How did LG’s professional golf debut begin?  As with most things, it all started with a phone call:

LG answers: “Marty! What’s up?”

MT: “LG!! I just got a call – I got an exemption into the Web Event at Stonebrae!!  You free to caddie???”

LG: “Let’s gooooo!!!!”

Specifically, the gig was to caddie for one of my good friends and a rising star on the Web.com Tour, Martin Trainer.  For anyone who doesn’t follow professional golf reading this article, the Web.com Tour is the feeder tour to the PGA TOUR that is televised every week on major networks, ESPN, and the Golf Channel.

The event was the Ellie Mae Classic held at scenic TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, California.  Since I’ve been lucky enough to play this track a few times before the event, the experience was all the more eye-opening for me.  By a fortunate turn of events, I was also invited to play in the Wednesday Pro-Am with Martin, so I managed to get involved in nearly every activity associated with the event.  (I suppose that’s two interesting/unique golf experiences!)  I can’t say enough good things about the event or the course.  Both are phenomenal and I highly recommend that everyone in the Bay Area try to make it out to play the course and watch the event next year.

The week began with caddying on Monday in the Junior pro am (which we won!) and the first sponsors pro-am.  On Wednesday, events included the pro-am I played in, followed by the competitive rounds Thursday-Sunday.  To answer the most pressing question: Martin did well to put himself at -9 and in contention through two rounds, and shooting an incredible back nine six under 29 on Sunday to finish T-16, and get himself into the Web.com Tour event the following week in Missouri.  It is further notable that this was his first Web.com made cut!

What Does A Caddie Do, Exactly?

TL;DR version: a lot.  If you saw a description Craigslist, it might read: get to the course early, know the course backward and forward, carry the bag, keep up with or in front of your player without disturbing other players, know when to talk and when not to talk, get yardages, pull clubs, rake bunkers for your player and others to keep the group moving, make sure there’s water and food in the bag, tend the pin, clean clubs and balls, and remove as many distractions as possible, shove a snickers in the player’s mouth when they’re irritable, and make sure the player isn’t going to lose any shots due to stupid mistakes like having too many clubs in the bag, teeing the ball in the wrong spot, or taking a bad drop.  If rain is involved, there’s a whole other element involving an umbrella that just looks annoying.  Amateur golfers are familiar with all of these, except for the particular Tour quirk of managing a book/pin sheet and getting yardages.  Most folks that play the game frequently make use of either a rangefinder or GPS device, but these are not allowed on the professional tours.  Instead, we’re relegated to the arcane days of black and white topological drawings and drainage heads.  Believe it or not, saying “drainage head says it’s about 150 to the middle” doesn’t cut it.

Once the basics are mastered, then the role can evolve based on the needs of the individual player.  Some guys need to talk through every single detail of every shot; some guys only want you to carry the bag and not say a word.  Without exception when a player asks a question and says “…right?” at the end, they want you to say “yeah, definitely.”

My particular role this week, as I saw it, was to make this tournament feel as much like a home game as possible for Martin.  Mostly, I just tried to stay out of his way, but I took it as my personal mission to give him as much crap as possible about his game while also bringing extra Trader Joe’s snacks that he and I both love to eat on the golf course.  I also lost several lunches to him per our standing side bet on the course.  (Bonchon fried chicken for days).  I’m happy you did well, Marty, but we need to renegotiate this bet.

The Experience of Caddying on a Professional Tour

The experience was very different from playing golf.  It felt like much more work than actually playing golf.  There was no personal enjoyment to be realized because I wasn’t hitting shots, but I took an enormous amount of pleasure in watching my friend realize a career goal he has worked very hard to achieve.  When someone in the group was playing badly, the mood seemed to hang over the entire group – certainly more so than in a regular weekend game.  Nerves seemed to get frayed more easily and little things like the sound of bugs buzzing nearby or someone talking on the tee behind us that would normally not annoy me on the golf course seemed exaggerated.  At other times, the quiet was deafening.

The biggest difference from what you see on TV is that (unless you’re one of a select number of people) there are rarely people following your group, and a lot of professional golf is just a horribly boring wait with people who are not very interesting to talk with.  I’ve never spoken so little with people during 6 hour rounds of golf.  It isn’t a very glamorous job, or constantly hobnobbing with Tour stars.  Even in this slow environment, if a caddie is doing the job right, he or she will almost forget that there are other players in the group…almost.

Finally, the experience of watching a player shoot 29 live was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in golf.  It honestly felt like the bag got lighter as we sprinted around the back nine on Sunday.  The moment was made even more spectacular because several of Martin’s buddies from high school were around to watch this feat and cheer him on for every birdie.  11 putts, one chip in, and three 2s on the scorecard in 9 holes!  how do you not get excited about that?

Selected Items I Learned

With respect to the golf itself, I learned that professional golfers are MUCH better than we think they are with the long clubs, and make the same mistakes we do with the short clubs.  Looking at stats or watching a golf telecast doesn’t really tell the whole story because these are necessarily summaries of the round, or at best cherry-picked examples of great or awful play.  It’s not the “320 yard” 3 wood from the juicy lie in the fairway that was impressive.  Instead, watching these guys hit driving irons or fairway metals from, at best, questionable lies in the rough to within yards of their targets 260-290 yards away is what blew my mind.  At the same time, watching these guys hit chip shots 15 yards from the green that don’t hit the surface or run 10 feet by were mind blowing for other reasons.  These guys also take much less time from tee to green than most amateurs, but SIGNIFICANTLY more time around the green and on the green itself.  I’m not sure there’s a lesson in there, but it was notable.

My biggest takeaway was that amateurs make golf too hard.  We fixate on perfecting our swings to a professional ideal or making sure our clubs are exactly to the right specifications, but beyond a certain point, none of that really helps getting the ball in the hole.  Yes, these guys have any number of training aids out on the putting green/driving range and they’re taking video/trackman data, but all of that goes out the window when they step up to the tee.  On the course, I saw driver swings and putting strokes that would make most swing coaches blush.  But they worked.  They got the ball where it needed to be and they made birdies.  These guys got the most out of the swings they brought to the course that day because they’re hustlers.  It didn’t always look pretty, but somehow always had a low number next to it at the end of 18 holes.

As a footnote to this section, I must note that caddying is a thankless job.  Every bogey is the caddie’s fault, and every birdie is because the player is amazing.  It’s just that kind of job.  You occasionally see a Bones, Stevie, Fluff, or Michael Greller who get some credit, but even on the PGA Tour, for every one of them, you have at least 30 guys who might as well not bother.  It’s not a job that allows for an ego or thin skin.  This was certainly not the case with Martin and me, but it was clearly apparent from other player/caddie pairings.

Rapid Fire Questions from No Gimmes

In preparing for this post, I asked friend-of-the-blog and host of the No Gimmes Podcast Chris Derr if he had any questions regarding the experience that he thought folks would like answered.  Like the champion that he is, Derrz fired off the following questions that I have presented below in interview format:

CD: What shoes/hat did you wear?
LG: As far as shoes, I wore a pair of Nike sneakers.  They were absolutely destroyed after this tournament because Stonebrae is one of those courses that NO ONE should ever walk – much less with a bag on their back.  Also, I’d probably consider something slightly more waterproof next time for those early AM tee times.  As far as hat, clearly the bucket hat was the play for the magical back nine Sunday.  I was coerced into wearing a baseball cap the middle two days and sincerely regret caving to the pressure.

CD: How talkative where you to other players in your group?
LG: One guy, Bobby Gates, was an absolute pleasure to talk to.  We talked about everything from coffee and BBQ to generally living in SF and the South.  He also has one of the most badass wedges I’ve ever seen.  Check it out here.  Most of the other guys were not terribly talkative, or interesting to talk to.

CD: Did you ever feel like an idiot?
LG: Pretty much only the first hole of the tournament.  I put the bag down in the visual line of one of the players in the group and he asked me to move it.  I think I got the hang of it pretty quick.

CD: Best shot you saw?
LG: This one is easy – Thursday, Marty hit a 3W 289 yards into the par five 9th hole after an ENORMOUS drive to about 8″.  Kick-in eagle.  Didn’t even need to take the head cover off the putter.

CD: Worst shot you saw?
LG: The worst shot due to poor execution was probably a chip on the par four 5th hole.  The worst shot due to poor course management and being angry was a 3W on the par five 9th that ended up way short in the crap that resulted in a bogey that should have been no worse than par.

CD: Most uncomfortable you were out there?
LG: Walking the 5th hole.  Stonebrae is one of the worst walks from the perspective of caddying or playing on the professional tours, but hey, I took it in stride.  The course is great, but man those hills can be nasty on a hot day.

CD: What was the most underwhelming part of the experience?
LG: How little some players think of their caddies.  This was truly disappointing.  At one point, I offered one of the guys in our group some advice about where to eat in San Francisco (since I was the only person in the group that actually lives in San Francisco), and the player immediately turns to Martin to ask him whether that’s good advice.  Dick.

CD: What part of the experience surprised you the most?
LG: How the players dealt with the rules.  In any instance where there was even the smallest question related to a drop or possible rules issue, the players almost reflexively called for a rules official.  I get that this is reasonable in questionable situations, but at one point, a player called an official to pretty clearly just get a better lie on the apron after missing the green on a short par 3.  Come on, guy.

CD: How did you combat caddie syndrome (wanting to play golf instead of watching it)?
LG: I’m not sure one week of caddying was enough to induce the syndrome!  I felt like I learned a lot about how the professional game is played, which was fascinating.  I could see how this would develop, especially if the course was one that I’d like to play, so I think I’d probably either try to gamble on the tournament, or play a game in my head to see if could guess the shot shape/landing point of my player’s shots.

CD: How much different was caddying in the Ellie Mae for Martin than caddying for me in the U.S. Open Qualifier at Yocha De He this year?
LG: Both were actually pretty intense!  I definitely read fewer putts and had fewer conversations with Martin than with you, but had a great time doing both!  Despite Stonebrae being the tougher track to walk, I think I was the most exhausted after our round because it was my first experience doing it.  In any event, getting to play meaningful rounds of golf with good players is always a good time.

Be sure to also check out LG’s interview on No Gimmes!

End Notes

First, I would be remiss in failing to mention that the Ellie Mae Classic was also the professional golf debut of Golden State Warriors Guard Stephen Curry.  Curry’s presence at the tournament turned the event into a spectacle that drew thousands of fans who had likely never set foot on a golf course.  The feeling was electric around every tee box, and as only Steph Curry can do, he delivered.  Back-to-back rounds of +4 74 on a 7,100 yard layout to beat 3 touring professionals is no joke.  I followed Curry for his Friday round and was shocked by his composure and how well his game held up in TOUR conditions.  Not only was he keeping up with his playing partners Stephan Jaeger and Sam Ryder, he was actually hitting it PAST them.  Ironically, it was his iron play and putting that seemed to keep him from making more birdies.  Based on my interviews of our playing partners, folks on the range, and the tournament staff, the overwhelming consensus is that Curry’s involvement in the event was positive.  For myself, I sincerely hope he continues to play in the event and draw crowds to this spectacular event.

 

For more Curry-related golf content, check out the coverage on the Web.com Tour Official Site.

Second, no piece about caddying is complete without citing to THE original story about caddying:

Note the bucket hat.  Essential caddie garb.

Any questions I didn’t answer?  Please comment below and I’ll answer them all!

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We’re about to embark on Glory’s Last Shot, the redheaded stepchild of majors. Nonetheless, this one should be interesting thanks to the location (Quail Hollow) and the man who is on top of golf at the moment, Jordan Spieth. The dovetail is that the course, known for its tricky greens, should prove a masterful test for Spieth, who many consider the best putter in the game right now (and maybe ever). Will he complete the grand slam? We’ll know in a week. Until then, here are our predictions:

JK:

Winner: Jordan Spieth
Winning Score: -11
Runner Up: Rory McIlroy
Low PGA Professional: Mike Small
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Last Year’s Winner (Jimmy Walker) Will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): Make the cut
The Master’s Winner (Sergio) Will: Top 10
The US Open Winner (Koepka) Will: Miss the Cut
The Open Champion (Spieth) Will: Win
Dustin Johnson (world #1) will: Top 10
Hideki Matsuyama (#3) will: Top 10
Rory McIlroy (#4) will: Top 10
Jon Rahm (#6) will: MC
Jason Day (#7) will: MC
Rickie Fowler (#11) will: Make the cut
How many prior major winners will be in the Top 10: 6
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Spieth hangs on after a few masterful rounds early
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Grand Slam Spieth

LG:

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama
Winning Score: -16
Runner Up: Dustin Johnson
Low PGA Professional: Brian Smock!  Let’s goooo!!!
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Tommy Fleetwood (If Rafa is an unknown, so is Tommy)
Last Year’s Winner (Jimmy Walker) Will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): Make Cut
The Master’s Winner (Sergio) Will: Make Cut
The US Open Winner (Koepka) Will: Make Cut
The Open Champion (Spieth) Will: Top 10
Dustin Johnson (world #1) will: See Above
Hideki Matsuyama (#3) will: Make Cut/Top 10
Rory McIlroy (#4) will: Make Cut
Jon Rahm (#6) will: Miss Cut
Jason Day (#7) will: Miss Cut
Rickie Fowler (#11) will: Miss cut
How many prior major winners will be in the Top 10: 3
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Hideki fires 62 one day to take the lead and hangs on.  Looks like every shot is a shank in the process.
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Spieth doesn’t Grand Slam.  Golf press instantly forgets that Japanese Phenom wins major and goes back to talking about how Speith will win the grand slam next year.

Play of the Week: AMTP

August 6, 2017

The PF solutes the Anonymous Mini-Tour Pro on his stellar performance at the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic event. Although we can’t tell you just who (since he’s anonymous), we wanted to make sure you knew–he’s out there and he’s doing well. Great job AMTP!

Time for one of our famous back-and-forth chats (in public) about a topic that I think is an interesting debate: is Jordan Spieth what golf needs right now?

JK:

I proposed this topic because I believe I know that LG’s answer would be different from mine. You see, LG is an unabashed fan of Tiger Woods; in his mind–and with some truth to the myth–all golfers are mere mortals in a divine playground for one great God: The Big Cat. And it cannot be denied that Tiger Woods did some amazing things on the golf course–things that are unparalleled even to this day.

With that said, Tiger Woods simply cannot be the standard by which all golf is measured, and I feel my co-author often has too high expectations for the golfing elite of today. Yes, the Rory McIlroys and Dustin Johnsons of this PGA era can rival some of Tiger Woods’s physical abilities, but it’s unfair to compare their skill or mental game to the greatest of all time.

And, thus, to LG (and to our readers), I pose the question: is Jordan Spieth what golf needs today?

and I answer it “yes.”

Maybe that answer is qualified a bit. If determining what golf “needs” is finding someone who can help the game stay healthy, growing, and interesting, then I think Spieth is a resounding “yes.” While this may be anecdotal, in the days since Spieth’s victory, I have seen countless examples of greater interest at my local driving range, at my local course, in conversations with fellow golfers. It seems like everyone is coming out of the woodwork to get in the game. No, this isn’t like when Tiger Woods created a new demographic of interest in the game, but it is a revitalization that is much-needed–and much overdue.

Why is Spieth what golf needs? In my humble opinion, golf is perhaps the most personally reachable game that gets consistently put on television. It’s something that you can do even if you’re overweight, lost a leg, can’t see out of one eye, can’t walk straight, etc. etc. etc. And it’s still a challenge no matter your skill level because your main competition is yourself. That means that the professional level is aspirational for many of us. What we see the pros do we automatically want to do. If a pro throws grass in the air, we start doing it. If our favorite pro changes his shaft, we want to check out that new shaft (don’t tell me you never tried the Tour AD DI when Tiger Woods started using it). We are constantly grinding in an attempt to improve.

But the game that we see on TV for almost all TOUR pros nowadays is something that is utterly unreachable. Even on our best drives of the year, we can’t carry the ball 340 like DJ. Even on a jumper downwind downhill, we can’t hit a 7-iron 215 like Rory. Even with months of practice, we can’t reliably flop the ball to within a foot of the hole and have it stop on a dime like Phil.

But we can do what Spieth can.

At least, that’s what we can tell ourselves.

When you look at Jordan Spieth’s game, nothing really flashes out. Yes, he is a brilliant putter–one of the best the TOUR has ever seen. But no matter how flashy that is, we can all see ourselves making a long putt here or there. And otherwise his game never seems too flashy. Many times, he looks human. How many guys have ever sliced the ball onto the driving range? If you’re reading this and have two thumbs, congrats–it’s you. So when Spieth hit his ball further right than the R&A even anticipated any TOUR pro would, we kind of sort of related to that. Making 5 from the driving range (with a penalty drop, no less) is beyond impressive, but that’s not really the focal point of that event. When you watch Spieth, it almost looks like he hits his iron shots a little heavy. His iron gaps are within the range of a normal human being. His driver averages 292.3–not short, but something that many good players can achieve. And even if you can’t achieve it, you might easily be able to get within 20 yards of that.

In other words, his game is relate-able.

And, on a personal level, it’s hard to find any sports figure with a better public image. He’s kind to everyone and seems to make no huge mistakes despite being in his early 20s. He seems to understand his place in history but still tries to remain humble, a trait that Americans–and golfers in general–seem to fall for (maybe because it’s so rare nowadays). He’s even going bald–and admits it.

In other words, Jordan Spieth is making golf approachable again…in much the same way that Tiger Woods made golf exciting. If there’s anything the sport needs, it’s true excitement, but if I can’t have that, let’s make it approachable. Let’s have a guy who’s a role model, a good dude in general, and a great golfer.

And the guy can putt the lights out!

LG:

So the question is: Is Jordan Spieth what golf needs right now?  Based on the way he’s setup this discussion, JK’s right.  I mostly disagree.

JK actually answers the question the same way I do – golf needs to be more exciting than it is now if it is to stay healthy and vibrant.  If we assume people watching professional golf is an indicator of the game’s healthiness, then golf needs to be exciting for it to stay healthy.  In other words, professional golf needs to attract more new players to the game.

I completely respect what Jordan is trying to do as a professional athlete, but I don’t think he’s “what golf needs right now.”  Every tournament Jordan plays in and wins provides a masterclass in course management and putting, and yes, he also has a perfect public image.  But that’s not why we watch professional athletes.  We don’t watch professional athletics to see things we can do.  We watch to be awed.  We watch to see the ridiculous.  We watch to be entertained.  We watched MJ because of his insane work ethic and desire to win.  We watch Steph Curry because he makes passes and the shots that no one should make.  We watched Tiger because he’s the best forever in the clutch and it was assumed that he could win regardless of where he was in the field.  Listening to Jordan talk about going bald is about as exciting as the thought of talking to your parents about the facts of life.

I agree with everything JK says above regarding Jordan’s game and how it makes golf approachable.  But, Jordan’s game only makes golf approachable to people with interest in golf already.  It is interesting for me as a golf nut to see someone win majors without doing superhuman things with the golf ball, but it is not exciting.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I watched Jordan play more than 9 holes.  The last time I watched him play 9 holes was the back nine at the Masters, which even non-golf people watch…because its the Masters. I’m definitely not turning on the Valspar Championship to see how Jordan Spieth takes on the back nine at whatever course that tournament is played.

I do think Jordan can inject this excitement into his game if he continues to win at his current pace.  The narrative will then be Jordan chasing down Tiger and Jack, which means the excitement comes from chasing down two of the most exciting and greatest players of all time, not from his game per se.  Can he deal with the weight of history? Can he close?  All indications are yes, but the possibility of failure is why we would watch.

 

a.k.a the British Open; a.k.a. THE Open Championship.  Come on guys, get your branding together.

This year, the 146th playing of the world’s oldest major championship will be played at Royal Birkdale.  Previous winners have included Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Ian Baker Finch, and Paddy Harrington.  While length doesn’t really figure into the equation with Open courses, the setup at Birkdale has only 2 par 5s, and they show up at the very end of the round at 15 and 17.  The pundits say this takes the bombers out of the equation, but hey, what do they know?

In the spirit of continuous improvement, the PowerFade is experimenting with a new format for predictions.  Happy Open viewing!

1 | Spieth, Jordan | -12
2 | Kuchar, Matt | -9
3 | Li, Hao-Tong | -6
T4 | Cabrera Bello, Rafa | -5
T4 | McIlroy, Rory | -5
T6 | Grace, Branden | -4
T6 | Koepka, Brooks | -4
T6 | Leishman, Marc | -4
T6 | Noren, Alexander | -4
T6 | Southgate, Matthew | -4
T11 | Casey, Paul | -3
T11 | Kim, Chan | -3
T11 | Stenson, Henrik | -3
T14 | Connelly, Austin | -2
T14 | Dufner, Jason | -2
T14 | Johnson, Zach | -2
T14 | Matsuyama, Hideki | -2
T14 | Poulter, Ian | -2
T14 | Wood, Chris | -2

LG:
Relative to par, what will be the cut on Friday night? +4 close, +5

List three players that will Top 10 (in order):
1. Sergio Garcia T37, +2
2. Ian Poulter T14, -2
3. John Rahm T44, +3

List three players that will make the cut (other than above):
1. Rickie Fowler T22, E
2. Henrik Stenson T11, -3
3. Adam Scott T22

List three players that will miss the cut:
1. Kevin Chappell Cut, +8
2. Jason Dufner T14, -2
3. J.B. Holmes T54, +4

Will the winner come from the morning draw on Thursday or the Afternoon draw on Thursday? Afternoon Jordan Spieth, -12 – Teed off 4:47 AM Eastern time, which was 8:47 AM, i.e., in the morning draw

Will you watch the coverage? YES! no idea, LG?

JK:
Relative to par, what will be the cut on Friday night? E a little aggressive

List three players that will Top 10 (in order):
1. Rory McIlroy T4, -5
2. Dustin Johnson T54, +4
3. Rickie Fowler T22, E

List three players that will make the cut (other than above):
1. Henrik Stenson see above
2. Phil Mickelson Cut, +10
3. Tommy Fleetwood T27, +1

List three players that will miss the cut:
1. Ian Poulter see above
2. Rafa Cabrera-Bello T4, -5
3. John Daly Cut, +12,000

Will the winner come from the morning draw on Thursday or the Afternoon draw on Thursday? Morning correct

Will you watch the coverage? Nope. Just cut the cable (yikes!) managed to get some in on NBC Sports app

It’s nearly time for the most punishing week in the professional schedule: the United States Open.  This year, the tournament will be contested at the monstrously long (7812 yards from the tips on the scorecard) Pete Dye (vomit) design at Erin Hills.

Kevin Na provides a perfect preview of the conditions to be faced in the video below:

With that context in mind, here’s the PowerFade’s guide on how to lose your money gambling:

Actual Leaderboard
1 | Brooks Koepka | -16
T2 | Hideki Matsuyama | -12
T2 | Brian Harman | -12
4 | Tommy Fleetwood | -11
T5 | Xander Schauffele | -10
T5 | Bill Haas | -10
T5 | Rickie Fowler | -10
8 | Charley Hoffman | -9
T9 | Trey Mullinax | -8
T9 | Brandt Snedeker | -8
T9 | Justin Thomas | -8
12 | J.B. Holmes | -7
T13 | Brendan Steele | -6
T13 | Patrick Reed | -6
T13 | Si Woo Kim | -6
T16 | Matt Kuchar | -5
T16 | Steve Stricker | -5
T16 | Chez Reavie | -5
T16 | Eddie Pepperell | -5
T16 | Bernd Wiesberger | -5

LG:
Winner: Rory Mcilroy MC—correct answer was Brooks Koepka
Winning Score: -4 -16
Runner Up: Dustin Johnson (in a playoff) MC
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Stu Hagestad Xander Shauffele
Last Year’s Winner (DJ) will…: runner up MC
Masters Champion (Sergio) will …: Make cut correct
British Open Champion (Stenson) will …: Make cut MC
PGA Champion (Walker) will…: Miss cut correct, +6
Last week’s winner, Daniel Berger, will…: Make cut correct, +9
Rory will…: WIN no
Rickie Fowler will…: Top 10 correct, T5 at -10
Jordan Speith will…: Make cut correct, T35 at +1
Justin Rose will…: Make cut MC, +2
Jason Day will…: Make cut MC +10
Will Mickelson play in the event?: Yes. NO
Will anyone break par for all 4 rounds?: No Koepka and Snedeker both shot all red
What will be the highest score that misses the cut?: +35 +20, Walker Lee (a). Highest score by a pro was Wesley Bryan at +15
What will be the highest single hole score?: 11 no idea
What will be the major storyline of the tournament: Mickelson’s daughter’s graduation gets pushed forward an hour so he can make his late tee time to miss the cut with no driver in the bag. that would be awesome…
Bold Prediction?: Stu Hagestad isn’t bold enough???? apparently a bit too bold

JK:
Winner: Dustin Johnson
Winning Score: +2
Runner Up: Rory McIlroy
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Thomas Pieters MC
Last Year’s Winner (DJ) will…:  Back-to-back, assuming he doesn’t fall down the stairs again
Masters Champion (Sergio) will …: MC
British Open Champion (Stenson) will …: MC
PGA Champion (Walker) will…: MC
Last week’s winner, Daniel Berger, will…: Make the cut
Rory will…: Top 10
Rickie Fowler will…: Top 10
Jordan Speith will…: Top 10
Justin Rose will…: MC
Jason Day will…: Top 10
Will Mickelson play in the event?: No
Will anyone break par for all 4 rounds?: No chance
What will be the highest score that misses the cut?: +23
What will be the highest single hole score?: 9
What will be the major storyline of the tournament: The rough
Bold Prediction?: The big names do really well overall…not many unknowns making a play. couldn’t be more wrong–there wasn’t a single prior major winner in the top 20

Apologies for the extended delay between posts here – As you can tell, JK and I made up for the fact that his father was unable to join us for the epic trip to Scotland, and naturally we had to blog about that too. (See “Sand Rocks“)

On to Fife/St.Andrews!

Summary: In this section, I’ll discuss the particulars of our visit to the New Course, the Old Course, the Eden Course, the Jubilee Course, and Kingsbarns.  Various and sundry other locations in and around Scotland will be noted and discussed accordingly.

After our whirlwind time in East Lothian with our new friends, and in particular crossing the behemoth of Muirfield off our respective bucket lists, JK and I hopped in our tiny rental car (he drove) and we made our way to Fife as quickly as possible.  One quick tip here, it is helpful to have someone in your party that can drive stick, and then drive stick completely backwards.  There is no shot we’d have made it to Fife if I were the one that were driving.  Fortunately, we were able to navigate our way to our lodging at Agnes Blackadder Hall, and then over to the St. Andrews Golf Club.  We met with our host there who took us over to the New Course.

The New Course

As with most of the humor in Scotland, the name of this course in somewhat tongue in cheek.  The New Course was built in 1895.

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In a word, I’d describe the New Course as comfortable.  Without a doubt, it truly is a links course.  The New is tucked between the Old and Jubilee Courses.  Indeed, many of the front nine holes play adjacent to the Old Course, and it is even possible to play some of the New Course holes from Old Course fairways if you hit wayward tee shots.  However, the lack of major championship history for this course or indeed, much general knowledge about any significant professional or other championship golf reduced the insane urge that we felt to perform well in storied theaters.  JK and I stepped up to the first tee here with our host and were able to just play.  We hoofed our bags, chatted with our host about golf, Scotland, the U.S., politics, food, etc., and managed to get a perfect introduction to the history and culture around golf in St. Andrews.

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The New Course essentially acts as the locals’ home course.  Naturally, when tee times are available on the Old, they will take them as we would, but when the opportunity arises to shove off work early or get in a late afternoon round, the New Course is the first option.  As you might imagine, the course gets less play than the Old, so rounds take less time.  One would think that conditions might be better with less play, but it would be doing a disservice to the Old Course to make that assertion.  Links turf is remarkably different to any turf that is commonly available in the U.S., and is very hearty.  The greens tend to run a bit slower, of course, but no less true.

The New Course also has incredible views of the surrounding area, and of its two neighboring courses.

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View from 9th tee, I believe?

Upon ranking the St. Andrews Courses and trying to decide where we would advise our readers to play during their own trips, we agreed that the New was certainly one that folks should incorporate into their rotation if they are in St. Andrews for multiple rounds.

That Night

The date is August 4, 2016.  The time is 4:15 AM.  Two lunatics arrive at the starters tent at the Old Course upon the advice of their host earlier that evening to queue up before the break of dawn to the following scene:

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Believe it or not, at 4:15 AM, JK and I are respectively 11th and 12th in line for the standby list to play the Old Course.  So we sit there for what feels like 2 days in the cold waiting for the shack to open.  We try to catch some zzz’s… Some more creatively than others:

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But eventually we are told that we should come back at 2pm and that we should have a tee time shortly thereafter.

Dutifully, we arrive at 1:30 and are told that we are to report to the first the tee at 3:50pm.  Ecstatic, sleep deprived, and hungry, we trudge over to the Dunvegan pub.  More on this amazing place later.

The Old Course

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The words that come to mind when I think about the Old Course: Timeless, Unique, and Epic.

What can I say about the Old Course at St. Andrews…. Well, I sat for about two hours pondering this exact question, and it turns out that I could say quite a bit.  However, what I’d say you could read in any number of likely much better written reviews than this one.  JK’s initial post about our trip sums up my particular experience with the Old Course, which was memorable to say the least.  (Not so humble brag… I shot 74, my career low to date).

I’ll limit my observations on the Old Course to the following two:

  1. If there were only 1 course I could play for the rest of my life, it would be the Old Course at St. Andrews.  If this were the case, I’d still play golf every single day, and twice on Saturday because it’s closed on Sunday.
  2. If you get a chance to play, on your way back in, be sure you pay attention to the town of St. Andrews on the horizon periodically.  It’s truly awe-inspiring to see this tiny little town grow and grow until it surrounds you as you walk back toward the R&A clubhouse.  This is one of the coolest unintended effects of the Old Course that I feel is an underrated part of the experience.  A very small piece of this is captured in the images below.

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The Dunvegan Pub (again)

Yeah, we got hammered after that round.  And drank more Kummel.

The end.

The Eden Course

The one memorable thing about this course was that we almost played the wrong hole at one point.  Had we not run into the only other person playing this course, we likely might have only played 11 holes and wondered where the rest of them where.

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I shot 78, JK did not.  Our thoughts as we were waiting for the shuttle back to the Old Course clubhouse after the round: “why did we just play that course?”  Guess you can’t win them all.

The Jubilee Course

The Jubilee course, like Spyglass Hill, is a wonderful example of a course that would be more well-known if were located more than 10 yards from one of the most famous courses in the world.  This course was truly fun.  The course felt a bit shorter than the other links courses that we played, but much tighter and more fraught with danger.  Nearly ever hole includes some incredibly menacing rough or bunker that a careful player must avoid or contend with.  I honestly can’t remember a single shot that allowed the player to lay back or make a small mistake.  That being said, I also don’t remember hitting a single long iron, so really, there shouldn’t be many mistakes…

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The Old Jigger Inn

JK ate Haggis.  Gross.

Kingsbarns

And finally, one of the true jewels of this trip – Kingsbarns.  This Kyle Phillips masterpiece was truly one of the finest courses I’ve had the chance to play.

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Panoramic view of 18 from the clubhouse at sunrise

To get a few non-golf things out of the way: 1) the non-golf experience at Kingsbarns is far more typical of the experience at a high-end U.S. resort than the other Scottish links.  That is to say, there are at least two sets of tees that almost no one should be allowed to play for the sake of enjoying the game, the food and drink are actually quite good, and your wallet is going to be a good bit lighter when you leave.  This is due in part to the fact that the owner of Kingsbarns is actually an American that lives in Pleasanton, CA.  2) The clubhouse was one of the best I’ve seen anywhere, ever. 3) They have their own whisky.  It’s really good.

Regarding the golf: awe-inspiring is the phrase that comes to mind for me.  Nearly every hole has an epic view of the North Sea.  The whole course was built upon a fairly flat spit of land, and apparently required over 200,000 cubic meters of dirt to be moved for its construction.  This allowed Kyle to create some truly stunning golf holes that likely wouldn’t be easy to form naturally.  It is one of the few courses we played that had any kind of a forced carry, but even those felt quite manageable.

One hole that stood out to JK and me as not really fitting with the rest was the par three 15th.  This hole required a forced carry over part of the North Sea to a tucked green.  While it was a great hole in its own right, it didn’t feel like it fit with the typical style of the area.

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View from the 15th tee at Kingsbarns

JK also took issue with driveable par four 6th hole.  I’m not sure why, honestly.  I loved it.

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View from the 6th tee at Kingsbarns.  (Hole is above the two bunkers on right side)

In my opinion, Kingsbarns could be one of the best ever.  It looked as epic as Pebble Beach on every tee shot, played like a true links, and had incredible shot value.  While some shots didn’t fit the true links style, the result is still a course I feel could be imminently playable any time of the year, and could certainly host an Open Championship any time.  The one piece of advice JK and I agreed on for this course that we wish we had followed was to take a caddy.  Oh, also, I hope you’ll agree, Kingsbarns was far and away the most photogenic course we played.

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Odds and Ends (Rapid Fire Edition)

  • If you get a chance/invite – visit either the St. Andrews Golf Club or the New Club.  Great insight into the difference between the attitude toward golf in the U.S. and Scotland
  • Agnes Blackadder Hall is the best kept secret for lodging in St. Andrews.  Your own room, good shower, and breakfast for £40 a night.  We booked using Hotels.com.
  • If you’re going to wait in line at the Old course, get there at 4am or earlier.  Bring warm clothing and sleeping bag.
  • Amazing pro tip: there are LOCKERS at New Course Club House that you can use for free (£1 refundable deposit) that hold a full size golf bag.  Store your crap here between rounds, or while you’re waiting in line to play the Old Course.  Be careful about leaving things overnight though – not sure of the policy here.
  • If you’re a stickler for having “official” gear, be careful of shopping anywhere else besides the St. Andrew’s branded pro shops at the clubhouses.  There are lots of duplicates and unofficial suppliers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make good stuff.
  • Belhaven’s Best Beer.  Locals call it Bell’s Best.  Drink it.
  • If we were going to do it again, we’d eliminate the Eden, and wait in line to play the Old again.  If you want other recommendations in the area, we heard great things about Crail and the Castle Course.
  • Finally, if you’re lucky, you might get a view like this one before you leave:

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Thank you for reading!