Opinion & Analysis
They just don’t make characters like Ted Ray in golf anymore
Colorful personalities on the professional tours have become a very rare thing these days. Occasionally, characters like Seve and John Daly have come along and added a bit of personality to what can only be otherwise classed as the somewhat boring, stereotypical golfer profile. Today, Bryson DeChambeau with his Hogan hat and outlandishness is about as entertaining as it gets. It seems that the media has played a big role with golfers keeping their heads down. Showing a personality or having an opinion nearly always ends in trouble for the player. It seems that our forefathers in this game had much bigger personalities, and worried less about what the world thought of them.
One of the biggest and most colorful characters of the game was the Englishman Ted Ray. Born Edward Rivers Ray in 1877, Ted was one of several top players to come from the Isle of Jersey, off the coast of England. He followed his idol Harry Vardon into professional golf, and became one of the top players of his time over a 30-year period. He was probably best known for his role in the 1912 U.S. Open, playing with Harry Vardon in a playoff along with the historic winner Francis Ouimet. You may recall Ray portrayed in the Disney movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” In one of the scenes, he was depicted in a bar fulfilling a drunken bet to drive a ball through a telephone directory, which of course, he duly obliged.
Ray was a towering, stocky man who was known for his prodigious power off the tee (think John Daly). He had a philosophy reflected in the advice he once gave a golfer who wanted to hit the ball farther: “Hit it a bloody sight harder, mate!”
He favored an attacking style (think Phil), and had to develop phenomenal recovery skills to be able to compete (think Seve). He played with a pipe invariably clenched between his teeth, and usually wore a felt trilby hat, plus fours, waistcoat and flapping jacket, making him a good target for the cartoonists of the day. And he only had six clubs in his bag, including the driver and putter; so that only left four irons, his favorite of which was his niblick (his wedge). He developed a reputation for the ability to play a variety of niblick shots in a major tournament conditions, and his recoveries with that club from seemingly impossible places had to be seen to be believed.
This propensity for hard hitting made Ray prone to wild, often disastrous shots, since he also sometimes swayed and heaved noticeably. These faults aside, his game lasted well, mainly through his fine rhythm and recovery skills. He also possessed a delicate touch around the greens. Here is how Harry Vardon, in his book, “How to Play Golf”, describes Ray:
“Edward Ray is a man I like to watch on the Links. He defies so many accepted principles of the game; he is so very nearly a complete set of laws to himself. He sways appreciably and heaves at the ball. He is a master at recovering the right position at the moment of impact after having moved his head and body during the backward swing in a degree that would spell disaster to almost anyone else. He is the brilliant exception to the safe rule. As he brings his club down … his tremendous lunge brings your heart into your mouth lest he should miss the ball. You wonder where the ball will go in the event of such a catastrophe … (however) … at the psychological moment he has done everything correctly…”
He was unusual in that he was one of the first professional golfers who actually traveled extensively. He would go away for months at a time to America and travel across the country playing in exhibition matches, which were backed by wagers. He was adored by fans for his daring play, friendly, genial manner and optimistic spirit. And he had a good track record to back up his play. From 1908 to 1925, he was a powerful force in world golf, winning both The Open (1912 in Muirfield) and U.S. Open (1920 Inverness Club in Ohio).
There were giants in those days, and Ted was one of them.
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Opinion & Analysis
The Wedge Guy: Are you making the game too hard?
In earlier posts, I’ve put forth the notion that most of us are playing golf courses that are much, much tougher on us than the weekly PGA Tour courses are on those elite players. This game is supposed to be fun and reasonably fair, so please hear me out…it might change the way you think of the “forward tees.”
This topic was stimulated by a conversation our golf committee had this past week regarding the course setup for our fall member-guest tournament, punctuated by the “whining” we heard from the tour players as they challenged a very tough Oak Hill Country Club in the PGA Championship.
The “third nail” was a statistic I saw a day or two ago that in a recent PGA Tour season – for the entire season — Dustin Johnson only hit one approach shot on a par-4 hole with more than a 7-iron! Imagine that — going a whole season (or even nine holes) without hitting more than a 7-iron to a par-4 hole.
Now, back to the conversation in the golf committee meeting about having all players in the member-guest play our regular white tees. These are my tees of choice because at my distance profile, they present a variety of approach shot challenges. For perspective, I’ll share that at 71 years old, I still average about 245-250 off the tee, and a “stock” 7-iron shot is 145-148 (I still play the Hogan blades I designed in 2015, and that is a 33-degree club).
Of our three par-5s, one is an honest three-shot challenge, one is often reachable with a 4-wood or 3-iron if I choose to challenge the water bordering the green on the right, and the other one plays straight into the prevailing wind, so reaching it with a 4-wood is a rare occurrence. The par-3s present me with an 8-iron to wedge, two 6- or 7-iron shots, and a full 3-iron or 4-wood. Of the remaining 11 par four holes, I’ll typically hit four to five wedges, and run through the entire set of irons for the others.
Now, let’s contrast that with many of the guys I play with. From the forward gold tees, some of them are playing what effectively amounts to six to eight par 5s (three shots to get home) and a par 6, and they rarely get an approach shot with less than a 6- or 7-iron. So, respectful to their strength profiles, they are playing a course that is brutally longer than anything the PGA Tour players ever see.
Add to that the fact that most of us do not play courses with fairways anywhere near as consistent and smooth as those on the PGA Tour, so our typical lie is much different from the tour players. Our sand texture varies from hole to hole, as opposed to “PGA Tour sand” that these guys see week in and week out.
So, I’ll give you this thought and challenge about what tees you should play to make the game more interesting and still challenging. Think about the course you play most often and process it hole by hole from the green backward. Which tees should you play to give yourself the following challenges?
- At least one reachable par 5, and the others requiring no more than a wedge or 9-iron third shot.
- Par-3 approaches with one short iron or wedge, one long iron, hybrid or fairway wood, and two that present you with a 6- to 8-iron approach.
- Of the par 4s, an assortment that gives you several wedges and short iron approaches and no more than two that put a longer club than a 5-iron in your hands.
My bet is that almost all of you will find yourselves needing to move up at least one set of tees, if not two, in order to play the course like this. But wouldn’t golf be more fun if you had a reasonable chance to have a birdie putt on most holes if you hit two good shots? And if you weren’t wearing out your fairway woods and hybrids all the way around?
Just food for thought, so share yours…
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Opinion & Analysis
2023 Charles Schwab Betting Tips: Fan favorite ready to dominate at Colonial
It is doubtful that even the most optimistic golf fan could have envisaged the field at Colonial this week.
In an era where elevated events secure the very best players, the undecorated Charles Schwab Challenge sees the re-appearance of both runners-up at Oak Hill. Scottie Scheffler’s impressive last round push once again secured his place at the top of the rankings, whilst Viktor Hovland seeks to avenge an unfortunate 16th hole, where his dreams of a first major were dashed by one single shot.
Colonial favours no ‘type’ of player other than one that is currently strong with approach play and can take advantage of finding these small greens. In that regard, the old-fashioned ‘greens-in-regulation’ stat becomes more important than usual, offering better chances of putting – after all, finding the short stuff but three-putting from 65 feet means little compared to landing the ball 20-odd feet from the pin and making half of them.
With such a strong representation from the world’s top 20 players, it is tough to find any long-shots that might compete. In that regard, I’ll play it light (as I have at the Dutch Open) and just watch re-runs of the 16th at the PGA at the ad breaks.
Clear favourite Scottie Scheffler trumps the man I consider his biggest rival in Viktor Hovland in a few ways. The 26-year-old was far less bothered about his second place last week, having re-ignited after a poor third round, and has last year’s runner-up finish to boost his chance. That he should have beaten Sam Burns is neither here nor there considering his two wins and numerous placings since, and he comes here leading the 12-week stats for greens and in a top five position for putting average. At 4/1 though, he is very hard to be with.
Hovland may well suffer a post-major hangover whilst all my Spieth bullets are lined up for Royal Liverpool in July, leaving our Mexico Open hero, Tony Finau, to take the main stage.
After four wins in 44 starts, the affable 33-year-old has long since shred his reputation of ‘not doing it’ with the start of his winning streak being at the 2021 Northern Trust where he beat Cam Smith in a play-off with Rahm in third, and a host of major contenders further behind. Flying finishes then saw the 33-year-old finish runner-up to Rahm here, and to Rory McIlroy in Canada, before beating lesser field by three shots at the 3M, Patrick Cantlay et al by five at the Rocket Mortgage and a Houston Open field containing Sheffler and Sam Burns by an easy four strokes last November.
It was hard to be too disapointed with 2023 after nine consective cuts, including top 10 finishes at Kapalua and Torrey Pines, and his victory over the then world number one, Jon Rahm, in Mexico was richly deserved.
For the eighth time this year, Finau ranked top-15 for tee-to-green, all off solid iron play, and I’ll ignore his last two being that he’s never taken to Quail Hollow and the finish just outside the top-20 is perfectly acceptable, while he never figured at Oak Hill, compiling some of his worst figures for a while.
In this week’s field he is top-10 for all of ball-striking, approaches and tee-to-green, whilst he brings vital course form to the table with seven cuts that include a runner-up in 2019 and fourth last season. Comp form is good, with four improving top-25s at a similar track in River Highlands, whilst his Texas form works out nicely with an easy win at the Houston Open.
For his last six appearances Big Tone averages just about fifth for off-the-tee, has three outings of 16th or better for iron play and averages better than 20th for tee-to-green.
Having been well away from the pressures of last week, Finau can make it a nap hand of wins inside 50 outings.
Respect to the likes of Sungjae Im and Russell Henley, but they plod rather than kick-on in contention, and I’m not sure that will work with such a top end. Instead I’ll take a chance with Brian Harman, a player for whom we can rule out half the events in a season and jump on when conditions are right.
Now 36, it’s easy to forget what the Sea Island resident does on the course, but the last two seasons have been impressive enough to have him well inside the top-50, and assurances of playing in all four majors.
2022 saw the diminutive former US Amateur run up two second place finishes at Mayakoba and Hilton Head, a track facing similar conditions to this week’s. To bolster his claims he finished third at the American Express and the higher-class St.Jude, confirming his top-10s at the Valspar, Wells Fargo, Travelers and The Open to be no fluke.
Of that lot, Copperhead links us nicely to Sam Burns, back-to-back winner of the Valspar and defending champ this week, whilst his eighth place at River Highlands was the lefty’s fifth top-10 in his last eight outings around the Connecticut track.
Harman tends to repeat form at tracks, so note his streak of cuts here from 2014 to 2021, and his three top-10 finishes. As for his miss last year, he fought back from an opening 77 to record 11 shots better in his second round.
The missed cuts at Quail and Oak Hill were by no means horrendous, if probably expected, and concentrate on the positive figures he records from being accurate. Harman finds something here, and could easily repeat his effort at Harbour Town in April when landing his first top-10 of the season.
Finally, have a shekel or two on Carson Young, a steadily progressive 28-year-old that has worked his way through the ranks via wins on the South America and Korn Ferry tours.
Now settling down after a rough start to his rookie year, he led the Honda Classic after the first round, and followed a week later leading the Puerto Rico Open until halfway, eventually finishing in third.
Results have been mixed but his last six efforts have seen missed cuts followed by top-20s at the Heritage, Mexico and Byron Nelson, all performances that have seen him in the top echelons for accuracy and green-finding.
This may be a tough ask on debut, but he’s coming off Tuesday’s impressive five-shot victory at US Open qualifying in Dallas, making nine 3’s in a row and thrashing the likes of Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, making the prices for top-10 and top-20 very attractive.
- Tony Finau – WIN
- Brian Harman – WIN/T5
- Carson Young – WIN/T5
- Carson Young – Top-20
Opinion & Analysis
The best bets for the 2023 KLM Dutch Open
It could have been an awful lot worse.
After a thrilling PGA Championship, we could have expected the quality threshold to drop a fair bit on both sides of the pond. Instead, at Colonial, we will be treated to the sight of the new world number one Scottie Scheffler; the man who maybe should have won his first major last week, Viktor Hovland; local hero Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau. That’s not to mention the rest of the world’s top-20.
The KLM Dutch Open can’t boast such a field, but the very top of the market contains the defending champion, Victor Perez, an excellent 12th at Oak Hill, and equally in-form Adrian Meronk, winner in Italy two starts ago and 40th last week in his second consectutive US major.
Once a highlight of the European Tour – think Seve, Langer, Monty, Miguel and Westwood – we have now lost the much-loved tight tracks that called for guile, replaced by Bernardus Golf, a newish, not-quite-formed, not links-not-parkland, course and a field, the like of which we see every single week.
In the end, does it matter? The job is to identify the winner, and even though the last two winners have done the job in contrasting styles, there are some very obvious clues about the top of the board at both the 2022 and ’23 runnings.
Inaugural Bernardus champ, Kristoffer Broberg, came into the event off some slight promise. After long-term loss of form and injury, he snuck into notice at the Scandinavian Mixed, but it was the tournament after his emotional victory that catches the eye.
The Swede has only one other top-10 finish in over 30 outings since winning here, that coming at the Alfred Dunhill Links, where he shared a ninth place with Matti Schmid, the German he beat into second place in the Netherlands.
Fast-forward a year, and the defending champion, Perez, has his most notable victory at the 2019 Links, whilst his defeated play-off rival Ryan Fox also won at the same pro-am three years later.
The link (sorry) is very clear. Bernardus continues the theme adopted by designer Kyle Phillips. Responsible for the likes of Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links (home of the Scottish Open 2017), Yas Links (current host of the Abu Dhabi Championship) and the former home of this event, Hilversumsche Golf Club, it’s a surprise he did not have a hand in Rinkven Golf Club in Belgium, where Fox, Meronk and Marcel Schneider – all within two shots of Perez around here – finished in second, sixth and seventh at the Soudal Open a year previous.
Last season, Fox showed that coming off the PGA was not much of a hardship, but despite the nagging feeling that 6/1 coupled is actually a bit of value, I’ll just about ignore the jollies with the other side of the brain thinking this comes too quickly.
Others to catch the eye across the two events include Aaron Cockerill, Thomas’s Detry and Pieters, and my favourite of all for the week, Alexander Bjork, for whom a victory is very much overdue.
The Swede catches in the eye in more ways than just his 2023 form, but that has plenty to recommend him.
Bjork’s runner-up at Al Hamra in April saw him just in front of Meronk, with earlier Ras champion Fox a couple of shots ahead of Marcus Helligkilde (prominent for three rounds of the Dutch Open in 2021), Perez and Matt Jordan, a frustrating player but with a top five finish at the Links.
That was to be the third of nine successive cuts that include top five finishes in Italy (winner – Meronk – top 10 finish for Perez) and in Belgium, where on each occasion he put up some of the best stats in the field for irons and putting.
After ticking that off, look at his sixth place finish at what might as well be called Broberg’s Scandi Mixed, tied-third at the 2022 Hero Open – won by 2022 Soudal Open champion Sam Horsfield – and his seventh place here last season, when never out of the top 10.
The figures may prompt a negative comment about distance off the tee, but he has plenty of form in the desert (20/28 at Yas Links) where second shot control is more important, as well as in Himmerland, where iron players dominated. Find anything else? nah, me neither.
After a tough week, it was tempting to leave Bjork as a one-and-done but the designer-led theme leads me to Shubhankar Sharma, a player that would look to suit the old-style Dutch Open but improved from a debut 27th here to 14th last season, the best effort coming after three consecutive missed-cuts.
Best efforts over the years are all on the tighter, tree-lined courses of Malaysia, Joburg and Wentworth, but amongst those are a further two outings at a Phillips course – runner-up and seventh in Abu Dhabi – the former when a shot behind Pieters (two top 10 finishes here) and tied with Rafa Cabrera-Bello, winner of the 2017 Scottish Open.
Recent results appear worse than they are, lying inside the top-25 at halfway in Korea and 18th after round one of the Soudal in Belgium.
Scott Jamieson was tempting after a solid run of results and past results in the desert, but, for the last pick, I’ll row in again on still-progressive Clement Sordet.
The 30-year-old Frenchman went into the Soudal Open a popular fancy after a pair of top-10 finishes in Korea and Italy, but blew his chance with an opening 77 before rallying with a second-round six-under 65. That effort confirmed he was still striking the ball well and continued his top-20 figures for approaches and tee-to-green.
With the added advantage of length, Sordet very much reminds me of the likes of Meronk, and it may be that he just needs that slice of luck to get over the line in this company.
It appears that punters are asked to forgive quite a lot when looking away from the top of the market, and whilst the likes Helligkilde, Pepperrell, Mansell et al will understandably have their fans, I’ll keep it very light this week.
- Alexander Bjork
- Shubhankar Sharma
- Clement Sordet
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Mar 9, 2017 at 7:29 am
As several have pointed out already, Ray & Vardon lost to Ouimet in the 1913 US Open at The Country Club Brookline not 1912.
There is a book coming out later this year entitled “Ted Ray – The Forgotten Golfer” which chronicles his life and his achievements. But for Vardon, Braid and Taylor those achievements would have been far more. But with two majors to his name he has still been overlooked for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Jun 7, 2016 at 10:57 am
Swinging a golf club in a wool coat. Wow. I’d like to see today’s players try that and see what it would do to their swings. They’d figure it out, of course, but their swings would look nowhere near the same!
Jun 6, 2016 at 9:37 am
I seriously doubt that there aren’t any big personalities out on tour but in an era of overly sensitive corporate sponsors and political correctness, we won’t see someone like that for a long time.
Double Mocha Man
Jun 3, 2016 at 10:15 pm
I have never seen an entry on GolfWRX that had zero “shanks”.
Jun 3, 2016 at 4:23 pm
Great article . Would like to see more of these.
Jun 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm
1912 US Open-Country Club of Buffalo…now known as Grover Cleveland golf course. John J. McDermott was champion. Walter Hagen played a practice round, but was sent back to the country club of Rochester after he beat the head pro and all the other from Rochester.
Seve Ballesteros a character? Not the first one that would have come to mind for me.
Jun 7, 2016 at 10:06 pm
Ronald, you are most correct. The author got the year wrong. He was referring to the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club, not the 1912 U.S. Open. Editors and “flapping jackets” are rare these days. It was, however, an interesting and enjoyable article. Thank you, Mark.
Jun 2, 2016 at 5:43 pm
Just today during our round we were talking about how all the great players have different swings but their impact positions are pretty much the same. This is another amazing proof of that, everything just simply comes together for that one millisecond and that’s all that matters.
Jun 2, 2016 at 3:12 pm
Great read – thanks!!
Jun 2, 2016 at 12:53 pm
Thanks – great read and nice footage.
Jun 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm
thanks, that was a fun read.
Jun 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm
A young Bobby Jones watched Ted Ray hit an impossibly high recovery shot over a tree. He remembered that shot as one of the best that he ever saw.
We can say that John Daly followed in Ted Ray’s footsteps.
Jun 2, 2016 at 11:40 am
Awesome article…love historical nuggets like this…
Keep them coming.
Jun 2, 2016 at 11:28 am
terrible swing. boring guy.
Jun 2, 2016 at 11:52 am