Killeen Castle Review, What's In The Bag Kenny Perry, The Players Championship, Tiger and Daly, Our Tips and more!
4 Lads In A Car: Killeen Castle
As I was watched the Bahrain Grand Prix last week, I marvelled at how they can just build a state of the art grand prix facility nowadays from scratch and have it instantly regarded as one of the best in the world. Little wonder then that the equivalent in the Irish golfing world has just arrived in the form of the new Killeen Castle complex in Dunsany, Co. Meath. I use the word “complex” because it’s not fair to describe it as just a course or as a resort, it’s so much more than that. Killeen Castle is probably best described as an Olympic Village for golfers. From the superb practise facilities to the showpiece Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and with the added bonus of the only Dave Pelz short game school outside the USA, to say it is “state of the art” wouldn’t even begin to cover it.
Colum Gleeson plays his second to the stunning 18th.
Since I couldn’t possibly cover all the bases on one visit, my mission for the day was to tame the signature 18 hole ‘Bear’ that Jack himself designed. I was joined on the crusade by Alan Maher, a 12 h’cap out of West Waterford GC and former Cork minor hurler (sure weren’t they all!), by Colum Gleeson, a seven h’cap from Rathfarnham with an arc like Tiger on stilts and John Lydon, a three h’cap from Ballinrobe, who, on his day, can play to three! We were directed to the blue tees, not quite the distance of the Monster ‘black’ tees but at over 7200 yards for a par 72, quite a test. Or so we thought.
They say to lay a course out successfully, the crucial stage of design is when the diggers are actually pushing the Earth. That box is well and truly ticked at Killeen Castle, with trademark Nicklaus hole layouts, bunkering and greens in exactly the right positions. Jack gives you oceans of space off the tee but you need to make the most of it, because if you’re if not long with your drive, there hasn’t yet been a club invented to get you onto the green. Our hurler Alan, and IT guru Colum regularly pucked their drives 300 yards, but still found themselves with four irons and hybrids while shorter hitters Johnny and myself floundered around with 3-wood approach shots and relied on our short games to bale us out. And you know what? Time and again, they did! The hand cut greens are enormous and so true that a ten footer started on the right line will invariably oblige and drop in.
By tackling the 2011 Solheim Cup venue off the blue tees, we were, in truth, a little out of our depth to score well. At times it was like trying to slay a Bear armed only with a baguette. Of course, we chose our own fate but you should be comforted in the knowledge that like a ski slope there are easier ways to come down this particular mountain with a choice of shorter tee boxes available.
Killeen Castle will go straight into my top five parkland courses in the country. When you then add in the “entry to exit” personal service, the magnificent clubhouse, the food and the practise facilities, the whole package is simply unique in Ireland. When you take into account that the whole experience is available for €100, it defies logic. Resort boss Barry O’Connor is delighted with the take-up of 250 new members and is confident that another 150 will join in the next year or so. He should be, they will. Be sure to log on to www.killeencastle.com for further details on this remarkable course that Jack built and check out the blog www.golfspindoctor.blogspot.com for loads more pics and reaction.
Alan Maher, 12 h’cap: “An awesome challenge in an incredible setting.”
Colum Gleeson, 7 h’cap: “The line of sight from the tee to the green, on every fairway, is broken by the placement of hills, trees and fairway bunkers and crafty jack uses all these impediments to add to the challenge. The setting is both serene and dramatic in places and definitely contributes to an absorbing round of golf.”
John Lydon, 3 h’cap: “This place is incredible. You won’t find 40 points winning a Sunday competition here. A 3 handicap off the blues in Killeen Castle is probably equivalent to a 1 handicap anywhere in the country.”
Who’s In Charge?
El Bosso Grando (Big Boss) Barry O’Connor
Note the phone, the journal and the pen. A sure sign that Barry means business. It’s a little trick he picked up in his time in Doonbeg. With over 250 members already in Killeen Castle, things are ticking over nicely. And his car doesn’t get flipped over on a daily basis by the wind anymore, which is a bonus.
Soundness Factor 10/10!
The Facilities and The Service
Presidential probably sums it up best. The lockers are spacious and sparkling. The sauna is cranked up and bathrobes etc are all laid on. You’ll find sun-block, deep heat and every kind of soothing balm imaginable at the sinks and the showers are probably the best I’ve ever seen. Four nozzles and all the pressure you wish your powerhose had!- You need to make sure all of your bits are out of the way before turning on!
You get saluted at the gate, your bag taken at the clubhouse and greeted with a warm smile throughout. I’ve only seen this kind of service once before, in Doonbeg. It adds immeasurably to the experience.
Any negatives? None that I can think of. Er, maybe get some lucozade and sparkling water to sell in the pro-shop!
Watch out for our review of the Dave Pelz short game at Killeen Castle school coming soon!
Under The Microscope:
Birthday: 10th August 1960
Weight: 15 stone 10 lbs
Birthplace: Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Turned Pro: 1980
Kenny Perry has won eight times on tour since 2003. Had he won at Augusta, Perry would have become the oldest champion at 48. He attributes his success that week to 20 hours spent on the putting green in the build up. “I wish I had discovered this method 20 years ago”, the ever gracious Perry said in the aftermath of the playoff defeat. Off the course Perry has been honoured for his contribution to social projects. He donates five percent of all his winnings to Lipscomb University in Nashville to provide scholarships for students. He also took out a loan to build Country Creek, a public course in his hometown of Franklin, Kentucky. In 1995, Perry bought 142 acres of land and borrowed more than $2.5 million to design and build the only public course in the town. He can often be found working behind the counter where visitors often ask him, "Do you know Kenny Perry?" He has shot 60 on the course twice himself.
In The Bag
TaylorMade R9 (9.5°) with Fujikura Motore shaft. Changed recently from the Tour Burner. “I've probably lost five to seven yards in distance," Perry said, "but it's given me a lot of confidence in its straightness. I think I can win a U.S. Open with this driver because I'm driving it so straight."
TaylorMade Burner (14.5°) with Fujikura Rombax TP75 shafts
Irons: TaylorMade r7 (3-PW) FST KBS Tour shafts, X-flex. Used to use blades but now prefers cavity-backs with more offset.
TaylorMade Rac Z TP (56°, 64°) Cleveland CG 14 (60°)
Putter: Ping G2i Craz-E. No longer available in the shops. A member of Perry’s club, gave him this putter saying it could help is game. How right he was.
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x 2005 version
Wears a blue bracelet in memory of Eric Baumgartner, who had cystic fibrosis. Perry got to know him through Make-A-Wish where they played together. He sadly died shortly after.
“The Players Championship
It’s The Players Championship this week and I can’t wait. The Players Championship for the pros is like grandparents visiting the grandkids; all the fun with none of the responsibility. Branded as the unofficial fifth major, The Players is played on Pete Dye’s Sawgrass masterpiece and is the tournament especially laid on for guys that haven’t the bottle to win real majors. It’s the one with the famous par three 17th hole that, from the blimp, looks like an eyeball diagram from secondary school biology. The scene is set perfectly and all the usual suspects seem to be in pretty decent form. Except for defending champion Sergio that is. All the putting progress he made last year with coach Stan Uttley seems to have disappeared and guess what, he’s back with the belly putter again! With an average of 30 putts per round at the moment, Garcia is languishing down at 174th in the putts per round stats on the US Tour. Thus you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen him this week. As soon as the defending champion arrives in the carpark, the US media will jump on his back and harrang him about his putting woes. Sergio will put on his angry Seve-face and all the toys will come flying out of the Spaniard’s cot. Again. Can Sergio’s happy memories of the Stadium Course get the ball in the hole this year? Methinks it would be nothing short of miraculous if he contends. And what about Tiger and his wonky driving? When you hear talk of changing his driver shaft three times on the practise ground, you just know his confidence with the big dog is low. He almost seemed human off the tee at Quail Hollow, but it’s only a matter of time until he figures out that his three wood arrow straight “stingers” actually still go further that most of the fields drives. Sawgrass hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the special one, who, since his victory in 2001, hasn’t featured in the top five since. As well as his dodgy driving, Tiger’s putting hasn’t been good of late, with a couple of uncharacteristic short range misses in pressure situations costing him last week. That’s the long and the short of Tiger’s tribulations but you know he wont be far away come Sunday.
The cameras will, of course, be trained on the famous 132 yard par three 17th. In reverence to this wonder of the golfing world we did a bit of poking around the annals to come up with a few facts that are guaranteed to make you look clever in the pub.
· Not surprisingly, Tway has the worst cumulative career score at the 17th, standing at 32 over par. That’s eight shots worse than the second guy – Duffy Waldorf at 24 over par.
· Tom Lehman leads the list of players in the credit at the 17th, with a cumulative career total of 12 under.
· The best seat on the 17th belongs to veteran NBC cameraman John Boeddeker who spends eight hours a day suspended 120ft in the air, strapped into a bucket on top of a crane.
· Tradition allows the caddies to hit and hope at the 17th on a Wednesday. The prize for nearest to the pin is the contents of a jar that players fill with tips, which add up to over a thousand dollars. There is also an official watch presented by the Tour.
· As with all the greens, the 17th green has its own ventilation system that sucks moisture through the grass, allowing the greens to remain slick and fast.
· Spectator mounds, grandstands and hospitality boxes allow 25,000 to cram around the 17th hole.
· Mark Calcavecchia once described the 17th as follows: “It’s like a 3pm root canal appointment – you’re thinking about it all morning and don’t feel good about it.”
· Course designer Tom Doak is not a fan of the 17th either. It has been copied around the world and Doak has described it as ‘the germ that started the plague’.
· Jose Maria Olazabal and Jerry Kelly tie the longest putt ever holed on the 17th – at 51 ft and three inches.
· Vijay Singh once hit the 17th green playing left-handed in a practice round. Mike Weir matched him swinging right-handed.
· Only one player has birdied in the 17th in all four rounds – Paul Azinger who did it in 1987.
Dr. and The Medic: Use Your Hips
You have a very fast turn but don’t seem to be getting the power or accuracy that you desire.
Stay synchronized. You will lose both consistency and distance if your arms are out swinging your body or your hips are out of sync with your shoulder turn.
On the practise ground, check to make sure you are not unwinding your hips too quickly during the swing. If this is the case, try flaring out your lead foot to help restrict your hips during the backswing. This will also help slow your hip movement during the forward swing.
I Want One Of Those:
The Tow Caddy
With the Summer coming those of you with golfing teenagers will doubtless be looking forward to getting them out of your hair by letting them spend the whole day mucking around the golf club. For kids cycling to the club, here’s a cool new invention. The TowCaddy attaches to your bike like a trailer then detaches at the golf course to become a pullcart. The brainchild of Howard Fullmer, the Towcaddy is so much safer than carrying a bag while cycling. More info on http://www.towcaddy.com/
More Information on John Daly
Barcoded Trousers, whatever next!
If you thought a Bull running through a supermarket in Ballinrobe was traceability taken a step too far, then John Daly’s attire at the Open de Espana really takes the biscuit. Daly fronted up for the first round wearing high tech “barcode” trousers. Fans travelling to Baltray in a couple of weeks should bring their portable infrared barcode readers to access their hero’s complete biography!
Haney and Tiger Split “Speculation”
Tiger Woods was so angry with his Masters performance, he said he used a "Band-Aid" swing to get around Augusta National on the final day. That kicked off gigabyte of internet chatter that Hank Haney's days as Woods' swing coach were numbered. The stats say that with Haney, Tiger has found 57.82% of fairways, in comparison to 68.66% during his six years with Butch Harmon. On a possible split, Tiger said "That's complete speculation," "It has nothing to do with Hank.” Haney was not at the Quail Hollow Championship, but he did spend the previous weekend with Woods in Florida working on his game. The result last week? Trees, trees and more trees down the stretch as Tiger threw away another glorious chance at victory. Even David Feherty managed to call him a loser to his face three times in one sentence in a post round interview. We think Tiger might just have the “Wanted- New Coach Ad” written but not posted up. Just yet.
Bet Your Balls-
The Players Championship
Phil Mickelson 9/1
You need to be a slick putter to perform on the slickest of greens at Sawgrass. Mickelson is just simmering nicely in the build up to this week. The 2007 champion has had his issues with the driver of late but a fantastic final round 67 at Quail Hollow, renowned as one of the toughest driving courses in the US, surely fired a warning shot over the bows of the field. Expect Lefty to be ramming home those four footers with the blade again this week.
They say its horses for courses and they don’t come much more horse like than Stephen Ames. The greatest human being ever to come out of Trinidad and Tobago has made The Players Championship his pet project over the years. Second in 2002 behind Craig Perks in the one of the most memorable stagings of the tournament, Ames went on to steamroller the field in 2006, winning on that occasion by six shots. A top five finish last year too so you’d be crazy not to back this equine wonder.
Kenny Perry 33/1
Kenny comes back this week with the pain of his Masters defeat still fresh in his mind. He’s not the kind of guy to wallow in self-pity however and The Players Championship represents the next big chance for the Kentucky man. Putting will be the key this week and they don’t come much better right now than Perry who tied for third in 2004. A little bit of mental baggage has to be overcome in round one though, Perry’s last round on the Stadium course was a nine over 81. But don’t let that put you off, he was only 47 then and lacking a little experience.
Camillo knows what it’s like to perform on the big stage having won last years Tour Championship in some style. Not a pick based on form but I saw something in his Quail Hollow performance last week which leads to believe he’s not far away from his best. Can he make the giant leap from last weeks mid table mediocrity to the winners rostrum at Sawgrass? Well he is the Spider Man!
Lucas Glover 60/1
No form to speak of Sawgrass, but that may not be of any consequence as this years Lucas Glover is a completely different model to previous versions. A solid tied second place at Quail Hollow last week, due in no small way to a fantastic short game performance. Glover lead the field in putting and the stats also proved him to be the best scrambler. A long driver and a top ten birdie average on the tour, Glover may feature again if he can keep this good form going.
Francesco Molinari 14/1
Stephen Dodd 50/1
Soren Hansen 18/1