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Today: The Houston Open is making some history this week, and it should have your attention.
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You can go back home again
This week, the PGA Tour plays the Houston Open in the city of Houston for the first time since the 1972.
The city-owned Memorial Park Golf Course will host the Masters tune-up, which will allow approximately 2,000 fans per day on site. While the fans are a change (relative to recent memory), the bigger change is in the host course. Memorial Park has undergone a tremendous renovation, done by architect Tom Doak and in collaboration with four-time major winner Brooks Koepka. The changes modernized the course with better drainage, improved bunkering, thinned-out trees and imagination-stirring angles.
The hope for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was that this investment would not only bring the PGA Tour event back inside the city limits but that it would be a boon for the city. Memorial Park saw some 60,000 rounds per year before the pandemic. Now with golf coming back into fashion, it could see even more. The investment has already been delivering for Houstonians.
I’m excited to city a municipal course host the PGA Tour in Texas. Torrey Pines is such a point of pride for the San Diego-area golf community, and we know how much New Yorkers love Bethpage Black. Now Houston can puff out their chest about Memorial Park.
The PGA Tour Champions is a great watch again: It’s easy for cynics to dismiss the 50-plus circuit as a working retirement for golfers of a bygone generation. To some extent, I supposed that’s accurate. The Champions play no-cut 54-hole events (for the most part), and there’s nothing really on the line except free money.
However, the Champions has become a really fun watch this year. With Phil Mickelson embracing the Tour, as well Ernie Els and Jim Furyk quickly establishing themselves as forces on the circuit, it’s right up my alley again. Darren Clarke won in Boca Raton, Fla., on Sunday for his first professional win since his one-and-only major victory at the 2011 Open. Compelling TV. Really!
Lockdown in England (again): British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-week lockdown starting Thursday, and golf courses are some of the venues that have been required to close as part. However, after a formal petition to Parliament attracted 250,000 signatures (and counting), it appears golf may get some kind of exemption from the November lockdown. Golf has proven a great way for people to get out and have some fun amid the pandemic, so it seems bizarre that it’s been lumped back in with other activities that are much more likely to spread COVID-19.
Hickory golf is back at Pinehurst: My GNN colleagues and friends Darin Bunch, Mitch Laurance and Brian Oar turned me onto hickory golf several years ago. Playing golf with clubs made a century ago (or modern replicas) is an absolute blast, and it really makes you appreciate the game’s challenge regardless of era. I haven’t gone and purchased a set, but whenever I can get my hands on a hickory, it’s fun to try. Now Pinehurst is embracing hickories as part of a new agreement with hickory replica designer Tad Moore, offering sets of his incredible handiwork to guests for rental to play Nos. 1 and 3, as well The Cradle short course.
You gotta check out…
Tom Doak on Memorial Park: Tom Doak is not shy in sharing his opinions, and he lets it fly with Andy Johnson in this podcast on his work at Memorial Park with Brooks Kopeka. It’s a great primer for this week.
Non-conforming clubs as a threat: For years, I have longed for bifurcation of the equipment rules of golf and scaling back technology for pros. Now, TaylorMade CEO David Abeles says such a rollback could trigger the company to release more advanced, non-conforming equipment for amateurs.
Bryson on hitting the 400-yard carry: If you find what Bryson DeChambeau is doing as fascinating (if not nauseating), then you should check out his account of how he got to the 400-yard carry threshold he recently posted on social media. Also, it might explain the rumor shared by Scott Fawcett of DECADE fame that Augusta National has repositioned a tree on the left side of the par-5 13th to scare off corner-carrying bombers.[/s2If]