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The saga of John Montague is one that simultaneously feels like pure fantasy but is also purely American. In 1932, Montague appeared in Beverly Hills seemingly out of nowhere, and through his jaw-dropping golf game, became friends with the biggest stars in the world. Word of his exploits spread far and wide, and when Grantland Rice wrote about him in a national column, the mystery deepened. Why, if he was so good, wouldn't he play in any tournaments? As that mystery unraveled, so too did the life of Montague, who was in fact an escaped criminal from New York named LaVerne Moore. The saga of Montague remains one of the most perplexing, fascinating side stories in the history of amateur golf.
The word "cheat" is golf's one-syllable powder keg, and whenever it appears, fireworks follow. That was the case at the first-ever Skins Game, in Arizona in 1983, when Tom Watson pulled Gary Player aside along with a rules official to privately accuse him of breaking the rules at a critical moment in the event. A reporter was close enough to listen in, and when the story ran, two of the sport's foremost figures were embroiled in controversy. This is the story of two strong personalities, impressive and difficult in their own unique ways, butting heads on a controversial day that lives on in both men's legacies.
It's time for the first-ever session of Golf Court! The honorable Shane P. Ryan is presiding as Barrister Luke Kerr-Dineen and Joel Beall, attorney-at-law, argue about whether Luke Donald should get a second try at Ryder Cup captain, and whether the DP World Tour should lose its right to choose Ryder Cup venues. Plus, golf course bathrooms: Do we need them? Golf Court is now in session.
The Sambuca Boys discuss the European Ryder Cup team’s six captain’s picks, highlighted by Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard. Shane Ryan issues a mea culpa on Aberg after the fledgling superstar (Aberg, not Ryan) wins the Omega European Masters to earn a spot on the European team. The boys talk about snubs, which pick could come back to haunt European captain Luke Donald, and how the team sizes up to the Americans. Subscribe to the Ryder Cup Radicals on the Golf Digest Local Knowledge feed.
The job facing Tony Jacklin, the unlikely captain who took the reins of the European team as Ryder Cup captain in 1983, was a massive one: He had to bring an end to decades of American dominance. The situation on the ground was dire, and to put it plainly, he was inheriting a mess. Since the Cup began in 1927, Americans had won 20 times, lost three, and tied once. Even the addition of Team Europe in 1979, designed to level the playing field, hadn't stopped the U.S. from delivering two straight humiliations. Facing a talent gap, and playing on American soil, he had to stop history in its tracks. The remarkable transformation Jacklin engineered starting that year in Florida was as much psychological as it was tactical, and he had at his side the ideal playing lieutenant in Seve Ballesteros, a man who would become a Ryder Cup colossus. Together, they led the Europeans on a mission to win for the first time ever on American soil, and to redefine the entire event. What they accomplished over those three days was the start of one of the great turnaround stories in the history of sport.
On paper, it might look like nothing special—another European win on home soil in the Ryder Cup. But drill down, and you'll see something revelatory in Gleneagles. This was the Ryder Cup that took decades of American strategic weakness and decades of European guile and blew them out to epic proportions. It's no coincidence that the end of this Ryder Cup saw Phil Mickelson publicly challenge Tom Watson; this was the week that forced the U.S. to face all its own shortcomings, and that process wasn't pretty. Dive deep with us in this examination of everything Paul McGinley did right, and how the web he wove ensnared the Americans ... but perhaps woke them up, too. Thanks to Ivan Ross for producing the introduction.
Less than a year after the death of his best friend Young Tom Morris, Davie Strath came to St Andrews hoping to win his first-ever Open Championship. He'd come close before, but while Strath was considered one of the three best golfers of his generation, and had been a sort of pioneer in giving up everything for a career in the very new field of professional golf, there was also something dogging his reputation: A tendency to choke in the big moment. That tendency would rise again, but that's far from the only thing marking the 1876 Open as the single strangest major championship ever contended. Played over one day in late September, it's a forgotten oddity in the tournament's storied history, and remains as vibrantly bizarre today as it must have seemed to those who watched it play out almost 150 years ago. In this week's Local Knowledge, we examine the singular career of Strath, the tragedy of his life's end, and that wild day when he had his best, and last, chance to etch his name in the history books.
The fate that has befallen Young Tom Morris, the greatest golfing talent of the 20th century, is to be known, but only in outline. His singular talent is measured today by lines on a Wikipedia entry, or the ancient scrawling of a name on the claret jug, and if anything, his star has dimmed with the passing years. But when he died on Christmas Day in 1875, just 24 years old, he left the world of golf utterly transformed by a career that ranks with the most spectacular of all time. Young Tom Morris didn't just win with absurd regularity; he transformed his sport, ushering in the era of the celebrated professional, and paved the way for the economic structure of the modern game. To study him in-depth, 150 years later, is to bring color to the massive talent and heartbreaking end of the sport's first superstar.
The concepts of honor and integrity in golf are inseparable from the inevitability of cheating. The former are prominent because the latter is so easy—when self-policing is the best hope for fair play, you better have a code of honor to work as a secondary enforcement. In 1955, at Deepdale Country Club on Long Island, that code seemed to fail when two unknown sandbaggers won a tournament and took home thousands of dollars thanks to an associated Calcutta auction. In fact, the code had not failed: A crisis of conscience led to a confession, the scandal became national news, and the USGA took action. For the two men at the heart of it, the fallout was swift and severe, and lasted a lifetime. On this episode, we look at golf's most notorious amateur scandal and the aftershocks that transformed the amateur game.
When Johnny Miller shot his famous 63 in the final round at Oakmont in 1973, it instantly became one of the most staggering achievements in the history of major championship golf. For the USGA, it was also something else: an insult. Oakmont was supposed to be one of the toughest courses in the world, and the U.S. Open was supposed to be the toughest test in professional golf. What Miller did undermined that identity, and when the Open came to Winged Foot one year later, the one certainty was that it wouldn't happen again. From the tournament committee to the club members, the mission was to return the U.S. Open to its place of prominence by all means necessary. The course the players encountered that summer was a monster, and they were its victims. What happened next can only be described as carnage; this week on Local Knowledge, we look at why it happened, and what it tells us about America's national open and the people who run it.
This May marks the 20th anniversary of Annika Sorenstam playing the Bank of America Colonial at Colonial Country Club, where she became the first woman in more than 50 years to play with the men on the PGA Tour. That week was highly anticipated, stressful, and loaded with controversy as more than 300 reporters, hundreds of photographers, and thousands of fans flocked to Texas to see her play. The reactions to her inclusion ranged from supportive to hostile, and though she handled herself admirably both on and off the course, it's no surprise that she never did it again. In a way, Sorenstam was playing for the entire LPGA Tour and women's golf in general that week. She wasn't the first. Two women before her, and three after, also took their turn playing with the men, and the story of those women is one of courage, triumph, failure, and a no small amount of sexism. This is the story of the six women in history who teed it up with the men on the PGA Tour.
A key component of Jon Rahm's identity, and one that's not often discussed in English-speaking media, is his Basque heritage. The Basque people represent the oldest surviving ethnic group in all of Europe; they pre-date the Indo-Europeans who swept through the rest of the continent, and whose descendants live there today. Euskal Herria, the Basque homeland, is a region the size of New Hampshire in southern France and northern Spain, and the people have their own language and culture that have survived repeated attempts to snuff it out, right up to the present day. But for such a tight-knit and insular community, they've had an outsized impact on world history. As Rahm himself has said, there's a difference between the Basques and the Spanish, and while he represents both on the global stage, it's his Basque background that defines his cultural heritage and his strength as an elite competitor. To understand Rahm, you have to understand the Basques.
In 1990, the PGA Championship was set to be played at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club near Birmingham, Alabama. The course had hosted the tournament six years earlier, but this time, thanks to an incendiary comment from the club's founder, the golf world couldn't ignore an inconvenient fact: Shoal Creek wouldn't admit any black members. Nor could the PGA paint it as an isolated problem, or even a southern problem—all across America, private golf clubs were excluding minorities, and many of those clubs hosted major events. That summer in Alabama, the PGA of America and Shoal Creek engaged in a tense standoff, and the outcome would reverberate across golf and change the landscape of the professional and amateur game. The racial problem that had long remained in the shadows, even as the 21st century approached, was now out in the open, and nothing would ever be the same again.
There was never a moment when Seve Ballesteros wasn't scrambling, when he wasn't recovering, when he wasn't looking for the outrageous miracle. That's how he lived, and that was always going to be how he played golf. We look at the mysteries of the Spanish golf legend, and his entire unbelievable story.
It's one of the most infamous moments in golf: Greg Norman taking a six-shot lead into the final round at Augusta National, only to live out every golfer's nightmare as he shot 78 and lost to Nick Faldo. Today, 27 years later, as Norman has emerged as the face of LIV Golf's threat to the game's world order, that memory feels as fresh as ever. On this episode of Local Knowledge, we dive deep to explore why it happened, what might have prevented it, and what we can learn from Norman's fate on that timeless Augusta Sunday
On an October day in 1983, Charlie Harris drove his blue Dodge pickup through gate three at Augusta National. His goal? To talk to Ronald Reagan, who at that moment was playing the 16th hole on his first-ever trip to the storied course. What happened over the next two hours is one of the strangest chapters in Augusta history ... and despite the high stakes, it disappeared almost immediately from the news. This is the story of a desperate man, a hostage crisis, and a president trying to defuse a dangerous situation just two years after an assassin had almost killed him in Washington D.C.
In 1983, under the leadership of Deane Beman, the PGA Tour faced the first great challenge to its existence. The leading players of the time, from Jack Nicklaus to Arnold Palmer to Tom Watson, weren't happy with the direction of the Tour, and felt that the new marketing arm was adding money to its own coffers while depleting theirs. Rebellion was in the air, and when they came after the man they called the "czar," Beman would not go lightly. He mobilized his nascent power structure to save his own job and the Tour itself, and the fight was waged through the spring and summer of '83. At stake was the direction of American professional golf itself, and the echoes of that conflict resonate even today.
After recapping and analyzing every episode of the new Netflix golf series, Full Swing, it was time to bring our questions to the man who put it all together. In this bonus episode, Chad Mumm, the show’s executive producer, discusses who he envisioned as a target audience, how he locked in on different subjects, and why the show opted against a traditional chronological format. Mumm also reveals his favorite moments, and at least one gem of a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.
The final episode of Netflix’s new golf series, Full Swing, and of our limited-run podcast recapping the show, is all about the star power of Rory McIlroy. As hosts Shane Ryan, Sam Weinman, and Alex Myers discuss, the producers were right to focus the entire last episode on the four-time major champion given the prominent role he played in golf in 2022, as well as his willingness to share parts of himself audiences had never seen before. We discuss some of the bright spots of an eventful final episode, as well as where we felt this show missed the mark. We also took time to assess the series as a whole, and even brought in our special guest novice golf fan to help us determine whether the show worked for audiences who maybe didn’t have the same foundation of knowledge. Check out Shane's recap of the episode here.
As the Netflix series on golf, Full Swing, approaches the end, our podcast recapping the show can’t help but judge the seventh episode through the prism of missed opportunities. Were rookies Sahith Theegala and Mito Pereira compelling enough to carry an entire show? Was either one of the biggest storylines of 2022? Although there were elements of the seventh episode—Theegala’s father being one, Pereira’s all-time collapse at the PGA being another—hosts Shane Ryan, Sam Weinman, and Alex Myers agree this episode was similar to the first episode in its overreliance on a contrived storyline. Check out Shane's recap of the episode here.