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The day we made Phil Mickelson cry

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There used to be a junior event in Southern California called The MacGregor Cup Matches. It pitted the best players from all the chapters, and almost 30 years ago there was a clash of the titans. A virtual “Celebrity Death Match” of golf.

It was Phil Mickelson and Harry Rudolph (another great junior player from San Diego who had a similar success on the Web.com Tour that I did) against Bob May (for those who don’t remember, he had a great struggle with Tiger at the 2000 PGA) and door No. 4: namely me.

We were teenagers. I was the oldest, but the least accomplished of the four, which was not a disgrace as these were three of the greatest players in the history of junior golf in Southern California. I will just say, Phil was acting like a punk and it started on the very first tee.

“Harry, you don’t even have to play, I can beat these guys by myself,” he said.

That sounds like a playful boast among competitors, but it was obvious to the three of us, it was not — and that “‘tude” continued without relent. By the third or forth hole it was so bad, even Harry was becoming annoyed. We then began discussing a subject that was not golf related.

I won’t reveal the subject matter, but let’s just say it was something that is at the forefront of the minds of teenage boys and this time, Phil was the least accomplished. OK, fine, it was teenage girls and Phil was a bit of a dork at the time and not likely to be suave with the ladies.

Trying to fit into the discussion, Phil made — how do I put this? — a faux pas. Well, the three of us sensed weakness and jumped on him without remorse and it continued through the turn. By this time, Phil was walking down opposite side the fairway by himself and was crying.

The funniest part was that he was still lighting it up on the scorecard, and despite some exceptional play from Mr. May and myself, we lost.

I did not see Phil after that for about six or seven seven years.

The question begs:

“Monte, why are you telling this story about Phil? Are you trying to make yourself look cool that you had the upper hand on one of the all time greats because you had a little more experience with teenage girls.”

No, that is not why. At best it could be said I was just as afraid of girls as he was at the time, but I was just a little funnier and drove a fancier car. I tell this story because I am a huge fan of Phil and have been ever since he has been on Tour and this story is at the heart of why.

A few years ago, athletes of several sports were polled about which athlete in their own sport is the biggest jerk and most hated by his peers. To no one’s surprise, Terrell Owens topped the list. It surprised many that Phil was also on the list — the only golfer who made it. He has a nickname on the PGA Tour among many players and caddies who don’t care for him, FIGJAM, which stands for “(Expletive) I’m Good, Just Ask Me,” and I don’t get the animus.

Now back to my experience. Throughout the 90s, I lived at PGA West in La Quinta, where some famous rounds of the Bob Hope were played. One year I was hitting balls on the range because I was getting a sponsor exemption into the Bob Hope (it was later given to Mac O’Grady before the tournament started, but that is a story for another time) and here comes Phil walking right toward me. He was the new star on Tour and the darling of all the fans.

“Monte, how are you?” he asked.

“Good Phil, thanks,” I said.

“Congratulations on winning the long drive championship, how’s the rest of your game doing? Hoping to see you out here soon,” Phil said.

“Thank you, I am hoping to be out here soon too,” I said. “Um, Phil, forgive me for saying so, but I am surprised you are talking to me, since the last time I saw you, Bobby, Harry and I weren’t very nice to you.”

“Nah, I was being a punk and I deserved it, good luck this week,” he said.

I saw him a few more times after that and he went out of his way to say hello and encourage my progress to join him on the Tour. It is the opinion of this golfer that Phil is a class act and many of his peers don’t like him because he does what he wants and doesn’t care what other people think. The number of fans that love and root for him is second only to Tiger.

He is always there for the media, the autograph seekers and pro-am partners. The same cannot be said for many of the other Tour stars. Even though I was a player myself, I am still a fan of golf. And I put Phil’s first major victory at Augusta as one of favorite golf moment as a fan.

It was a long time coming, and for all he has done and continues to do for golf, he deserves it.

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Monte Scheinblum is a former World Long Drive Champion and Web.com Tour player. For more insights and details on this article, as well as further instruction from Monte go to rebelliongolf.com

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Patrick Wells

    Jun 13, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Awesome article! I hope he wins it. Plus I think he figured out the girl thing….Amy is a babe!!!

  2. Princeton_tn

    May 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    This was a great read, for those that know Phil, his Brother and Sister, the entire family is first class. We all have a bad day now and then and you hope your bad day isn’t a day that makes first impressions. Phil is long a fan favorite, for a reason, there are not many that stay out signing autographs for the kids and adults for an hour after a round. He does, never says No, and his encouragement of others on tour is unsurpassed. He like the rest of us, can make people feel small especially when they deserve it. Sometimes with nicknames like FIGJAM you must first consider the source.

    Thanks for sharing Monte, great story, even better read!!!

    All the Best…

    Princeton

  3. Blanco

    May 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Can’t stand the JAM.

    Best article ever.

  4. Shawn

    May 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Great Story Monte! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Nora Grove

    May 30, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Phil Mickelson has been playing golf from his childhood. He is a classical player. He has many achievement in this side. I like him so much.

  6. Pingback: My latest GolfWrx story | Monte Scheinblum's Blog

  7. Joe

    May 29, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Wow, This story is an attention grabber, who are you? Phil cried when he was a boy, I bet you still cry yourself to sleep…

    • Jetski

      May 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      Joe, is English your first language? Do you actually understand the point of the story? Did you make it all the way to the end? One day the internet is going to destroy itself through the weight of the inane stupidity dumped on it by the likes of you.

  8. Servost

    May 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Ive never heard that Phil was unliked on tour.

  9. Steve

    May 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Nice story. I had heard all that negative stuff about Phil as well. I tended to believe it until I met him one day. He was hanging out at a pool in San Diego. He must have been there for a couple of hours. He would throw a ball to his kids (perfect spirals right handed) and chatted with strangers who approached him. He seemed like a great guy.

    • MtnGgolfer1

      Jun 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      I am sure there are countless stories out there about how good of a guy Phil Mickelson is. He is deservingly so a fan favorite.

      I will go way back over a dozen years ago I can’t even remember the year. It was at the old International PGA event in Castle Pines, CO. The tournament was played at the Castle Pines Golf Club. The adjacent course is the Country Club course. I was still single at the time and every year at tournament time I spent every spare minute I had either watching or playing golf in Castel Pines Village. I had played an afternoon round with family members on the Country Club course and after the round we were having dinner in the club house and I caught word Phil Mickelson was on the putting green. ( I was and I still am a huge Phil fan) I excused myself from the table and went out to the green. Of course grabbing my putter from my bag on the way to the green. Phil was doing his famous putting drill where he putts from around the hole. I did my best not to be a distraction, members for the most part left the tour players alone but, every now and then someone walked up to say hello. I just watched and putted around trying to putt like Phil without much success though. After about an hour Phil walked over to me and asked what I thought of the milk shakes I was like huh what? He chuckled, asked my name and said let me see you roll a few. I putted a few and he gave me a couple quick pointers. Phil then excused himself said it was nice to meet you calling me by name and went on his way.

      My interaction with Phil was only a few minutes but, I still cherish it today. I noticed how he always smiled and never seemed annoyed no matter how many people interrupted his routine. I followed Phil without fail every year of the tournament and not once did I ever see him deny a autograph or sign without a smile. I admire his confidence, but I also admire how humble he is with his fan base. The chocolate Milk Shakes at CP are awesome BTW.

  10. naflack

    May 29, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Great story! Thank you for sharing it.

  11. JMD

    May 29, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Phil has consistently proven for over 20 years to be the CLASS Act ON AND OFF THE COURSE!!I’m tired of the bringing up of the “poll of biggest jerks” story of other sports stars who obviously were jealous of Phil and never were revealed. A story that grew wings at the time an IMO was a bunch of BS, but hey that is the press for you.

  12. Sean

    May 29, 2013 at 8:10 am

    ps: what also impressed me was that Phil was still able to play good golf even though we was upset with teenage shall we say angst?…as a teenager that’s not always easy to do. 🙂

  13. Sean

    May 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I enjoyed that story Monte. Thanks!

  14. greg

    May 29, 2013 at 6:25 am

    well, i guess if we ever hear figjam shouted out on tv at the tee box after phil’s tee shot, we know your a wrx’r

  15. Chris

    May 29, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Nice story Monte. You both turned out well!

  16. Long Drive Sheriff

    May 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Monte, you won the 1992 National Long Drive Championship. It was not called the World Long Drive Championship until the late 90’s

    • Monte Scheinblum

      May 29, 2013 at 12:24 am

      Good grief. I just had this discussion with Brian Pavlet. It’s the same contest, people know what the Remax World championship is, it’s just easier rather than explain what you are forcing me to explain now.

      Just like saying a web.com event instead of Nike or Ben Hogan event. Most people don’t know what a Hogan Tour event is.

      Did it make you happy to be the sheriff?

      • Long Drive Sheriff

        May 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        It’s not the same contest. It was called the National Long Drive Championship because the qualifiers were all held nationally. There was no international participation or qualifying participation from Europe, South Africa, Australia, Japan, etc etc etc at that event. I’ve never heard Big Cat say he is a 2 Time WORLD Long Drive Champion.

        • Snake Ize

          May 30, 2013 at 2:57 am

          It’s OK Monte…..LDS is likely jealous of your “World” Long Drive titles because he can’t get it past the ladies tees! It’s also likely that it was LDS who called CBS to rat out Tiger on his illegal drop at The Masters! Go figure!

  17. memphisunited

    May 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Monte – Great story and insight on Phil. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Reid

    May 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Super write up!

  19. G

    May 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    So, Monte, are you apologizing, is that it? Why not just say that you’re very sorry for not knowing how to not be a jerk. :-p

    • Monte Scheinblum

      May 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Show me a teenage boy who knows how to not be a jerk…lol

    • R?K.Laury

      May 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      I have always found Phil Michelson to be great with the fans and always stays around to sign autographs. He sm a good father and husband and is not afraid to poke a little fun at himself. In my mind, he has proven himself as a great champion, especially in light of arthritis, a wife who suffered cancer and a difficult childbirth, never using any of those things as excuses. Dial in his last Masters win and look at the love between him and his wife after the victory. Truly a classy human being if I ever saw one.

  20. Mat

    May 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

    FIGJAM!

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Courses

Open Championship courses you can play (and when the best time to book is)

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The final major of 2024 is nearly here as the top golfers head to Scotland’s southwestern coast to battle for the claret jug at Royal Troon. Golf’s original major dates all the way back to 1860 and has been played at 14 different courses throughout the United Kingdom (yes, this includes Northern Ireland) providing countless memories including celebrations, heartbreak, and unique moments that will never be forgotten (looking at you Jordan Spieth).

With The Open teeing off less than a week from now, we wanted to highlight some of The Open Championship’s finest links courses that should play when you make the journey to golf’s homeland:

Old Course at St. Andrews 

Do we even need to say anything else? The “Home of Golf”, host of 30 Open Championships, the most coveted tee time in the WORLD, there are a million reasons to have St. Andrews on your links golf bucket list. From the double greens, to the tee shot over the Old Course Hotel, to the walk up 18th fairway with the town buildings framing a picturesque scene (especially at dusk), every golfer should make the voyage to St Andrews at least once in their life.

Carnoustie 

Carnoustie – Championship Course

Roughly 25 miles north of St. Andrews lies the devious links of Carnoustie, often recognized by the large white Carnoustie Golf Hotel as the backdrop of the 18th green. While the course has only hosted The Open 8 times, it is considered to be one of the hardest layouts in The Open rota (just ask Jean Van de Velde) although not that long, playing just under 7000 yards from the tips. 

Muirfield 

Located right next to this week’s host of Scottish Open (The Renaissance Club), this fantastic links layout has hosted the prestigious Championship 16 times since 1892. The narrow fairways and penal rough requires precise shots off the tee while avoiding the devious pot bunkers is a must. The course is set away from the coastline so you won’t get the sweeping ocean views, but a round at Muirfield is one the premier tee times in all of Scotland (so make sure you book early – 12-18 months at least).

Royal Portrush 

A view of the new 572 yards par 5, seventh hole designed by Martin Ebert on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host club for the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. © 2018 Rob Durston

Our next stop brings us across the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the popular Royal Portrush. Having hosted The Open only twice in its illustrious history, Royal Portrush is a golfer’s dream with 36 holes of pure links golf set against a gorgeous backdrop of the ocean and cliffs. The Open Championship will return to Portrush in 2025 and YOU CAN BE THERE to watch it all in person! 

Royal Troon 

TROON – JULY 26: General view of the ‘Postage Stamp’ par 3, 8th hole taken during a photoshoot held on July 26, 2003 at the Royal Troon Golf Club, venue for the 2004 Open Championships, in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The host of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Troon is home to one of the best par-3 holes in all of golf, “The Postage Stamp.” A downhill 125-yard tee shot to a minuscule green surrounded by bunkers on all sides makes it one of the more challenging holes. Another hole that adds to the challenge is the 601-yard par 5 that used to be the longest golf hole in Open Championship history. This year will be the 10th Open Championship held at Royal Troon, the first since 2016 when Mickelson and Stenson had a battle for the ages in the final round.

Royal Birkdale 

For the next course on the list, we have to head down to the northwest coast of England just outside of Liverpool. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 courses in all the UK, this 10-time host of The Open has hosted many other prestigious events such as Ryder Cups, Women’s Opens, and more! The course is laid out with fairways running through flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by high dunes which provide many blind shots throughout the course. The Open returns to Royal Birkdale in 2026 so it won’t be long before it is back in the spotlight.

Royal St. George’s 

For the final course on our list, we are staying in England, but heading across to the southeastern side of the country to Kent. Royal St. George’s is 4th on the list of most Open Championships hosted with 15 (1 behind Muirfield) the most recent being Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021. RSG is the only active course on The Open rota in this part of the UK, but two former hosts (Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports) are within 3 miles of the property. The expansive course is laid out with holes separated by dunes with heavy rough, undulating fairways, and deep pot bunkers to challenge your game. While it may not be mentioned in the discussions of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and the like, Royal St. George’s is still a Championship layout that is worth the trip across the pond.


With these big-name courses in such high demand, it is important to note that if you want to play them, you need to start planning your trip early. Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, the world’s #1 rated golf tour operator, suggests planning and booking your trip at least 12-18 months in advance in order to secure a tee time at the courses you want. The UK & Ireland specialists at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have the knowledge to help tailor the perfect golf trip for your group so you can play big-name courses and hidden gems you might not have heard of. If you’re ready to start planning your bucket list trip across the pond, make life easier and go with Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission.

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Courses

Ryder Cup 2025: Crossing to Bethpage – New York State Park golf, Part 1

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The 2025 Ryder Cup matches will be held over the sprawling, bruising, Long Island acreage known as Bethpage Black State Park Golf Course. The course has hosted multiple national championships, most recently the 2019 PGA Championship. In September 2025, Bethpage Black will welcome teams from the USA and Europe to contest the 45th Ryder Cup matches. Team Europe, the defending champions, will be led again by captain Luke Donald. The U.S. PGA has not yet announced the name of its leader, yet all sources and speculations point to a 15-time major champion and an eight-time participant in the biennial event.

Bethpage Black will join Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester (1995) as the second Empire State course to host the event. The Ryder Cup matches were played in the metropolitan New York area once before, in 1935 at the Ridgewood Club, in Paramus, New Jersey. It’s fair to say that metro NYC is due to host this world-stage, golf event. I can’t wait. The USA’s loss to Europe in 2023 adds to the considerable drama.

What makes Bethpage Black an outlier in the world of championship golf, is its mere existence. It’s a state park golf course, one of five on property, each with a colorful name. The Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow join big brother Black as outstanding tests of golf in Farmingdale. Of the five, only the Green was not originally built as a state course. The Lenox Hills Country Club, designed by Devereux Emmet, opened in 1923. By 1932, the club had closed and the land had become property of the state. Its birth date made the Green the oldest of the five courses. New York State began to build on a series of adjacent parcels, guided by the hands of Alber “A.W.” Tillinghast, Joseph Burbeck, and Alfred Tull. The Yellow course, built entirely by Tull, was the last of the five to open.

State park courses just don’t hold major championships. Private clubs and elite resorts are the typical sites that receive the nod from the world’s golf bodies. It’s a testament to the lovers of Bethpage, the New York state government, and the PGA of America (among others) that Bethpage is as good as it is, and that it continues to improve. It’s a fitting site for the 2025 Ryder Cup matches, but the 2025 Ryder Cup matches need a beginning to their story. I’ll do my best to provide it.

The quintet of courses near Bethpage, New York, is just the beginning of the New York state park golf course system. 19 parks in total offer golf from the tip of Long Island, to the shores of Lake Ontario, through the Catskill mountains, to my home town. I’m a Western New York guy. The Buffalo area has been my home for most of my 58 years on the golf ball known as Earth. I live two miles from the westernmost, state park golf course: Beaver Island. The Beav, as everyone calls it, was designed by William Harries. It opened the year I was born, which means that it is close to 60 years old! Unlike the Bethpage property, where topography is king, the Beav is a flat course, albeit full of enough interest to bring you back for more.

As I considered the magnitude of the state park system, I realized that golfers who frequent those 19 state parks can point to their home course and say, “You know, the Ryder Cup will be at a state park course next year.” I started to count on my fingers, the number of state park courses I had played: Beaver Island, Green Lakes (Syracuse), James Baird (Poughkeepsie), and the five at Bethpage, I realized that I had played eight of the 23 total courses, and had visited a mere four of the 19 parks.

Bethpage is the only, multi-course state park across the Empire State. Other venues range from pitch-and-putt, to nine-hole, to regulation 18-hole courses. The majority occupy nice tracts of land, and feature 18 holes of memorable, enjoyable golf. PGA Tour professionals Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert grew up on one of those courses, and Dottie Pepper spent a bit of time on another, near her hometown.

There will be many stories that trace the path to Bethpage and its 2025 Ryder Cup, and I look forward to reading and hearing them. This one is my own, and I’m proud (and a little frightened) to undertake it. I’ll visit each of the remaining parks over the next 16 months, and report in with images and words that tell the story of each park and its golf course.

The Ones I’ve Played

The Bethpage Five

As mentioned above, I’ve played eight of the 23 courses, but the majority of that number is owed to a 2011 pilgrimage to Long Island. The Black had just hosted its second US Open championship, and the ink for the 2019 PGA Championship was not yet printed. I spoke with a Bethpage caddy, in anticipation of the trek. I wrote a series of articles on the courses on my own site, BuffaloGolfer. Down the road of this, current series, I’ll discuss the most poignant piece that I connected with Bethpage. That’s a story for another time. After all, Bethpage is a five-course meal.

It’s safe to say the the Bethpage property is unlike any other, municipal, golfing space in the world (at least, those not named the Links Trust of St. Andrews!) The park encompasses nearly 1500 acres of wooded land and offers much beyond golf to its visitors. As pilgrimages go, Bethpage is it. For a New York state resident, on a weekend, it would cost a total of $257 dollars … to play all five courses. Even for those outside the state, the trip to Bethpage is worth consideration. Each course rambles over uneven, heaving land. Holes carry along falloffs and bend unexpectedly around corners. Greens are benched into hillsides and settled into valleys. All five courses remind you of the others, yet none of them says to you “You’ve played this course before.”

James Baird State Park 

One of the hats that I wear, is high school golf coach. Each spring, golfers from my team travel to Poughkeepsie to play the James Baird State Park golf course. Pronounced “Bard,” the course was opened in 1948, after a middle-aged, Robert Trent Jones, senior, put pen to paper to lay out the course. Jones was about to become a household name, as he would offer renovation advice to many of the country’s classic clubs. He was most famously associated with the Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit, the host site of the 1951 US Open. You know, the one where Ben Hogan purportedly gasped “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”

Trent didn’t leave a monster in Poughkeepsie. What he left was something that locals call Baby Bethpage. The James Baird course is blessed with topography similar to its five-course cousin, but it offered a challenge that Bethpage does not: a huge expanse of marsh across the belly of the property. There was not going over nor through it, so Jones simply went around it. He created something that he never, ever did: a short par three. Jones was a fan of the brutish, 200-yard plus, all-carry, par three hole. For the third hole at Baird, he had all of 120 yards, and it was downhill! Jones placed a green in the marsh, connected to the mainland by an earthen bridge. He then turned north for a time, then returned south, outside the marsh. Trent Jones had another stretch of tricky land to navigate, this time, on the inward half. He brought a trio of holes (pars 4-3-5) through a challenging corner of the property, before returning to the open meadow that hosts the majority of the layout.

James Baird is a tremendous golf course, one that prepares our high school competitors well for the next step: the state federation championship at, you guessed it, Bethpage Black. Six golfers move on to compete against other, high school divisions, at the big brother of them all.

Green Lakes

The Baird course came to life 13 years after Trent Jones opened his first, New York state parks course. Originally from Rochester, New York, Trent ventured 90 minutes east to Manlius, near Syracuse, in 1935, to lay out one of his first ten courses. RTJ was gifted the magnificent land that abuts the two glacial lakes in central New York. The lakes are meromictic, which we all know means that surface and bottom waters do not mix in the fall and spring, as happens with dimictic lakes.

Trent Jones placed his clubhouse and finishing greens (9 and 18) in an interesting portion of the property. The ninth hole is an uphill, par five that plays fifty yards longer than its measured distance. Once home to upper and lower greens, the lower has been expanded and enhanced, and the upper is now abandoned. On the other side of the clubhouse, the sneaky 18th moves out of a corridor of trees, into the open space beneath the clubhouse. It’s a bit reminiscent of the 18th at Bethpage’s Green course. It’s not a long hole, yet when you walk off with five or six on your card, you wonder where you went astray.

The front half of the course plays along a vast meadow, above Green Lake, the larger of the two, nautical bodies. The inward side forages among the tree above Round Lake, before finally emerging at the home hole. The apparent contrariety of the two nines is resolved through expansion of fairway corridors on the treed nine, and the constriction of playing paths with bunkers and doglegs, on the exposed side.

If you’re a walker, Green Lakes will make you a fit one. It will also demand all the clubs and shots that you can fit in your bag.

Beaver Island

“Tame” isn’t the proper term to describe Beaver Island, the state park course near my home. I believe that “calm” is a better term. It may seem ironic, given that the 1965 course occupies a tract of land at the southern tip of Grand Island, where the Niagara River splits east and west, before reuniting at the north end. When we think of the Niagara, we think of the mighty rapids and cascades near the brink and bottom of the falls. At the southern split of the river, however, you can throw a canoe in the water and have a paddle. Beaver Island knows that it is adjacent to the river, but you never get the sense that this golf course borders water. I’ve redesigned the park hundreds of times in my head, moving the golf course to the banks of the river, where the trails, beach, playground, and other amenities are currently found. In the end, not every great golf course can, nor should, be built.

William Harries trained under the famed competitor and architect, Walter Travis. Despite this exposure to the master, Harries went his own way with his golf courses. The most striking difference is in green construction. While Travis was extraordinarily creative and daring, Harries was the polar opposite. His greens are routinely flat and easy to navigate.

He designed a number in the western New York area, including Brookfield Country Club. Originally known as Meadow Brook, the club hosted the 1948 Western Open, won by the aforementioned, Ben Hogan. The majority of Harries’ work was in municipal courses, and he designed Sheridan Park for the town of Tonawanda. That course hosted the 1962 USGA Public Links championship.

On Grand Island, Harries traced his layout around three ponds. The massive, western one, comes into play on the second through fifth holes. The middle one plays games with the approach to the eighth green. The final one, on the inward side, forces golfers to carry their tee shot over water, to the 14th fairway. Beaver Island bears no resemblance to the topography of the other locales mentioned previously. There is no heaving, no tumbling, no turbulence, along its fairways. Beaver Island is more St. Andrews in its flattish presentation, which makes it an honest, what-you-see, sort of golf course. It’s an enjoyable walk in the park, a not-too-demanding one.

Part Two: south-central New York-Soaring Eagles, Chenango Valley, Indian Hills, and Bonavista

https://www.rydercup.com/ PGA of America Ryder Cup Trophy

Ryder Cup Trophy @ Bethpage – Photo courtesy of PGA of America

 

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Travelers Championship betting preview: Patrick Cantlay to continue impressive play

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The third major championship of 2024 did not disappoint as Bryson Dechambeau capped off a sensational week with the second U.S. Open victory of his career. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Connecticut, where TPC River Highlands hosts the 2024 Travelers Championship. This is yet another designated event with a $20 million dollar purse.

TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par-70 that has been a PGA Tour stop for 40 years. Home of the only 58 in Tour history, it is possible to go extremely low at this Pete Dye design. However, TPC River Highlands does feature a difficult closing stretch with holes 16-18 all historically averaging scores over par.

The Travelers Championship will play host to 72 golfers this week. Being a signature event, almost all of the best players on Tour will be teeing it up. 

PGA Tour U winner, Michael Thorbjornsen, will be making his season debut this week at the Travelers. 

Past Winners at The Travelers Championship

  • 2023: Keegan Bradley (-23)
  • 2022: Xander Schauffele (-19)
  • 2021: Harris English (-13)
  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (-19)
  • 2019: Chez Reavie (-17)
  • 2018: Bubba Watson (-17)
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
  • 2016: Russell Knox (-14)

Key Stats For TPC River Highlands

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for TPC River Highlands to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach sits at the top spot in the stat model this week. The course is relatively short, and golfers with multiple types of skill sets compete here. Iron play is often the great equalizer allowing the shorter hitters to compete, and that should be the case again this week.

SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.61)
  2. Corey Conners (+1.11)
  3. Sepp Straka (+0.92)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+0.91)
  5. Tony Finau (+0.88)

2. Par 4 Birdie or Better %

With only two par-5s on the course, the importance of par-4 scoring cannot be understated. Whoever plays the par-4s most effectively this week will put himself in the driver’s seat.

Par 4 Birdie or Better % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Eric Cole (25.4%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+24.6%)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+23.5%)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+22.8%)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+22.7%)

3. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Ball striking combines off the tee and approach and will be the stat I use to incorporate off-the-tee play this week. The over-emphasis on approach play will incorporate golfers who give themselves plenty of birdie looks in the event.

SG: Ball Striking past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.56)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+1.67)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.57)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.44)
  5. Corey Conners (+1.31)

4. Course History

Course history has proven to be a major factor at TPC River Highlands. With seven golfers who have multiple wins at the course, familiarity could be the key at the Travelers Championship.

Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands per round over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.03)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.02)
  3. Brian Harman (+1.98)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.97)
  5. Scottie Scheffler (+1.54)

5. Strokes Gained: Total Pete Dye Designs

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

SG: Pete Dye per round Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.49)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+2.22)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+1.86)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.66)
  5. Patrick Cantlay (+1.61)

6. Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.41)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.04)
  3. Keegan Bradley (+1.01)
  4. Robert MacIntyre (+0.98)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+0.84)

The Travelers Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (26%), Par 4 Birdie or Better % (13%), SG: Ball Striking (20%), Course History (13%), SG: Putting Bent/POA (14%) and SG: Pete Dye (14%).

  1. Xander Schauffele
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Scottie Scheffler 
  4. Viktor Hovland
  5. Corey Conners
  6. Sahith Theegala
  7. Brian Harman
  8. Keegan Bradley
  9. Collin Morikawa
  10. Tony Finau

2024 Travelers Championship Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2500 (FanDuel)

When a player contends in a major in the previous week, I typically like to fade said player the following week. However, this week feels a bit different to me. Cantlay has been struggling all season, and I can’t help but feel like the former FedEx Cup champion found something during the U.S. Open. I also don’t think he was incredibly disappointed with the result. He played well on Sunday and was impressive over the weekend, finally getting a true feel of what major championship contention felt like. It was all positives for Cantlay at Pinehurst.

Cantlay will now head to a spot where he’s had an incredible amount of success but has not yet notched a victory. In his last six starts at the course, he’s not finished worse than 15th. His best start came last year, where he finished T4. He ranks 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands. Cantlay is also a Pete Dye specialist and ranks 4th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Dye tracks. The 32-year-old ranks 3rd in Par 4 birdie or better percentage.

Cantlay was spectacular across the board at Pinehurst. For the week, he ranked 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 10th in Strokes Gained: Putting. I fully expect him to build off of that performance and contend once again at one of his favorite Tour stops.

Sam Burns +3500 (DraftKings)

Sam Burns had a great Sunday at Pinehurst, which is always a bonus heading into the following week. He shot -3 in his final round, which got him into the top ten (T9) in what was a successful major for a player who’s not performed his best in them historically.

Burns is a prolific birdie maker who can win a boat race to -20 as well as anyone on Tour. He’s also had some success at both Pete Dye courses, where he ranks 13th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds, and at TPC River Highlands, where he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds.

Burns has been playing some solid golf of late. He has four top-15 finishes in his past starts including a T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship, 10th at the RBC Canadian Open and 15th at the Memorial Tournament. He has gained strokes on approach and off the tee in five of his past six starts.

The LSU product can win golf tournaments in a variety of ways. His ability to make putts if it turns into a wedge and putting contest makes him a strong candidate to contend this week.

Sahith Theegala +4500 (BetRivers)

Sahith Theegala has been playing some solid golf over the last few months. As we saw last year with Keegan Bradley, a missed cut at the U.S. Open shouldn’t necessarily scare someone off from a player who fits TPC River Highlands, which I believe Theegala does.

TPC River Highlands is the site of Theegala’s near victory a few years back. He finished in a tie for 2nd in 2022 after making double-bogey on the 18th hole with a one-shot lead, losing to Xander Schauffele. Theegala will now head back to the course as a more mature player who is in the midst of the best season of his career.

This season, the former Haskins award winner in having strong finishes in some of the season’s most important events. He finished 5th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, 6th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 9th at the PLAYERS Championship, 2nd at the RBC Heritage and 12th at both the Memorial Tournament and PGA Championship.

In his past 24 rounds, Sahith ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, 18th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage and 8th in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA mixed putting surfaces.

If this turns into another shootout, Theegala has the type of ball striking and putting combination that can win a race to -20.

Sungjae Im +6600 (BetRivers)

After seemingly regaining his form over the past month, Sungjae took a step back at last week’s U.S. Open. The South Korean missed the cut, shooting +10 over his first two rounds. Despite the disappointing result, I don’t believe one poor start at a long and difficult golf course is enough reason to give up on him. 

Although the score was regretful at Pinehurst No. 2, Im hit the ball pretty well from tee to green. In his two rounds, he gained strokes both off the tee and on approach. His downfall was with the putter, which can be extremely hit or miss, especially over the course of this season.

Prior to the U.S. Open, Sungjae had finished in the top ten in three of his previous four starts. He finished T4 at the Wells Fargo “Signature Event” at Quail Hollow, T9 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and T8 at The Memorial Tournament. He’s also gained strokes off the tee in nine straight events.

Im has made three starts at TPC River Highlands, finishing 21st, 58th and 29th respectively. Im hits fairways at a high clip, which will be a massive advantage this week and his lack of driving distance won’t be an issue. He also ranks 12th in the field in his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs.

It’s been a long time since Im has won an event (2021 Shriners), but I believe he’s back on the upswing and is still a higher end talent on the PGA Tour with another win coming soon.

Tom Kim +6600 (BetRivers)

After a sluggish start to the 2024 season, Tom Kim has come on strong over the past month or so. The South Korean started his stretch of impressive play at Valhalla for the PGA Championship, finishing 24th. After that, Kim put together finishes of T4 at the RBC Canadian Open and a T26 at last week’s U.S. Open. In between, he finished T43 at The Memorial, but hit the ball great from tee to green.

Tom has done an impressive job of playing well at long and difficult setups, but this week, he will head to a course in TPC River Highlands that should his game immaculately. Both of Kim’s wins have come at short setups that mitigate his biggest weakness, which is driving distance. The course is short this week and fits the mold of the tracks Tom has had great success at over the past few seasons on Tour.

In his past 24 rounds, Kim ranks 7th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage, which will come into play this week. He also ranks 19th in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Kim is already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and has shown that if he gets a sniff of contention, he can close out a tournament with the best of them.

 

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