We’re less than two weeks into 2020 and the golf world is already firing on all cylinders. Let’s jump right in.
In today’s newsletter…
- Cameron Smith steeles the Sony Open at a wet, windy Waialae.
- The PGA Tour drops Trinity Forest.
Wet and wild
It was a sleepy Sunday at the Sony Open, until it wasn’t. Wet and windy conditions meant not much drama for most of the day. Then, on the 72nd hole of the championship, chaos. Numerous incidents—including a squeegee delay, a lost-ball delay, and a line-of-sight relief delay—brought the tournament to a halt. In all, it took nearly 40 minutes for the final group to play the last hole. Cameron Smith birdied it, tying Brendan Steele for the lead, and beat Steele with a par in the playoff. The win is Smith’s second on the PGA Tour. Leaderboard
The big story around Smith wasn’t his play, though; it was his contributions to wildfire relief in Australia. He donated $500 per birdie this week, and we’d guess that a portion of his winner’s check will also go toward the cause. Fires have destroyed more than 18 million acres in Australia, and while Smith’s actions won’t stop the blaze, it’s refreshing to watch young players do some good in the world.
Adios, Trinity Forest
On Saturday, the Dallas Morning News reported that the PGA Tour had decided that the 2020 AT&T Byron Nelson would be the last one held at Trinity Forest Golf Club. A 2014 Coore & Crenshaw design, Trinity Forest is perhaps the most architecturally interesting modern venue on Tour. Sad to see it go, but not surprising. Reportedly, the local fan experience—from the drive to the parking to the lack of shade—wasn’t great. Attendance was down. It just goes to show how hard it is to find a course that meets all of the Tour’s logistical requirements and has compelling architecture.
Rumor has it that the Byron Nelson will eventually move to PGA Frisco, a pre-production Gil Hanse design at the new PGA of America headquarters. Intriguing if true.
Sony Open—other notes
- Brendan Steele seemed to have the Sony Open under control before he faltered on the 71st and 72nd holes. Nevertheless, the three-time Tour winner won’t be too devastated by a runner-up. Steele hadn’t recorded an individual top 10 since the 2018 Waste Management.
- Webb Simpson continued his remarkably consistent play with a solo third. Webb now has 19 top 10s since the start of 2018.
- First-round leader Collin Morikawa stumbled home on Sunday, bogeying three of his final four. It was a disappointing T-21 for the 22-year-old, but big things await.
South African Open
- Branden Grace shot a final-round 62 to win the South African Open by three shots this weekend. The South African dropped outside the top 120 in the world this winter.
- Louis Oosthuizen was runner-up in Johannesburg. King Louis has played well lately, quietly working his way to No. 18 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Australian Wade Ormsby completed a wire-to-wire victory at the Hong Kong Open. Open champion Shane Lowry, Tony Finau, and Jazz Janewattananond all finished in the top five. Leaderboard
In what’s becoming something of a tradition, high winds caused scores to balloon during the first round at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. Thirteen players have already shot 80 or above with dozens still to finish their rounds on Monday morning. Braden Thornberry and Andy Pope both wore microphones on Sunday. Highlights included Thornberry’s 7-iron from 96 yards and Pope’s 5-iron from 154. Leaderboard
The billionaires at Liberty National are trying to build three new holes on what is currently a public park and bird sanctuary. The reason? A few more photogenic vistas and a bit more infrastructural space to attract PGA Tour events to the $250-million facility. Full Story by The New York Times
The Latest from The Fried Egg
Gil Hanse to Develop Master Plans for the Olympic Club and Lake Merced – As The Fried Egg first reported, the Olympic Club and Lake Merced Golf Club, two historic courses on the San Francisco Peninsula, have hired Hanse Golf Course Design to prepare master plans for major renovations.
Shotgun Start: A “no fans” tipping point, Trinity Forest booted, and Charlie caught on camera
The new week begins with new grist for the “no fans” movement. An interminable end to the Sony Open that included balls rocketing off jumbotrons, generous grandstand drops from horrible hooks, and human richochets brings Brendan aboard Andy’s long-held position that there should be no fans at PGA Tour events. They comb through the circus-like finish at Waialae that included Ryan Palmer failing to hit a provisional, “Steeley” yanking one into the Bernie Zone, and a defiant squeegee crew holding up play on the 18th green. Cam Smith is given his just due as well and they ponder where he might go in what is still a nascent career. Andy also rants about Tommy Two Gloves, now known as the Solicitor General, is playing and leading the KFT event while dope offenders get months-long suspensions. Charl Schwartzel’s move to a “secret society” of golf ball owners is also critiqued. In news, they hit on the disgraceful decision to move the Byron Nelson out of Trinity Forest after this year and close with some thoughts on the creepy video of Charlie Woods’ swing. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America
LuLu Country Club (Glenside, Pennsylvania)
This semi-private Donald Ross design in the Philly suburbs is a gem. Built in the early years of Ross’s career, LuLu is packed with quirky and memorable holes: the par-3 3rd, which plays over a quarry to a volcano green, and the par-4 8th, which has a punchbowl green and numerous chocolate drops. In the past five years, LuLu’s ownership has launched a tree-removal effort, improving the course significantly. Best of all, LuLu currently has an affordable “member for a day” program. Get out there and take advantage of it while you still can. Full Profile of LuLu
Insider tip: A 30-minute drive west of LuLu is Jeffersonville Golf Club. Pair them together for a 36-hole day of affordable Ross. -Andy Johnson
Photo credit: Andy Johnson
Things were wet at Waialae Country Club this weekend. You know what they say, wet grips sink ships. Don’t let poor preparation ruin your $2 nassau. Grab one of our Fried Egg towels today!