Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's

August 24, 2022

Tom Weiskopf was more than a golfer!

"Tom Weiskopf passed away this past week at age 79. He was one of the superstars of the 70's. He had everything talent wise to be a legendary star with the likes of Hogan, Snead, Palmer, and Nicklaus, but with all his natural gifts it never materialized to what it could have been. Yes, he won the British Open along with 16 PGA Tour titles and a US Senior Open championship, but he still is looked at as an underachiever. He has admitted that he didn't have the commitment that his fellow Ohio State teammate, Jack Nicklaus, had to his golf game. However, his credentials are worthy of being in the Golf's Hall of Fame, which I believe he will be honored with in the near future.

I met Mr. Weiskopf on a couple occasions at Seven Canyons Country Club in Sedona, which he designed and where he had a house. He was gracious to all that he met. But my first encounter with Tom Weiskopf the golfer was in 1975 on the first tee of the Greater Jacksonville Open. I had just qualified for my first PGA Tour event and didn't want to be late for my 1:00 tee time. Weiskopf was in the group ahead and I arrived when that group was being introduced. The first hole was a long par five that doglegged to the right with a bunker guarding the right side of the fairway. I had played a couple of practice rounds and realized I couldn't carry that bunker, nor could any of the other pros that I had played with the past two days. I was longer than average, so I reckoned it could not be carried. Weiskopf was introduced and proceeded drill his tee shot that carried twenty yards over the bunker and ran out to a position that left him with only a five iron or so to the green. I was stunned and I remember to this day thinking to myself. Holy cow! This is who I have to beat!

One of the knocks of Weiskopf the golfer was that he wasn't smart enough to be truly great. Wrong. He did color commentary for television after he retired and was erudite and insightful. He had a very successful golf architecture career where he created masterpieces that include Forest Highlands, Troon North, Loch Lomond in Scotland, TPC Scottsdale, and Silverleaf along with many others.

As a young man, Tom didn't have the discipline to do what Nicklaus could do. At the 1986 Masters, where he was giving commentary, he was asked what Jack Nicklaus was thinking coming down the stretch; his answer was so honest, he said, "If I knew the way he thought, I would have won this tournament." He liked to party and have a good time. He drank too much and admitted to being an alcoholic. He claims that his greatest accomplishment was his over twenty years of sobriety until his death. Golf for him was a means to an end. It was a way to make a good living and provide for his family. His true enjoyment was being outdoors, hunting and fishing. He missed the Ryder Cup one year so he could go hunting for a big horned sheep. In a recent interview, he was asked if he had any regrets. Thoughtfully he said yes, but he still wouldn't change anything. He had a great life and he was content. I think you can't ask for more. RIP

July 18, 2022

Cameron won it, but Rory really lost it!

An Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews is special because of the history and the unique type of golf that is needed to prevail on golf's oldest golf course. Add nearly 300,000 fans in an almost surreal setting along with the pressure and emotions in each contestant and you have all you need for an unforgettable dramatic outcome.

For those of you that have not played St. Andrews, the golf course is really not hard. Stay away from the 112 bunkers and play normal, non-Open Championship pin positions and you would think, "What are they making such a big deal about?" But the more you play it, the more the subtleties and nuances will become known to you. No major championship golf course has four drivable par four's and only a few holes that require more than a 9 iron for their approach shots. Therefore every scoring record should be broken, if conditions were benign. This week the course probably played its' easiest, but it held its' own and was a true test for the world's best golfers.

This Championship boiled down to long straight driving, deft wedge play, and excellent putting. In the end, it was the putting that won the trophy. The Old Course defense is the fast and rock-hard enormous greens with undulating irregular mounds and valleys that go up and down that require expert imagination and touch. Based on the difficulty of the pin position a good approach shot was 30 or 40 feet from the hole. It was not unusual for players to have putts over 100 feet in length. Patience and knowing when to be aggressive were the keys to scoring this past week.

Going into the last round the tournament should have been won by either Rory McIlroy or Viktor Hovland, who stood four shots ahead of Cameron Smith and Cameron Young. If either would've played a solid round the Claret Jug would have been theirs. The crowd favorite was easily Rory McIlroy. For three days, he looked like a player what had his emotions and game in just the right position. Play a solid round and beat his less experienced playing partner and the victory would be his. His proponents will point to him hitting 18 greens, making no bogies and two birdies as a solid round. Unfortunately he really didn't have a lot of birdie opportunities that he could've taken advantage of. On the front nine he had seven wedge chances that ranged from full, ¾, ½, and pitch shots that he could not get close enough to have a reasonable chance to make a putt for a birdie. When Cameron Smith started his birdie streak, it was time for a great player to respond. Regrettably his less than average, by Tour standards, wedge play surfaced and he was not able to get any of this wedge and pitch shots close. His final chance came after an excellent iron shot to the demanding pin position on the 17th hole. You expect Tiger or Jack to make that putt, but not from Rory. And he didn't. Maybe he will in the future, but right now he doesn't have that type of magic.

The winner of the Champion Golfer of the Year belongs to Cameron Smith. He charged from behind and the leaders couldn't match his surge. Putting was key and there has been no one better this year putting than Cameron Smith. The clutch putting that he exhibited at the Players Championship and during the last round in St. Andrews was exceptional. Don't forget the brilliant tee shot and deft putt from 60 feet through the Valley of Sin, up a five foot rise with a ten foot break to two feet that sealed the championship. The victory was well earned and there may be more majors in the future.

For Rory this is a bitter defeat. It's now eight plus years since his last major championship. He is too good to have gone that long without adding another title to his resume. It will only get harder, if he dwells on this failure. For Cameron Young and Viktor Hovland, they were close and the realization that they can compete at this next level is inspiring. Young seems to have the full package and probably only is missing a degree of experience. Hovland has a couple of flaws that needs a bit of work, but he has the moxie and attitude to be a major winner. That can't be taught.

The Old Course was prime to be overrun by this younger generation of golfers. I think it showed it still has what it takes. All the golfers near the top of the leaderboard had runs of brilliance, but in the end the Grand Old Lady put them in their place. Only a few survived the test and one, Cameron Smith, proudly can be called Champion Golfer of the Year.

 

 

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