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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs By crudbay

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Date CreatedMost Popular

crudbay
Who Gets to Say Goodbye?
Jul 19, 2015 7:28 AM
 
In 1957 Doug Ford holed out from a plugged lie in a bunker on the 18th hole at the Masters to propel him to a come-from-behind win. Forty years later new generations of golf fans still knew the name of Doug Ford even if they had no idea who he was. But one of the perks of winning the Masters is a lifetime exemption to play in the tournament. So every year Doug Ford would show up to play at Augusta. In 1997 the 75-year old Ford shot 85-94. Eventually such appearances began to lose their charm to tournament officials and they sent a letter to past champions asking that they not come and play. There was a problem, however, since Arnold Palmer, then in his his seventies still wanted to play. And the King still wanted to play. Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were consulted and the old policy was put back in place with the proviso that the past champions still be competitive. Of, course, "still being competitive" is up to the player. Palmer played when he was 75 to make it an even 50 and since then former Masters champions have faded from the field appropriately before scores of +35 are recorded. The Masters is an invitational tournament so past champions, even in their dotage, do not steal a place in the field from an otherwise deserving competitor. Not so at the Open Championship which has a fixed number of slots available. So the policy for past Open champions is they are exempt from qualifying only until they are 60 years old. Since the Open returns to St. Andrews every five years aging champions often forego their final few years of eligibility to make a swan song appearance on the Old Course. Jack Nicklaus had his Open Championship farewell on the Swilcan Bridge and this year there were two such emotional departures. Tom Watson said goodbye on the Swilcan Bridge on Friday at the age of 65. The five-time winner was still playing by virtue of his Top 10 finish in the past five years when he made a storybook run at Turnberry in 2009. Nick Faldo is only 57 and still eligible to play in the Open Championship but he also took the opportunity to say goodbye on the Swilcan Bridge, donning the same sweater he wore 25 years ago when the won the first of three Claret Jugs at Muirfield. Sir Nick left open the door to coming back and playing again but after a marvelous 71 that included a birdie on the Road Hole he certainly created the ideal round on which to drop the curtain on his Open playing career.
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crudbay
Another Quiet Open for Britain?
Jul 15, 2015 4:59 PM
 
Imagine if a team of foreign baseball players showed up every five years to play the World Series winner in Yankee Stadium - and won every time. Americans might not be feeling too jolly about the national pastime. So consider the plight of the Scots. They invent the game of golf, play it for 500 years, stage the world's biggest tournament at St. Andrew's, "the Home of Golf,' every five years and a Scotsman has not won on the Old Course since 1910. Expand the pool of countrymen out to include all of Queen Elizabeth's subjects and Sir Nick Faldo is the only Brit to win at St. Andrew's in the past 75 years. On the eve of the 144th Open, prospects are similarly dreary for a hometown favorite to raise the Claret Jug. Rory McIlroy, the World Number One, was the tournament favorite until he sent himself to the sidelines with an ankle injury. Justin Rose has been one of the top players in the world the past few years and won the U.S. Open title at Merion just two years ago. But the World Number 8 enjoyed his best Open Championship when he was 17 years old - in another century. He has not finished in the Top 10 at the Open since his stunning debut in 1998. Last week he sleepwalked to a 74th place finish at the Scottish Open so Rose is not exactly firing on all cylinders arriving in St. Andrews. Another Brit who has failed to invigorate the home fans at the Open has been former World Number One, Luke Donald. He has teed it up in the Open 14 times and missed the cut seven times. He has to get into majors these days through qualifying. The biggest golf noise from Ian Poulter comes from his social media accounts, not his golf game. Lee Westwood was runner-up at St. Andrews in 2010, the last time the Open was contested here. He has finished in the top 16 in 15 of his last 23 majors without winning any. But the popular Westwood is 42 years old now and if he were to pull out a surprise win this week it would unleash a sentimental outpouring similar to Darren Clarke's win back in 2011 at Royal St. Georges. It is always fun to see the world flags flying on Sunday at the Open Championship, just don't expect the Union Jack to be one of them.
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crudbay
Career Collapse Syndrome
Jul 12, 2015 6:34 AM
 
"...could hit shots that nobody can hit; making putts with confidence. And I think the golf swing is coming back. You can just tell the confidence isn't quite there." Not talking Tiger Woods, but those quotes sure sound familiar. Those are the words of World Number Three Stacy Lewis talking about Yani Tseng. Lewis is in contention going into the final round of the U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club this weekend. Yani Tseng is not. For the tenth time in her last 12 majors, Yani Tseng missed the cut. Before her troubles began, Tseng was not just the best player in women's golf, she was off and running on a career that seemed about to eclipse all that came before her. By the age of 22, The Taiwanese golfer had accumulated nine wins and five majors. Not even Tiger Woods cams close to matching that record. What does one do at age 22 when one is dominating golf? You buy Annika Sorenstam's house, of course. Tseng was the World Number One for 109 weeks and LPGA Tour Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011. 2012 seemed like it was going to be more of the same - Tseng won three of the first five tour events. Two months past her 23rd birthday, she was four points from qualifying for the World Golf Hall of Fame. On March 25, 2012 Yani Tseng ran away from the field at La Costa Resort and Spa in California to win the Kia Classic by a record-tying six strokes. And then it stopped. Just like that. Tseng still plays and even makes a Top Ten every now and then. But it has been more than three years and 82 tournaments since her last win. If you try to find Yani Tseng in the world rankings you have to scroll all the way down to 79th. Yani Tseng's tumble from the pinnacle of the sport is even more baffling than that of Tiger Woods. there are no injuries. There have been no swing changes. There has not been a parade of coaches. There have been no off-course issues or upheavals in her personal life. The only obvious difference in her golfing life has been four caddie changes. Jordan Spieth is the golfing hero of the moment, a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday. He can do no wrong on the golf course, one-handing eagles in from 106 yards. But a golfing empire is always rests on a fragile foundation. It calls to mind the words of Bobby Jones: "Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course - the space between your ears."
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crudbay
Open Championship Odds
Jul 10, 2015 8:51 AM
 
Pity the poor golf bettor. Finding a good play at the turf accountant's window for the upcoming Open Championship is about as easy as getting up and down from the greenside bunker at the Road Hole at St. Andrews. It is not often that a pre-tournament favorite in a golf tournament does not even make it to the first tee but that is what happened when World Number One Rory McIlroy took a bad step on the soccer pitch and blew out his ankle. That elevated Jordan Spieth to the oddsmaker's choice at 5 to 1. All Spieth has done this year is win the Masters and the U.S. Open - and that was not enough to make him the choice above McIlroy before the Irishman's injury. Clearly oddsmakers were wary of the 21-year old Texan's uninspiring past performances on British links courses. In his two previous starts at the Open Spieth has been lost in the pack, finishing 44th and 36th. Add onto that the immense pressure of trying to complete a Grand Slam that would build if he reaches contention on Sunday and that 5 to 1 does not look like money well invested. And then there is Tiger Woods. Just when bettors thought they could dismiss the winner of 14 major titles after he dropped to #220 in the world and beat only three players in the U.S. Open field three weeks ago, he showed flashes of competitiveness at Greenbrier with three scores in the 60s and his first bogey-free round of 2015. Odds for Woods have drooped below 20-1 at some books and although a complete return to form by Tiger seems the unlikeliest of plays are you ready to write off the player who has won two Open championships at St. Andrews? From this seat in the grandstand beside the Swilken Burn the best betting play seems to be on Louis Oosthuizen. The smooth-swinging South African won the Open by seven strokes the last time the Open Championship was staged at St. Andrews in 2010. Although he has not used that as a springboard to stardom, Oosthuizen blitzed Chambers Bay over the final three rounds with scores of 66-66-67. Only a dispiriting opening round 77 (played alongside the struggling Woods and Rickie Fowler, neither of whom broke 80) kept Oosthuizen from claiming his second major. Oosthuizen is fetching 20-1 from the books on the eve of the Open and that is where to drop a few quid.
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crudbay
Funny How Things Work
Jul 9, 2015 8:10 AM
 
Funny how things work. For decades the John Deere Classic, nee the Quad Cities Open, was the least respected stop on the PGA Tour. Not only did the heartland location lack pizzazz but the tournament was scheduled opposite of the British Open in the days when only the biggest players traveled to Great Britain. Then the British Open reclaimed its rightful place on the international golf stage and rebranded itself the Open Championship. The PGA stopped scheduling an event opposite and slid the John Deere onto the schedule for the week prior to the Open Championship. It suddenly became the tournament everyone wanted to skip. After all, preparing for those devilish British links courses requires at least a week of preparation. And no one wants to be fatigued by a rushed travel schedule. The poobahs at the John Deere Classic did what they could to maintain relevancy and get someone to notice. This was the tournament that gave 15-year old Michelle Wie an exemption to try and become the first woman to make the cut on the men;s tour. She almost did it, too. She was four-under after 32 holes but made a mess of the final holes on Friday. The John Deere Classic even charters its own plane to whisk players six time zones across the Atlantic Ocean after the final putts drop in Illinois on late Sunday afternoon. Still, no one cared about the tournament. Solid midwestern types like Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson, hardly threats in the Open Championship, would win every year against weak fields. Then came 2013. One of those "weak" players was a University of Texas dropout who was ranked 120th in the world. Some ardent golf fans might have remembered the name "Jordan Spieth" when he played in his hometown Bryron Nelson Classic when he was 16 years old and did darn good - finished 16th. Even more golf crazy fans may have known Spieth as the only player other than Tiger Woods to win more than one U.S. Junior Amateur championship. In 2013 at the TPC at Deere Run defending champion Zack Johnson was again having his way with the field, dogged mainly by Canadian David Hearne. Up ahead on the 72nd hole, however, Spieth popped in a bunker shot. When all the scores were added up it was a three-way tie. After five extra holes Spieth made a par and at age 19 became the youngest player ever to win a PGA tournament. Fast forward two years and Jordan Spieth is the biggest name in golf. He is gunning for the Grand Slam but being a loyal guy he is not jetting to St. Andrews early. The John Deere Classic gave Spieth a sponsor's exemption to play as an amateur at the age of 18 and he does not forget. The experience helped convince him to turn pro. So Jordan Spieth is teeing it up this week in Silvis, Illinois and all eyes in the golf world will be looking here and not in Scotland.
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crudbay
A Record to Shoot For
Jul 3, 2015 8:34 AM
 
Someone may break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major wins. Someone may shoot 58. Someone may win the Grand Slam. But no one will ever match what Byron Nelson did 70 years ago this summer. Nelson won 11 consecutive PGA tour events. The year was 1945 and America was still at war which depleted the fields somewhat. But Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were still around and so was Gene Sarazen and many top players. But Nelson went on winning, tournament after tournament. In fact, the lanky Texan always considered his streak to be 12, not 11. That is because of a popular two-day professional tournament that he also won, the Spring Lake Invitational, which was considered "unofficial." The hefty prize money from the New Jersey event spent the same though. Seeking his "unofficial" twelfth consecutive win, Nelson grabbed the first round lead with a 69, saving par on the 18th when his approach into the final green carried long and bounced off the chest of one of the estimated 1,000 spectators in his gallery. The crowd was even more spectacular for the final day of play when 5,000 people poured through the gates on the Jersey shore - mostly to watch Nelson. They were not disappointed. Although battling a balky putter, Nelson escaped with a one-under par 71 for a two-day total of 140, one stroke better than Herman Barron who muffed a 16-inch putt on the final hole to tie. Nelson's year in 1945 was the the greatest in golf history. He won a total of 18 tournaments, including his incomparable 11 in a row. But privately, he always considered his year's numbers to be "19" and "12" by including his win at Spring Lake. He won his events by an average margin of 6.25 shots. Byron Nelson is often overlooked when rounding up the best players to ever pick up a golf club. That is because he quit at his peak. Nelson always vowed to play golf only long enough to bankroll a ranch in Texas and after making 113 consecutive cuts - another record, and set in the days when the pay window was only open to 20 spots, not 70 - he had his stake. In 1946 Nelson walked away from the game and bought his 630-acre dream ranch. He was just 34 years old.
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crudbay
The Greatest Course Ever Designed?
Jul 2, 2015 12:01 PM
 
You can never accuse Jim Justice of thinking small. He wanted to bring professional golf to West Virginia and he used millions of dollars from his family's coal and agricultural empire to make it happen. Which is why we are seeing the PGA tour at Justice's Greenbrier resort this weekend. It will be the sixth consecutive year the pros have teed it up in White Sulphur Springs, Virginia. West Virginia is not known for professional football but Justice has convinced NFL teams to conduct summer camps at the Greenbrier, far from their fan bases. Justice has never run for political office, either, but last month he announced he will take a stab at the governorship of West Virginia as a Democrat. Now the Mountaineer State's only billionaire has set his sights on the U.S. Open. He has purchased 1,000 acres of land to build a new course at the Greenbrier and he has recruited some folks you may have heard of to design the 18-hole layout: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. We may never see this illustrious foursome on the golf course again but Justice has gotten this Mount Rushmore of golf to collaborate on designing a golf course for the first time. Trevino serves as Golf Pro Emeritus at Greenbrier and he reports that the four legends, who all operate course design businesses, are excited about the opportunity to work together on the project. The course will be private and open only to Greenbrier Sporting Club members and has yet to receive a name. Trevino indicates that all four names will somehow be incorporated into the name. Justice expect the golfing legends to produce nothing less than a United States Open-ready golf course and he wants it ready for play in the summer of 2016. That may prove agronomically impossible but not many people thought they would ever see Drew Brees taking snaps in West Virginia coal country either. If you show up at Greenbrier next summer and the course is not ready, do not despair for diversions. The Greenbrier, which has played host to 26 United States Presidents since Martin Van Buren built a cottage above the springs in 1834 as a retreat, had a secret bunker dug 720 feet into the hillside under the West Wing in 1961 for government employees to hide in during a nuclear attack. Dick Cheney hustled there during 9/11. The public did not know about the bunker until a Washington Post article exposed the facility it was de-commissioned. Now it is open for tours.
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crudbay
Crazy Numbers
Jul 1, 2015 10:51 AM
 
This past week in golf we heard about a couple of crazy, do-a-double-take numbers - one low and one high. We got word of Patrick Wills who shot a 57 in a Summer Solstice tournament at Laurel Hill Golf Course in Lorton, Virginia. How you react to that news might depend on whether or not you diligently count every stroke when you play. For instance, some headlines read, "Virginia Golfer Makes Three Aces, Shoots 57" like it was fait accompli. Other headlines shouted, "Former Marine Golfer Claims to Have Shot 57..." as if there was some doubting the tale. The epic round was on a course that hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament in 2013 so this was not your local pitch and putt. The course was set up at 6,021 yards for tournament play. And yes, the round included three aces - two for albatrosses. Wills made his firs "1" on the 278-yard, par-four 7th hole, using a 3-wood. Then he banged it in on the 311-yard 10th hole. A regular run-of-the-mill ace on a par three followed on the 14 hole where Wills used a 5-iron to negotiate the 176 yard uphill hole. That's 765 yards, three stokes. Anybody can shoot 57 with that start. Nonetheless, Wills, who plays to +4 handicap, felt the need to defend himself, rather than bask in the glory of his round, "I’ve been around the world 10 or 12 times, fighting for this country’s freedom," he said. "People are allowed to believe what they want to believe - I fought for that freedom. But I know what I shot, my playing partners know what I shot and the people at the tournament do as well. So people are entitled to believe what they want, but I’ve always been drawn to golf because it aligns with my morals. I’d rather call a penalty on myself, or even disqualify myself, because I respect the game.” The other number was a big one - 3,000,000. that was the rounding off of the number for the money Phil Mickelson gave an associate for gambling purposes. That is just tip money for Lefty. This is a golfer, we are told, who never shies away from a good bet on the golf course. Sometimes he even gets in trouble for it. Like the time he won $500 in the player's lounge from Mike Weir by offering 25-1 odds that Jim Furyk would hole a bunker shot out on the course. But not this. There are no plans to prosecute Mickelson for anything.
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crudbay
Beware of the Sick Golfer
Jun 26, 2015 5:25 AM
Tags: US Open   Jason Day   Edgar Guest   sick golfer  
 
Hidden deep within the uncommonly rich oeuvre of 11,000 poems penned by prolific English-born wordcrafter Edgar Guest is this prescient little ditty: THE SICK GOLFER I shuddered when I heard him say: "I am not feeling well today." I hoped he'd not propose a bet, I've never licked a sick man yet! You may have experienced the phenomenon yourself - suffering from some malady on the golf course and staggering to the house with an uncommonly good score. There is an old saying around golf clubhouses that admonishes players to "beware of the sick or injured golfer." We saw a bit of the evidence over the weekend at the U.S. Open with Jason Day battling vertigo all the way up to the top of the leaderboard until running out of golfing petrol on the inward nine on Sunday. There are not many more debilitating conditions that can afflict a golfer than vertigo, which affects the balance so necessary to execute a golf shot. What exactly is going on here? If you think back to when you have experienced a spot of bother on the golf course you may remember not being much interested in anything other than completing the round. Your mind was no doubt occupied with whatever it was that was ailing you. You did not much care what your playing partners were doing, if it was during a tournament you were not taking any notice of the gallery, you probably did not even much care about the shots you were hitting. And that is the key. When you are feeling bad on the golf course, or your mind is otherwise occupied with something unrelated to golf, you cede the day's proceedings to your unconscious brain. Your conscious state has checked out for the day. There is no focusing on swing keys or hand position or that bunker you have to avoid or that water hazard over on the right side of the fairway. There is no choking on short putts. Your game is on auto-pilot, working on instinct, as you muddle through the round. And lo and behold, really good shots start coming. Sports psychologists preach that athletes need to reign in the meddling of a conscious mind to unlock true performance. Few of us have the power to send our destructive thoughts to the sidelines during a round of golf and trust our unconscious selves. Battling the flu does it for us. Getting sick will never be a recommended strategy for good golf, but maybe we can all mimic its influences.
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crudbay
What is a Craig Wood?
Jun 23, 2015 7:45 AM
 
When Jordan Spieth wound up the winner of the U.S. Open to go along with his Masters green jacket earned earlier this year he joined the short list of golfers who have won the first two majors of a season. And it is one of the oddest lists in golf: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Craig Wood. The list looks like you were taking a roll call of golf immortals from the past 75 years and some guy named Craig Wood snuck into to the photo. Who is this Craig Wood? Wood was born in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in Lake Placid, New York in 1901 where his father was a foreman for a timber company. He turned professional at the age of 19, just like Jordan Spieth. Things were a tad different for Wood, however. There was no pro tour to play on in 1920. His professional duties mostly meant mowing the grass and working the counter in the pro shop. He played tournaments when he could and in 1928 won the New Jersey PGA Championship. After that the nascent professional tour began to come together and Wood was a staple on the circuit in the 1930s. He won a dozen tournaments that decade but no majors. He came awfully close, however. Wood lost all four major championships in extra holes. Until Greg Norman suffered a similar run of bad luck in playoffs a half-century later, Wood was the only golfer to suffer that fate. His most famous loss was at the 1935 Masters when Gene Sarazen knocked in his famous double eagle from the 15th fairway to catch Wood and then whip him in the playoff. In 1941, Wood finally broke through. He drubbed the Masters field by three strokes at Augusta and then won the U.S. Open by three shots again at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth - the backyard of Hogan and fellow golfing great Byron Nelson. Wood was 39 years old at this time and golf would soon shut down as the world became engulfed in war. He never got a chance to add to his hot streak. Wood wound up with 21 wins and was eventually enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Maybe not the glory that drapes the other members of the "first two majors" club, but the "Blond Bomber" could certainly run with those guys.
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crudbay
The State of American Golf
Jun 21, 2015 7:37 AM
 
Quick, name the last two Americans to win the United States Open. OK, you are probably going to have to go Google it. That would be Webb Simpson and Lucas Glover. Sure, you say, that is no surprise since golf is an international game with stars from many countries. Well, that is not the way things used to be around a United States Open. From 1927 until Gary Player dispatched Australian Kal Nagle in a playoff at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis in 1965 there was not a single foreign-born U.S. Open winner. That is 38 years - one more than it took for a Triple Crown winner to come racing out of the barn. And you saw the headlines American Pharoah has generated. Player's breakthrough did not lead a storm of world players onto the U.S. Open beachhead. In fact, in the last seven decades of the 20th century you could barely fill a Saturday foursome with foreign-born U.S. Open champions - Player, Tony Jacklin, David Graham, and Ernie Els. No Nick Faldo, no Greg Norman, no Seve Ballesteros, no Bernhard Langer. No Colin Montgomerie. No Ian Woosnam. No Jose Maria Olazabal. Just American winners. American golf has not receded to the status of American tennis but the bench behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson has been a bit spotty over the past decade or so. The players who rose to World Number One not named Woods this century have all been weaned on non-American golfing soil: Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald and, especially, Rory McIlroy. So it is not a surprise that the arrival of Jordan Spieth on the golfing stage has been greeted with a bit more exuberance than otherwise might be expected. Or that Rickie Fowler has undergone a coronation well beyond his achievements on the golf course. And perhaps why a Ryder Cup that slumbered in the public recognition for most of its existence has been draped in patriotic fervor of late. Going onto the final round at Chambers Bay America's best, Spieth and Dustin Johnson, are primed to do battle for the U.S. Open championship. But they will also be carrying the torch for American golf as well. Of the eight players under par, only three are from the United States. Thanks to a pinball eagle late in the round on Saturday, that duo is joined by longballer J.B. Homes. One thing seems likely. A new champion will be hoisting the trophy on late Sunday afternoon for the seventh consecutive year. The closest Open champions are McIlroy and Justin Rose and they are both eight strokes back. Maybe the new face will belong to an American.
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crudbay
The Railroad Hole
Jun 19, 2015 6:20 AM
 
Hey, how about those trains running down #16 and #17 at Chambers Bay? Bang a good old banana ball off the tee and that Titleist could go all the way to California. No doubt old-timers harkened back to the last time there was a railroad hole in an Open. Of course, those old-timers would need to be really old - it was the Open Championship and that year was 1925. The Railroad Hole at Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland was the first hole ever played in major championship golf, back in 1860. The course, designed by St. Andrews greenskeeper Old Tom Morris, was only 12 holes back then. It would not be expanded to 18 until 1883. Willie Park won that one but Old Tom would come back to win four times, including the first one in 1864 that offered prize money - Morris took home £6. More importantly, he won the coveted red Morocco leather belt (worth about £25 in a typical London bazaar). When his son, Young Tom, won three consecutive times from 1868 until 1870 that was good enough to win the belt permanently and stop the championship. After all, Young Tom had won the event by 12 strokes in a record 149. After thinking about it, the Open started up again for good in 1872. The Railroad Hole at Prestwick is about as intimidating as an opening tee shot gets. Unlike Chambers Bay, the tee is hard by a stone wall and the main line of the Glasgow and Southern Railway is just on the other side. It was not uncommon for an otherwise flat, open tee shot to be completely blind when a smoke-billowing steam engine puffed by. Even though the fairway angles slightly away from the train tracks the gorse on the left side of the hole was no doubt a popular destination for many a tee ball. The Railroad Hole is short by today's standards - only 346 years - but a good poke with a featherie ball. The green is flush against the stone wall and the tracks are not 30 feet away. How fun would that be for this week's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. The pros would have a drivable par four but if the tee shot was even ten yards offline to the right it would be bouncing off box cars. In that last Open in 1925 Macdonald Smith set the course record in the second round with a 69 and led by five strokes going into the final 18 holes. But he shot an 82 and lost by three. Smith would win 24 times on the PGA tour but never a major championship. His 24 wins are the most by a player not in the Hall of Fame. Prestwick also is tied to the number 24. The quirky course would go on to host 24 Open Championships. St. Andrews would not pass it as the most popular venue until 1995. If there were a Hall of Fame for fun golf courses, however, Prestwick would certainly be among the inductees.
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