Jun 16, 2014 | 06:36 am

Vietnam: Land Of Links

Every year about this time, American golfers rediscover an interest in links golf, that by-the-sea, with-the-wind, hit-different-shots kind of golf most of us see only during the British Open broadcast. Scotland, Ireland, and England are famous for their links courses, where historians believe the game began. But another country is taking pains to build links courses also open to the public—Vietnam. And its aspirations took a big jump with the recent opening of The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip on the south-central coast, about two hours southeast of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). It was designed by Greg Norman, who compares the land to what he had at Doonbeg in Ireland. “I firmly believe that Vietnam will become another links golf destination as more courses like The Bluffs are developed along the country’s coastline,” says Norman, who also designed the links-like Danang Golf Club in 2010. Pat Reilly, former president of the PGA of America, recently played The Bluffs and said it’s “Greg Norman’s best work. The use of the dunes and ocean is spectacular. When the clubhouse and driving range are completed, The Bluffs will be an experience that is the envy of all Asia."

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Jun 13, 2014 | 06:50 am

Open Secrets

While our attention is focused on North Carolina and the U.S. Open, there’s news to report from across the pond and the British Open. First, it appears that the rumors are true: Early next week, the R&A will announce that the 2019 Open Championship will be held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, for the first time since 1951. Second, among the contestants in this year’s Open, at Royal Liverpool, will be three-time champion Nick Faldo, who is also playing the week before in the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen and the week after in the Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl. As Sir Nick told the Daily Record, “I’m still curious about what I can do after having a few years out.” As part of his Open preparations, Faldo will continue a tradition—begun in 1987, when he won at Muirfield—of finding the best fish-and-chips shop (called a “chippie”) in whatever seaside town is hosting the Open. In fact, while being interviewed, he asked for a recommendation of where to eat in Aberdeen. “Tell me the best and I’ll be there,” he said, then writing down the reporter’s recommendation.

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Jun 12, 2014 | 08:04 am

Fading From First

The 2014 U.S. Open is now officially underway at Pinehurst No. 2 and a first round leader will soon be analyzed by experts everywhere. But being that guy (or guys) is not always a good thing. Only 20 first round leaders have gone on to win the national championship. Rory McIlroy (above) was the last to do it during his win in 2011 at Congressional Country Club. Phil Mickelson opened with the lead last year, but you know how that worked out. So did Brendon De Jonge (2010), Mike Weir (2009), Nick Dougherty (2007) and Colin Montgomerie (2006), among others, who all failed in their quest for a U.S. Open title. Here are some other first round facts from U.S. Open history to keep in mind today:

  • Largest Lead After First Round: 5 strokes (Tommy Armour, 1933)
  • Lowest First Round Score by Winner: 63 (Jack Nicklaus, Baltusrol, 1980)
  • Highest First Round Score by Winner (post WW II): 76 (Ben Hogan, Oakland Hills – 1951; Jack Fleck, Olympic Club – 1955)
  • Most Players Tied For First Round Lead: 7 (1977 – Southern Hills)
  • Most Sub-Par First Round Scores: 39 (1990 – Medinah)
  • Fewest Sub-Par Rounds by Field, First Round: 0 (1951 – Oakland Hills; 1958 – Southern Hills; 1974 – Winged Foot; 1986 – Shinnecock Hills)
  • Start-to-Finish Winners (no ties): 7 (Most recently Rory McIlroy, 2011)
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Jun 11, 2014 | 09:39 am

Billionaire Caddie

He may not be the biggest name in the U.S. Open field, but he certainly has the most interesting name—Maverick McNealy—a Stanford sophomore (with three brothers named Dakota, Colt, and Scout) who earned a spot through the sectional qualifier in Northern California. And no matter how well he does this week, Maverick won’t have to worry about how much to tip his caddie. Shouldering the bag is his father, Scott McNealy, the billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Maverick tees off at 8:46 tomorrow when one of his playing companions will be another name to reckon with—Smylie Kaufman.

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