Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cabot Links, Trump International Make Grand Entrances

The eighth at Cabot Links. Wow. Just, wow.
New golf course openings have slowed to a trickle, but a pair of super-high-profile unveilings took place in recent weeks. Better yet, both are honest-to-Old-Tom seaside links.

Cabot Links in Nova Scotia has been pre-billed as the "Bandon Dunes of the East," thanks to its locale and the involvement of Bandon visionary Mike Keiser (along with GolfClubAtlas impresario Ben Cowan-Dewar). Visit the Cabot Links website for all the info, and don't miss the hole-by-hole tour.

Then there's Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, Scotland. One of the most publicized and controversial courses ever built -- go figure -- it's garnered near-universal acclaim from reviewers, even those who are biased against the buffoon who owns it.

So I admit to a small personal distaste for the Donald, spelled out in more detail in this piece at

At least the guy loves his golf.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Open Championship: Wild Finish Raises Many Questions

Sure, I blew it by predicting Adam Scott to win heading into Sunday's final round of the Open Championship. But let's not dwell on that. What's really important is that I picked Ernie Els among my five favorites heading into the tournament.

What a finish, huh? Like most majors, this one left us pondering What It All Means:

Will Scott ever recover from his historic collapse? 

Was this Ernie's last hurrah, or is the Big Easy on the verge of a Vijay-like renaissance in his 40s? 

Will Tiger Woods' putter, of all things, prevent him from eclipsing Jack Nicklaus' majors record? 

After missing the cut, does Elliott Saltman have what it takes to win another ham?

Ah, the mysteries of golf. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Open Championship: Scott will Finish it Off

Just wanted to get this on the record before the final groups tee off at Royal Lytham & St. Annes: Adam Scott will hold on to win his first major title. The time signature below confirms that I made this call prior to Scott's Sunday tee time of 9:30 a.m. EDT.

It won't be easy. The wind is (finally) up and forecast to grow stronger as the day wears on. I expect Graeme McDowell, who starts four shots back, to be Scott's strongest challenger. As for Tiger Woods, his history when trailing in majors is well documented, and not good. With a five-shot gap to overcome, I see Tiger pressing to make something happen, which usually sends him in the wrong direction.

So there you have it. I'm on the record -- for better or worse.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Open Championship: Woods Gambling on Conservative Strategy

If something seems familiar about Tiger Woods' play through 36 holes of the 2012 Open Championship, you must have watched the first two rounds of last month's U.S. Open.

Tiger shared the halfway lead at the Olympic Club after two days of methodical golf, hitting a variety of irons and fairway woods from the tees and quarantining his driver like it was infected with a flesh-eating virus. Fast forward to Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, where Woods is again content to lay back, avoid trouble and sacrifice potential birdie opps for guaranteed pars. He's hit driver just three times in 28 chances, mixing in a 3-wood here and there but mostly sticking with his trusty long-iron stinger.

Ironically, Woods' conservative strategy may be quite a gamble.

Woods heads into the weekend alone in third place, four behind leader Brandt Snedeker and three back of Adam Scott. But he's conceded each of them four shots on Lytham's two par 5s; Tiger is even par on those holes, Snedeker and Scott both -4.

I have a hunch Tiger will again play it safe on Saturday, with a goal of keeping in contact with the leaders while banking on tougher conditions Sunday. The forecast calls for the wind to finally kick up, which would seem to play right into Woods' hands.

With 36 holes remaining, give me Tiger to win. I don't see a repeat of his sloppy weekend play at Olympic. But if he fails to keep pace with the safety-first approach, Woods may wish he'd exercised a little less caution -- and discipline.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Open Championship: Will Faster Greens Boost Tiger?

Round one is in the books, round two underway at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, where docile weather has everyone -- except the players and patrons -- a little bummed.

With a few notable exceptions (cough, Lee Westwood, cough), the cream is rising to the top. And here's a note to file away: the greens were double-cut this morning and despite heavy overnight rains, are running faster on the Stimpmeter than Thursday by a fair margin -- 11.2 to 10.5. Tiger Woods is a notoriously poor putter on slower greens, and it showed yesterday. If he duplicates his first round ballstriking, look out.

All for now. Enjoy the Open.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Open Championship: Tiger vs. Guy Who Won a Ham

The Open Championship gets underway in less than 24 hours at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, which sounds more like a brand of English tea than a golf course. But I digress.

My 5 faves to win:

Tiger Woods: It's time
Padraig Harrington: Back on form
Ernie Els: Slow-ish greens will help
Matt Kuchar: Because I picked him to win a major this year
Martin Kaymer: Looking more like his 2010 self

And because the Open never fails to produce a leader or two from out of left field, my picks to fill that role:

Sandy Lyle: Better than you realize at age 53
David Duval: Won here in 2001, type who thrives on good vibes
Elliott Saltman: Because I need an excuse to link to this


Friday, July 13, 2012

If Golf Courses were Rock Albums

Sand Hills Golf Club
Golf courses have been compared to novels, paintings, and other forms of artistic expression. For me, they're more like rock albums -- each hole is a different song, there's an ebb and flow to the sequencing, and various influences can be teased out if you pay attention hard enough.

Some courses are punk, others folk or art rock. Some are nothing more than great ear candy -- or eye candy, in this case -- while others make an impact the reverberates across the entire medium.

I'll revisit this theme from time to time, beginning with installment No. 1: Sand Hills Golf Club (Mullen, Neb.) as Nirvana's Nevermind. Coming soon.

P.S. I realize I'm dating myself by using the term "album." Look it up, whipper-snappers.

What a Wonder-ful World

If you, like me, wonder why golf course beverage carts aren't stocked with real beer, or why you love this bleeping game so much, join the club. And read my new piece at

Monday, July 9, 2012

All These Guys are Good

Further proof of the fine line separating golf's very best from the rest: Ted Potter Jr.'s playoff victory over Troy Kelly at the Greenbrier Classic.

Potter entered the event at No. 218 in the World Golf Ranking. Kelly was 464th. Meanwhile, the No. 4-ranked player, Tiger Woods, missed the cut, as did No. 16 Phil Mickelson. Webb Simpson, ranked fifth after his U.S. Open triumph, faltered down the stretch to finish T7 at the Greenbrier. Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson were non-factors.

Meanwhile, someone named Charlie Beljan (pronounced "Belgian") nearly stole the show with a pair of spectacular Sunday pitch shots. He finished T3 -- not bad for a guy without enough points to even register on the world rankings.

There's a lot to be drawn from the results, but my bottom line is this: Any 2-handicapper who thinks he's even remotely close to being Tour caliber is fooling himself. Badly. Start playing every round from 7,300 yards and knock another eight shots off your handicap, and you might have a chance to break through in a Monday qualifier.

Seriously, they're that much better than you.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Greenbrier Classic: Closeup on Woods, Macdonald

I admit, I've only caught small portions of the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic the past two years. I'll probably be a little more engaged this go-round thanks to the presence of one E.T. Woods, making his West Virginia debut and fresh off his third victory of the season.

Aside from further scrutinizing Tiger as he preps for the Open Championship, I'm eager to get a better look at the golf course. Now called the Old White TPC, it was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor back in 1914. If you're not familiar with Macdonald, he essentially invented the role of professional golf course architect in the United States. Raynor was his prize pupil and went on to design scores of classics under his own name.

BTW, if Woods wins this weekend it'll be career victory number 75. To put that in perspective, go to your memory bank and withdraw what you saved from his very first win, the 1997 Masters. Doesn't seem like very long ago, does it?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It Takes a Village...

The approach to No. 11 at the Village Golf Club.
Another new course review up at, this one of the underrated Village Golf Club in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. Overshadowed by high-end neighbor Madison Green GC, the Village more than holds its own with a nice, natural layout featuring some terrific holes -- most notably the Pinehurst-like 12th. Play it if you're in the neighborhood.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Course Review: West Palm Beach GC

With two rounds at West Palm Beach Golf Course under my belt, I felt qualified to review it for

Bottom line: If you can't get on Seminole -- and who can? -- West Palm Beach GC might be the closest thing to a real links-golf experience in these parts. It's firm, sandy, wind-swept, water hazard-free and, best of all, lots of fun.

No. 7 at West Palm Beach GC is a dynamite par 3.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Stein