imagine that,” he said. “They gave me all these balls. Why did they give me all these? All I need is one.”
Sometimes the weather got really hot during the clinics. Moe would be there in his turtleneck, a Gucci sweater and heavy twill slacks. “Aren’t you hot?” I would ask him. “I don’t sweat,” he would reply. “Look at my hands.” They would be dry as a bone.
Moe told a story about a day he played with Sam Snead: “There was a par 5 with a stream across the fairway. I pulled out my driver. Sam said, ‘You can’t carry the stream today; it’s into the wind.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to carry the stream. I’m going to run the ball across the bridge. I did it, and Snead couldn’t believe it. When we got to the bridge, he said, ‘I can’t believe you did that.’ I rolled a ball across the bridge and said, ‘See? It fits.’”
Moe hit 32 balls off the same tee one day without touching the tee. He simply would place another ball atop the same tee, until finally, on the 33rd ball, he moved the tee slightly with his shot. “How long have you had that tee?” I asked him. “Seven years,” he said. “I’ve only used one ball and one tee in seven years. It’s a cheap game!”
On a hole that required a driver and a wedge, Moe would sometimes hit wedge and driver, in that order. When asked why, he said, “To have fun. And I still made birdie.”
Here’s a sample of some of Moe’s many sayings over the years.
To older audiences: “Stop worrying about when you are going to die, but how good you are going to live. Get off your ass and go practice!”
On the Vardon (overlap) grip: “It stinks. You’ve got 10 fingers. Why would you take any of them off the club? How dumb is that?”
On his grip: “Where do you hold a baseball bat, a tennis racquet, a hockey stick? In the palms of your hands. That’s where the meat is, not in the fingers. You’re playing a tune. Fingers are fast, palms are quiet.”
On how tightly he held the club: “I draw blood with my left hand.”
On gripping the club like a bird or a tube of toothpaste: “That’s crap. It’s all bunk.”
“The most important inches in golf are the five and a half inches between your ears.”
“In my backswing, I place a coin 41 inches behind the ball and two tees 22 inches in front of the ball. I swing back over the coin to get extension and between the two tees to keep the clubhead square 22 inches after impact. I see that in my mind, and I do it.”
“I don’t take divots. I comb the grass. Give me your Rolex watch; I’ll hit it right off the top. I wouldn’t break it. I’d hit the ball off the top of your head and wouldn’t harm a hair. I’d give you the best butch cut you ever had.”
“I’m a superintendent’s dream. ‘Look, Moe was here. No sign of any divots, just where his shoes were.’”
“Distance is only a word. I am accuracy-oriented. What good is it if you hit the ball 300 yards into the trees?”
On the last time he missed a fairway: “1974. The ball hit a sprinkler head and bounced out of bounds.”
“The ball does exactly what I tell it to do, every time.”
“You play hoping golf; I play knowing golf. You hope it’s going down the fairway. I know it’s going down the fairway.”
“I swing the whole golf stick. Swing the clubhead? That’s crap. You have to learn to swing the handle first. If you can’t control the handle, how can you swing the clubhead?”
“There’s no such thing as a bad lie.”
“There’s no wrist roll in my swing. You could cook an egg on the clubface after impact, sunny side up.”
“Hogan and I hated 36-hole events. In the afternoon round, we were always in our morning divots!”
“I use smooth force, not brute force.”
“My right hand is an ornament on the club.”
“I lead so well. The handle always gets to the ball first. The handle is past my left leg before the ball is hit.”
“I hit my right shoulder on my downswing, I lag so much. One day, I lagged so much, I hit my right ankle!”
On starting the club so far behind the ball: “It does four things for me. You can’t take the club outside, you can’t lift the club up, you are already in your turn, and it eliminates a foot of the swing!”
“I hit the ball down my chosen line of aim, every time.”
“Hogan said, ‘The straight shot is an accident.’ I told him, ‘Come with me and you will see a lot of accidents.’”
“I’ve hit 5,000,000 balls and never had a sore muscle in my life. I can stand here all day and hit balls.”
“I’m the greatest ball-striker because I have the fewest moving parts.”
“Golf is not a turning action. It’s a shifting action.”
“It’s a swing, not a hit. You should have a pulling action.”
“Golf is not supposed to be work. It’s supposed to be fun. So have fun.”
“I never get mad. Getting mad makes you swing worse.”
“Golf is easy. People make it hard.”
“I feel like a windmill, never jerky.”
“You will never see a cleat on my left shoe (his foot would remain flat on the ground). My big toe never moves.”
“I don’t force it, I finesse it. I don’t bash it, I bump it.”
“I can’t hit the ball off line if I want to; my swing won’t let me. I can’t hit a bad shot if I tried; my swing won’t let me.”
“I want my left knee past the ball before impact.”
“I am the straightest that ever lived. If there was ever a tournament at midnight, I’d win. I know where to find my ball every time. I wish the fairways were four inches wide. The ball will fit!”
On how he wanted to be remembered: “I’ll be walking down the fairway, off into the sunset with a big smile on my face. Isn’t it great to have been able to do something no one else in the world can do!”
Ernie Els' win in the British Open marked the fourth major championship of his remarkable career, and the third decade in which he's won a major. He's now tied with Phil Mickelson in career majors, which begs the question: Who's the second-best player of the Tiger Woods era in golf? A side-by-side comparison doesn't exactly clear things up, but let's try it anyway.
The Case for Mickelson
• 40 career PGA Tour wins, tied for ninth all time
• Three Masters wins, tied for fourth-most all time
• 33 top-10 finishes in major championships
• A record five second-place finishes at the U.S. Open
• Five runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour money list
• Multiple PGA Tour wins in 13 seasons
The Case for Els
• 19 PGA Tour wins, 27 European Tour wins
• Multiple Open wins on both sides of the Atlantic, joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagen, Lee Trevino and Bobby Jones
• 33 top-10 finishes in major championships
• Two Orders of Merit for top money-winner on the European Tour
• The all-time money leader on the European Tour
• Unlike Mickelson, Els briefly ascended to the top spot in the World Golf Ranking on three separate occasions
Mickelson's go-for-broke style, one that has produced heroic shots like the pine straw 5-iron at The Masters, has earned him many fans, but it has also given rise to some truly tragic moments, like his 72nd hole meltdown at Winged Foot when that elusive first U.S. Open win was in his grasp. Even throughout the Woods era, Lefty has been the people's choice, a latter-day Arnold Palmer who has thrilled and disappointed his throngs of followers in equal measure. His legendary short game is pure magic, but his persistent wildness off the tee is identifiable for duffers everywhere. Mickelson's battle with arthritis and wife Amy's battle with breast cancer have added to his everyman appeal.
Els' effortless game gives off a totally different vibe. His smooth, syrupy swing is the game's gold standard, in a class all time with Sam Snead's. His relatable struggles with the putter also endear him to his legion of fans, and his son's battle with autism has linked him to a worthy cause.
Both guys exude class, although there are persistent whispers among Tour insiders that Lefty isn't all that popular with his fellow players (FIGJAM, anyone?).
It's close, but we'll go with Mickelson. His three wins in the world's most prestigious tournament — one of which denied Els a lone Masters win — nudge him slightly ahead of Els' multiple Open wins. Lefty hasn't distinguished himself in Ryder Cup play, but he has outshined Els at the Presidents Cup, giving him an edge in international team competition. Lefty has come close more often in majors, with 18 top-3 finishes to Els' 14.
Els has probably had a greater worldwide impact, but Mickelson has been the slightly better player.
What do you think?
So did Ernie Els win it? Or did Adam Scott lose it? Both. The agony and the ecstasy of golf were on full display at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and when it was over, Els had his second Claret Jug and fourth major, and Scott had first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be Greg Norman. Or Jason Dufner.
Brandt Snedeker has just put together one of the best 36-hole performances in major championship history. Snedeker's 10-under 130 total ties Nick Faldo's 1992 record for lowest 36-hole score at the British Open Championship, and his bogey-free performance thus far is the first time since Tiger Woods at the 2000 Open that a player has put together two blemish-free scorecards in the first two rounds of a major. Think about that for a second — Snedeker has matched an achievement by Woods at the absolute height of his powers, when he was in the midst of his Tiger Slam.
Here's a quick introduction to the affable Snedeker, who will be battling Adam Scott this weekend for his first major title.
• A native Nashvillian, Snedeker was a two-time Tennessee state high school champion for Montgomery Bell Academy. He went on to a stellar career at Vanderbilt, where as a senior, he was ranked No. 1 in the nation and earned SEC Male Golfer of the Year honors.
• After a two-win 2006 season on the Nationwide Tour, Snedeker joined the big boys on the PGA Tour and grabbed Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, winning the Wyndham Championship for his first Tour win.
• Snedeker contended for the 2008 Masters title, entering the final round two shots behind eventual winner Trevor Immelman before a final-round 77 ended his chances.
• He earned the second and third wins of his career in playoffs, beating Luke Donald at the 2011 Heritage and Kyle Stanley at the 2012 Farmers Insurance, where he erased a seven-shot final-round deficit.
• One of the world's greatest putters, Snedeker ranks fifth on Tour in 2012 in Strokes Gained, Putting.
• Snedeker is looking to one of his idols, five-time Open champion Tom Watson, for inspiration this week. "Well, it helped a bunch playing with him," Snedeker said of a recent round with his fellow Huck Finn lookalike. "He told me the first time over here he wasn't a big fan of links golf. The second time he played he loved it. You've got to kind of embrace it, realise that you're going to get good bounces, bad bounces, expect the worst and hope for the best."
• In November 2011, Snedeker had hip surgery to fix a degenerative condition, and then he had to miss the 2012 U.S. Open after cracking a rib during a coughing fit. Yep, coughing.
• Snedeker knows a 36-hole lead means little at a tournament where a gust of wind can end your chances. "A great experience, but it gets you a lot of nothing,” he said. “As anyone can tell you, there’s been a lot of leads lost after 36 holes. I’m going to try and buck that trend this weekend."
Tiger Woods made headlines this week when he uttered the word "unplayable" in reference to some of the rough at Royal Lytham. So how tough is the course? An unusual amount of rain — even for England — has added extra thickness and gnarliness to the deep stuff, and when you throw in the penal pot bunkers, players will need an extra level of precision, particularly from the tee. Bottom line: As one writer described it, Royal Lytham is a beast, but a just beast, and will produce a worthy champion.
How will the marquee group perform?
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For the first two rounds, Tiger Woods (No. 4 in the world) will be playing with Justin Rose (No. 9) and Sergio Garcia (No. 23). Tiger has called the British Open his favorite major, and there's no doubt that he wants this tournament desperately, having gone more than four years without a major title. But Sergio is the wild card. His game has shown signs of life — he hasn't missed a cut in more than a year — and the British Open has historically been his best major (seven top 10s, including a second). Maybe the golf gods will finally smile on him. Doubtful, but possible.
Will Duval make the cut?
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The last time the Open Championship came to Royal Lytham & St Annes, David Duval won the first and last major championship of his career. For a guy who was once the No. 1 player in the world, that lone major title seems a long time ago. The winner of the 1999 Players Championship, Duval ascended to the No. 1 ranking, then two years later won the British Open at Royal Lytham. That happens to be the last of his 13 PGA Tour titles. Duval will be at Royal Lytham again, a perk of hoisting the Claret Jug. But will he even make the cut? This season alone, Duval has missed 10 cuts in 13 events; in Tiger Woods' entire career, Woods has missed nine. Signs for Duval aren't trending in the right direction.
Will an Englishman finally win?
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The last Englishman to kiss the Claret Jug: Nick Faldo, in 1992. Coming into this year's Open, two of the top three golfers in the World Golf Rankings will carry the banner of St. George's Cross, and they'll feel the considerable weight of their countrymen's expectations. World No. 1 Luke Donald will be feeling the most pressure; his lack of success in majors, particularly his nation's championship (he has one top 10 in 11 appearances and missed the cut last year), has fans questioning his major mettle. Lee Westwood, meanwhile, has many more close calls on his resume, but like Donald, he missed the cut at the Open in 2011.
Who'll kiss the jug on Sunday?
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It's tempting to pick a wild card, like Dustin Johnson, who was a wayward 4-iron from challenging for the win last year; Zach Johnson, the game's best putter right now; or Rickie Fowler, who has the talent and also has that elusive first win under his belt. Then there are the resurgent veterans, like Padraig Harrington; the perennial short-listers, like Phil Mickelson; and those seeking that career-defining win, like Westwood, Donald, Garcia, Steve Stricker, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. But we'll go with the bookmakers' choice and pick Tiger, who is taking a thoughtful, veteran approach this week and looks ready to return the major winner's circle.
Royal Lytham & St Annes is unique in the British Open rota, as it is surrounded by suburbia and yet close enough to the sea to be bludgeoned by the brisk winds, and also for the fact that it starts with a par-3 hole. There are over 200 bunkers on the course, and at an average of over 11 per hole, they negate the advantage of power and make placement the priority.
This is the only true championship course in the world that starts on a par 3. The tee shot penetrates an avenue of trees right of the tee to a green protected by seven severe bunkers. Out-of-bounds right on the railway line is a common theme on the front nine.
Did You Know? Tied for the lead heading into the final round of the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham, Ian Woosnam didn't notice he had two drivers in his bag on the first tee because he didn't need the big stick. The two-shot penalty for having too many clubs, discovered soon after the round began, ruined his chances.
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Two new tees have added 43 yards in length, bringing the three fairway bunkers on the right more into play. The addition of a low dune system on the left between the fairway and the 18th hole makes the tee shot tougher still. The green, sitting at an angle, slopes from left to right, between three bunkers.
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The tee shot must steer clear of the O.B. of the railway line up the right, a newly constructed high dune system on the left and the two bunkers on either side of the fairway. A pot bunker on either side shields a raised green from attack.
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Turning back in the opposite direction, this dogleg left favors a drive up the right between four fairway bunkers, including one that has been repositioned. Any shot pulled left leaves no view of the putting surface or its six traps. The runway up to the green has been reshaped to make front-pin locations tougher.
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This is the longest of the one-shotters. A cluster of four bunkers stretches up the left side of the green, with two more on the right. The deceptive front of the green gives the hole the appearance of playing longer.
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This hole, which played to a par 5 at the 2001 Open, will play as a par 4. The addition of two fairway bunkers to the right of the hole and the recontouring of the flat rough to the left of the fairway beyond the dominant bunker make this hole a tougher challenge. Five bunkers hug a crowned green.
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The repositioned fairway bunkering has tightened the landing area. The new green has been moved back and to the left, leaving a large dune to its right. New dunes have been created to the left of the green, and the approach has four bunkers that will really test the accuracy of those going for it in two shots.
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As the course returns to the railway tracks, OB is again a factor all along the right side from the elevated, exposed tee. A new bunker has been added right of the fairway to complement the large bunker in the sand hills to the left of the fairway. The bunker left of the green is the deepest on the course.
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The shortest hole is demanding and difficult. It calls for precision to avoid the nine bunkers that ring the green. Finding the proper shelf in the green takes even more accuracy.
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The course does a 180-degree turn to start the long march back to the clubhouse. A blind tee shot, pushed back some 50 yards, leads to an angled fairway with two bunkers on the right and one farther up the left. A small green is smothered by five bunkers in front.
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With a new back tee lengthening the hole by 59 yards, only the longest hitters have a chance to clear the two left-hand fairway bunkers to set up an opportunity to go for the green in two. Most will play right of those bunkers, trying to avoid a fairway bunker up that side. From there, the hole curls left to a green with four bunkers.
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Out-of-bounds along the right can really muddy a scorecard. The green is raised and angled, making it tough to hold. Shots should be held up against the ocean's winds from the left, avoiding six bunkers.
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This par 4 welcomes players to "Murder Mile," six successive par 4s that collectively measure almost 2,500 yards. Even with a new tee adding 15 yards, this is the easiest hole of the bunch, although players must avoid 14 bunkers along the way. The soft-sloping green accepts bouncing shots in front.
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Parallel to 13th and in the opposite direction, the 14th hole features four fairway bunkers, including one new one, staggered up the right side near a row of dunes. A new swale short of the green catches missed shots. Shots lost to the right at the green could end up out-of-bounds.
Did You Know? During the final round of the 1952 Open Championship at Royal Lytham, Bobby Locke chipped in for par just off the green to spur on his one-shot win.
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Three bunkers up the right side should deter some players from carrying the corner of this slight dogleg right. Obstacles line the approach between the dunes. A cluster of scattered cross bunkers sit well short of the green with three more traps greenside.
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A blind tee shot reveals none of the trouble ahead, notably the 13 bunkers strewn about like discarded toys and the new dunes right of the fairway. A smart layup should provide a wedge approach for birdie.
Did You Know? Seve Ballesteros played his approach from an overflow car park on the right after an errant drive, yet still emerged with a birdie on his way to winning the 1979 Open Championship.
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Hitting the fairway pinched by a slew of bunkers on the left and dense scrub and bushes to the right is quite a task with a major on the line. The hole bends left to a green bunkered on either side.
Did You Know? Bobby Locke hit a 2-iron he called "the finest shot of my career" to 20 feet, but three-putted, a mistake that almost cost him the 1952 Open Championship. A plaque to the left of the fairway honors Bobby Jones, who won the 1926 Open Championship with a mashie that hit the green from 175 yards out.
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Seven bunkers litter the landing area, including two new ones. None are scarier than the three in the middle of the fairway. Seven more bunkers flank the longest green on the course.
Did You Know? Tony Jacklin's perfect drive in the final round of the 1969 Open set up a smooth 7-iron and ultimately, his first major championship. He became the first Brit to win the Open since Max Faulkner in 1951.
KEEGAN BRADLEY WON A MAJOR WITH AN ANCHORED PUTTER. WAS IT THE START OF A TREND?
It could be D-day for long putters. Are they legal or illegal? A weapon or crutch? A trend or fad?
The United States Golf Association could be ready to speak out on the matter. The USGA and the R&A — golf’s two governing bodies — met at the U.S. Open to talk about the long and belly putters anchored into the body. Results of those discussions will be addressed publicly at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
The putters continue to stir up plenty of debate in golf circles. Either you're for them, or against them, with little area for compromise.
Purists believe they should be banned. Players using long and belly putters just a few years ago were labeled as bad putters who had gotten desperate, but it's hard to argue against the bulging bank accounts of the players using them today. The stereotype that long putters are just for old guys with frayed nerves on The Champions Tour no longer applies.
Long and belly putters dominated the PGA Tour last season, winning nine times. Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with one "anchored" to his body. He used the Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth Belly Putter at the PGA Championship last August. This season, Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club with a long putter, joining Bradley in the major winner’s circle on the strength of the elongated flatstick.
Bill Haas captured the 2011 Tour Championship and the $10 million Fed-Ex Cup with his. Adam Scott's major resurgence was sparked by a long putter. He plowed through the field at the Bridgestone Invitational, a World Golf Championship. Even Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk tinkered with them in competition.
Equipment manufacturers are eager to cash in on the craze. They're releasing more styles and retail stores are devoting more space to them. TaylorMade Golf boldly predicted a 400 percent sales increase for its Corza Ghost Putter and the Ghost Spider Putter brands this season.
There are many points of view on the subject, but ultimately, the USGA and R&A will have the final say. Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, believes a decision is forthcoming by the end of the year.