EVENT # 10
The Chairman was reading before bedtime. Always a sucker for a good golf story–baseball too– he was reading the former and was about to turn out the light when he said to himself, “I could do that. Hell, I’m the Chairman; I can do anything.”
After watching the 256 members of the Gerney and Staffa Tours eat TPC Scottsdale for lunch, The Chairman vowed to make things more difficult for the next event. The original plan was to send everyone to one of the courses on the US Open rotation, specifically Oakmont, and humble them up just a little. But, after putting down his book for the evening, he had a change of heart and decided to make another trip to the Monterey Peninsula, this time to Cypress Point.
Back when Harry Lillis Crosby was still alive, Cypress Point was part of the rotation for the annual Clambake. It was Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Cypress Point, a cut after three rounds–in the early days it was only three rounds–and the finale on Sunday at Pebble. And what a weekend it was with many of the showbiz greats hamming it up with the best golfers in the world with lots of boozing and schmoozing. And, everybody got a round on Alister McKenzie’s masterpiece at Cypress, quite possibly his best work, and only one round. This time, everyone would get four, at least those who made the cut.
As far as the 393 golfers on the three tours were concerned, they had no idea where they were headed to next until they actually got there. And, with The Chairman’s mystical ability to move a very large group from place to place seamlessly and without anyone in the outside world ever noticing–though there was that one time a couple events back at Celtic Manor when they ran into that odd train with kids wearing robes and waving wands, the train which reportedly left from a platform 9 ¾ at some station, possibly in London. But that only happened that one time. So, Oakmont? Cypress Point? Didn’t matter to the golfers, as they had no idea anyway.
The Chairman turned out the light and, as he was falling off to sleep, decided to make one change for the upcoming event and also had one surprise in store.
The one change, which he probably should have made after the fifth event when he cut the freeloaders–those on the Ruckhaus Tour who had yet to pick up a check for any more than minimum wage–was to make that tour a full four round affair. At nearly 250 golfers, The Chairman had come up with an idea to make that tour exciting–a skins game. The Chairman had thought, quite erroneously, that such an event might actually go eighteen holes or more as golfers were slowly eliminated. But most took three or four holes with a couple actually lasting only two holes. But now, down to a manageable 129, for this week at least, he decided to finally make the Ruckhaus Tour a full event and not a gimmick. They’d play for the same million dollar purse with the winner moving up to the Staffa Tour as a full member, as he had in the past, and the rest of the top ten and ties also moving up, but only staying on the Staffa Tour as long as they could pick up a check. Miss a cut and it was back to golf’s equivalent of AA ball.
As far as the surprise, that would occur between the conclusion of the Staffa Tour event and the start of the Gerney Tour event.
NEXT UP: The Ruckhaus Tour, round one.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT RUCKHAUS TOUR FIRST ROUND
The Monterey peninsula is one of the most beautiful places on earth. And, though you can get summer in February out there, it also has some of the most fickle weather you’d ever want to see. Today was one of those days.
The course isn’t a long one. It used to be longer with the old equipment, but not any more. And there wasn’t a lot of room for expansion–like moving the tees back 50 yards. And, since fiddling with the approaches and the greens would be akin to putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, the course was pretty well left alone. That’s OK, as there were still fairways that didn’t hold tee shots and well-placed bunkers and undulating greens–some severe. And, of course, there was that weather.
So, combine high winds and hard, unreceptive greens and 129 men playing AA level golf and you have the makings for some high scores. Today’s aggregate was 75.57 or just a bit more than three and a half shots over par.
Four golfers actually got it to 4-under at some point during the round. But none had that number as a finishing score. Billy Maxwell was the most successful of the lot, finishing up at minus three.
After pars on the first five holes, four routine and one a scramble, Maxwell put together an impressive five-hole run. On six, he went for the par five in two only to come up short and in the deep front left greenside bunker. Faced with a long sand shot, he didn’t get too close but recovered to sink a 13 footer for birdie. An 8-iron on the par three seventh was spot on, leaving just a five-footer which Maxwell also converted. After a routine par on eight, Maxwell drove the green on the 290 yard par four ninth. Right on target, he came up about fifteen feet short and just missed his eagle putt, tapping in for birdie. As it turned out, Maxwell was the only golfer to hold the green and the one who came closest to making a two. On to the back nine and Maxwell reached the par five tenth in two and two-putted for birdie to go to 4-under. Three routine and two scramble pars followed in advance of Maxwell stepping on to the 16th tee. With the wind hard in the golfers’ faces today, many actually bailed to the left, most being content with making four–though some got up and down for par–and moving on. Maxwell was no different, two-putting for bogey. A scramble par on seventeen and a two-putt par from 65 feet on the last and Maxwell was in with 69.
Mike Sullivan and Paul Harney were two of the foursome who saw 4-under at some point.
For Sullivan, it was making birdie on two of the par fives. At Cypress, the fives are all gone by the tenth hole with par fours and two forced carry par threes the rest of the way. Sullivan had no luck on either of the par threes. Fifteen is a shortie–only 145 yards today. But Sullivan had trouble with the wind and pushed his 8-iron right, making four. And Sullivan joined the bail out brigade on sixteen and was seemingly content with a four there. Beats putting it in the drink and making five or worse. Sullivan finished with a 2-under 70.
Harney played “army golf” on the par five second, making bogey. Then, starting at four, he ran off five birdies in six holes, all on putts of between ten and seventeen feet, so he had the flat blade working. Alas, he bogeyed eleven after spraying his drive and eighteen as that flat blade failed him, three-putting from 20 feet.
The fourth member of the 4-under group was Shaun Micheel.
After a bogey at the opener, Micheel ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at three, including dropping a 39 foot putt on the par five fifth. Micheel made it three birdies on the four par fives by reaching ten in two and two-putting. But, just two holes later, the wheels fell off. Twelve was an approach missed right and a bogey five. Thirteen was a horror as, just an easy pitch just right of the green for his third shot, Micheel botched that, leaving over 20 feet and then proceeded to three-putt for a double bogey. As if that weren’t enough, he Mickey Mantled (a dead Yank) his 8-iron on fifteen off the rocks and into the water. His next attempt off the tee landed in the large bunker fronting the green and it took him three to get up and down for a three-bagger. Micheel was one of the few to land safely on the green and sixteen and made par there, otherwise he might have dropped yet another stroke. But that stroke was waiting for him on eighteen when he pulled his approach way left and made five. So, from 4-under, Micheel dropped seven shots over the final seven holes and finished with a 3-over 75.
There was one other golfer who finished his day at 3-under, RH Sikes.
The first six holes consist of three par fives. And Sikes birdied two of them. On five, it was reaching in two and two-putting while, on six, it was a wedge to twelve feet and a putt. After that, Sikes rode the roller coaster as a three-putt on the par three seventh was canceled out by a nine-footer for birdie on nine. Going “three up, three down” on the par five tenth saw Sikes drop a shot and he had to wait until fourteen to get it back thanks to an 8-iron approach to four feet. But, like a degenerate gambler, he gave it right back as he tee shot on fifteen was knocked down by the wind and he made four. Sikes bailed out but got up and down for par at sixteen which, in the way that hole played today, he might have actually gained a stroke though it didn’t show on the scorecard. But he got it back to 3-under on eighteen with one of the shots of the day. Seeing his pitching wedge approach come up well short but still on the front edge of the green, Sikes sank an 83-foot snake of a putt for a birdie three, finishing day one tied for the lead.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Sikes was one. The other belonged to Duffy Waldorf.
Waldorf had the only birdie at sixteen, which was a highlight in itself. Putting a 2-iron into biting wind onto the green was an accomplishment as about one-sixth of the field was able to do that. But Waldorf made his two thanks to a 63 foot putt. After a roller coaster front nine of 2-over 39, the birdie saw Waldorf shoot 1-under on the back side and finish with a 73.
IT PAYS TO BE REGULAR:
Bart Bryant shot an even par 72. He had trouble negotiating his way around the green at the par five second, landing just off the back with his third shot. Faced with what looked like an easy chip, Bryant missed the hole by six feet and two-putted. Undaunted, he sank a fifteen-footer for birdie on the par three next. After that, it was pars the rest of the way–fifteen of them.
MY NAME IS EARL:
His name is also ‘mud,’ as, after going 1-under on the front, Earl Stewart became a hacker on the back with three bogeys, two doubles and a triple, saving his worst for last. Sixteen was a bail out shot that Stewart messed up, hit it thin and put it in the water. That was worth a double. Seventeen was a decent enough drive, though Stewart flirted with the water on the right. The rough must have gotten hold of his sand wedge approach and he pulled it left. On in three, he proceeded to three-putt from eleven feet. Stewart’s 3-iron off the tee on eighteen flew left into the trees. He couldn’t reach the green with his second, landing in the lone bunker and leaving a long sand shot. But that shot was fairly decent, leaving sixteen feet for par. Four putts later, Stewart had a seven. 45 on the back and an 81.
But misery loves company and Stewart has that as Jeff Sluman and Kenny Knox also shot 81s. Sluman went 5-over for his first four holes and never recovered while Knox shot 43 on the back, losing three shots as he hit the green on fifteen but three-putted and put his tee shot in the drink on sixteen and made double.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
After Maxwell and Sikes at -3 and Sullivan and Harney at -2, there is a nine-way logjam for fifth place, all at 1-under: David Frost, Mike “King” Brady, Jerry Barber, Larry Rinker, Johnny Bulla, Blaine McCallister, Bo Wininger, Ken Green and Mike Turnesa.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT RUCKHAUS TOUR SECOND ROUND
Though someone saw minus five today, it was only a quick glance. Minus three was where the leader started today and minus three was where it ended. It was just different people in the lead.
Once again, the wind and hard greens played havoc with the 129-man field. As a group, they performed about a half stroke better but still more than three shots over par with only three players breaking 70.
One of those was Al Espinosa.
If you remember from your college days, remember how, on a tough exam, the professor would grade on a curve? Hey, it made the professor look good too, so it’s not like he wasn’t helping himself either. Anyway, there was always that one “curve buster,” some smart guy who could pull an “A” when everyone else was getting “C” and worse. Espinosa was that guy.
He got it rolling almost right from the opening shot. One was a solid two-putt par. Driver, 3-metal wasn’t anywhere near close on the moderate length (for these guys anyway) par five second as the wind was hard in the golfers’ faces. But Espinosa parked a knockdown wedge from 64 yards within nine feet and made the birdie putt. Then it was a 25-footer for birdie on the par three second, a 7-iron approach from 150 to “gimme” length for birdie on four (7-iron from 150 after a 254-yard drive which was well-struck–a result of “4” says it was well hit–and you know the wind was howling). After pars on the back-to-back par fives and turning into a more favorable wind, Espinosa hit an 8-iron on the 170 yard seventh to within six feet and made birdie. The short par five ninth saw Espinosa miss right. But he got up and down for birdie and out in 5-under 32. Then a birdie on twelve was canceled out by a bogey on fourteen as Espinosa flew the green. It turned out to be the only blemish on a fine day as he sank a 20-footer for birdie at fifteen, the first forced carry par three, parred sixteen with a bit of a bail out (though maybe the wind got him) but a nice up and down. Espinosa then parred seventeen after flirting with the cliffs on his first two shots but still getting up and down, and finished with birdie on eighteen by sinking a fifteen-footer.
And that gave the “curve buster” Espinosa an incredible 7-under 65. And it was made more incredible because no one was within four shots of him today.
The two other players to break 70 were Alex Campbell, who had to make four birdies in the final five holes to do it–with a bogey on sixteen in the middle of that, and Paul Casey, who put together a three birdie run from the sixth through the eighth holes with the other fifteen holes played at par. Campbell’s tied for seventh at even par while Casey is in a four-way tie for ninth at 1-over.
Ken Green moved up into second place with a 2-under 70. The highlight of his day came at seventeen when he attempted to hit a 3-metal for placement off the tee but it ran close to the clump of trees that occupy the right center of the fairway and block many approach shots. But, with a favorable wind and just enough room, Green was just able to clear the trees with a pitching wedge and stopped his ball within four feet of the very difficult pin placement on the right side of the green as it has the cliffs both in front and on the right.
Yesterday’s co-leader, Billy Maxwell, had a rough go with the wind in the early going and bogeyed the first two holes. He just about broke even the rest of the way and finished with a 73, still leaving him in third place, just one back.
Yesterday’s other co-leader, RH Sikes, wasn’t as fortunate. The wind got him on the par three third and he made bogey. The trees got him on five and he made bogey there too. And he came up short on eight, landed in the bunker and made another bogey. Out in 40, he broke even on the back side and finished with a 75, leaving him at even par for the tournament and tied with Campbell in seventh.
+7, with 77 sticking around for a paycheck. Most of those teetering on the edge got beat up, especially on the last few holes. But only one of the sixteen just on the right side of the cut line made birdie to stick around. That would have been Rod Curl. Sixteen got hold of him as he landed in the large bunker fronting the left side of the green and made bogey. Flirting with danger and almost making two water landings on seventeen, Curl made another bogey. So, you could excuse him if he wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence as he stepped onto the eighteenth tee. A 3-iron off the tee to the far side of the dogleg didn’t make him feel much better as he had to take a pitching wedge from 140 over the trees to a large, difficult green. Flying the pin, he left himself a seventeen-footer. After staring down a week with a check and a week without, he knocked it dead center.
NOT SO FORTUNATE:
Hunter Mahan, with bogeys over the final five holes to miss the cut by one. Especially galling was the final hole when he needed to two-putt to stick around for the weekend. At 29 feet from the fringe, Mahan watched as his ball rolled–and rolled some more, finishing up ten feet past the hole. He missed his par putt by not too much and the weekend by just enough with a 74-78 and 8-over par.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT RUCKHAUS TOUR THIRD ROUND
Yesterday’s leader, Al Espinosa, could have gone into the final round with a comfortable lead. Could have.
After an impressive 65, which was four shots better than anyone else and which also vaulted him into the lead at 3-under, Espinosa ran his score to 6-under through fourteen thanks to hard work and a little luck.
He started his day with a birdie at the opener. Once again, the wind and the hard greens took center stage and Espinosa saw the wind push his approach shot off course. But, just off the green to the right and with a short-sided pin, Espinosa chipped in for a three. His par on four almost wasn’t, as he misjudged his putt and left his eighteen-footer on a ridge and ten feet short. But he made that par putt and carried that over to the back-to-back par fives, both of which he birdied. He parred eight with a sandy, including a testy six-foot putt, but got knocked down a peg at nine as, on the short par four, his knockdown wedge got pushed left thanks to hitting out of the rough. Now in the sand dunes, he missed the green with his third, but not by much, and pulled out his putter and got up and down for bogey. Out in 35, Espinosa was at 5-under.
On to the back nine and Espinosa birdied the par five tenth thanks to a miraculous shot and amazing putt. Pushing a 3-metal way right–maybe it was the wind again, he landed among a clump of trees in the waste sand. With about 70 yards and not much room in which to negotiate his shot, Espinosa managed to hold the green with his sand wedge and followed that with a 26-foot putt. The next four were two-putt pars and so Espinosa stepped onto the fifteenth tee at 6-under.
And then the wheels fell off. Playing at only 131, Espinosa had to battle the wind and decided to hit an 8-iron. It was a great shot too–only eleven feet from a very difficult pin position in the sliver of putting surface on the front left of the green behind one deep bunker and to the left of another. But his putter betrayed him and he three-putted for bogey. Now rattled, he went with a 3-metal off the tee at sixteen. Though it looked like it might have been a bailout shot, even with the fairway metal, Espinosa flew that. What’s behind the bailout area are more cliffs, rocks and water. Now lying three, he managed to get up and down, saving bogey with a 17-foot putt. Feeling more uncomfortable, Espinosa played very safe off the tee at seventeen, hitting a 3-metal away from the cliff and to the left side of the fairway and well enough behind the trees on the right side of the fairway so that he had a clean, but fairly blind shot to the pin. Taking a 7-iron from 163, the wind knocked his shot down well short and down the cliff and into the water. On with his fourth, he two-putted for a double bogey six and finished his day one shot behind where he started, now at 2-under.
The good news is that, even with a 73, Espinosa is still in the lead. The bad news is that, instead of having some padding going into the final day, he now has company.
And that company would be Ellsworth Vines, who was the only golfer to break 70 today.
Vines had incredible run on the front side. Also counting a birdie on ten, he went 7-under in an eight-hole stretch. And that included a double bogey!
Bad news first as it took Vines to get on in four on the par five second where he made bogey. But then…
He sunk a 30-footer for birdie at the par three third.
He put his 6-iron approach to within ten feet at four and made that putt.
A pair of 3-metals got him on in two on the par five fifth and he made a 23-footer for eagle.
Once again, he hit a pair of 3-metals of the par five sixth and only needed to make a two-footer to make it back-to-back eagles.
Seven? Oops. Short and in the bunker on the par three, he got on with his second but proceeded to three-putt from twelve feet.
On eight, he hit to the far corner of the dogleg and left a difficult approach. Though it was a straight line in, he didn’t have much green to shoot at as, with the pin on the far left, there are dunes to the front and a bunker to the back. Vines stopped his ball within fifteen feet and made the putt.
Into the dunes on nine, Vines got up and down quite nicely, sinking an eleven-footer for birdie.
And on the par five tenth, driver-3-iron got him on in two and he two-putted from fourteen feet for birdie.
So, after starting his day at 3-over, Vines got it to 3-under and, with Espinosa just getting his round started, had temporary custody of the lead.
But Vines’ putter failed him on twelve and thirteen as he made three-putt bogeys on both. Then, after running off four straight pars, Vines put his pitching wedge approach to within eleven feet and his putter partially atoned as he sank the birdie putt.
67 for Vines and he’s tied with Espinosa at 2-under.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
And two came from the same guy.
Graham Marsh started his day at 2-over, he went out in an incredible 6-under 31, getting his score to 4-under and, at that point, took temporary custody of the lead from Vines.
Going 2-iron off the first tee for placement, Marsh hit the middle of the fairway, leaving a 5-iron in from 187. He flushed that for an eagle. Marsh reached in two at five and two-putted for birdie. At the par three seventh, Marsh pulled out a 7-iron from 170 at almost a sucker pin placement–tucked in over a large bunker on the thinnest part of the green. And Marsh put that one in the hole too! Finally, like Vines, Marsh went right off the tee and into the dunes but managed to get up and down, finishing up his birdie with a fourteen-foot putt.
Alas, after a highlight reel front nine, Marsh imploded on the back.
Eleven was a three-putt bogey. His approach on twelve missed way left and he couldn’t get up and down, making another bogey. Thirteen was a horror around the green as Marsh pushed his second way right into a nasty bunker. Able to extricate himself, Marsh still didn’t hit the green and took three to get up and down from the rough for a double. After missing the green at sixteen, Marsh made bogey there too. So, what the golf course giveth, the golf course just about took away. 6-under on the front, 5-over on the back and a 71, putting him in a tie for fifth at +1.
There was a third “shot of the day.” That came from Blaine McCallister at twelve. Let’s just say that, if he could play twelve over and over, he would have had this tournament won long ago. On day one, he sank a 31-footer for birdie. Yesterday, he chipped in for birdie. Today, he topped that. Hitting 3-metal off the tee, McCallister, with a favorable wind, pulled out a 9-iron from 172 (in my dreams!). With the pin in the back right, it was a couple bounces and then the bottom of the cup. Unfortunately, for McCallister, he went 4-over the rest of the way (two bogeys and a double at seventeen) and finished with a 76, tied for 28th at 6-over.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
The first round co-leader, Billy Maxwell, shot a 1-over 73 and is all alone in third at 1-under. Mike “King” Brady shot a 2-under 70 and is all alone in fourth at even par. Yesterday’s co-leader, Ken Green, shot a 76 and fell back to +1, tied with Marsh for fifth. Harry Todd (72 today) and Mike Sullivan (75) are tied for seventh at 2-over. And, in a six-way tie for ninth at +3 are Sandy Lyle (70), Billy Mayfair and Dick Lotz (both 72), Bo Wininger (73), Ryuji Imada (74) and Mike Sullivan (75).
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT RUCKHAUS TOUR FINAL ROUND
The two players in the lead after yesterday’s play were in the lead at the close of play today. What that means is that 72 holes weren’t quite enough and Al Espinosa and Ellsworth Vines will keep playing until there’s a winner.
There were also six players within four shots of the lead starting play today. None were a factor as Espinosa and Vines finished five shots clear of the field.
Once again, the high winds and hard greens were a major factor in determining how the golfers would approach the course. Generally, it was cautiously and conservatively. Though they made some timely shots, Espinosa and Vines were no exception.
Playing in the final pairing, Espinosa parred the first five holes and, with the exception of a “sandy” on the par three third, all were of the routine “on in regulation” variety. Vines landed in the same bunker on three that Espinosa did and couldn’t convert, missing a six-footer for par. Unfortunately, for Vines, that carried over to the next hole when he came up short and couldn’t get up and down. So it was Espinosa in front by two.
Vines cashed in on six, the first of the back-to-back par fives, by sinking a 38 foot putt. But each birdied the next hole–Vines reaching in two and two-putting while Espinosa’s second found the bunker about 70 yards out but got up and down thanks to a miraculous 31-foot putt. They all look like tap-ins in the box score. Espinosa got the lead back to two by birdieing the par three seventh, sinking a nine-footer, while Vines finally got his “sandy.”
Vines closed it to one at the short par four ninth. Playing at 295, Bbth players pushed their tee shots right into the dunes. Both players hit safely on, but Vines dropped a 59-footer for birdie while Espinosa just missed his 17-footer.
The par five tenth saw a two-shot swing as Vines vaulted into the lead. With honors, Vines just missed the right hand bunker with his tee shot while Espinosa didn’t. Espinosa couldn’t make it to the green with his second, eventually finishing with a two-putt par. Vines, on the other hand, put a 3-iron from 192 to within seven feet and sank the putt for an eagle three.
Four pars followed with each golfer scrambling for one. Vines was left with a long sand shot after coming up short with his approach on twelve, stopping a sand wedge from 30 yards two feet from the cup while Espinosa missed just wide left on the next hole, managing to avoid a penal bunker. With an easy bump and run thanks to a lot of green to work with, Espinosa cashed in.
On to the back-to-back par threes at fifteen and sixteen… Both came up short with 8-irons, each landing in the very large front bunker. Both just overshot the green with their second though Espinosa, on the fringe, was better off than Vines, who rolled into the rough. Espinosa got up and down for bogey while Vines chipped to five feet and missed his putt, moving the match back to even.
Up first on sixteen, Espinosa dodged another bullet, hitting a 2-iron left of the green but just managing to miss the bunker. Vines hit his ball thin and it never had a chance, bouncing off the rocks and into the water. Lying three, Vines landed a punch shot to within ten feet. Espinosa chipped to six feet. Up first, Vines sank his putt while a possibly rattled Espinosa, hoping for a one shot lead going into the final two holes, saw his put rim out.
Seventeen was a routine par for both, albeit with long first putts, 48 feet for Espinosa and 41 for Vines.
Up first on eighteen, Espinosa’s 3-iron found the rough on the long side of the dogleg, avoiding having a tree in his way by not much. Seeing an opening, Vines went down a club and placed his 4-iron in the center of the fairway. Up first, Vines mis-hit his ball, pulling it left and into the lone greenside bunker and leaving a long sand shot in. With a pitching wedge and a decent line to the green, Espinosa came up right and short. The good news was that he landed on the fringe, so he wouldn’t have to worry about chipping and dealing with the rough. The bad news was that he had 50 feet and, by no means, an easy putt. Vines blasted out of the bunker to eight feet, a tremendous shot considering the circumstances. Espinosa lag putted to three feet. Putting for $72,000–the difference between winning and being forgotten when no one asks “Who finished second at Cypress to Espinosa,” Vines knocked his putt dead center. Espinosa sank his shortie and both golfers finished the regulation eighteen holes today exactly where they started–at 2-under.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN (eleven, actually, and all will have at least one chance at the bigger money Staffa Tour):
Herman Barron (71 today) and Graham Marsh (74) tied for third at +3. Jerry Barber (69, he and Isao Aoki were the only two to break 70 today), Lee Elder (71) and Mike Sullivan (74) finished tied for fifth at 4-over. And, in a four-way tie for eighth at +5 were Steve Elkington (71), Donnie Hammond (72) and Ryuji Imada and Bo Wininger (both 74). Billy Maxwell, who started play today one shot back, had five bogeys and a double on a 44 front side as he quickly dropped off the radar, eventually shooting an 80, dropping him into a tie for eighteenth at +7. Mike “King” Brady, who started the day two back, managed to play marginally better than Maxwell. Never getting his engine started, he posted a 78, finishing in a tie for twelfth at +6.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Fred Daly at 11. After starting his day with three straight bogeys and a 40 on the front, Daly stepped up to the par four twelfth at 10 over par. After a perfectly placed tee shot, Daly pulled out a 6-iron and, from 172, flew the corner of the trap guarding the left side pin placement, landed on the front of the green and rolled the rest of the way in for an eagle.
Aoki at 13. As mentioned, he, along with Jerry Barber, were the only players to break 70. Hitting a 2-iron off the tee safely in the fairway but leaving himself with a poor angle to go right at the pin, Aoki did anyway. At 8-over, he had nothing to lose. A three-quarter pitching wedge from 105 later and Aoki had an eagle.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT RUCKHAUS TOUR PLAYOFF
The playoff started at seventeen, 375 yards, par four with a hard wind blowing almost in the golfers’ faces. Vines and Espinosa would play seventeen and eighteen over and over until there was a winner.
Vines picked the “1” out of the official’s hat and was first to go. Though the fairway is straight, the tee shot into it isn’t and the fairway slopes severely to the right, so even what looks like a shot hit dead center can roll off the fairway and into the sliver of rough between the fairway and a watery death. Vines went with a 3-metal, landed it dead center about 235 yards out and watched his ball roll–and roll some more–stopping just short of the right hand rough. Espinosa also went with a 3-metal and pushed his drive a bit left. But it landed on the fairway, rolled predictably toward the right and stopped dead center.
Espinosa was first to go and had the clump of trees, which occupy the right center of the fairway starting at about 280 yards out, blocking a clear view of the green. Fortunately, he had enough room to get an 8-iron in the air and he cleared the trees, landing on the green and leaving a 20 foot putt. Vines, from 120, elected to go with a 9-iron but misjudged the wind, flying the green and landing in the back bunker.
Facing a decent length sand shot–about 25 yards–Vines calmly placed his ball on the green and watched it roll down to three feet. Espinosa, either rattled just a bit as he figured a two-putt par looked like a sure winner here, or just plain misjudging his putt, saw that putt roll under the hole, leaving a six-foot knee-knocker. The good news was that it was straight uphill and Espinosa knocked it right in. Vines calmly sank his putt of half that length and the playoff moved to the second hole.
Eighteen saw a more favorable wind, pretty much behind the golfers but stiff enough so that approach shots might be an adventure.
Playing at only 345 and with two to three clubs worth of wind behind him, Vines went for broke and tried to drive the green. But he pushed his shot way right, clearing the waste sand and the 17 Mile Drive, which borders and then bisects the course, eventually stopping on the practice green (Had to look at an aerial of the golf course to figure what that patch of green was among the trees. With a couple bunkers and some fairway to chip off of and not much else, it certainly looks like a practice green.). Lucky he didn’t hit a car. Espinosa could have played safe, but also elected to try to shut the door on Vines. His drive went left–not too far off the fairway, but landed under the trees about 70 yards from the pin. But he was left with a difficult approach.
Amid the trees and on the practice green but only 100 yards away, Vines had enough room to get a sand wedge in the air and did, his ball checking up fifteen feet from the hole. Espinosa’s only way to get near the green was actually to go to the left of the tree. Knowing he couldn’t get on, the next best thing was to leave himself a good look at the hole and try to get up and down or maybe even chip in. Espinosa did just that, leaving himself plenty of green to work with.
Still Espinosa’s turn and he chipped to within seven feet, leaving himself a very makeable putt.
But he never had to as Vines knocked his putt dead center (a result of “1”), winning the first full Ruckhaus Tour event, $180,000 and at least a full ride on the Staffa Tour for the remainder of the season.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT STAFFA TOUR FIRST ROUND
Just as the changeup is the great equalizer in baseball, so is the wind at Cypress Point.
Turn off the wind, raise the level of play a bit with the Staffa Tour coming into town, give all the players modern equipment that can slug the ball into next week and Alister Mackenzie’s finest work was brought to its knees. In the wind, the Ruckhaus Tour played Cypress Point at about a 75 ½ average. The first round of the Staffa Tour came in at 69.75.
Paul Azinger played as flawless a round as has been seen so far in the first ten events and is the first round leader with a blistering 10-under 62. Though he hit ten of fourteen fairways, he made it to all but one green in regulation. And the one he missed was a two-putt off the fringe.
The birdies started right from the opening hole as a well-placed 3-iron off the tee and a 6-iron approach led to a four-footer for birdie. Azinger birdied the back-to-back par fives as well the eighth hole as he, once again, eschewed the driver and went with 5-iron, 8-iron and an eight-foot putt.
But Azinger saved his best work for the inward nine, coming home in a sizzling 29 with only one of the birdie putts being over nine feet (fourteen feet at the last). After two-putting on fifteen–the easiest of the back-to-back par threes, Azinger came into sixteen at 7-under. He then smacked a 2-iron to within four feet at sixteen to pick up a stroke, knocked a pitching wedge approach on seventeen to within a foot to get it to 9-under and drained the fourteen-footer at the last to become the uncontested leader, for the moment at least. Given the way he finished, Azinger seemed disappointed that he had run out of holes.
Bobby Clampett and Lee Westwood share second place, one stroke back.
Clampett equaled Azinger’s back nine effort of 29, but did his work early. Using the driver for one of the few times in the round, Clampett’s tee shot at the par five tenth went right, into the rough and narrowly missing the lone bunker just waiting to gobble up errant shots. With a good lie Clampett hit the green with a 3-iron and was looking at a sure two-putt birdie. But what looked like a lag managed to find the bottom of the cup as Clampett began a 6-under run which lasted for six holes. Eleven was a spot-on 8-iron to two feet. After a par at twelve, Clampett’s putter went to work: Eleven feet at thirteen, a four-footer at fourteen and an eighteen-footer at fifteen. Routine two-putt pars followed, though Clampett had to save par at the last with a six-footer.
As for Westwood, he bettered Clampett’s 6-under run by doing it in just five holes.
Westwood reached the 577 yard par five second in two and two-putted for birdie. The momentum carried over to three as he had the shot of the day. Playing at 169 yards, Westwood’s 9-iron stopped on the rim of the cup. Taking a slow walk to the green and hoping for a breeze or a shadow or Lenny Randle or some other form of divine intervention to move his ball the last inch never came and Westwood had to settle for a tap-in birdie. A pitching wedge approach at four led to a ten-footer for birdie and he two-putted the par five next for another one. At the 499 yard par five sixth, Westwood went 2-iron, 3-iron and finished that off with a sixteen-foot putt for eagle. Alas, Westwood had one blemish today. That came at eight, where he overshot the green with a pitching wedge approach, landing in the back bunker. Blasting out to five feet, he was unable to sink the putt. Had he done so, he’d have joined Azinger at 62.
Bobby Jones and Stewart Gardner are tied for fourth at 64.
In a bogey-free round, the highlight of Jones’ day came at the fifth. Landing a driver dead center, Jones’ 4-iron approach missed right but stopped on the fringe. A 23-foot putt dead center later and Jones had an eagle three.
Gardner had his irons working today as, among his nine birdies, only one came on a putt longer than nine feet (twelve feet on seventeen).
Finally, in the massive seven-way logjam at 7-under is Roberto de Vicenzo, he being the only player beside Azinger to get it to 10-under before falling back at the end.
de Vicenzo came out of the gate like a thoroughbred, going out in a 7-under 30 and running his score to 9-under after eleven. He had the putter working, knocking in thirteen-foot birdie putts on one, three, six and ten and cashing in from seventeen feet on eight and capping the eleven-hole run with a chip-in after overshooting the green. His putter went nighty-night on twelve, with a three-putt bogey. But a solid approach on fourteen and a pitching wedge off the tee on the par three fifteenth led to birdie putts of eight and seven feet, respectively. Now in the rarefied air of 10-under, de Vicenzo pushed his 3-iron tee shot into the drink, eventually making double bogey. Recovery was only temporary as, after a par at seventeen, de Vicenzo yanked his tee shot on eighteen to the point where he was stuck behind a tree and had to take an unplayable lie, making bogey only after managing to get up and down from about 50 yards.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
The remainder of players in a tie for sixth at 7-under include Walt Burkemo, Adam Scott, Johnny Golden, Tommy Bolt, Bob Estes and James Braid.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Westwood at the third, missing his ace by the length of his name at the beginning of this sentence (assuming you’re seeing it in Times New Roman at 11 pt. and haven’t zoomed in your screen).
EVENT #10CYPRESS POINT STAFFA TOUR SECOND ROUND
62 at Cypress? It’d make for great barroom talk and you can take that day to the grave with you and leave this earth with a smile. You just can’t take it to the next day. Just ask Paul Azinger.
When yesterday’s round started with birdie–and he had ten of those–Azinger started today’s round by putting his tee shot behind a tree, then was able to advance the ball only halfway to the green, eventually making bogey. Humbled for the moment, he managed to par the next three, two on scrambles, before making birdie at five, the first of the back-to-back par fives but then immediately giving it back with a three-putt bogey at six.
The back nine started the same as the front. Tee shot behind a tree, this time taking an unplayable and scrambling just to make bogey. After a birdie at eleven, Azinger bogeyed three of the next four–another three-putt at twelve, airmailing the green at fourteen and watching the wind push his ball way right on fifteen, managing to avoid a watery grave in exchange for a lie in a nasty bunker.
62 yesterday and 76 today. But, with only six in the 142-man field breaking 70 today, Azinger is still in a seven-way tie for ninth.
Taking over the lead was Bobby Clampett, who managed to keep it just under par after a 63 yesterday.
After a fine tee shot on four, Clampett hacked at an 8-iron, yanking it left. Faced with a difficult lie, he was only able to advance his ball about fifteen yards–into the left greenside bunker. Taking three to get up and down finished up a double bogey.
But he got those strokes back in the next two holes, draining a 37-footer for birdie at five and two-putting for birdie at six. Pars the rest of the way in, save for a tremendous approach at the last which left Clampett a tap-in for birdie and his 63-71 combination is good for 10-under and first place–for the moment.
Lee Westwood also shot a 63 yesterday and was destined for an Azinger-like day today after consecutive bogeys on three (wind knocked down his tee shot at the par three), four (a three-putt) and five (drive into the trees). But, he got those strokes back before the turn with birdies on six (up and down for birdie), eight (approach to three feet) and nine (approach to seven feet). Pars the rest of the way and Westwood rang up a 72 to put him one back.
Joining Westwood at 9-under is James Braid.
Braid got it to 10-under twice, first with three birdies on the front side then, after taking four shots around the green at the par five tenth and making bogey, Braid birdied thirteen for the second straight day, this time on a ten-foot putt. But a three-putt from long distance on seventeen, including a six-foot miss for par, and Braid finished with a 2-under 70.
ROUND OF THE DAY:
Mike Weir with a 67. When most of the field was backing up today, Weir moved from 3-under to 8-under and into a tie for third with Bob Goalby (69 today). Weir birdied all three front-side par fives as well as eight (17 foot putt) and nine (up and down from the dunes on the 290 yard par four) to go out in 32. A bogey on fourteen (for the second consecutive day) was erased by an eighteen-foot birdie putt on seventeen.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Mac McLendon on six and nine.
At the par five sixth, McLendon pushed his drive left and didn’t have enough club to make the green. But, from 40 yards out, McLendon pitched in his third for an eagle.
At nine, lots of guys tried to drive the green, none with any success and most, thanks to the wind, ending up short and right, McLendon being one. Outdriving the fairway and ending up in the dunes, McLendon was faced with a 30 yard sand shot. Able to ground the club in the waste sand and with no lip to shoot over and plenty of green to work with, McLendon played a pitch and watched his ball roll in for an eagle. He followed that with three straight birdies to get to 4-under on the day. After yet another birdie on fifteen, a “three up, three down” double bogey at seventeen knocked McLendon back to 3-under, he still managed to be one of the six players to break 70 and is currently tied for 25th at 4-under.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Tied for sixth at 7-under are the threesome of Craig Parry (69 today), Bob Estes (72) and Bobby Jones (73). Seven are tied for ninth. Including Azinger, the other six are: Jock Hutchinson, Bob Murphy, John Cook and JC Snead (all at 70), Willie Park, Jr. (71) and Adam Scott (73).
Even par, with 80 making it, eighteen tied at even.
“I SHOT 80 AND MADE THE CUT.”:
Stewart Gardner, who shot 64 yesterday and limped in with an 80 today, including a triple bogey at the venerable par three sixteenth when he came up short and off the cliff and into the water. After taking a drop, as he cleared dry land on the way in, he almost skulled that one into the water and missed the green. On in four, he two-putted for a six.
EVENT #10CYPRESS POINT STAFFA TOUR THIRD ROUND
The wind was up again. But, for some reason–maybe it was having two rounds under their belt here, one in benign conditions and one not–most of the remaining 80 golfers seemed to at least hang in while a few–those who made it to the top of the leaderboard–mastered it.
Yesterday’s leader, Bobby Clampett, sort of hung in there, dropping two strokes to par and four spots in the standings with a 2-over 74. He was up and down early, with three birdies and two bogies in the first six holes. But it seemed to be the final three holes on the front side which defined his day, with sand playing a major role. On the par three seventh, the wind knocked his tee shot back into the large front, right hand bunker and he made bogey. Eight saw Clampett pull his approach shot into the dunes and another bogey while, at nine, he pushed his tee shot right, with a bit of help from the wind, into the dunes where he made another bogey. 2-over 39 on the front and two birdies and two bogeys on the back for an even 35 and a three-round total of 8-under.
Taking over the lead was James Braid, who was one back starting today’s play.
He started with birdies at one and two. Braid played 2-iron off the tee at the opener and parlayed that into a birdie with a 14-foot putt. At the par five second, he reached in two and two putted from over 50 feet. The two highlights of Braid’s day was, first, the eagle at ten when he reached in two and knocked home a 38-footer and, second, his scramble game. Faced with eight opportunities to save par by getting up and down, Braid converted on seven, which also happened to be what he did yesterday. Alas, coming into eighteen with a chance to pad his lead, he yanked his tee shot into the waste area and did likewise with his second. Batting 1.000 on scrambles coming into the last, he couldn’t convert the one final time and made bogey. Even so, Braid finished with an impressive 67 and a three-round total of 14-under par, two ahead of Jug McSpaden.
McSpaden had the round of the day in the trying conditions, posting an 8-under 64 and zooming up the leaderboard.
McSpaden put together an impressive 7-under stretch in just six holes to vault over a good-sized chunk of the field. It started with an eagle at six thanks to reaching in two and draining a 17-foot putt. Going right after the sucker pin placement on the par three seventh–170 and just over the large bunker guarding the front right–McSpaden parked a 6-iron just four feet away. At eight, a pitching wedge approach also stopped just four feet away. After a par on the 285 yard ninth when he pushed his tee shot into the dunes, McSpaden came back and eagled ten thanks to a driver hit safely into the narrowest part of the fairway and a 4-iron approach to just six feet. Not done quite yet, he went 2-iron, 2-iron on eleven and knocked in a 15-footer for birdie. Unfortunately, like many, he gave one back at eighteen when he played “army golf.” Right off the tee, his only approach to the green left him just wide left and he couldn’t get up and down.
Lee Westwood, tied for second coming into today’s play, dropped like a rock after a third hole birdie. Never getting another one, Westwood also bogeyed six of the remaining fifteen holes to balloon to a 77 and drop back twenty slots to 22nd at 4-under.
Stuart Appleby’s putter helped put together a five-hole run of 4-under on the way to a 65, the second best round of the day and a trip up the leaderboard to third place at -10, four shots back of Braid. At eleven, Appleby dropped a 25-foot birdie putt. It was easier at thirteen (ten feet) and fourteen (six). But, at fifteen, after playing safely to the center of the green, Appleby drained a 36-footer for a deuce.
Also quietly lingering by was Bobby Jones. The Chairman thought sure he’d be a fixture on the Gerney Tour, but the Georgian has yet to find his way–his $433,000 putting him at just 85th on the money list. In his previous life, Jones played for sport. But, with Gerney Tour winners making more in one week than they would have made as pros in a hundred lifetimes way back when, Jones is playing for the cash too. Besides, the idea of the gentleman amateur has been dead for over 50 years. Anyway, Jones birdied all three front nine par fives and, faced with seven scramble opportunities, Jones cashed in on every one, including at eighteen, a place where more than half the field didn’t reach in regulation and more than half of those failed to get up and down.
“IF I ONLY SHOT A 75 YESTERDAY:”
Stewart Gardner shot a 64 in the opening round and was two back of leader Paul Azinger. The second round was an absolute horror as Gardner just couldn’t get his engine started and posted an 80. Fortunately, he limped in to the weekend just at the cut line. Today, he opened with three birdies on the way to a solid 68 which was one of only eight rounds under 70 today. That put Gardner at 4-under and, though he had 21 golfers in front of him. it was far better than the tied for last he was yesterday. Had he shot even a 75 yesterday and, all other things being equal, Gardner would’ve been tied for fourth and would be playing in the second to last group.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
It’s Braid, McSpaden, Appleby and Jones. Then, in a four-way tie for fifth, are John Cook, Bob Murphy and Paul Azinger (all at 70 today) and Clampett with his 74. In a six-way tie for ninth are Tony Jacklin (69), Henry Picard and Rory Sabbatini (both 70), Willie Park, Jr. (71) and Bob Goalby and Mike Weir (both 73).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Aubrey Boomer, one of the eighteen who just made it over the cut line at even par, got all of a 3-metal at the 235 yard par three sixteenth. With the pin in the back left, Boomer had plenty of green to work with while fighting the wind. He knocked it in for hole in one. The good news? Playing as the toughest par three (hey, there’s a surprise!) at 3.39 for the three rounds, Boomer picked the toughest hole on the course and maybe one of the toughest par threes, period, to score his ace. The bad news? At +2 for the tourney, Boomer has only ten players behind him.
EVENT #10CYPRESS POINT STAFFA TOUR FINAL ROUND
The wind was there, yet again, but it wasn’t the nuisance it had been in the previous two rounds and for every round in the Ruckhaus Tour event.
Coming into today’s final round, it was James Braid by two over Jug McSpaden, three over Stuart Appleby and though I mentioned he was fourth, I neglected to mention his score, Bobby Jones was four back at 10-under.
Those same four were in the top four today, as well, though not quite in the same order. They also had company as Jimmy Clark’s 67, the day’s best–along with Craig Wood and Tommy Bolt–placed him in a tie for third. But Clark would have had to have shot 64 to have a chance. And no one among the 80 remaining golfers had a reasonable shot at that. So, nice round Jimmy Clark and a nice finish and even a trip next week to the Gerney Tour. But that’s about it for you.
Braid started the day at 14-under and took it to 16-under with birdies at two and six. Both holes are par fives with Braid getting up and down on both (49 yards at two and 33 yards at six)–quite impressive. He couldn’t repeat the magic at seven, the third five par on the front, missing an eleven-footer for birdie. He also couldn’t cash in at eight–and that was a four par. Missing just long, he chipped to five feet, but rimmed out and made bogey. Still, he was at 15-under.
McSpaden, playing in the final pairing with Braid, also cashed in on two of the front side par fives. He got up and down from 60 yards at two and, faced with a long greenside bunker shot at six, blasted to eight feet and made birdie there. That carried to the next hole when he put his 8-iron at the 165 par three to within two feet. At 15-under, that put him one back of Braid. But Braid bogeyed eight and things were all even.
At the drivable par four ninth, Braid went right–into the dunes and about fifteen yards below pin high–but made par. McSpaden kept his ball on the green stuff, landing in the first cut of rough about 30 yards below the hole. His pitch left a bit to be desired, but he made a fourteen-foot putt for his three and took over the lead.
After matching pars on ten and eleven, Braid parred twelve. He’d go on to par the next three as well with McSpaden hopping on the roller coaster. At twelve, he pushed his 9-iron approach into the dunes–with a bit of help from the wind–and couldn’t get up and down and the match was all even at 15-under.
At fourteen, McSpaden took over the lead with a 9-iron approach to nine feet and a birdie putt while Braid did his best to keep it close after missing the green to the left and scrambling with a six-footer for par.
First to go at fifteen, the 136 yard par three, all carry and with the pin tucked into a sliver of green to the right with a bunker just behind and rough in front just waiting to grab hold of a club, McSpaden said “Take that” to Braid and placed an 8-iron to within “gimme” distance. To Braid’s credit and considering the circumstances, his 9-iron was quite impressive, leaving an eleven-foot putt. Braid just missed; McSpaden tapped in. But still, McSpaden’s lead was now two with three to play.
Sixteen. Maybe the most famous–or infamous–par three in the world. Tough on a calm day. But today wasn’t calm. Again with honors, McSpaden lined a 2-iron into the wind and missed just left of the green, past pin high and safe with a lot of green to work with. At two up, bogey here wasn’t a crime. Seeing a chance to get one back, Braid chose what, in his day, was called a “mid iron.” Today it’s known as a “3.” Up a little too high in the air, the wind knocked it down and it went into the drink. Though he came close to getting up and down for four, Braid missed an eight-footer and he made double bogey. McSpaden didn’t have one of his better chipping efforts but managed to two-putt from 20 feet, his bogey actually gaining a stroke on Braid. Three up with two to play.
Again with honors, McSpaden played safe at seventeen, or so he thought, as he chose a 3-metal. But the wind, the sloping fairway and, more importantly, a bit of a slice, and he rolled down the cliff and into the water. Braid backed it down to a 2-iron after maybe thinking going with a longer club, and went the same direction as McSpaden. But, with a few less yards on his tee shot, his ball stopped in the rough between the fairway and a watery grave. McSpaden took a drop near the last dry land he hit and put his third just over the green but on the fringe, leaving a putt of over 60 feet. Braid, quite safely, put an 8-iron on the fat part of the green, leaving an almost sure two-putt par. McSpaden putted, his lag effort still missing by six feet. Braid’s effort wasn’t so hot either, a putt of half the distance of McSpaden’s missing by five feet. McSpaden first, and he ran it past, eventually taking a double bogey six. With renewed confidence, Braid sank his putt and McSpaden’s lead was now down to one with McSpaden suddenly heading in reverse.
Hole number last–356, par 4–and Braid was up first. Trying to play a 3-iron to the left side of the dogleg in advance of taking aim at the pin in the back right, Braid ran his ball through the fairway and was left near a tree and without a clean shot in. With the same club, McSpaden took aim at the center of the fairway. Nothing cute here: Fairway, green, two-putt and get out. Further out, McSpaden was up first and put a pitching wedge in the center of the green. Safe, certainly, but leaving a bit more putt than he desired–38 feet. Braid did his best to advance the ball to the green, but left it short though with a good line to pitch and run on, though he still had 40 yards to go.
For all intents and purposes, Braid had to hole out as he couldn’t bank on McSpaden three-putting. His pitch left something to be desired, however, as he still left himself fourteen feet for par. A dejected Braid, shoulders a bit slumped, walked to his ball and did what he didn’t have to do in his first life–marked it. In the old days, he might have tried to leave a “stymie” for his opponent. He couldn’t do that anymore. McSpaden, seeing a bit of fudge room now, relaxed a bit and just tried to get his putt close. He did, too, leaving a tap in. Ceremoniously marking his ball, Braid, with nothing on the line as even a bogey wouldn’t have changed the order of finish, drained his par putt. Now, McSpaden’s putt of a few inches had a lot of meaning. But, taking very little time, McSpaden placed his ball and calmly tapped in for the one-stroke win.
THE TOP TEN:
McSpaden, at 14-under, picked up a healthy $540,000 and a permanent spot on the Gerney Tour. Then, it’s Braid at -13, Jones (70 today), who might have had an outside chance had he not put his tee shot on sixteen into the water with a double bogey ensuing, at -11, along with Clark and Stuart Appleby (71). Bob Goalby (69) was all alone in sixth at -10. In a three-way tie for seventh at 9-under were Wood (67), Willie Park, Jr. (70) and first round leader Paul Azinger (71). And, in a four-way tie for tenth at -8, which means all will get a one-week pass to the Gerney Tour, were Gardner Dickinson (69), Henry Picard and Mike Weir (both 71) and Bob Murphy (72).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
To be quite honest, McSpaden’s tee shot to within a foot at fifteen is probably the top candidate as it was not only a great shot, but one made under a lot of pressure. But, since McSpaden won the bigger prize today, the “shot of the day” honor will go to Willie Goggin at eighteen.
Truth be told, it was nothing spectacular. 3-metal to the middle of the dogleg, a pitching wedge to the back right pin location and a seven-foot putt. So, I guess it really isn’t the shot of the day, but Goggin was the only golfer to birdie the hole today. With a birdie at seventeen, as well, it made the difference between finishing 70th or 73rd and maybe three or four hundred dollars. Woo hoo!
Busy week on the chopping block as fourteen are headed back to AA ball: Woody Austin, Frank Stranahan, Pete Brown, Randy Glover, Tim Herron, Jumbo Ozaki, Deane Beman, John Daly, Ed Furgol, Bruce Lietzke, Mike Fetchick, Don January, John Mahaffey and Bill Nary.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT SPECIAL EVENT
It was January 10, 1956, the Tuesday immediately before the annual Crosby Clambake at Pebble Beach. It would be the last year that Bing Crosby, more noted for his singing skills than his golfing ability–though he was a decent golfer, would play in the pro-am. In addition to the famed Pebble Beach course, both Cypress Point and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club were part of that weekend’s three-round rotation with everyone finishing up at Pebble.
Maybe they had had a few drinks under their belt, but Eddie Lowery, originally known for being Francis Ouimet’s ten year-old caddie at the 1913 US Open and later to become a both an accomplished amateur as well as a well-off owner of a couple of high-volume car dealerships on the west coast, challenged George Coleman, a well-heeled member of Cypress Point and a man who made his money in mining back in his native Oklahoma–zinc and such–to a match. No, it wasn’t to be Lowery vs. Coleman. If it were those two, there’d be no story. But there was one, and it was told eloquently by Mark Frost in “The Match.”
Rather, it was Lowery, who backed some top west coast gentlemen amateurs–people who played supposedly for the sport of it–and the backing was somewhat dubious as the amateurs supposedly made their money selling cars but probably spent more time on the course and who had their expenses underwritten by guys like Lowery because most of those so-called “gentleman amateurs” didn’t have the resources to compete without any financial support, who offered up two of the top amateurs, certainly on the west coast, if not the entire country, against anyone Coleman could offer up. And that meant anyone, amateur or pro, in an eighteen hole fourballs match, each golfer playing his own ball.
Lowery offered up Harvie Ward, who supposedly worked at one of his dealerships and was likely the last true “gentleman amateur,” and Ken Venturi, who also supposedly sold cars for Lowery and who would eschew the “amateur” label soon after, turn pro and eventually win the 1964 US Open at Congressional in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Washington summer, eventually dehydrated to the point that he almost passed out during the 36-hole final day. After that, the Open’s final day became 18 holes. Venturi then went on to become a noted golf commentator.
Coleman managed to get Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Both 43, which, at the risk of sounding like Yogi, was older then than it is now, Nelson had been retired from the tour for ten years but always showed up to play at the Crosby. Nelson had an incredible run in 1945, winning eleven tournaments in a row. Even though the talent pool was thinner back then than now and WW II had depleted the talent on the PGA Tour, winning eleven straight is up there with DiMaggio’s hitting streak–maybe tougher, as no one has even remotely threatened Nelson’s streak, Tiger Woods being the closest with seven and no one else since the war with more than four. As an aside, Hogan and Sam Snead were on the tour in ’45, so it’s not exactly like Nelson was winning against nobody. As for Hogan, though still competitive, and amazingly so considering a horrendous 1949 auto accident darned near killed him and his wife, his best years were behind him. But watch out if he got in “the zone.” Generally distant by nature and a man of few words while on the course and off, for that matter, when he was locked in, he spoke to no one and lived in his own world. And, at that point, he was darned near unbeatable, even in his mid-40s.
No one knows for sure what the exact stakes were. They might have been $10,000 or more with, supposedly, a Nassau of undetermined value among the twosomes as well. The match was supposed to be hush-hush, as Hogan had a scheduled tee time for a practice round at Pebble at around 10 AM, the time the match started at Cypress. Needless to say, word got around and, by the final few holes, the crowd numbered in the thousands. What they witnessed was likely the best fourballs match ever played, with Hogan’s eagle chip in on the par five tenth being the difference in a 1-up victory for the pros with Hogan sinking a downhill twelve-footer for birdie to halve the final hole. As everyone involved immediately understood and appreciated the greatness of the match as, many times, even birdie wasn’t good enough to win a hole, it’s likely no money ever changed hands as that might seemingly dampen the spirit of the occasion as what happened that day was far more valuable than any bet.
For the record, Hogan and Nelson combined to shoot 57 on that day with Hogan, allowances made for the occasional conceded putt but also taking the occasional par when the hole had already been decided with a birdie, shooting a course record 63. Ward and Venturi combined for 58, again, Hogan’s eagle at ten being the difference.
Once again, it’s Ward and Venturi vs. Nelson and Hogan at Cypress Point. The match could be just as exciting or it could be a runaway as it’s all four golfers in their prime and, as good as Ward and Venturi were at their best, Nelson and Hogan were just better. But it is match play–one hole at a time–and anything can happen.
Wind and hard greens won’t be a factor as it’ll be the two twosomes against each other and against the course.
And now, The Match, take two…
THE MATCH – Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi vs. Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan
Everyone plays their own ball and best score on the hole wins. Simple enough, right?
Not really, as there’s a bit of strategy and gamesmanship involved. In the strategy department, one player might hit conservatively and safely so his teammate can “go for it.” But that doesn’t always work out as planned. Gamesmanship? Though it could mean a number of things, maybe it means laying back at the appropriate time so you can hit your approach shot first and apply the pressure to the other team.
And, with Cypress Point being a placement course and not overly long, whaling away at the ball is an option which might only come up a few times. So, play smart and pick your spots. But with Ward and Venturi squaring off against two of the best golfers of all time, there may be precious little time for them to pick their spots.
Off we go…
1st HOLE. 436 par four. A raised tee box with a couple cypress trees on a line to a wide landing area–if you have the carry. Course designer Alister MacKenzie generally offered choices. And, the second choice here would be to play a fairway metal or long iron to a narrower part of the fairway but avoiding the trees and leaving a longer approach. The good news? These guys are playing with modern equipment and to carry 255–the tree on the left of the two–or 270–the one on the right–might be doable for all, especially off a raised tee box.
The amateurs are first and Ward catches a break. Pushing his tee shot right, he carries the furthest of the two trees and still hits the fairway. So much for conservative. 309 and a good look at the pin in the back left. Venturi takes aim over the near tree and cranks his driver 297 down the middle.
Nelson goes right over the farther tree and outdrives even Ward–314, center fairway. Hogan fades his ball a bit right and ends about five yards behind Ward.
The second shot is about a half club uphill with the pin 23 yards off the front and not much room to the back or left.
Venturi plays safe, allowing Ward to have a go at the pin. But his “safe” shot turns out better than planned as he pulls a pitching wedge just a bit and leaves his ball ten feet under the hole.
Hogan is next and has a bit of a predicament. The pitching wedge might be too much club and the sand wedge too little. What’s the old line, “Never up, never in?” Hogan decides to take the pitching wedge and aim a bit right and long as there’s room past the pin in that direction and maybe he can get the ball to back up the way he wants.
The result: Everything works as planned and Hogan’s ball backs up to the right of the hole, four feet away.
Ward is in the same predicament as Hogan. But, in a moment of doubt, he hesitates with his pitching wedge and pushes his ball right. He’s on the green, alright, but 45 feet away.
Nelson, with nothing to lose now, takes dead aim with a three-quarter pitching wedge and watches as his ball bounces and checks up eight feet past the pin.
On the green and Ward is first to go. With a sure par in hand, though that likely won’t be enough, Ward takes a run at the pin and misses by four feet. He easily knocks in his par putt.
Venturi misjudges his line ever so slightly and misses just left.
After his near tragic car accident, Hogan not only had trouble walking but also eye trouble and sometimes had difficulty focusing, especially on putts, and would sometimes stand over his ball for what seemed like an eternity as his eyes focused up. But Nelson saves Hogan the trouble of putting and drains his eight-footer.
AFTER ONE: Hogan and Nelson are 1-up.
2nd HOLE. 561 Par five, the first of three on the front side. Uphill all the way, maybe about two clubs’ worth. The fairway is about 40 yards wide–plenty of room there. But miss either side and, though there’s some rough, there’s also waste sand and sand dunes. Reaching in two might be a stretch. Doesn’t mean that none of these four won’t give it a shot.
Nelson takes out a 3-metal and aims for the center of the fairway. He ends up just left of center, 264 yards off the tee. Hogan can now turn it loose–and does, 300 dead down the middle.
Ward is first to go for the amateurs and ends up about five yards behind Nelson and closer to the center of the fairway. Venturi, the Young Turk, outdrives Hogan by 20 yards.
Ward is first to play and hits a 3-iron safely, leaving 94 yards. Nelson, in a bit of gamesmanship, backs it down to a 5-iron and leaves himself 101, ensuring that Ward will get a very good look at his approach. Hogan gets all of a 3-metal, but it misses the green just short. But, with nothing in the way, he’ll have an easy pitch. Venturi comes up just short as well, but inside Hogan and might be able to putt.
Nelson pitches to six feet. Dutifully impressed, Ward sticks it back to Nelson by hitting the flagstick on a bounce, his ball stopping dead on the edge of the hole, the putt conceded. Hogan pitches and runs to six feet. Venturi decides to putt and misses badly. But, as birdie is assured, Venturi doesn’t feel so bad. Nelson and Hogan have two chances from six feet. They need only one as Nelson knocks it in.
AFTER TWO: The second hole is halved with birdie and the pros are still 1-up.
3rd HOLE. 155 par three. Downhill about a half club, the pin is placed nine yards off the front of what is largely a triangular green. As the green narrows toward the front, nasty bunkers to either side await errant shots.
Tee shot: Nelson plays conservatively and puts a 9-iron in the center of the green, leaving 20 feet. Hogan takes dead aim at the flag with a 9-iron and puts it over the top of the stick, leaving 10 feet. Ward goes with an 8-iron and hits it a bit too thin, flying the green and ending up in the lone bunker to the back and left and which shouldn’t have been in play for these guys. Venturi isn’t a long iron hitter and also goes with the “8.” He can’t play too conservatively and goes right for the pin. Unfortunately, his ball doesn’t check up the way he’d like and he’s left just past Hogan, who can now go to school on the kid.
Second shot: With par reasonably assured thanks to his partner, Ward blasts out to eight feet. Nelson misses just under the hole and the par putt is conceded. Venturi misses left and just past the hole and his putt is conceded. Hogan stares down his putt. Ready now, he makes his stroke and his ball is right on line. But, at the last split second and as the ball is slowing down, it drifts just right.
AFTER THREE: Pars for everyone, the hole is halved and Nelson and Hogan are still 1-up.
4th Hole. 417 par four. Uphill again. There’s a nice fat landing area about 45 yards wide from about 250-280 yards out, narrowing down to maybe half that at the 300 marker. On the right hand side, where the fairway ends, there are two bunkers awaiting the long hitters who fade or push their balls a bit too much. The pin is in the back right of an oval green, 28 yards from the front but only six or seven from the back. It’ll have to be bounce and check here–no backing up. There are traps in the front that give the illusion they’re next to the green and just carrying them might leave the impression the approach shot is pretty good. In fact, they’re about 20-30 yards from the front. The good news is that, with the pin in the way back, they shouldn’t come into play.
Aiming for the center of the fairway with a 3-metal, Nelson uncharacteristically hacks at it and duck hooks it into the trees. Now forced to play safe, Hogan’s 3-metal splits the fairway 261 yards out. Ward also goes with the 3-metal and draws it a bit more than he would have liked. But, with the wide fairway, he ends up on the left side and a couple yards past Hogan’s ball. Venturi takes out the driver, aims left to where the fairway narrows out, but pushes it right. Had he aimed dead center, he might have been in trouble. But he isn’t and, at with only 140 yards to go, will get to watch everyone else hit first.
Nelson’s in trouble but makes the most of a low 7-iron, leaving 85 yards to the pin. Hogan is next. At 155, he pulls out a 9-iron and aims at the pin. But he comes up short and left–on the green but, at 41 feet, a long way out. What Nelson does with his pitch and where the Venturi-Ward duo end up determines whether or not he’ll take a run at it. Ward is between an 8- and 9-iron. He elects to his safely to the center of the green with the “9.” But he may have been too conservative as he’s 39 feet away. Venturi hits a full “9,” but it’s fat and he’ll be putting from even farther away than Ward–59 feet.
Nelson misjudges his pitch and hits just off the back of the green, his ball stopping in the rough. Venturi lags his putt to four feet then finishes it up. Hogan figures he can two-putt anything and goes for it. But he either severely misjudges the speed or his bad eye is not quite focused and he’s still fifteen feet out. Guaranteed a par, Ward has nothing to lose and also goes for it. Ward makes his stroke, eyes his ball for a second or so, then stands up and holds his club in the air when the ball is still ten feet out. Of the four, he’s the one most certain that he’s hit the bullseye. And he has.
AFTER FOUR: Ward’s long distance putt wins the hole and the match is back to all-square.
5th Hole. 476, par five. The second of three par fives on the front side and the first of two in a row. Don’t let the distance fool you as it’s uphill all the way, probably about four or five clubs worth by the time you hit the green. But, here’s the rub: It’s a dogleg left with a bunker on the short side which requires about 240 worth of carry. 240 on level ground is a piece of cake for these guys. But, with two clubs worth of uphill from the tee to that bunker, 240 might be cutting it close. A shot which does carry will kick left and run some more–uphill or not–with a generous landing area awaiting. Playing conservatively will likely avoid the trouble, though the fairway is only 30 yards wide before it turns left and uphill some more to the green. But, going for the green in two has a price as a 30 yard long bunker, starting at about 55 yards in, takes up most of the narrowed down fairway. Once again, MacKenzie has offered choices.
The tee shot:
Ward gets first crack and plays conservatively with a 3-metal to just short of the corner. But he has a straight line to the green, though he’ll need a Howitzer to get there. Venturi attempts to unload the driver but can’t carry the bunker. Like Ward, Hogan takes the conservative route. He outdrives Ward by a little bit and his ball takes a bit of that left turn. He’ll have to hit all of a 3-metal to get home from just over 240. Nelson goes full bore on a driver. He carries the trap and takes the left turn. 266 may not sound like much, but it’s 30 yards further than Ward’s ball.
The second shot:
Taking no chances, Ward hits 6-iron safely in front of the bunker, leaving 96 yards. Hogan flirts with the bunker but still hits safely leaving 79 yards. Venturi has no choice but to hit safely and hits a 5-iron out of the bunker leaving 86 yards. The dance floor is open for Nelson.
Nelson pulls out a 2-iron but pulls his ball just left, landing in the greenside bunker.
Ward pitches to 14 feet while Venturi is three feet closer and on the same line. Hogan chunks his pitch a bit and hits the green but is well short, leaving nearly 40 feet. But Nelson saves Hogan’s rear end with a spectacular bunker shot, leaving just two feet.
On the green:
With par most certainly assured–even birdie, for that matter–Hogan takes a run at the pin. Missing by five feet, he knocks his par putt in. Ward’s birdie attempt misses wide right and he knocks in his return putt for par. The dance floor is open for Venturi.
Venturi has paid attention to Ward’s downhill 14-footer as his putt is right on line. But, amazingly, it’s a roll of the ball short–how did it stop there?–and the amateurs have to settle for par.
Nelson drops his two-footer for birdie to win the hole.
AFTER FIVE: Nelson and Hogan regain the lead, 1-up (of course).
6th Hole. 515, par five. What goes up must come down and it’s downhill all the way. MacKenzie has placed a generous landing area at the 250 mark. By 300, you practically have to thread the needle to keep it in the short grass. The fairway banks to the left and there’s a good chance that anything hit from the center to the left will roll to the rough. The pin is in the back and getting on in two shouldn’t be much of a problem, even when hitting a fairway metal off the tee. But, with a hook lie, two deep bunkers await to the left of the green.
The tee shots:
Nelson ends up perplexed as he did exactly what he was supposed to do–3-metal just to the right of center. But it skips left and rolls to the rough. There’s a tree nearby, but it shouldn’t be in his line. Hogan blasts a driver. It hits the center of the narrowing fairway and also scoots left. With no tree to bother him, he’ll have 215 in.
Seeing what a fairway metal did for Nelson, Ward pulls out the driver. The slope of the fairway doesn’t affect him. Why? He’s pushed his ball right, that’s why, ending up in the waste area but with a clean and long shot in–about 260. Venturi also goes with the driver and slaughters it. Unfortunately, by aiming right and hoping to catch the slope of the fairway, he’s actually outdriven the fairway and is also in the waste area, but 30 yards closer to home than his partner. There’s a nearby tree, but it’s to his right and shouldn’t affect his approach shot.
The second shots:
With his lie, Ward can only use an iron out of the waste area. He gives his 2-iron a ride, but the clubhead has turned over just a bit and he’s in the left rough leaving just 55 yards. The bad news? He has to negotiate the nasty bunker between him and the green.
Nelson is next to go and thinks he can get close with a 3-metal. But he’s eaten his Wheaties and gets more than he expected, landing in the rough past pin high and leaving a touchy pitch of about 30 yards.
Like Ward, Venturi has to go with an iron. Unlike Ward, the clubface opens just a bit on impact and Venturi pushes his ball right. The good news is that he’ll have about 60 yards with nothing in the way and a lot of a very small green to work with.
Hogan can get home with a 4-iron and does, taking the bunkers out of play by aiming to the right side of the green. He’ll have a 32-footer for eagle.
The approach shots:
Venturi is first and, with a good line and no danger, tries to go at the pin. But he’s long, stopping under the lone cypress in the back of the green. It’ll be a tough chip.
Without much room on the left, Ward aims a little right and also goes long. Maybe it was the downhill lie. The only saving grace is that his chip should be easier than his partner’s.
Nelson hits a pretty little lob shot to eight feet. Nelson walks over to his partner–they haven’t spoken much so far–tough to do when Hogan doesn’t say much of anything anyway–to discuss how Hogan should approach his putt. After all, eight feet is not exactly a “gimme” and Ward and Venturi are both off the green. Hogan should easily be able to two-putt for birdie and it’s a decent chance that’ll stand up here. The decision is made: Hogan will lag.
Hogan’s done better. Maybe his eye is bothering him as his three-footer is just on the edge of “sure thing.” Hogan marks and awaits his opponents’ shots.
Ward’s chip is not up to his standards, missing by 12 feet. But Venturi picks him up with a chip to three feet. But Ward smacks in his par putt anyway and Venturi can pick up, leaving Hogan and Nelson two chances to cash in for birdie.
Up first from eight feet, Nelson again saves his partner the trouble of putting as he confidently drains his putt.
AFTER SIX: Once again, it takes a birdie to win a hole as Nelson and Hogan go 2-up.
7th Hole. 164, Par three. Uphill about a club or so. On one of those amoeba-shaped greens, the pin is just five paces off the front. With the uphill shot, MacKenzie created an illusion using bunkers. The golfers will see two bunkers–one just left of center and another right. And the illusion is that they’re greenside bunkers when they’re not. “Oh, just let me get it over the bunker and all will be OK.” Or, “If I hit it in the bunker, getting up and down is a cinch for a pro.” No, it’s not as the green is between 15 and 25 yards past the end of the bunker, depending on which one it is. Push the ball just a bit right and a third bunker awaits. Get the distance right but miss not too terribly far left and the dunes await.
Nelson’s up first, elects to go up a club to a 7-iron and plays for the center of the green. But he draws the ball a bit and ends up going over the flagstick leaving 15 feet. With some wiggle room, Hogan tries to put a little extra on an 8-iron. He comes up just short but gets a good bounce, his ball stopping just four feet from the pin.
The distance is a perfect 7-iron for Ward–assuming he hits it perfectly, which he doesn’t. Landing short of the green, his ball kicks forward a little bit but doesn’t make it to the putting surface. Faced with a shot of under 20 feet, he could chip or putt–depends on his partner. Venturi goes with a 6-iron. Like Nelson, he goes over the stick and is able to back it up to 15 feet.
On (or in the case of Ward, near) the green:
Ward’s chipping has been better as he leaves himself a six-footer for par. Venturi’s birdie putt is badly misjudged and he’ll have just as long a putt as his partner. 3-down looks like a distinct possibility.
Nelson also misses with his 15-footer, but par seems a guarantee thanks to Hogan. Heck, even birdie is just about a guarantee. And it is, as Hogan nails the four-footer.
AFTER SEVEN: Yet another birdie for the old veterans as they go 3-up.
8th Hole. 360, par four. With the large-headed drivers and one-piece balls, going for the green is a possibility as, taking the direct route over the dunes is 292 to the front and the shot is a little downhill. The route with the grass is a dogleg right, downhill off the tee with a fairway metal or long iron to a large landing area followed an uphill trip to the green. But, even though the dogleg goes right, the fairway slopes to the left and balls might roll off into the light rough. The green is short of t-shaped. Or maybe it looks like a triangle but with concave sides. The pin is tucked in on the left, with not much green to work with–maybe seven or eight paces in front and two or three behind. Come up short and a landing in the dunes is likely. Miss not too far left? Dunes. Long? Bunker just to the right. Once again, MacKenzie has offered choices.
The tee shot:
Hogan hits safely with a 3-iron–sort of. Carrying as much of the dunes as he desires, he lands well up the fairway past the bend in the dogleg then watches as his ball continues to roll off the fairway into the rough. The good news is that it’s only 94 yards in. Figuring that Ward and Venturi might try to get aggressive and try to get a hole back, Nelson is also conservative. Also with a 3-iron, he pushes his ball just a bit too far right and can’t carry the dunes. But he’s only 86 yards away and on a good line.
Ward is first to go for his team. Figuring that Venturi could easily hit safely should he get into trouble, Ward takes aim at the green. Darned near made it too. But he comes up just short and in the dunes but should have a good look at the pin. Venturi plays safe but hits his 2-iron a bit fat and ends up near Nelson in the dunes. Not good.
Venturi’s sand shot has the right distance but it goes a bit left, ending up on the fringe, 18 feet away.
Hogan takes a flyer, missing long and into the rough, narrowly avoiding the back bunker.
Nelson, just trying to land it on the green and get reasonably close, hits a brilliant shot, his ball landing on the green as planned but releasing and stopping four feet from yet another birdie. Ward has to get close.
But he doesn’t, getting more ball than sand and missing the green left and in the dunes once again.
The three words you don’t want to hear on a golf course: Still your turn. Ward hits out of the dunes but not too well, leaving a 15-footer. At least his partner is lying two.
Venturi elects to putt and misses badly, either misjudging the speed or maybe his putter hit the ground first instead of the ball. Par will be an ordeal.
Hogan chips but doesn’t quite make it to the green but will be able to putt from about seven feet off the fringe.
Ward nails his par putt. If Nelson misses, he and Venturi could actually walk out of here with a halve. But don’t bet on it.
Nelson lines up his putt and knocks it in. Ward and Venturi are in a world of trouble.
AFTER EIGHT: Another birdie for Nelson and Hogan and they increase their lead to 4-up.
9th Hole. 295 par four. Definitely reachable, though MacKenzie has put a fly in the ointment. The green is wide but not too deep. And, to try to bounce one on requires precision as the landing area for such an endeavor is only about 15 yards wide. The safe choice is to hit something that’ll get you 225-250 as the fairway is 45 yards wide. Today’s pin placement is an absolute bitch, far left in the shallowest portion of the green as the green, at that point, is maybe 5-6 yards deep–that’s it! Miss short? Dunes. Miss long? A little bit of rough, then dunes. Miss left? A bit more rough, then dunes. With the pin on the right, near the neck of the green, going for it is a viable option. So is going for it when you’re 4-down. Under normal circumstances, hit safe and try to get close with your second.
The tee shots:
Nelson is up first and hits a 3-iron where he wants–on the right side leaving a good angle to the pin. Except that the sloping fairway doesn’t cooperate and the ball rolls off it and through the sliver of rough and into the dunes. Hey, at least he can ground his club on the next shot.
After watching Nelson’s ball roll a bit more than planned, Hogan aims a bit more to the left and hits a 2-iron which carries to where the fairway widens out. It, too, rolls to the right–and rolls some more–as Hogan thinks he might end up in the litter box along with his partner. But his ball stops where the fairway starts to narrow back up again and it should be an easy pitch from there.
Like Hogan, Ward also goes with the 2-iron. He hits it a bit fat, but it’s still enough to carry the dunes on the left side and hit the fairway. His ball also rolls right and ends up about 15 yards behind Hogan’s.
Venturi goes for broke and takes aim at the sucker pin placement. 4-down? 5-down? What’s the difference? He hits it straight as an arrow but it lands in the dunes. It rolls a bit in the hard sand but doesn’t roll out, leaving a 20-yard sand shot.
The approach shots:
Nelson is first up. Out of the dunes, the club face opens just a bit and he misses right. Due to the angle, in this case it means off the back of the green. Fortunately, he didn’t go into the dunes but will have a tricky little chip to make three.
Ward applies the pressure to his opponents while taking it off his partner, pitching to four feet.
Hogan misses just a bit long. He stops on the fringe and will have nine feet to make birdie.
With Ward making his life easier, Venturi blasts out of the dunes to three feet. What looked like a sure halved hole less than ten minutes ago might be a win for the kids.
At the green:
Nelson has a rough go on the chip and still has nine feet left for his par.
Hogan misjudges his putt and watches his ball head in the wrong direction and run away from him. He’ll have seven feet to save par, a putt which he may not have to make with his opponents almost guaranteed a sure thing.
Nelson sinks his par putt. Hogan says, “Thank you” to his partner–which may have been the first time that Hogan has said anything to anybody.
Two chances from four feet or less for Ward and Venturi and Ward makes his partner sweat by rimming out from four feet.
But Venturi has ice water running through his veins and drops his three-footer to win the hole.
At the turn: Venturi and Ward get one back but are still 3-down.
10th Hole. 480 par 5. The final par five on the course, which means there’s nothing left after this to get a breather or make up for a bad shot. A bit uphill off the tee, the fairway is 40 yards wide at the 250 marker but less than half that for those that grip and rip it. The fairway will drain all safely hit shots to the right leaving either a slice lie or those shots won’t be safe anymore as they’ll roll to the rough. For those who go deep but miss a bit to the right, a bunker awaits at the 265 marker. It’s uphill about a club to the well-bunkered and not overly large green. For those who don’t go for it in two, the layup area is maybe 15 yards wide, necessitating an accurate shot. The pin, in the back left, is very accessible.
The tee shots:
It’s Venturi with honors and he hits safely with a 3-metal–248 and rolling right, stopping in the widest part of the fairway. He still might have a go at the green. Depends on how Ward does.
With Venturi safe, Ward pulls out the driver and pushes it right–into the rough but narrowly missing the bunker. But it looks like he has a poor lie.
Nelson hits a 3-metal safely, flirting with the left rough but just landing in the fairway, his ball dutifully rolling to the right as it rolls forward as he ends up in the left center of the fairway about five yards past Venturi.
Hogan goes with the driver and slices it left, almost ending up in the eleventh fairway. He might have a tree in his way preventing him from taking a full cut. But his next shot will likely be a layup anyway.
The second shots:
Last off the tee, Hogan is first to go here. Without a shot to the green, Hogan’s next choice is a knockdown shot to the fat part of the approach area. An 8-iron does the job nicely, Hogan facing 121 yards in.
Venturi is next. Uphill all the way, he pulls out the 3-metal. There’s a small mound in front of the green and Venturi hits that, getting a favorable bounce which sees his ball roll onto the green. He’ll have a 36-footer for eagle.
Nelson goes with a 2-iron. Even with a slice lie, he overcompensates and pushes his ball left. Glancing off the largest tree near the green, his ball kicks forward a bit, his ball stopping on the cart path. A free drop might not help him much because the same line would put him in the waste area.
Ward turned out to have a decent lie but can’t make anything out of a 3-iron, hooking his ball left and ending up 30 yards out and on the short side and with a small tree in front of him.
The approach shots:
From 121, Hogan hits a beauty as a choked down pitching wedge stops nine feet away.
Nelson plays it off the cart path and gets some good loft on a very difficult shot, his ball stopping ten feet away.
Ward, with a difficult lie, blades his ball a bit and rolls off the green into the back left bunker.
Still not on the green, a dejected Ward doesn’t have one of his better bunker efforts as he’s left with fourteen feet for par. The big question is: Does his partner go for the eagle or lag for an almost sure birdie with his opponents staring down a couple of testers?
Venturi elects to go for it. He makes a solid stroke, misses short and left but well within makeable range at three feet. Ward misses his par putt and bogey is conceded. But it doesn’t matter as his partner has a great shot at birdie.
Nelson rims the cup from ten feet and par is conceded. Hogan stares down his nine-footer. But he knows right from when his putter strikes the ball that he’s pulled it just a bit. Not that it matters, but his putt is also conceded.
Venturi, for the second hole in a row, makes short work of his three-footer as he and Ward make it two in a row and get another hole back.
AFTER TEN: Venturi birdies again and he and Ward are now 2-down.
11th Hole. 424 par four. MacKenzie didn’t really leave golfers a choice on this one. Parallel to the tenth hole, the drive downhill is the same as the uphill approach on the previous hole. The fairway is over 40 yards wide up to about the 275 marker. After that, there’s almost nothing with two bunkers waiting. To carry the whole mess would mean a 320 carry. At a couple clubs downhill it’s a very small consideration. In a match like this, it could well be a shot wasted. Expect long irons for this crew. The pin is in the front left, tucked in near the left of a pair of deceiving bunkers as they start 20-30 yards from the green and frame it as to leave a narrow run-up area.
The tee shots:
Venturi is up first and hits a 2-iron dead center, 256.
Ward gets a bit more of his 2-iron, 277. As he’s hit it to the left side of the fairway, there’s fairway there to hit off of. The same shot to the right might have gone in the rough.
Nelson makes it three in a row with the 2-iron, 266 center fairway.
Hogan makes it unanimous. Though he pushes his shot a bit right, there’s plenty of fairway and he rolls to nearly the end of it, 277 and might have the best line to the pin of all.
The approach shots:
Venturi hits a 7-iron toward the center of the green giving Ward a chance to take a run at the pin. Fortunately, as it turns out, he comes up a bit short and left and is left with twelve feet for birdie.
Nelson’s safe shot also proves to be a dandy as he sticks a 7-iron to within nine feet.
An 8-iron for Hogan might be too much and a 9-iron might come up short. As the “9” will get him to the green, he’ll try to put a little extra mustard on it. He does. Five feet.
Ward is faced with the same dilemma as Hogan and copies the old master just about down to the end result. Seven feet.
On the green:
Amazingly but true, at twelve feet, Venturi is the member of the foursome who is “away.” He gets aggressive with an uphill putt but misses by a roll of the ball. Par is conceded.
Nelson has the right to left line just right and drains his nine-footer for birdie.
Ward, just above and right of the hole, also has his line just right and holes his seven-footer for birdie.
AFTER 11: The hole is halved with birdies. Nelson and Hogan are still 2-up.
12th hole. 420 par four. Downhill with a very generous landing area. But the fairway ends at 300, so driver might not be the club. There’s a bunker just off the left fairway at 260 and the fairway slopes right. Tough to find a level lie in this place. There are dunes on the right, but only for severely sprayed shots. The pin is in the back left of an amoeba-shaped green so the lone greenside bunker on the left shouldn’t come into play. There’s not much room past the pin with a small bit of rough and then dunes behind, so attempting to back the ball up isn’t an option. A ball hit to the right side of the green (in this case, the wrong side) will roll to the right and possibly off.
The tee shots:
Nelson goes first. Not sure why as it would seem Ward and Venturi should still have honors as they were the last winners of a hole. Nelson was the first to post birdie at the last, but that shouldn’t matter. Anyhow, Lord Byron makes a 3-metal do what he wants, hitting the left side of the fairway at about 235 with the ball rolling ahead and towards the center another 30 yards leaving maybe an 9-iron in.
With Nelson safely in the fairway, Hogan pulls out the driver. Unfortunately, he pulls it left, carrying the fairway bunker with ease but ending up over the cart path and near a tree and might not have enough room for a full swing.
Ward’s 3-metal ends up in the center of the fairway about 15 yards behind Nelson.
Venturi goes with the driver and lands near the fairway bunker. Playing the slope of the fairway just right, his ball kicks right and forward out close to the 300 yard marker. He’ll get a good look at both what Ward and his opponents do.
The approach shots:
Hogan’s best chance to get to the green would be to close down a 5-iron. Considering the circumstances, he hits a beauty, landing just short. But the ball rolls through the green on the right side–which means further right and off the back. The good news? With lots of green to work with and uphill at that, his chip should be an easy one.
Ward goes with a conservative 8-iron. But he yanks it a bit left and misses the green. He’s pin high, but on the short side.
Nelson decides that pitching wedge is the proper club as he’s like to hold the green and the “9” might be a bit too much. Unfortunately, he hits it a bit fat, landing on the green and backing up, leaving 47 feet for birdie. If Venturi can get close, he and Ward might pick up another hole.
Venturi takes dead aim at the stick but pulls a 9-iron past his partner’s ball and into the dunes. What recently looked like a decent chance at making birdie and closing to 1-down has suddenly changed. Ah, the fates of match play.
At the green:
Venturi is up first and hits a little less sand than he’d like, his ball ending up 17 feet past the pin.
Hogan’s chip could be better. He has the right speed, but misses on the high side, leaving nine feet.
Nelson is on the green but further away than Ward and lag putts to three feet.
Ward hits a beautiful flop shot to two feet.
Venturi misses just short with his putt and it’s conceded for bogey.
Hogan also misses and his bogey putt is also conceded.
Nelson and Ward easily make their short par putts and the hole is halved.
AFTER 12: Though they had their chances, Ward and Venturi are still 2-down.
13th Hole. 364 par four.
Downhill about a club and a half, a heavy hitter with a favorable wind might consider going for it. These guys can hit the ball, but not like that. So, with the fairway about 50 yards wide at the 250 marker, narrowing to about half that at 300, once again the driver will stay in the bag. And, once again, you can’t find a level lie as the fairway slopes right. A well-bunkered, long, oval green awaits. The pin is about halfway back on the right.
The tee shots:
Nelson is first and couldn’t throw his ball out there any better as he 3-metal lands in center of the fairway and dutifully rolls right and long (35 yards). He’ll be left with just 86 yards.
Hogan does likewise and rolls past his partner’s ball by a couple yards and maybe five yards to the left leaving a slightly better approach.
Ward also hits safely but doesn’t get the distance of his opponents and is 96 yards out.
Probably the shortest hitter of the bunch, though he can occasionally get around on one, Venturi decides to press matters by using the driver. His turns out to be the best shot of all, skirting the left hand rough and stopping just 77 yards away. He’ll have the best look at the pin of anyone.
The approach shots:
Ward is first and doesn’t try anything cute–just a safe pitch aimed left of the stick. It stops 12 feet away.
Nelson does likewise. Though safely on, he’s missed just left of his intended target and will be facing a 19-foot birdie putt.
Hogan takes a run at the pin and overshoots it just slightly leaving seven feet.
Venturi is right on line but just a bit short–12 feet under the hole. Though the distances are fairly close, each golfer will be putting on a different line. No “going to school” here.
On the green:
Nelson misses just left on his birdie attempt and par is conceded.
Ward has the right speed but misjudges his line ever so slightly, missing one ball to the left. Par is conceded.
Under the hole, Venturi misses just short. The door is open for Bantam Ben.
And, like Ward, Hogan misjudges his line, missing just left.
AFTER 13: This hole is halved and it’s still Hogan and Nelson, 2-up.
14th Hole. 413 par four. Downhill off the tee. Nice, fat landing area–but not for a driver as the fairway narrows precipitously at around the 300 marker with trees buffeting each side. If the first is hit safely, the approach shot will be easy–sort of. First, it’s uphill about two clubs and, second, there’s a greenside bunker on the front left which might come into play. Other than that, the green is very approachable. The only rub is that it slopes front to back. The pin is in the back left leaving plenty of room front, right, and even to the back but nothing to the left. Oh yeah, and the fairway slopes right–yet again.
The tee shots:
Nelson hits a 3-metal which is aimed perfectly and ends up in the center of the fairway leaving 149 yards to go.
Hogan flirts with the left side–too much so, his ball rolling into the rough. He’ll have a good line and 163 yards in.
Ward hacks at a 3-metal, pulling it way left and into the trees. Let’s just say that it’s all Venturi on this hole as Ward likely won’t help much.
Venturi parks his ball in the center of the fairway. But, at 161 in, he’ll have to be spot on with his approach in this now handicap match to fend off Nelson and Hogan.
With an unplayable lie, Ward has to take a drop and, even still can only get a decent swing with a short club. He pitches out, leaving 112 yards. Unless he holes out, he’s cooked. Heck, he’s likely cooked anyway.
Hogan attempts to hit a safe 8-iron. But, with the ball sitting down, he hits it thin, landing short and rolling on. He can putt, but it’ll be from another area code.
Venturi is indecisive. Trying to gauge the uphill portion of the trip to the green just right and knowing that the green slopes away, he’s between a “6” and a “7.” If he jumps on a “7,” he’ll probably land short but roll back and maybe get close. 7-iron it is. Hit just a bit left, Venturi still hits the green, though any further left wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fortunate as his ball rolls to the right and around the back of the pin leaving ten feet.
Nelson takes aim at the pin with a 9-iron. Unfortunately, he’s hit it a bit fat and, though he lands on the green, he’s on the very front and a long way away–51 feet, but with the same line as his partner.
Ward’s third shot hits the fringe and stops there. He’s done.
On the green:
Hogan gives his partner a look at the line and lags to five feet. But he’ll still have a downhill putt.
Nelson takes a run at it but misses right–and quite a bit–7 feet.
Though a halve wouldn’t be calamitous, this is Venturi’s hole to win. And, at ten feet uphill, he has a decent chance. Lo and behold, he rims the cup. Par is conceded. But it’s not over yet as neither Hogan nor Nelson have “gimmes.”
Nelson just misses from seven feet. See, it wasn’t a gimme.
But Hogan picks up his partner, his ball dead in the middle of the cup.
AFTER 14: It’s another halve and Nelson and Hogan are still 2-up. The back-to-back par threes await.
15th Hole. Like the famed sixteenth, this is forced carry over the cove. The good news is that this hole isn’t anywhere near as long as its big brother, only 136. A very large bunker in the front will gobble up anything hit short. And there’s a bunker on the back right that will swallow up anything hit long. The other three bunkers shouldn’t come into play. Though 34 yards deep, the green is irregularly-shaped and there are a couple of pin placements which are diabolical as there’s a sliver of green to the front left pointing forward to six-o’clock and one on the far right pointing to three o’clock, which is the most diabolical because of maybe 20 feet of safe landing area if you want to get close with those traps to the front and back. And that’s where the pin is.
The tee shots:
It’s Venturi first. Could it be the first golfer to post the winning score on a hole? Shouldn’t be. Then again, as Venturi and Ward were the last to win a hole, way back at ten, they should have had honors all along anyway. In an attempt to hit a 9-iron safely, Venturi comes up short and in the bunker. Looks like Ward will have to carry his team this time.
Ward goes right at the pin and hits it. The bad news? His ball kicks right and just off the green. Man, that sucks.
Like Venturi, Hogan takes the safe route, but with a pitching wedge. And, like Venturi, he comes up short and in the bunker.
Nelson is the only one to hit the green and win the sleeve of balls and 10% off in the pro shop. But he almost flies the green with his pitching wedge but gets a fortuitous result as his ball backs up off the fringe to the left of the hole and rolls back diagonally to the right stopping six feet away.
Around the green:
Venturi gets more ball than sand and misses long–over the green. He’ll have to pitch for par.
Hogan does much better out of the sand–three feet for his par.
Venturi gets derailed as he flubs his chip. Sayonara as he picks up.
Ward chips to five feet.
But he needed to hole out as Nelson sinks his putt.
AFTER 15: Nelson and Hogan win with birdie and the match has gone dormie-three. It could all end at what many consider the most spectacular hole in golf–and one of the most treacherous.
16th Hole. Though there’s bailout room to the left, to go at the green requires about 200 yards of carry. Unlike the previous hole, this one isn’t about the green; it’s about the tee shot as the green is extremely large–about 40 yards deep and 30 wide. The pin is on the front right, about ten yards in from the front and maybe eight from the right. There’s a bunker pin high right which could actually save an errant shot from a watery death. There are five other bunkers, three in the back and two in the front and left, which shouldn’t come into play. The green generally slopes right to left, so getting close–a necessity for Ward and Venturi right about now–might be difficult.
The tee shots:
Nelson hits a safe 3-iron. Too safe, as his ball hits the green and rolls left. He’ll attempt to lag putt from 70 feet.
Hogan also goes with the 3-iron to the center of the green. But he pushes his ball right and it ends up rolling between the flag and the fringe to the right and well past the hole–36 feet. Ward and Venturi need birdie as either or both of their opponents should be able to lag it close.
Ward tries to put a little extra on a 4-iron. He misses just left and watches as his ball rolls past the pin and follows the slope of the green. At 27 feet, he’s closer than his opponents. And with each golfer getting closer than the last, maybe this bodes well for Venturi.
Not a long iron hitter (it’s been noted before) Venturi goes with the 2-iron. Even still, he almost underclubs it. The good news is that his ball rolls on–barely–and he’s closer than anyone but with still a bunch of work to do–23 feet.
On the green:
Nelson lags to four feet. He could mark but doesn’t and sinks his par putt. Right now, that’s not the only thing that’s sunk.
With par in the bank, Hogan goes for the coup de grace. Even halfway to the hole, his putt looks like it has a chance. But it doesn’t break the way Hogan had envisioned it and he misses just left.
Ward is right on line from 27 feet but rims the cup. It’s all up to Venturi.
And he misses just right. This one is over.
AFTER 16: A halve is good enough for Nelson and Hogan here and they win 3 and 2.
Though they were behind right from the opening hole and managed to get it back to “all square” after four, Venturi and Ward were never really in this match. Though they won nine and ten to try to get back into the match, the four-hole deficit after eight was too much for them to surmount.
In the end, Hogan and Nelson won six holes while Ward and Venturi proffered only three. As a team, Hogan and Nelson went 8-under for 16 holes–not the 15-under they shot for eighteen holes in the actual match–while Ward and Venturi went 5-under, a far cry from the 14-under they had in their actual very close but losing effort.
EVENT #10CYPRESS POINT GERNEY TOUR FIRST ROUND
It started nine events and a Q-School ago with over 500 of the best golfers of all time. Realistically, among that group were the true upper echelon guys–the best of the best. And, by now, The Chairman was satisfied that the Gerney Tour contained almost all of what he thought were the all-time greats.
Now they were playing at a course which was also considered among the best of the best. And, if the first round was any indication, it may very well come down to the final stroke with a dozen players in the running.
Unlike in all but one of the eight rounds of the other tour events held here this week, the wind was manageable–definitely there but not an overpowering factor. And scores went low with four tied atop the first round leaderboard at 5-under.
Willie Campbell got it to 6-under before bogeying the last. The highlight of his day came at the par five sixth as driver-3-metal got him eight feet from the hole where he dropped the eagle putt. Campbell also had back-to-back birdies to start the back nine. At the par five tenth, he got on in two and two-putted from eighteen feet while, at eleven, a 7-iron approach from 172 stopped just two feet away. Alas, an errant tee shot into the right hand trees on eighteen led to his only bogey of the day.
Jack Nicklaus had the most birdies of anyone today–seven, including five in a seven hole stretch starting at two. His day started out less than fortuitously with a mishit on his approach which went well to the left of the green. But Nicklaus negated a fine pitch by two-putting from just four feet. Then the birdie run started. A two-putt from 90 feet at two. A 6-iron approach to six feet at four. Birdies at the back-to-back five pars. A 9-iron approach at eight to seven feet. Onto the back nine and Nicklaus nailed a 20-foot putt for birdie at eleven. But he gave that one back with a bogey at thirteen as he flew the green on his approach but couldn’t get up and down. Now at 4-under, 3-metal, 9-iron at eighteen left Nicklaus five feet away from birdie number seven, which he converted.
Scott Hoch ran off three birdies in a row starting at nine. Nine is the drivable par four. But most played it safe today, Hoch included. Unfortunately his 3-iron off the tee was pushed right–into the dunes. And his approach shot was off target. But a 34 foot putt made Hoch forget about his first two shots. At the par-five tenth, Hoch put his approach into the right hand bunker. Faced with a long sand shot out of a deep bunker with the pin on the other side of the green, Hoch still left himself fourteen feet. But he holed his putt for birdie. The third straight birdie was far easier than the other two as a well-placed 3-metal off the tee and a 7-iron approach left Hoch just four feet to make it three in a row, which he did. Birdie number last came at sixteen, the sublime and diabolical par-three when Hoch hit a 3-metal safely on and then bagged a 47-foot putt.
Lloyd Mangrum birdied the last to join the crew at -5. Besides eighteen, where his drive stopped under a tree but hit an impressive 9-iron approach just to get to the green and followed that with an 18-foot putt, Mangrum cashed in on the back-to-back par fives on the front side. The one at six was a dandy. After a nearly 300 yard drive to the corner of the dogleg, Mangrum pulled his 4-iron approach into the deep left greenside bunker. But he got his ‘sandy’ as he blasted out to two feet.
Three others would have joined the foursome at -5 but bogeyed the last and are in a nine-way logjam one back at 4-under: Harry Vardon, Ben Hogan and Phil Mickelson. The others at 4-under are Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Tommy Aaron, Dutch Harrison, Chip Beck and Jesper Parnevik.
Speaking of Parnevik, of those who went for the green at nine, he was the only one to hold it, landing his driver just in front and bouncing on. Left with a 22-footer for eagle, he drained it. But that wasn’t the shot of the day as two others topped that.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Both came at fifteen, the 145 yard par three over the cove which precedes its more famous compatriot. Willie Park went with a sand wedge–one bounce and in. Skip Alexander needed a bit more club and holed out with a pitching wedge.
In two cases, it’s dishonorable mention. Nonetheless…
Jim Colbert was 5-under after ten. Like Nicklaus, he did his best work in a seven-hole stretch. For Colbert, it started at four with a nineteen-foot birdie putt. Colbert’s putter also went to work at six (10 feet) and eight (14 feet).But missed approaches at twelve and thirteen led to back-to-back birdies and Colbert finished 3-under for the day, two back of the leaders.
Tiger Woods ran off four straight birdies starting at the second. The one at three was especially nice as he went 3-metal-pitching wedge at the 412 yard hole (in my dreams) to within two feet. He came to sixteen at 3-under, well within striking distance of the early leaders. Then he put two in the drink, took a quadruple bogey seven and dropped back into a tie for 69th.
Mark Hayes had four birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at six, including nearly holing out from 44 yards for eagle at six and following that with birdie putts of 13 feet at six, 33 feet at eight and 15 feet at nine. Like Woods, he came to sixteen at 3-under. Then, he put one in the cove and made double bogey, flowed that with a three-putt bogey from long distance at seventeen and a “three up, three down” at eighteen for a double. 2-over on day one for Hayes after a decent start and, like Woods, he’s lost among the crowd.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT GERNEY TOUR SECOND ROUND
The course record at Cypress Point is 63. Was 63. Ben Hogan was one of the three to go that low, doing the honors during that famed fourballs match with Byron Nelson vs. Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward back in 1956. A couple other fellows lost to history and maybe their own country club share the venerable record–Jim Langley and Casey Reamer. Shared. Past tense.
Thanks to an overnight storm, the weather for the second round was perfect–sunny and without the seemingly ever-present ocean breezes. And the normally treacherous greens and sloping fairways were receptive to almost all shots. The 122-man field averaged 68.3, almost four shots under par and nearly four shots better than yesterday.
And three players broke the long-standing record. Only two will receive credit with the feat as Old Tom Morris shot a 62–one shot better than the long-standing record but not good enough to claim the new one. Besides, he achieved his feat about 40 minutes (or maybe about ten seconds–no one knows for sure) after the first 61 was posted. Those two are Jerry Pate and the man with the old record and who was the first to register the 61–Ben Hogan.
One back starting play today, Hogan’s 61 put him into the lead by two. That’s amazing; shoot 61 and have only a three-shot swing. That’s because the next three in line also shot 68s yesterday and Phil Mickelson shot 63 and Harry Vardon and Chip Beck 64 each.
Hogan had his putter working early then, by the back nine, didn’t need it anymore.
His first birdie of the day, at the par three third, came courtesy of a 19-foot putt. Then, 16 feet on four and a two-putt birdie on the par five fifth. After three straight pars, Hogan played safe at the short par four ninth–playing at 290 today. He went with a 2-iron to the fat part of the fairway then stuck a pitching wedge in the hole from 43 yards for eagle. The par five tenth was a two-putt birdie from long distance. Then, 7-iron to two feet at eleven, knock down wedge to five feet at thirteen, a 3-iron off the tee at sixteen (playing like a pussycat today at just a hair over par) to five feet, a sand wedge at seventeen to two feet and a pitching wedge from a buck and a quarter to three feet at the last. 32 out, 29 in and a new course record of 61.
Even par yesterday, Pate vaulted up the leaderboard into a tie for fifth place today.
His 61 started with seven consecutive birdies, just about all coming from his putter: 14 feet at one, 20 feet at three, 11 feet at four and 21 feet at seven. Amazingly, his putter failed him at nine. When one-third of the field was at birdie or better on today’s second easiest hole, Pate three-putted from 25 feet for bogey. But he bounced back nicely with an eagle at ten thanks to a 4-iron to seven feet. Then the putter went back to work: 15 feet at twelve, nine feet at thirteen and ten feet at seventeen, none “gimmes” by any means. Even a par at nine would have given Pate the uncontested course record. And, with all the birdies there, the magic 59 could have been a distinct possibility.
Old Tom Morris started his day out with a bogey and still shot 62. He’s tied with Pate and Sir Nick (a darned near pedestrian 65 today) at -11.
Like Pate, Morris had the flat blade working: 13 feet at two and 35 feet at seven and finished with a pair of fifteen-footers at seventeen and eighteen to come home in 29.
Phil Mickelson carded what would have been a tie for the course record, except that Hogan had come through a bit more than an hour before. 68-63 in the first two rounds placed him in second place at -13 and guarantees him a date with Hogan in the final pairing tomorrow.
Mickelson had two eagles on the front nine. At the par five fifth, he went with the driver, cleared the bunker at the corner of the dogleg with ease and watched as his ball kicked left, further cutting the distance to the hole. From 199, Mickelson’s 5-iron stopped four feet from the pin. That was eagle number one. At nine, he took the safe route then holed out from the middle of the fairway–71 yards–for his second eagle. With the very receptive greens, Mickelson almost holed out at thirteen from 97 yards–making birdie there–and parked a sand wedge five feet away at the last.
THE TOP TEN:
Well, there’s Hogan at 15-under and Mickelson at -13. Then it’s Harry Vardon (64 today which included a chip-in eagle at six) and Chip Beck (also a 64 and which also included a chip-in–his coming from off the back of the green at thirteen) tied for third at -12. Then it’s Old Tom, Sir Nick and Pate at -11. Jack Nicklaus, one of yesterday’s co-leaders, shot a second consecutive 67 and is all alone in eighth at -10. And, in a five-way tie for ninth at -9 are Corey Pavin (64 today), Chris DiMarco (65), Willie Smith and Leo Diegel (66 each) and Dutch Harrison (67).
As far as yesterday’s co-leaders, only Nicklaus is still in the top ten. Willie Campbell and Lloyd Mangrum (both 69) are tied for 14th at 8-under and Scott Hoch’s 71 saw him drop to 29th at -6.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
There’s Hogan and Mickelson at nine. But wait, there’s more: Anthony Kim at four, who holed an 8-iron out of the rough from 142 on his way to a 68. Unfortunately, his 77 yesterday couldn’t prevent him from missing the cut. And then there was Jacky Cupit at fourteen, who holed out a 9-iron from 128 for eagle. Like Kim, his missed the cut, shooting 74-75, including a horrible 41 on the front today, or about six strokes over the average. And then there was Ken Venturi at seventeen, who had just enough room to clear the trees that Alister MacKenzie left in the middle of the fairway and which have been known to block more than a few approaches–or at least leave them blind. Hitting a full pitching wedge from 122 to a difficult pin placement on the far right hand side of the green, Venturi’s eagle may very well have saved his behind from missing the cut as, at 4-under, he was one stroke over the line.
THE CUT LINE:
Speaking of… It’s at -3, with 82 making it, 18 tied at just enough to make it to the weekend instead of the airport. Notables (they all are) on the wrong side: Tiger Woods, George Archer and Ralph Guldahl at minus-2, Gene Sarazen and Zack Johnson at -1, Bernhard Langer, Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen at even, Mark Calcavecchia at plus-2, Colin Montgomerie and Jimmy Demaret at +5 and, at the very bottom, KJ Choi at +8 thanks to an opening round 80.
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT GERNEY TOUR THIRD ROUND
The rare and utterly benign conditions of yesterday–the lack of anything more than a soft breeze to go along with receptive fairways and greens–lasted all of but one day as Cypress Point became its old self today.
The Chairman had been known to tinker with Mother Nature–they shared an uneasy truce–but, today, he sat back knowing that Mother Nature would do the honors as Cypress could never have two days in a row like yesterday. And it didn’t, as the wind was back and the fairways had dried out somewhat, though the greens were still holding rather well. And the course played about five strokes tougher than yesterday–and that coming after the cut.
Ben Hogan, whose 61 set a new course record yesterday and equaled later in the day by Jerry Pate and who vaulted into the lead, came back to earth with a 1-under par 71 and dropped out of the top spot. No matter, as he’s still in second and, considering the way the leaderboard looked after today’s round, one of only three golfers seriously in contention.
More about that in a minute. For now, let’s start at the top as Chip Beck’s 67 pushed him past Hogan. He’ll be the man to beat tomorrow–if he, the course and Hogan, who’ll be in the final pairing with Beck and is one of the toughest and misanthropic competitors in the sport, don’t beat him up first.
Beck soldiered his way around the course, never really getting on a roll but, rather, picking his spots and cashing in with every club in his bag. For instance, at one, it was a twelve-foot putt. At four, it was a 6-iron approach to four feet. At the par five sixth, it was a 3-metal approach sprayed right but a 50 yard chip out of the heavy rough to four feet. At ten, Beck came up short with his second at the par five but chipped in from 25 yards. But Beck did have his rough spots. A bogey at the par three fourth came as he missed long at the back left pin location. After a chip to five feet, he missed the putt. And, at fourteen, he again missed long with his approach, chipped fairly close–though he could have done better as he had a lot of green to work with–but missed a makeable seven-footer for par.
All told, Beck’s 67 turned out to be the second best round of the day.
The best belonged to Ted Ray, who beat par by seven shots and the scoring average by eight with a sparkling 65.
Ray got kick-started with a three hole run starting at three. First, it was an 11-foot putt for birdie. Then, at four, he dropped a ten-footer. At the par five fifth, he hit a 4-iron to three feet and made eagle. After a bogey at the par three seventh, when he came up short and in the sand, Ray went back to work, cashing in on back-to-back birdies twice, including both back nine par threes, a mighty accomplishment. At eleven, he got on in regulation two and drained a thirteen foot putt. Twelve was mighty impressive as Ray sprayed his drive way left and was forced to hit off the cart path. From 182, all he did was to deposit an 8-iron to within a foot. At the first of the back side par threes, Ray’s 9-iron at the 131 yard hole to a very difficult pin location in the sliver of green at the front left stuck eight feet from the pin. He made that putt as well as another eight-footer at the far more difficult sixteenth, playing 235 today, Ray’s 3-iron one of the closest shots and one of only four birdies there today. How good was that 65? Well, besides Beck’s 67 and David Duval’s 68, no one else was within four shots of Ray’s effort.
As for Hogan, he was 4-under on the day through fourteen before becoming unraveled.
At the par five sixth, he made a 23-footer for birdie and followed that with an 8-iron at the par three next to three feet, making birdie there too. The pin placement at the short par four ninth was very accessible and Hogan went for it but came up short and in the dunes, though he hit a fine recovery and dropped a seven-footer for birdie. More wizardry came at eleven, though that only resulted in par. Pushing a 7-iron approach Hogan feathered his third shot over the large bunker and at the short-sided pin, stopping his ball five feet away and making the putt. At thirteen, he was on in two and made a 22-foot birdie putt. After missing left at fourteen but getting up and down for par, Hogan’s luck ran out. The wind got his ball at fifteen and he flew the green. Unable to get his ball close, he made bogey four. At sixteen, he came up short and left off the tee but hit an excellent chip to five feet. But his putter deserted him–maybe it was that eye again–and Hogan dropped another stroke. Then, at seventeen, after a tee shot in the middle of the fairway and far enough away from the trees, he either misjudged his approach or the wind got him. Or maybe both as he came up well short and couldn’t get up and down for par. So, 19-under at one point and comfortably in the lead, Hogan dropped back to 16-under and second place.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Harry Vardon (70 today) is all alone in third at -14. After that, the scoring drops off and it’ll be a lot of work and at least some luck for the others to have a chance tomorrow. In a four-way tie for fourth at 11-under are Ray, Willie Campbell (69), Leo Diegel (70) and Phil Mickelson, who shot 74 after a 63 yesterday). And, in a five-way tie for eighth at -10 are Sam Snead (69), Lloyd Mangrum (70), Willie Smith and Chris DiMarco (71) and Old Tom Morris who, like Mickelson, took an eleven stroke bath from yesterday (62 to 73). Duval’s 68 vaulted him into a tie for 13th at 9-under with Jim Colbert.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY:
Jerry Pate, who equaled Hogan in setting a new course record yesterday, never did get his engine started, bogeying three of the first five, including two par fives (not a good sign) and finishing his rotten day by putting his tee shot in the water at sixteen and making double. 61 yesterday, 77 today and a fall to 30th place, eleven shots behind.
Scott Hoch, whose opening round 67 saw him in a four-way tie for the early lead, shot an 81 today. 3-over for the first five holes, Hoch finished his final five holes double, par, double, triple, bogey, including putting his tee shot in the water at sixteen and his tee and approach shots in the drink at seventeen. Tied for the lead after one round, at +3, he’s now one stroke away from being tied for last (Robert Karlsson).
EVENT #10 CYPRESS POINT GERNEY TOUR FINAL ROUND
As I mentioned after round three, I saw this as a three-man sprint to the wire as I couldn’t see anybody coming back from six down, especially if wind was a factor, which it was, as I couldn’t see anyone going that low with any of the three at the top–Chip Beck, Ben Hogan and Harry Vardon–all faltering that badly.
It turned out to be a two-man sprint as Vardon, even with his 67, unable to get over the hump.
Vardon first as he started the day two back of Hogan and three back of Beck.
He had birdies at two (up and down out of the sand) and three (within five feet at the par three), which should have helped him out a bit. But Hogan birdied one and two and so Vardon was stuck in neutral. He picked up birdies at the par five tenth and at twelve and fifteen thanks to fantastic approach shots. 67. Very nice, but not good enough. $680,000 for third eased the pain.
And now for the final pairing…
As mentioned, Hogan bolted out of the gate with birdies at the first two holes. He knocked home a 31 foot putt at one and got up and down from in front of the green at the par five second. Beck, hoping to start conservatively and keep Hogan at arm’s length, seemed to be rattled by his opponent’s quick start and bogeyed two, which should have been an easy par at the least as, from 66 yards out, Beck barely hit the green and that on the wrong side of the hole. Three putts later, and there was a three shot swing in just the first half hour. Hogan by two.
After pars at three, Beck dropped a fourteen-foot birdie putt at four while Hogan got his par. But Hogan countered with birdies at the next two–both par fives while Beck had trouble with his pitch shots, missing wide right at five, exactly like he did at two, but two-putting, and missing long at six, but getting up and down. Still, two shots lost for Beck and Hogan was up by three.
After pars at the par three seventh, Hogan put his approach into the dunes at eight and made bogey while Beck came through with a routine two-putt par. Both parred the short par four ninth. Hogan by two at the turn.
Beck finally figured out how to birdie a five par as he did so at ten. It wasn’t pretty as his second was in the bunker and he hit a rotten sand shot but banged home a seventeen-foot putt. Unfortunately, Hogan had the par fives mastered, birdieing all of them, including hitting a much better sand shot than Beck, tapping in from two feet. Hogan’s still up by two.
Beck got one back on eleven, again courtesy of his putter, this time getting on in regulation and connecting from eighteen feet while Hogan hit his second into the sand and came through with his second straight “sandy,” this time from four feet. Hogan by one.
Both got on in regulation at twelve but it was Hogan who had his putter fail him (or he his putter), three-putting from just over 20 feet while Beck two-putted from seventeen feet, evening the match.
Beck’s putter helped him out again at thirteen, getting on in regulation and dropping a thirteen-footer while Hogan two-putted for par. So, though it took eleven holes to recover from the shock of that three-stroke swing way back at one and two, Beck finally got the lead back.
Vardon was watching on the tee box at fifteen as both Hogan and Beck missed on their approaches at fourteen. If neither could get up and down, he’d definitely be back in the hunt. But both scrambled, Beck sinking a nine-footer and Hogan a two-footer, leaving Beck at -20, Hogan at -19 and Vardon at -18. Vardon would go on to birdie fifteen to pull even with Hogan but would get no more.
Both parred fifteen, Hogan’s tee shot at the almost inaccessible pin placement being knocked down by the wind but with Hogan punching out of the rough to three feet while Beck, with honors, stayed on the green, two-putting from twelve feet from a slightly fatter part of the green.
Beck had honors again at sixteen and pulled his 2-iron tee shot into the left side bunker. Though he had lots of green to work with, Beck was staring at a long sand shot–nearly 30 yards. Hogan played safe–too safe–and landed on the green but had over 70 feet. Beck didn’t have one of his better efforts out of the sand and he’d be staring down a fifteen-footer just for par. Hogan calmly lag putted, leaving five feet, still not a “gimme.” But Beck’s putter came through yet again as he sank his par putt. Vardon was walking to his ball on the seventeenth fairway when he heard the cheers. Not having immediate access to the scoreboard (he found those video boards with the up-to-the-minute scoring utterly fascinating), he figured that someone had birdied and he was one shot further back. Turned out not to be true, but there was nothing Vardon could do about it anyway. Hogan, showing no outward emotion, took a good look at his putt then knocked it home. Beck still up by one with two left.
Both hit safely in the fairway and left but a pitching wedge to the green, albeit at a difficult front right pin location. Come up short and end up in heavy rough, a bunker or, too short, the water. Up first, Hogan hit to thirteen feet. Safe. Beck was a bit more conservative, taking all the potential hazards out of play but leaving 36 feet. Beck calmly lagged and two-putted, as did Hogan. Beck by one with but one to play.
Beck up first at eighteen and he placed his ball in the center of the dogleg at the 356 yard finishing hole. Hogan tried to put a little extra on a driver and pulled his ball into the trees on the left. Left with a bit of a look at the green, Hogan was able to get under a 9-iron and hit safely on, though leaving 55 feet. Attempting to play conservatively, Beck flirted with danger a little more than he bargained for. Truth be told, unlike at the previous holes, there’s not a lot of trouble around the eighteenth green–a bunker on the right but, otherwise, nothing really awful as there’s plenty of short grass to the front and back. With the pin in the back right, Beck actually went over it but, with the receptive greens, his ball stopped just seven feet away.
Inwardly, Beck was licking his chops. Hogan’s putting from another area code and it looks like a two-putt par will win it. Hogan surveyed his line. He didn’t care about the money as a three-putt bogey would likely cost him about four hundred thousand dollars and even a routine par and a tie with Vardon maybe a couple hundred grand. There was only one choice. No guts, no glory. And, damn it if Hogan didn’t nail his putt dead center.
“Shit.” Those who were able to quickly glance over to Beck instead of looking at Hogan as the putt dropped saw Beck mouth the invective. But they also saw Beck applaud Hogan’s effort. So did Vardon as, with a tournament on the line and a nearly impossible putt, Hogan did the nearly impossible.
Alright now, two putts and we go to a playoff and I can take my chances there. But, do I want to go to a playoff after what Hogan has just done? No. I have work to do. And, as the cheers died down, Beck surveyed his 84 inches of landscape. Satisfied that he had the right line, Beck picked up his marker, replacing his ball just so. He took one practice stroke then lined himself up for the real thing. As he made contact, Beck knew he had the right line. But was it the right speed?
Yes, and without question as the ball hit the hole dead center.
21-under at MacKenzie’s greatest masterpiece, fending off a couple of the all-time greats and $1,800,000 to show for it as Beck joined the game’s elites. It was a good week.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
After Beck, Hogan and Vardon, David Duval eagled two, then birdied three and four on his way to the lowest round of the day, a 65. That placed him all alone in fourth at -16. Three were tied at -14: Sam Snead and Old Tom Morris (both 68 today) and Leo Diegel (69). Ted Ray (70), who had the low round yesterday (also a 65), finished in sole possession of eighth at 13-under while Phil Mickelson and Willie Campbell (both 71) finished tied for ninth at -12.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Mason Rudolph (6-under for the tourney and tied for 32nd) with a pitching wedge from 137 at the 417 yard par four fourth. With the pin in the back right, Rudolph found some room behind the pin, tucked his ball there and watched it back up into the hole.
Only four are headed back to AAA ball: Al Besselink, Jimmy Hines, Dr. Gil Morgan and Flory Van Donck.
TOP 10 MONEY LIST (Through ten events):
|Young Tom Morris||$3,156,605|