After a U.S. Open weekend filled with slick greens, catastrophic meltdowns, and Shane Bacon’s forearms, the PGA Tour returns to normal this week at the Quicken Loans National, which No Laying Up has respectfully dubbed The Sub-Prime Open. Of course, “normal” is a relative term when discussing this tournament, its history, and its rightful place on the calendar.
The PGA Tour moves in a predictable pattern each year. The reach-around events in the fall barely register with most fans addicted to preoccupied with Football on Saturdays and Sundays. January brings about the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open, a surge in the “cheap flights to Hawaii” Google search, and folks questioning the decision live in New England voluntarily. Then it’s on to the West Coast and Florida swings, with familiar tournaments at dependable courses (Waste Management, AT&T Pebble Beach, Bay Hill, etc.), after which, Nantz says hello, and the season is off and running.There are always a few shakeups (Austin CC hosting the Match Play went over well, Trump’s Doral involvement did not), but generally, Finchy & Co. haven’t rocked scheduling/sponsorship boat (remains to be seen if Jay Monahan shuffles the deck a bit).
And then there’s this week’s Sub-prime Open, the foster child of the PGA Tour Schedule. The Quicken Loans National started in 2007 as the AT&T National, which replaced the Denver-area International, which began 1986 and played at the tasty Castle Pines Golf Club. The International leveraged the Stableford scoring format, a point-based system where eagles are worth 5, a birdie 2, par 0, bogey -1, and double -2, and was all about the action. It encourages an all out assault on attack pins and par-5’s especially with risk almost always worth the reward.
Knock off green jackets, Retief Goosen, and an unnecessarily large and oblong trophy with birds on it? Sign me up.
Stableford is pretty much the official format of No Laying Up. Past champions include heavyweights like Lefty (twice), DLIII (twice), The Shark, Vijay, Ernie Els, and Lee Jansen (Lefty was runner-up twice as well). NLU Hall of Fame nominee Rich Beem also won at Castle pines in style:
Enter Big Cat
Sadly for those of us who enjoy more than endless, mind-numbing stroke play events (a subset of folks that doesn’t include the Olympic golf czars…WTF are they thinking), The International was #Ejected from the 2007 season. Tournament organizers were unhappy with the proposed change in dates (from early/mid August to the week after the U.S. Open), which is really code for they couldn’t find a title sponsor. AT&T stepped in and pulled together a new event and moved things back to the Mid-Atlantic to up the cache. Nobody really knows how Big Cat was roped into hosting and sending out the 120 invitations, but I wonder if BlueJack National (or another course he designs in the near future) is a potential home for this invitational.
(Sidenote: The modified Stableford is back with the Reno-area Barracuda Championship. It may be renamed the No Laying Up Invitational if the Merch operation takes off…stay tuned).
The AT&T National was played at Congressional from 2007 to 2009, then hopped over to historic Aronimink near the –iladelph (RIP Stu Scott) for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. It returned to what was left of Congressional in 2012 (after Rory’s nuclear detonation of the 2011 U.S. Open), with the only deviation being last year’s tournament at the somewhat narcissistically named Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Last year’s tournament deviated on the calendar as well, finishing up August 2nd – two weeks before the PGA Championship.
Got all that? Good, me neither.
The Billy Bob Thornton’esque Troy Merritt dropped a Saturday 61 en route to his first career PGA Tour victory. This year, the tournament is back in its (semi) regular slot on the schedule at its (mostly) usual course. It’s worth the watch, as there’s no telling what the future holds for this scattered event, but with Tiger tied in as the host, it’s not going to disappear.
Robbie is a guest contributor to No Laying Up. You can find him on Twitter @RobbieVogel14