Tuesday, August 19, 2008

PARAMUS, N.J. -- The Tour has come to a new old place this week, Ridgewood Country Club, in the northern corner of the Garden State, not even 10 miles from the George Washington Bridge. Near Exit 18, if that means anything to you.
What a place. Ridgewood is an old-line club with 27 holes and a regal clubhouse, and for the Barclays tournament--Phase 1 of the four-part FedEx Cup series--they are using holes from here and there to piece together the full 18. (The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., has also created a composite course for the Ryder Cup and various U.S. Opens.) Par for Padraig Harrington and the boys, 144 of them all together, is 71. All stretched out the course measures more than 7,300 yards.
Not that that means anything. The modern course would need to be well over 8,000 yards if the three-shot par-5 and the long two-shotter of the Hogan Era were ever to become meaningful again. Seventy-three hundred and change, and that's with a drivable par-4, the fifth, checking in at 297 yards. That's a four-iron for Bubba Watson, is the guess here.
But the beauty of the place is that it's real golf on a real golf course: dogleg holes (remember them?);  swoopy greens; gorgeous oaks and maples but nothing like a forest of them. A.W. Tillinghast was a genius.
For years and years, the Tour went to a place much like this one, just over the G.W. Bridge (and the Hudson River): the Westchester Country Club. An old-school gem. There was some kind of feud between the club's bosses and the Tour bosses and that brought about the change of venue. Some will say the move to Ridgewood is an upgrade, and others will say it's an even trade, but any player who doesn't like the place is spending too much time playing desert golf.
Next year, the event moves to a new new course, Liberty National, where everything's sparkly and you can see Lady Liberty. For 2010, who knows. Liberty or  Ridgewood or Westchester or one of the Trump courses, anything's possible. But for this week, anyway, along with Harrington and Lefty and Veej, the course will be one of the stars. The guy who wins will be somebody who is in control of his golf ball. That's what these old courses, bless their golfing souls, always demand.

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