Jul 18, 2013 | 09:06 AM

Muirfield Marches On

So much for the claim by some media wags that the changes made to Muirfield by third-generation architect and Open advance man Martin Hawtree were so extensive that the design of the links should be attributed to him, not H.S. Colt, who devised the clever double-loop routing in 1925 from an earlier plan by Old Tom Morris. Despite tweaks to 15 holes, notably the addition of eight new back tees, eight relocated or enlarged greenside bunkers, and several greens expanded to Colt’s original perimeters, the storied links, universally praised by the pros for its fairness, looks not much different from the place where Ernie Els captured the 2002 Open Championship. According to R & A chief executive Peter Dawson, a fund was created to bring the nine courses on the Open rota into the modern era. He said an average of about $800,000 had been spent on each course, adding that while “quite a few changes” were made at Muirfield, “they are very subtle.” Preservationists can rest easy: the game’s top players are navigating a classic links built by Colt and touched up by Hawtree.

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Jul 17, 2013 | 10:32 AM

Brewing Storm at Open

With Augusta National finally admitting female members, Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, which stages The Open Championship, had a tense 45-minute press conference today trying to defend not only the lack of women in his governing-body organization but the fact that there are no female members at this year’s host, Muirfield, along with two other clubs in the Open rota, Troon and Royal St. George’s. He called it “absurd” to compare a men’s-only (or women’s-only) club to one that discriminates based on race. Men like to socialize with men and women like to socialize with women and the media need to get a life, he said in so many words. You could practically see the sweat form on Dawson’s head when a female reporter asked, “Could you just explain to the 10 women in the room why racism is unacceptable and sexism clearly still is?”

“Well, I don't really think, to be honest, and we could sit here all day and debate this, but I don't really think that a golf club, which has a policy of being a place where like-minded men or, indeed, like-minded women, go and want to play golf together and do their thing together ranks up against some of these other forms of discrimination,” Dawson responded. “I really just don't think they're comparable, and I don't think they're damaging. And it's just kind of, for some people, a way of life that they rather like. I don't think in doing that they're intending to do others down or intending to do others any harm. It's just a way of life that some of these people like. And realistically, that's all it is. You can dress it up and be a lot more if you want, but on Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that's not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things. It's just what people kind of do.”

Clearly, private clubs can do whatever they like, but it becomes a bit of a sticky wicket when the club provides a public function, as they do when they host the Open. What are you thoughts on the subject?

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Jul 16, 2013 | 03:08 PM

Open Championship TV Times

Get comfortable, load up the refrigerator, and get some sleep now because while there will be 26 hours of live Open Championship coverage from Muirfield, it’s on live so it’s on very early. Here’s the schedule. And for opening-round tee times and pairings, go to the official Open website. Enjoy!

First round: Thursday, July 18. 4 a.m.-3 p.m., ESPN

Second round: Friday, July 19, 4 a.m.-3 p.m., ESPN

Third round: Saturday, July 20, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m., ESPN

Final round: Sunday, July 21, 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m., ESPN

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Jul 16, 2013 | 08:55 AM

Grudge Match

Tiger Woods bears grudges. Just ask the players (Stephen Ames, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Rory Sabbatini, Fuzzy Zoeller), pundits (Nick Faldo, Peter Kostis, Tom Watson), caddies (Fluff Cowan, Paul Tesori, Steve Williams), teachers (Butch Harmon, Hank Haney), writers (John Feinstein, Alex Micelli), magazines (GQ, Men’s Fitness, Vanity Fair), would-be business partners (Christensen Shipyards, Ltd., The Franklin Mint), and numberless nameless others. Publicly, he usually comes to terms (albeit frostily) with his tormenters, but the truth is, Tiger neither forgives nor forgets. This week, however, he has a score to settle with a pair of nemeses who couldn’t care less how he feels about them—Mother Nature and Muirfield. The last time Tiger took them on, in 2002, he held the Masters and U.S. Open titles and seemed en route to the Grand Slam. Instead he got grandly slammed, when in round three a ferocious squall blew in from the North Sea and wrought havoc with the entire second half of the draw. Double-teamed by the dynamic duo, Tiger blew to an 81, his worst score as a professional. He has not forgotten that humiliation, and we’re about to see whether he can get even. This year the course is playing firm and fast, and the forecast is for four warm, sunny days with little wind—the same conditions as prevailed at the Opens of 2000, 2005, and 2006, all three of them won by Woods.

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