Open at storied Royal St. George’s; Champs Tour; Moe; junior golf
The focus of the golf world will be on Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, next week as the 2011 Open Championship will be played on the storied links course for the first time since 2003. The 2003 event had a surprise winner in Ben Curtis, when he made a 12-foot par-putt on the 18th green and then watched as multiple other players, including Thomas Bjorn and Davis Love III, crumbled coming down the stretch. Curtis added his name to a long list of champions at St. Georges, including Greg Norman and Sandy Lyle.
This year’s event will not have former world No. 1 Tiger Woods in the field, as Woods continues to rehabilitate his injured left leg, but the field will include the new darling of golf, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy has spent the last three weeks since his record-breaking performance at the United States Open relaxing at his home in Carryduff, Northern Ireland, using his state-of-the-art practice area to prepare and attempt to win back-to-back major titles. McIlroy’s decision not to play at the Barclay’s Scottish Open this week was criticized by some, but the youngster feels as though practicing at home, along with a couple of trips to Royal St. George’s, will be enough preparation.
Another player heading to the Open Championship with a lot of confidence is current world No. 1 Luke Donald. Despite not having won a major title, Donald’s consistent play this year has rewarded him with the world’s top-ranking as well as leading the money list on both the U.S. PGA Tour and European PGA Tour.
Donald headed out to Royal St. George’s earlier this week, and, without his caddy, used a pull-cart during his practice rounds, just like any number of amateur players would do if they were to tee-it-up throughout the year.
A win by Donald would not only solidify his No. 1 ranking, but would make him the first Englishman to win an Open Championship on an English course since Tony Jacklin did it at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in 1969.
Ironically, it was Jacklin who was the last Briton to win the U.S. Open Championship before Graeme McDowell took the title last year at Pebble Beach.
One player coming into the tournament under the radar, but playing excellent golf, is Sergio Garcia.
Garcia seems to be the modern-day Greg Norman, often losing out to fantastic shots. But his game is on the rebound after a little over a year in the abyss.
A playoff loss at the BMW International two weeks ago showed that Garcia is ready to contend again, and having been close several times at the Open, he looks to lock up his first major.
Another Englishman hoping the time might be right for a first major title victory is Lee Westwood.
Westwood has showed up on the leaderboard of just about every major in the last four years, but has yet to hoist a trophy.
Unlike last year, when he had an injured calf muscle, Westwood enters this year’s event in top-health and hopes that the Open’s return to England will be a glorious one for him.
One player who was looking to ride a hot streak into the Open Championship was 2002 runner-up Thomas Levet.
Levet shot a final round 70 to win his national championship, the French Open, last weekend, and then proceeded to jump in the lake surrounding the 18th green at the awards ceremony. Levet may be second guessing that decision now, as he broke his shin in the process and has had to withdraw.
Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen comes into the event not on his best form. But the South African, who dominated last year at St. Andrews, looks to show that he is ready to defend and follow in Woods’ footsteps by winning back-to-back Opens.
The Royal and Ancient, who runs the Open Championship, hopes that the star of the week will be the fabled links, which this year will play to 7,211 yards and a stern par of 70.
Of course, as with any Open Championship venue, a lot depends on the weather. A hot spell could lead the course to play hard and fast, but if the rain and wind come in, the course will play completely different.
A little known fact is that James Bond author, Ian Fleming, was a member at Royal St. Georges, and it is believed that he used that as the inspiration for the famous golf match between Bond and Auric Goldfinger in his book, Goldfinger. Perhaps it would be fitting to have a Brit, perhaps Donald or Ian Poulter, and a German such as Martin Kaymer, tied as they come down to the final few holes for the title.
The Champions Tour makes its first trip of 2011 to Northern California this week at the Natures Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, with the current hottest player on the Champions Tour, John Cook, looking to become a member of the club that has won both PGA Tour and Champions Tour events at the same course.
Cook won the AT&T National ProAm back in the mid-1980s. The Californian took home his third victory of the year last week at the Montreal Championship.
Despite the win, Cook still does not top the Charles Schwab Cup points list. That honor belongs to Tom Lehman, with Nick Price close behind and the ageless Tom Watson sitting in third-place.
Cook, in fourth-place, will look to take advantage of the fact that none of those three players are in the field as they will be at Royal St. Georges as former Open Champions.
Anyone interested in attending the event at Pebble Beach and Del Monte Golf Course can get more information at www.thefirstteeopen.com.
Local professional Kris Moe got off to a great start at the PGA Club Professional Championship two weeks ago at the Hershey Country Club, opening with a round of 70, which left him in a tie for 23rd-place.
But, unfortunately for Moe, a second-round score of 74 left him one-shot short of the cut and his dream of playing the final two rounds and being in the top-20 and booking his ticket to the PGA Championship in August disappeared.
Moe will now be back concentration on his teaching as well as getting ready for a run at the Champions Tour later this year.
On the teaching side, Moe, who’s involved with the Titleist Performance Institute, is offering juniors in the Valley a new development program – which is “more athletic training than pure golf instruction” – taking place at the Flower’s Golf Range of Sonoma, 18709 Arnold Drive, on Monday through Wednesday, July 25 to 27.
Junior golf summer clinics and lessons for boys and girls ages 6-to-14-years-old, conducted by resident golf-pro John D. Moore, continue on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at Flowers Golf Range of Sonoma, 18709 Arnold Drive.
To find out about the costs and times, to register or for more information, contact Moore at 217-4194 or email PetPGA@aol.com.