NOTRE DAME, INDIANA | The USGA and the U.S. Senior Open are stepping outside the box a bit this week with the event being played at the Warren Course at the University of Notre Dame.
Yes, that Notre Dame. Rockne, Touchdown Jesus and the gold football helmets.
And in a clever move, the USGA and tournament officials are making the most of where they are.
Player check-in was in the Notre Dame football locker room, taking the golfers into the heart of the old stadium, putting each player’s name on a locker. They even got to slap the famous “Play Like A Champion Today” sign over the doorway leading to the field.
“How cool was that?” Steve Stricker said.
Well, pretty cool.
It’s not every day Miguel Ángel Jiménez puts on a gold football helmet with his stogie still stuck in his mouth.
Scott McCarron and Jerry Kelly threw passes to each other on the famous field as did Stricker and his wife, Nicki.
“You see it on TV so much when you watch Notre Dame football on NBC, and to see the stadium, to see the board that they’re hitting on the way down and to do that yourself is a pretty neat experience,” Stricker said.
“Kudos to the team here to pull that off. I’m sure that wasn’t easy. But very neat experience for us, too, as golfers especially, to come in and see that and see the stadium.”
The honorary tournament chairmen are Fighting Irish football legends Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown because, well, it is Notre Dame.
“It looks like a historic golf course to me.” – David Toms
The Warren Course is a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that opened in 2000 and has hosted the Women’s Public Links Championship, a handful of NCAA men’s and women’s regionals and some USGA qualifiers so it’s not as if it’s an unknown quantity. It may be unfamiliar to most of the competitors but it’s a highly regarded traditional layout that will feature the usual assortment of USGA major championship touches.
“It looks like a historic golf course to me,” defending champion David Toms said. “I don’t know if it’s the design or just the overall look and the way the bunkering is or if it’s the way the clubhouse is set back in the trees, just the whole place in general looks like it’s been here for quite a while.”
• The chewing gum thing may work for some players but it’s annoying.
• This week it’s the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, next week it’s the 3M Open in Minneapolis.
When all the reshuffling and squeezing of the PGA Tour schedule was finished, Detroit and the Twin Cities wound up with new tour events, a coup given the scarcity of open dates and the desire to be part of the summer schedule.
Subtract Houston and the Greenbrier, both of which will be played after Labor Day this year at the start of the 2019-20 wraparound season, and Rocket Mortgage and 3M, two big-time sponsors, found what they were looking for.
Both are pulling in some solid star power for their first years, situated between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland are in the Detroit field while Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau are set to play in Minneapolis.
This is a flat spot in the tour schedule before the big push to the finish that begins at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, but the new events breathe some freshness into the summer.
• Chez Reavie may not lead the PGA Tour in star power, but he’s quietly building a special season and he’s already made an impression among his peers for his perseverance.
He had wrist surgery in 2014 to repair damage done to his left wrist by his golf swing. The operation meant four months in a long, arm cast and another two months in a shorter cast.
That wasn’t the worst part.
Doctors couldn’t promise Reavie the surgery would be successful.
“I went and met with the doctor and he said the surgery went great, but there was a 50/50 shot whether it was going to work or, and there was no guarantee that I wasn’t going to go make one full swing when he allowed me to and it wasn’t going to happen again,” Reavie said.
“So those were probably the darkest days. Just the unknown and sitting at home not being able to do anything and your mind wandering. ‘OK, if it didn’t work, if I can’t play golf, what am I going to do?’ ”
What would Reavie had done if golf had gone away?
“Haven’t figured that one out yet,” he said.
Eleven years after his only other PGA Tour victory, Reavie won again last Sunday. It’s not this hasn’t been coming. Except for a missed cut in the Charles Schwab Challenge, Reavie has finished no worse than T18 in his last six starts including T14 at the PGA Championship and T3 at the U.S. Open.
The U.S. Senior Open trophy sits on the 50-yard line of Notre Dame Stadium. Photo: John Mummert, Copyright USGA
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