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The Tour – St. Andrews

FIRST EVENT – ST. ANDREWS

This time, the golfers weren’t as surprised waking up somewhere and wondering where they were.

Televisions and radios had people speaking with a brogue along with those other couple stations where people spoke the King’s English. For those who remembered playing at St. Andrews a very long time ago, those devices were very unfamiliar but they soon got used to them.

For the old-timers, bangers and mash and haggis were comfort foods. For others, they’d seen better stuff swept off the floors at some of the greasy spoons back home. But all found something to their liking.

But this Chairman guy had everything figured out as, anyplace they walked into, they were greeted warmly and, if it involved food, with a free meal as well.

Unlike at Bay Hill where the players were told to show up anytime they wanted and they’d get right out, the entrants for the first part of the tournament, the Ruckhaus Tour, were told to show up first. The others could sleep until whenever and play when they wanted, as long as they were able to get their first two rounds played in the next two days. After that, it would be a bit more organized.

250 golfers came out for the Ruckhaus Tour event. This was to be a skins game where all the winners of a hole moved on while anyone who couldn’t match that score was through. Now, if you’ve occasionally slipped a five- or six-some past the starter at your local course, you can only imagine what a 250-some looked like. But, with the Chairman involved, play was as fast as any foursome you’ve ever seen.

The first hole was one of the most famous opening holes in golf. A medium length par four of 376 yards with the Swilken Burn just ready to liquefy approach shots at the most forward pin position. With the front pin location, this hole was playing right at 360. Fortunately, and for the moment at least, the conditions were fairly benign. But they could change, seemingly at a moment’s notice.

Of the 250 golfers, 217 had par or better. Unfortunately for the par shooters, 40 shot birdies and the par men were out. Of the 40 birdies, six landed close enough for gimmies–Bud Holscher, John Daly, David Feherty, Larry Rinker and Ian Woosnam. But a three was a three and the field was seriously narrowed down after just one hole.

The second hole was another par four, this one playing at bit longer at 410. Again, the pin was up front but easily approachable. Of the 40 remaining golfers, 26 scored par or better. But ‘better’ was the one that counted with only three players making it two birdies in a row–Holscher, along with Gardner Dickinson and Bubba Watson.

The third hole was another par four playing at 425 with the pin in the way back. It was a great driving hole with a very large green. Holscher and Dickinson parred while Watson, on in regulation, three-putted.

The Chairman, obviously a very organized sort, wasn’t quite sure how the skins portion of The Tour would work as 250 excellent golfers could probably play for quite a bit before the field got narrowed down to the final few. It turned out to be only three holes as Holscher and Dickinson stepped to the tee on the fourth hole, another long par four playing at 465 yards. It was an easy driving hole as both Holscher and Dickinson hit the spacious fairway.

But the large pot bunker not far to the left of today’s pin placement swallowed up Dickinson’s ball while Holscher not only landed safely on the green but within a reasonable birdie distance. Dickinson couldn’t get up and down from the bunker while Holscher sank his putt, winning the first event on The Tour and the $180,000 first place prize and a guarantee of a full season of play on the Staffa Tour. The remainder of the top 40 will be guaranteed only the next event on the Staffa Tour.

Dickinson got $108,000 for second and Watson $68,000 for third. The remainder of the top 40 got $15,343 each while the remaining golfers, those eliminated on the first hole got $363 each.

After the four hole mad dash, the two 72-hole tourneys got underway. The first bunch off were the 130 golfers on the Staffa Tour.

Except for a bit of a breeze, the conditions were fairly benign for the first round and 69 players were at par or better.

Hubert Green, with a 30 on the back, where he birdied six of the seven par fours, is the first round leader with a 64.

Green had the short irons and the putter working today, especially on the back nine. His run started on the tenth where he parked a pitching wedge to within five feet, dropping the birdie putt. Another short wedge landed within ten feet at 12 and followed that by banging home a 30-footer for another birdie on the next hole. He dialed long distance again on 15, dropping a 37-footer before a six-iron from 160 got him a gimmie birdie on 16. A 17-footer on 18 closed out his fine round.

Henry Picard, one of the early starters, was the leader in the clubhouse (-7) for quite a while–at least until Green showed up.

Picard, a member of the old guard, had a nice run of his own, going seven-under on a nine-hole stretch between five and thirteen. He got it to eight-under by then, but the Road Hole jumped up and bit him and he fell back a stroke, finishing with a 65.

Picard reached the par-five fifth in two, but left himself a 120-foot putt. A beautiful lag left him within just two feet of the hole and he casually knocked that in. He had the flat blade working as a 15-footer on the par-three sixth and a 13-footer on the eighth both found the mark. A wedge to within five feet on nine and Picard was out in 31.

Picard then started his trip home with an up-and-down for par on ten before depositing a seven-iron to within two feet on the par-three eleventh. That carried to the 12th, as an errant sand wedge left him over 30 feet away but he sunk that putt, and to the 13th, as he again sunk a long one, this from 25 feet.

After that, he went into hibernation, finishing up in one-over as he flubbed a two-iron on 17, landing in the deep bunker 90 yards away. He got on the green from there, but two-putted for bogey.

Rounding out the top five were Al Geiberger and George Duncan with 66s and Olin Dutra with a 67.

Though there are plenty of notables in this conglomeration organized by the Chairman, some of the more familiar on this tour are: Sergio Garcia (-4), Fred Couples (-3), Sam Snead (-2) and Tom Kite (E). Early disappointments include Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros (+2) and Hale Irwin (+5).

Willie Anderson stepped up to the first tee. The place hadn’t changed much since he played it, though the galleries and the TV cameras gave the extremely wide fairway a bit of a closed-in feeling. The heather, the gorse, the Swilken Burn–just as he remembered it.

But the club he had in his hand–a 2-iron–was a bit unfamiliar. In the old days, he would have banged out one of those hickory drivers–the one with the persimmon heads–and what was now one of those antique balls maybe 240-250, if he was lucky. A mid iron, maybe a niblick, to the green and hope to clear the burn, make four and move on to the next hole.

But, when he was fitted for clubs after that bizarre encounter with more than 500 other golfers who plied their trade long after he was dead and some before he was born and that Chairman fellow who organized this whole thing which he just called “The Tour,” he found that he could hit shorter clubs just as far and have better control over the ball.

And, with fairly benign conditions at the Auld Sod this day, Anderson banged that 2-iron 273 down the left side of the fairway. Imagine if I had this stuff when I won those four US Opens, Anderson thought. I would have made the rest of those guys look silly. As if winning four US Opens by the time he was 25 wasn’t silly enough.

Shot number two was a wedge from 104 which he placed safely on the green and two-putted for an easy par.

His playing partners, Mark Calcavecchia and Greg Norman, might have been intimidated by the long-dead golfer’s mundane par and both put their second shots in the drink, each opening with a double bogey.

The second hole was better for all as Anderson bested his par by smoking a driver over 300 yards and hitting a 9-iron to 12 feet, sinking the birdie putt. Norman and Calcavecchia both parred, though Calcavecchia’s made the highlight reel and he put his driver into Cheape’s bunker and, needing to get the ball out very high and very quickly, put a 9-iron on the green, two-putting for his four.

That got the ball rolling for both Norman and Calcavecchia, as they finished 69-71, respectively, Norman being only one of nine all day to birdie the Road Hole, smacking a driver over the hotel and over 320 yards with his 8-iron landing only ten feet from the hole.

Calcavecchia finished with a flourish, hitting his drive on 18 almost 350 and canning a lob wedge from 47 yards out, ensuring he’d break par.

As for Anderson, he followed a double bogey on four, as he had to take an unplayable lie after hitting his ball into the schmutz on the right side, with an eagle on five, putting a 3-wood from 267 within thirty feet and making the putt. Bogeys on nine and ten were more than canceled out by four birdies on the back nine and he finished with 68.

With great scoring conditions today, 94 of the 130 golfers finished at par or better with Paul Azinger alone at the top, for the moment at least, with an eight-under 64.

Like Anderson, he also eagled the fifth, hitting a 3-wood from 272 to within 19 feet in a round with exactly no bogeys.

Lloyd Mangrum and Payne Stewart are a shot back with Gene Sarazen, Mike Souchak, Vic Ghezzi and Miller Barber in a foursome at 66.

Other notables (yes, they’re all notable): Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson (67), Ken Venturi (68), Bobby Jones and Tom Watson (70), Lee Westwood (71), Jim Furyk (73), Vijay Singh (74) and Ernie Els (75). Nobody was worse than four-over.

ST. ANDREWS – STAFFA TOUR – SECOND ROUND

Nick Faldo finished Q-School as a provisional member of the Staffa Tour. And, after that 74 in the first round, a trip down to the Ruckhaus Tour appeared to be in the cards.

Day one seemed OK enough, at least to start, as he was one-under through five.

Then the wheels came off as a trip into the bunker with his sixth hole drive led to a bogey, flying the green on the par-three eighth led to another and three-putting from 13 feet on nine to still another.

Two-over 38 on the front and a birdie and bogey on the back–that bogey on the “Road Hole,” which ate up and spit out a lot of golfers on both the Gerney and Staffa Tours, and Faldo had a miserable night’s sleep. The Ruckhaus Tour? Man, that was like the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Tomorrow is always another day. But, for Faldo, would it be Groundhog Day?

Round two started a bit like round one–maybe a little better. Playing in a threesome with Jodie Mudd and Ellsworth Vines, Faldo birdied three. Truth be told, he was pissed off after a wedge shot from 90 yards was seven yards off target. But he banged home the putt. He reached the par-five fifth in two and got down in two for another birdie. He did much better today on the eighth, hitting his tee shot to within 17 feet and draining that putt. Then he rang up four more birdies between ten and fifteen. The one on ten was sweet as he almost holed a short wedge from 88 yards. The wedge clicked again on twelve as he parked one from 85 yards to within eight feet of a very tough far back pin placement. Even the Road Hole was far more mundane, though that three-iron from 217 landed on the back of the green and he two-putted from 30 feet.

Faldo’s 65 was the best round of the day on the Staffa Tour and shot him up into a tie for eleventh. No black hole, at least not for this week.

Thanks to the unusually benign conditions for the first two rounds, the cut line was at +1 with 75 golfers guaranteed a check with some of the provisional tour members, like Faldo, also guaranteed to stick around another week. Those heading down to the crap game known as the Ruckhaus tour included Ben Curtis, whose first round 69 went to hell as bogeys on 15 and 16 and a double on 17 saw him finish with a 77. Just one fewer stroke in that sequence and he would have made a few bucks. Fred Couples also did a disappearing act as he also followed a first-round 69 with a 77 as he went four-over through the first five, including a double on two, as well as bogeys on ten, eleven and twelve. Good thing for Couples, though, as he’s a full member of the Staffa Tour and is not subject to banishment. Also not subject to banishment were Hale Irwin and KJ Choi (+7).

At the top end of the leaderboard, first round leader Hubert Green came in with a 68 today and, at -12, leads Al Geiberger (69 today) and Bob Goalby (67) by three. Henry Picard, one back yesterday, shot 71 today and fell two notches to fourth place, four strokes behind.

ST. ANDREWS – GERNEY TOUR – SECOND ROUND

There was lots of good stuff going on the Gerney Tour on this “cut” day.

Bobby Jones had a roller-coaster round on the first day with an eagle, five birdies, three bogeys and a double. Even with that hodgepodge, he came in at a two-under 70.

Today’s round was far more pedestrian as a birdie on the 12th was cancelled out by a bogey on the par three eighth. The other 16 holes were pars and he walked off 18 with a 72 and a two-under total of 140. He’d done better in his illustrious career, but he was certain he’d be around for the weekend.

Boy, was he wrong, as it took four-under among this very fast company to make this week’s cut. But, as Jones didn’t exactly light up Q-School, his provisional Gerney Tour membership combined with a failure to make the cut means he’s heading to the Staffa Tour for next week’s event. That’s OK, he’ll have some good company–like Jimmy Demaret, Bob Charles and Steve Stricker.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

After Willie Park, Sr., who had honors, parked his tee shot on the par-three eleventh safely on the green, winning both the sleeve of balls and 10% off in the clubhouse store, Porky Oliver stepped up. Like Park, he had an eight-iron in his hand as he stared down at the target 181 yards away.

You know how it just feels right when you hit a good one? Two hops and a roll and Oliver had the first ace of any tour (there were three during Q-School). Alas, his euphoria was short-lived as he put his tee shot into one of the deep fairway bunkers on the very next hole, had to take a drop and walked off with a bogey. Also alas, his 70 today couldn’t overcome the 74 yesterday and, like Jones, Demaret, etc., he’ll be relegated to the Staffa Tour.

There are no preferred tee times on this tour and Tiger Woods, along with Ted Schulz and Tommy Aaron, were in the sixth group out. Woods bettered his impressive 67 yesterday with a 65 today and, for the longest time, was the leader in the clubhouse. Phil Mickelson, in the threesome in front of Woods, also made a charge up the leaderboard with a 66 and it appeared that it would be a Tiger/Phil matchup in the lead group for the third round. But later starters Payne Stewart (65, -14), Lloyd Mangrum (66, -13) and Miller Barber (65, -12) rang up some low scores on a moderately breezy but otherwise benign day and so Woods (-12) will be in the second-to-last pairing tomorrow with Barber while Mickelson will be in the group immediately in front, paired with Paul Azinger (both at -11).

A four-under cut and lots of low scores? That can only mean that St. Andrews is due to get up and bite these guys sometime this weekend.

ROUND OF THE DAY:

And only because he shot the same score yesterday and still hasn’t had a bogey–Payne Stewart. He Woods, Chip Beck and Jesper Parnevik all came in at 65.

For Stewart, it seems he works best between eight and twelve. Maybe he’s a morning guy, who knows? Actually, this eight through twelve represent holes. Three-under through that stretch yesterday was bettered by five-under today as he birdied each of those five holes.

He parked his tee shot on eight to within five feet and picked up a deuce. He drove the 361-yard ninth, also parking his ball five feet away. Unfortunately, he missed the putt but still walked away with a birdie. His next three approach shots were 12, 15, and seven feet, respectively and made all three putts. That put him six-under for the day with an approach to nine feet on 18 also being converted, finishing out his second consecutive 65 and a one-shot lead over Mangrum.

ST. ANDREWS – STAFFA TOUR – THIRD ROUND

It was only a matter of time. Up came the wind. And up came the scores.

Hubert Green, who led by three after yesterday’s play, still led. But, thanks (or no thanks) to a 73, the lead was chopped to one stroke as fortunately, the two players behind him, Al Geiberger (72) and Bob Goalby (73), couldn’t take advantage.

A couple players who did were Olin Dutra and Sam Snead.

Dutra’s 69 saw him make up four shots on Green and zoom into second place, only one behind at 10-under. He went out in 32, with fine approaches on two and three setting up very makeable birdie putts. He reached the par five fifth in two for the third day in a row and made yet another two-putt birdie. And he banged home a 23-footer on nine for his fourth birdie of the front side.

A 17-footer on ten ran his score to twelve-under and a short-lived visit to the top of the leaderboard. But he shanked his tee shot out of bounds on fourteen and that cost him two strokes. And he overshot the seventeenth green and had trouble getting off the road and that cost him two more. A nine-foot birdie putt on eighteen left Dutra with a better taste in his mouth.

As for Snead, at three-under starting play, he didn’t start well, overshooting the first green and unable to get up and down. That cost him a stroke. But then a long putt on three got that stroke back. And two spot-on approaches on four and six got two more. In between, he reached the fifth green in two and two-putted for yet another birdie. Two under on the back side and he walked off St. Andrews with the best round of the day, a five-under 67, putting him in a four-way tie for fifth at eight-under.

As for Nick Faldo and his poor opening round (74) followed by a sparkling 65 yesterday, birdies on three, nine and fifteen, with no blemishes, gave him a 69, also putting him in that four-way tie for fifth.

ST. ANDREWS – GERNEY TOUR – THIRD ROUND

With this elite bunch, it seems as if someone new will step up every day.

Today, it was Gene Sarazen’s turn.

Of course, it’s a big help if you’re hitting the fairways. Even on a noticeably windier day than the first two rounds, Sarazen did just that, hitting his second from the short stuff on every one. Then he had his short game working, parking an 8-iron to within seven feet on two, a wedge to within eight feet on three, another wedge to within five feet on six and another wedge to within nine feet on nine. On the par-three eleventh, tucking an eight-iron to within nine feet. And he made every one of those putts. Throw in a 2-iron to within six feet on the long par-four fifteenth (he made that putt too), and he finished with a 65, moving up into a tie for sixth at 13-under, three back of Payne Stewart (two-under 70 today).

Tiger Woods followed opening rounds of 67 and 65 with a 69 today. At -15, he’s tied with Lloyd Mangrum (70 today). As Woods was the first player to post -15, he’ll be playing in the final group with Stewart.

Byron Nelson has been lurking in the shadows, shooting his third consecutive 68. He’s tied for eighth with Willie Anderson at 12-under. If it weren’t for the consecutive bogeys on 16 and 17, Nelson would be in fourth and possibly in the second to last pairing.

OTHER THAN WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR HUSBAND, HOW WAS THE SHOW, MRS. LINCOLN?

Phil Mickelson, up near the top of the leaderboard after yesterday’s play, hit a brick wall on the 16th.

He hooked two 4-iron approaches out of bounds then did little better with his sixth shot, putting it in the rough near the 17 tee box. He flubbed that shot, then pitched on and two-putted for a big, fat 10. Other than that hole, he had three birdies and the rest pars. Today’s 75 dropped him to 8-under for the tourney, eight back of Stewart and all the way to 17th place.

Doug Ford and Lee Westwood, both at -6 starting today, ballooned to seven-over 79s and fell to last place at +1. Ford hit two out of bounds at 17 and took an eight. Westwood went to hell, literally, on 14. He hit his tee shot out of bounds and put his fourth shot in the Hell bunker. After taking a drop, he couldn’t reach the green from the heavy rough and couldn’t get up and down from 25 yards, two-putting for a 10.

Tiger in the final pairing with Stewart tomorrow with the top nine separated by just four strokes. Should be fun.

ST. ANDREWS – STAFFA TOUR – FINAL ROUND

There was even more wind today. Heck, everyone knew that, after the first two rounds where weather was virtually no factor, that St. Andrews would show its teeth.

Stuart Appleby got out early, gave a shot back with a second hole bogey, then reeled off four straight birdies to finish out the front side. Two more birdies on the back and he was in with a 66, what would prove to be the best round of the day and by three strokes, no less.

Then, with a beer in his hand and a burger on his plate in the clubhouse bar, he watched most of the rest of the field get beaten up while also watching his name move up the leaderboard. It should always be this easy, thought Appleby.

While lots of people backed up past him, not everyone did, and his 7-under for the tournament was only good enough for fourth place. Still, it meant a nice payday of $174,000 and a trip up to the prestigious Gerney Tour for at least one tourney.

Third round leader Hubert Green was one of those beaten by the wind as five bogeys gave him a closing round 77, dropping him to six-under and a four-way tie for fifth. He’ll also be playing on the Gerney next week.

Cursing his chance to not having made hay while the sun shone: Nick Faldo, as his opening round 74 kept him from first place money by a stroke. He shot a masterful 70 in the tough conditions today. Combined with his 65 and 69 in the middle rounds, he missed by THAT much. But he’s also heading to the big tour next week after being a mere provisional member of the Staffa Tour for this one.

Speaking of first place money, that went to Al Geiberger, whose shot of the day made the difference between being what’s now a full-fledged member of the Gerney Tour and just temporary help.

He teed off at 16 even par for the day–three birdies and three bogeys. His first shot, though remaining on the expansive fairway was hooked at least 50 yards to the left. His next shot was a 6-iron from 188. While it appeared to be a lot of club, maybe even too much, the wind knocked it down. Fortunately, Geiberger had enough sense not to take a run at the pin, which was right behind the unforgiving “Wig” bunker. Such nice names they have for those festering boils they call bunkers. Though Geiberger was safely on the green, the bad news was that his putt would probably have to change buses twice on the way to the hole.

The laser crew–the folks who measure drives and such–had Geiberger at 91 feet out. And, from the front of the green, it was hit and hope you get close. But Geiberger did better than that, as his snaking putt found the center of the cup. Give me a box of those!

Though Geiberger was up near the top of the leaderboard, that putt seemed to rejuvenate him. Even landing in the Road Hole bunker with his second didn’t slow him down as he got up and down for par–easily too, as his sand shot landed two feet from the hole. He played left off the 18th tee but had a 95 yard wedge shot which landed two feet from the hole, which he promptly put away for an easy birdie.

ST. ANDREWS – GERNEY TOUR – FINAL ROUND

Before he forgot how to drive and played every hole he could find, when Tiger Woods was in the final pairing it was usually the other golfer who wilted.

Today was no exception.

One back of leader Payne Stewart, it was Stewart who went back-to-back bogey on three and four. He’d recover but never get above even and 72 just wasn’t good enough. Generally, it was approach shots which betrayed Stewart as he never seemed to be in one-putt range, though his putter did betray him on those two early bogey holes, three-putting from 16 and 28 feet.

As far as Woods (-20) was concerned, everything seemed to be working, his putter taking a nap on only one hole, the sixth. Even then, as he was over 60 feet away from a tough pin placement, that one transgression could be excused.

He caught up to Stewart on the second hole, as a pitching wedge from 135 landed just two feet from the pin. Stewart backed up past Woods on three and four and Stewart’s birdie on five was bettered by Woods’ eagle as he hit a 2-iron from 244 to within five feet.

After that, even the three-put on six didn’t seem to matter as he closed out the front side with birdies on seven and nine, driving to the front of the green on seven and then two-putting with nine being a short wedge inside of ten feet which was one-putted. A 35 on cruise control on the back nine and Woods went into the record books as the first ever winner on the Gerney Tour.

Among those who offered a serious challenge to Woods were Miller Barber, one back of Woods starting today, and Mike Souchak, two back. But each was never able to mount a serious challenge. For Barber, though he started with birdies on one and three, he played even par before finishing with birdies on sixteen and eighteen. For Souchak, like Woods, he also went out in 32. But, as Woods could lay back just a bit on the inward nine, Souchak had to get something going and putting his tee shot on the par-three eleventh in the bunker and making four didn’t help him any.

Tied with Woods at 15-under starting play today was Lloyd Mangrum. But, after his birdie on the opening hole, he played even par the rest of the way.

ROUND OF THE DAY:

Gary Player, with a 64. He passed a bunch of people and ended up in a tie for sixth with Gene Sarazen (70) and Byron Nelson, whose streak of three consecutive 68s was broken with a 69.

If it wasn’t for the double bogey on four, when a wayward tee shot found the rough and an even more wayward second found the heather on the right side necessitating a penalty drop, Player would have shot a 62 and ended up in third place. As it was, Player only wished there were more holes to play as he shot a sizzling 30 on the back nine.

After the R & A presented the trophy and very large check ($1.8 million) to Woods, half going to the ex and some more to the kids, The Chairman stepped up to the microphone and made his announcement.

“I had envisioned the top ten on the Staffa Tour moving up to the Gerney Tour as provisional members–well, all but Mr. Geiberger, who will be a full member with his win today.

“But, had I moved all the gentlemen who shot birdies on the first hole of the Ruckhaus Tour to the Staffa Tour as provisional members, which I had also envisioned, the Staffa Tour would be too large for next week.

“So, what I’m going to do is to move the top 20 and ties from the Staffa Tour to the Gerney Tour for next week. Those in that group who are provisional Staffa members will keep that status should they be relegated back to the Staffa Tour. Of course, should they perform well, they will remain on the Gerney Tour. For those of you outside the top ten in a Staffa event, don’t assume that moving up to the Gerney will happen every week. In other words, don’t rest on your laurels and not take chances on the course just because you think you have fifteenth place locked up.

“And now, for next week’s event. It has been called as pure a test of golf as there ever was, forcing you to use every club in your bag, and sometimes in not the way it was designed. I give you…PINEHURST!

That got the groans going for most of the golfers. Though St. Andrews didn’t eat these guys for breakfast the way it could have, playing courses every week that were on the Open rotations didn’t sit too well either. After all, they wanted courses which would make them look good and for which they wouldn’t have to work as hard. They got lucky with St. Andrews as the wind, though noticeable, wasn’t awful. They wouldn’t be able to use wind as an excuse at Pinehurst as those damned greens were a ballbreaker even on the nicest of days.

HEADING UP TO THE GERNEY TOUR: Geiberger (full member), Faldo, Picard, Appleby, Green Duncan, Chad Campbell, Diegel, Sam Snead, Strath, Goalby, Taylor, Devlin, Price, Dutra, January, Metz, Elkington, Cerda, Archer, Ballesteros, Love, Rosburg and Massengale (the last 23 provisional–if they make the cut next week they stay, if not, it’s back to the Staffa). Faldo, Campbell, Strath and Snead, once provisional members, are also now full members of the Staffa Tour, which means they can’t be relegated.

HEADING DOWN TO THE RUCKHAUS TOUR (Notables, anyway):
Curtis, Steve Pate, Lickliter, Steve Jones, Nobilo.

HEADING UP FROM THE RUCKHAUS TOUR:
All 40 men who made it past the first hole with the tournament winner, Bud Holscher, getting his full Staffa card. The rest are provisional members.

The Chairman’s method of transportation for The Tour was a bit unnerving. No planes. No buses or taxis from the airport. No courtesy cars. Everyone just woke up in North Carolina and, like that (cue the snap of the fingers), they ended up at Pinehurst.

Even the golfers who knew the course well didn’t want to play Pinehurst as they knew, eventually, the course would play them. The only saving grace was that the rough was cut down to normal height as the fairways were still narrow and the greens still treacherous.

The 232 golfers on this week’s Ruckhaus Tour were the first group out and, in a few minutes, the first hole was complete (actually, it took about an hour or so on quick play–but let’s not quibble).

[Note: When I was quick playing the first hole, I thought of the computer golf game Links. There was this one course built for the game–Devil’s Island–which was something that Pete or Perry Dye would have come up with while doing serious acid. Actually broke 70 a few times on that diabolical layout. But I was thinking of this 232-man crew as well and who would be lucky enough to get off The Chairman’s version of Devil’s Island. After all, even parring the first hole would keep you stuck on the island for another week. One shot to get off and that’s it.]

As was the case last week, 40 golfers birdied the first hole. This is quick play, at least until the field narrows down, so we’ll have to use our imaginations.

Of the 40, a few barely made it on their quick play rating. So, maybe I can say they holed out a long one or had a really good shot out of the rough or even holed out of a greenside bunker. Two golfers, Dick Lotz and Sean O’Hair rolled the coveted asterisk result. As that has a chance to be holed out for a deuce, I could say that they rattled the flag stick or backed up a pitching or sand wedge.

In any case, 40 golfers advanced to the second hole. The good news for them? They’ll likely get off Devil’s Island and become provisional members of the Staffa Tour in time for next week’s event. “Likely,” because it depends on how many who miss the cut are provisional members and thus able to be relegated.

The next post, maybe two, will have the 40 golfers who are moving to the second hole.

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Forty players reached the next plateau, the 470-yard par-four second. For 37, it was their last hole of this tournament/skins game. Three were able to make birdie and moved on–Willie Goggin, RH Sikes and Fredrik Jacobson.

It was an interesting scenario as Goggin, Jacobson and Sykes moved to the third hole. All three were guaranteed to be playing on the Staffa Tour next week with one guaranteed never to come back here. So, pretty much, it was a no-lose situation for all. Adding another angle was that this was a short par-four, playing only 327. Though a golfer considering trying to drive the green had to thread the needle, so to speak, at the front of the green, a well-struck tee shot might very well end up on the dance floor.

Goggin was first. He knew he couldn’t hit it as far as the other two and decided to play safe, hoping to get up and down from about 100 yards. His 3-iron found the center of the fairway but it was a bit shorter than he had hoped, leaving about 120 yards.

Jacobson went deep and found the large trap in front of the green, leaving a testy sand shot from something just a bit further than a standard greenside bunker.

Sikes hit one straight but couldn’t make it all the way to the green, leaving about a 40-yard pitch.

Goggin was first up with his approach and watched his sand wedge check up to within four feet. He stole a glance at Sikes and Jacobson and kind of gave a shrug, his body language saying, “Drive for show, huh?”

Jacobson with the long-ish sand shot, couldn’t get close, leaving a must make 20-footer.

Sikes chipped up to six feet.

Jacobson missed by a noticeable margin while Sikes and Goggin made their putts. Jacobson will get third place money while the other two took the short stroll to the fourth hole tee box.

The fourth was a long par-five, playing at 560 yards.

Goggin, again, was the first to go. He didn’t hit it well, his ball settling just in the rough at 260 yards out.

Sikes quickly forced Goggin’s hand by hitting the snot out of the ball, 305 dead down the middle.

Goggin was on the fence with his second. Facing a reasonably decent lie, would it be long iron or 3-wood? Darn, he wished he had one of those hybrid clubs that golfers raved about. He decided on the wood. Getting all of it, he left himself a 60-yard up and down. As he knocked one dead from double that distance on the last hole, he felt very comfortable where his second shot ended up here.

Sikes went for the green and came up just short and to the right, leaving an easy pitch.

Given that sand wedge on the third hole, Goggin disappointed himself by leaving what should have been an easier pitch 18 feet out.

Though Sikes could have done better too, he still had a very makeable six-footer.

Goggin missed his putt and, to add a bit of finality–as he thought he’d come THAT close to getting his Staffa Tour card–he tapped in for par.

But Sikes missed! His six-footer missed just to the right of the hole. Frustrated, he grimaced then stared at his putter, silently cursing the thing which just betrayed him.

The action moved to the fifth hole, a very long par four of 490 yards.

Though Sikes was the longer hitter, both men drove equally with Sikes’ ball landing in the right rough. Goggin hit his in the left center of the fairway and watched as his ball rolled left, in the direction of the fairway slope. Though it always seems the last roll of the ball finds the trap or the rough or something else untoward, Goggin got lucky as his ball stopped on the edge of the fairway.

Sikes was first to go and pulled out a three iron. With the pin in the back right, if he hit enough club, he could clear the slope in front of the green and roll close. Unfortunately, he hit it a little fat and caught that slope, his ball rolling backward off the green. The good news was that he had a lot of green to work with for his chip.

Goggin, fairway lie notwithstanding, saw what happened to Sikes and pulled out an extra club. And a fine choice it was as he hit his ball perfectly, landing it in the center of the green where it rolled to within four feet.

Sikes was left with no choice and had to go for it. And he almost made it, too, his ball rolling right at the pin but stopping just short.

Goggin calmly stepped up and buried his putt, earning his full-time Staffa card.

By |2017-02-13T11:23:09+00:00November 27th, 2011|The Tour Archives|Comments Off on The Tour – St. Andrews

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