Tag Archives: Rees Jones

Haig Point Regains High Ranking

Talk about coincidences. Ten days ago I played the 50th-ranked Haig Point Signature Course with the Top 50’s southern correspondent, Dave Henson, and just now I ran into the course’s designer, Rees Jones, at the Ryder Cup. Rees was surrounded by his usual security detail (Knights Templar with USGA handicaps of 3 or lower), but he always seems to have time for me. Anyway, I told him that Haig Point had recently jumped to No. 50 after languishing for some years in the lower 200s.

Rees Jones at 2012 Ryder Cup

Rees Jones and his bodyguards posed with a fan this afternoon at the Ryder Cup in Medinah, Ill. (John Garrity)

“So low?” he asked.

“Well,” I replied, “I had to deduct a hundred points for the hazards.”

He frowned. Rees apparently takes great pride in his sprawling bunkers, meandering marshes and laconic lagoons.

“No,” I said, “I mean the hazards to health. The last time I played Haig Point, I tore a rotator cuff.”

True story. A decade ago, while playing the Daufuskie Island gem with some other Sports Illustrated staffers, I shrieked and fell to my knees beside the fifteenth green. The other members of my foursome dove for cover, thinking that I had caught sniper fire. The truth was only a little less dramatic. I had started walking toward the green while pulling my putter out of a bag strapped to the cart, when — rippppp! — the putter grip caught between other clubs, practically yanking my arm out of its socket. The pain was so intense that I flopped around like a fish before missing a practically-gimmee thirty-footer for par. I managed to finish the round, but I didn’t play again until I had completed two months of rehab with wands, pulleys, and colorful elastic bands. To this day, I can’t reach for a restaurant check with my left arm.

“To add insult to injury,” I told Rees, “my boss, Jim Herre, promptly aced your seventeenth hole, the long par-3 over the marsh.”

“That’s quite a hole-in-one,” he said. “Jim can be proud of that one.”

Haig Point

The Haig Point Signature Course is still dangerous — but only to your score. (John Garrity)

Anyway, Henson and I found the current version of Haig Point to be far less dangerous than I remembered. The entire back nine, in fact, is about as memorable as any non-links course in the Top 50. The take-as-much-as-you-dare drive over water on the par-4 tenth sets the tone, and Jones keeps topping himself. The closing holes take full advantage of the marshes and narrow beach, making me think of 41st-ranked Whispering Pines — not because of inherent similarities, but simply because the holes are so charismatic.

So, by the authority vested in me by me, I rescind my hundred-point deduction and restore Haig Point to the Top 50. Congratulations, Rees, and thank you, Haig Point and former USGA exec Craig Smith, for the kind invite.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Ryder Cup will be pursued on the 51st-ranked Course 3 at Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Ill. It’s a Tom Bendelow design, updated in 2003 by — who else? — Rees Jones.

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Mickelson 77 Disappoints at Torrey

LA JOLLA, CALIF. — Phil Mickelson’s walk around 51st-ranked Torrey Pines South didn’t go so well this morning. He chunked a chip on one hole, failed to get up and down on several others, and generally F-gamed his way to a first-round 77. Phil’s a three-time winner of what we’re now calling the Farmers Insurance Open, but he hasn’t won here since the South got a total makeover by Rees Jones in preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open. Last year, Phil came close, finishing runner-up to Bubba Watson.*

* I’ve got my golf-writer hat on, as you can see. This is classic first-round reportage — i.e., obsessive attention paid to a star golfer who has blown himself out of the tournament before the dew is off the grass.

Phil Mickelson

Good form in Wednesday presser didn't help Mickelson in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open. (John Garrity)

Mickelson’s close call in 2011 was memorable for the way he played the 72nd hole. Needing eagle to force a playoff, Phil sent caddie Bones Mackay up to the green to pull the flag before he hit his wedge from 72 yards. The grandstand spectators and the television audience ate it up, but there were skeptics — Philistines, if you will — who rolled their eyes. “He’s good,” they muttered, “but he’s not that good.”**

** I haven’t lost my touch with that old golf-writer standby, the totally-made-up quote. I can get away with it because it’s transparently bogus. Phil’s “skeptics” obviously didn’t mutter those seven words in unison, unless they were seated together in a greenside skybox, chanting under the direction of a skeptics-conductor — which you rarely see.

Or is he? Asked at his Wednesday press conference*** if he had really thought he might hole that wedge shot, Mickelson replied that, yeah, he did, because he practices a lot. “I practice flying my wedges to a specific yardage three days a week,” Lefty said. I hit over 1,500 golf balls and try to fly it within a yard or hit a target, and, for the most part, I’m able to fly it within a yard 90 percent of the time.****

*** This is one of the perks of golf writing. You can draft off another reporter’s good questions, and you don’t even have to credit that reporter. Sweet!

****Another golf-writer blessing. I can meet my assigned word count by simply quoting golfers and their caddies, throwing in an occasional “he said” or “he recalled” to prove that I’m “writing.” I don’t even have to attend the press conference; transcripts are provided in the press room and on line. I just have to make sure that the transcript is accurate.

I once puzzled over a transcript of my own interview with baseball great George Brett, which said that he “planned to rent a Vada house.” Turned out he was planning to “renovate” a house.

“So the fact that it landed close to the hole,” Mickelson continued “– it was supposed to. I mean, I work at that. That’s what I practice.

Elaborating, Mickelson said,****** “About a dozen times a year, I hit the pin with a wedge, and I end up getter a worse result because of it. [Dave} Pelz wants me to have the pin removed on every wedge shot.” Mickelson said he doesn’t do that******* “because it just looks bad. But the fact is that I hit the pin a dozen times a year, and probably eleven out of those twelve, the ball ends up in a worse spot because of it.”

******My three words, entirely.

******* I paraphrased here. Mickelson actually said, “which I won’t do because it just looks bad.”

“So two things,” Mickelson said. “I wanted to give it [the wedge shot] two chances to get in — one, trying to fly it in, and two, trying to back it up into the hole. And it came close.” He shrugged.******** “It didn’t go in, so what does it matter? But it came close.”

******** In golf writing, a shrug doesn’t necessarily mean shoulders. We count lifted eyebrows, a dismissive wave — even a backward-twitch of the ears.

So that’s my Mickelson report from Torrey Pines. If time and inclination permit, I’ll run over to the locker room to see if he has anything to say about today’s awful round. Or maybe I won’t. He might bite my head off!

Gotta go now. I smell burgers.

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