July 15, 2009

Turnberry: Tougher Than You Might Think

Turnberry never can seem to shake its reputation as a "resort course" but it may do just that this weekend.

Golf writer Dan Jenkins can't seem to heap enough scorn on the place whenever he writes about it, and recently called it "the least deserving Open course" in Twitter. In Golf Digest, he goes even further, saying "the resort course with the lighthouse and the island bird sanctuary in the background that offers photo-ops instead of the rigors of a major championship."

Perhaps Jenkins prefers the traditional rota of St. Andrews' Old Course, Royal St. George, Royal Birkdale and the like. Or maybe he like to see major tournaments settled on golfing penal colonies -- with the eye of Category-5 hurricane on top of the clubhouse.

"Silly old Turnberry seemed quaint the first time we all went there in '77, the year of the Watson-Nicklaus thing. It was OK and perfectly thrilling that Tom and Jack shot 4,000 under par. We thought it was strictly them.

"Then in '86 Turnberry began to be exposed despite the rain, wind and chill that prevailed most of the way. That's because Greg Norman shot a 63 in the second round with three bogeys and two three-putts. It was a round that could have been a 59 and should have been a 61. And this was a major?"

Or maybe it was a great performance by a great golfer. After all, Norman shares the course record of 63 at Augusta National with Nick Price. And you don't read where Mr. Jenkins has called Augusta National unworthy of hosting a major.

Two Weeks Ago, Turnberry's Open Setup Massacred Its Members

If Turnberry is a mere "resort course, " as Jenkins says, consider this: typically, a club hosting an Open Championship closes the venue to its membership for several weeks prior to the event. Two weeks ago, however, 150 of the folks who belong to Turnberry were allowed to play the Ailsa course where the Open will be held this weekend for a tournament of their own. The results were eye-opening.

They lost 480 balls in the tall and hatchet-worthy rough. Between 70 and 80 of the players were "no returns" -- menaing half the competitors quit before the tournament's end. As Peter Corrigan, "The Hacker" in London's Independent said, "that number represents a slaughter of epic proportions."

And, oh by the way: the member's played off of the shorter white tees, not the longer championship tees. If that's a resort course, then the seaside weather must always be very warm, because it is located downtown in the Ninth Circle of Hell.

This weekend, expect to see straight-forward links golf that rewards keeping the ball in play and punishes wayward shots. Do that well, and player can score well. That's the true nature of golf, after all, and if a given player can master his golf ball, he will master Turnberry.

“I don’t like to see courses tricked up at all.” said Turnberry’s greenskeeper George Brown in the New York Times recently.

“I think we’ve done a good job, but nobody wants to make the players look stupid," Brown added. "We want to give them a challenge. We don’t want it said that Turnberry is just a resort course. I think our previous winners have proved that it isn’t. They were all in their prime when they won, and hopefully we’ll have the same this year, and the cream will come to the top.”

Brown has a point, the previous winners at Turnberry-hosted Open Championships are Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Nick Price. Think you might like those three on your team in a Captain's Choice?

More seriously, all three are Hall of Fame players. Clearly, Turnberry has produced winners that didn't hoist the Claret Jug after appearing from nowhere. In fact, all three were the sport's number one ranked players when they won...which would seem to bode well for one Eldrick Tiger Woods, not to mention ABC's television ratings.

1 comment:

  1. you can always count on Dan Jenkins for a lame comment like that. When they played Hoylake - that was the worst Open course. When they played Royal St George - THAT was the worst.

    Dan needs to retire an work on his autobiography.

    Excellent work - I think this is going to be yet another exciting Open Championship.


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