Good evening from the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s! I can’t believe another major is already upon us. It feels like the US Open was just last week. Well, it was only three weeks ago. I know this is the way the schedule works every year, but it still creeps up on me (though this is only my second year covering the tourneys on-site). But much has changed in the time between the Opens: Rory-mania has engulfed Sandwich. The US Open champ can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by fans, fellow players, press, you name it. It’s Tiger-esque, except McIlroy is a lot more approachable, for better or worse. As for coverage, I have quite a few irons in the fire this week. I’ve been writing for Golf.com, and starting tomorrow, I’ll be splitting my time between WUP, Golf.com and Wall Street Journal (mostly live-blog). I’ll do my best to re-post the links from the other outlets for your convenience. Speaking of which, here are excerpts and links to the stories I’ve written so far…
As swing instructor Sean Foley approached the chipping green at Royal St. George’s, a grinning Justin Rose hollered, “We’re playing at 10:10 tomorrow morning with Rock. He’s excited.”Rose was teasing his coach a bit. You see, Foley is rather fond of Robert Rock’s swing.
It’s hard to figure out who is more excited to spend the day together — Foley or Rock. Apparently they have a bit of a man-crush on each other.
“I think we’re both fans of each other,” said Foley, whose clients include the injured Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Stephen Ames. “He’s a big swing geek like me.”
“Outside of my guys — obviously I’m biased — Robert Rock, to me, is one of the greatest hitters in the world,” he said. “I love watching him swing.”
The 34-year-old European Tour standout Rock has worked with professional golfer and instructor Mac O’Grady, who like Foley is an iconoclast known for his eccentricity.
Foley met Rock for the first time in person on the driving range last month at the U.S. Open, where Rock made headlines for reportedly spending $24,000 in legal fees to secure a visa to enter the United States after qualifying for the U.S. Open. (He needed a visa because of a drunk-driving incident when he was a teenager.) Arriving at Congressional less than 12 hours before his first-round tee time, Rock, who had never seen the course, shot a respectable one-under 70.
Just an example of Rock being a “cool cat,” as Foley puts it.
“I went up to him and told him I thought he was great,” said Foley. “And I’d been looking at his swing on YouTube for the last three or four years, and I just wanted to meet him.”
“To be honest with you, it’s the one on the rotation that’s probably my least favorite because of my experience in ’03,” said Rose near the chipping green as drizzle began to fall on Tuesday afternoon. “I shot, like, 15-over, and really struggled. I couldn’t keep the ball in the fairway.”
Rose went on to miss the cut.
Eight years later, Rose has changed his tune after Monday’s practice round, where he kept his sense of humor.
“It’s the kind of course where there are more blind shots than most good golf courses have and there are some quirky bumps and hollows,” Rose said. “But this year it’s slightly wider off the tee, slightly less rough, which makes it a little more playable.”
What Rose appreciates most about the changes to the course are their subtlety, saying the R&A didn’t go “overboard,” and “it doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re playing a new course.”
The right side of the 18th fairway has been widened by about eight yards , giving players more room off the tee to avoid the deep bunkers on the left. Because of the ample slopes and bumps in the fairway, a good drive can kick left or right, but the best play is to favor the right side.
“In 2003 your ball used to run into the right rough, and the green slopes right-to-left, so from the right rough, you couldn’t keep the ball on the green,” said Rose, who patiently answered questions for nearly ten minutes.
With the extra eight yards of fairway, a ball that lands in the fairway has a greater chance of staying in the short grass, allowing players to better control their approach shots.
“Chief Inspirer” Peter Crone’s Homecoming to Sandwich, Works Magic on Jacobson and Howell
At the 1985 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, mental game coach Peter Crone was a teenager working as what the Brits call a “litter boy.” This time around, rather than picking up the trash, he’s cleaning up after the man known as “Junkman,” Fredrik Jacobson, along with Charles Howell III.
Crone grew up in a village called St. Margarets Bay, but rode the train every day for nine years to Sandwich, where he attended Sir Roger Manwood’s School.
“Twenty-six years later, here I am at Royal St. George’s, but instead of picking up crap from the ground, I’m taking the crap out of professional people’s heads,” said Crone, who fancies himself as a “Chief Inspirer.”
Crone, who also works with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, Hollywood actors and businessmen, says his mission involves “helping people realize their potential and I do it by removing the constraints of their mind.” In other words, he helps people get out of their own way.
This week is a bit of a homecoming for Crone. Based in Santa Monica, Calif., he’s returned to his old stomping grounds in Southern Kent to accompany Jacobson and Howell at the Open. Both players started working with Crone at the ’09 Barclays, and also happen to be currently playing some of the best golf of their careers.
“They’re kicking butt, purely because of what I do,” Crone quipped at the driving range on Wednesday morning. “Nothing else. The fact they’ve been playing golf for decades has no influence.”
More tidbits and pictures from the last three days to come. I’ve had a rather…errr…eventful week already in a way. Stay tuned.