Did we just witness Liberty National’s only shot at hosting a tour event?
“It’s like this beautiful birthday cake you bring into the room and slice into pieces, everyone takes a bite and realizes there’s [bleep] inside,”
“If it was a fish, I’d throw it back,”
These were just a couple of my favorite quotes from a couple of tour pros during last week’s FedEx Cup event at Liberty National. While they may sound harsh for a course that’s only three years old; they do make sense. And if there’s one person to blame for the demise of Liberty National’s big mistake at hosting a tour event this early, it’s the PGA Tour.
I had the chance to check the course out and get a first-hand look at one of the most highly talked about golf courses last week. The reason it’s so hot at the moment is due to the obvious tidbits about the course: it’s built on top of a toxic waste dump, and it’s got views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.
While those traits are a pretty incredible start for any golf course, there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years of watching and covering the game, and it’s the fact that a course’s scenery should never define a venue. The course ultimately does that.
It’s too bad Liberty National’s track did little to impress many players and media member.
The media is probably the last group that matters in this equation. Unless your name is Geoff Shackelford or Ron Whitten, there’s a pretty good chance the guy writing the local gamer has never seen the insides of a course design. With that in mind, it doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion on a new course.
I wrote a critical piece for Golfdigest.com earlier this week, questioning the tour and their decision to host the Barclays at Liberty National. What I saw at the course was a layout that was still too green and too young to host an event of this magnitude.
Tom Kite was getting calls from Tim Finchem to host the event at the course before the clubhouse was even built. While that could be considered high praise for most courses, a little bit of digging paints the picture of tour commissioner, desperate to leave Westchester Country Club.
If you don’t know the story, I’d highly recommend you read this piece by Sam Weinman on the whole tour/Westchester debacle. The move by the tour to add a course this young to get out of the Westchester area was a big mistake.
Maybe in a couple years (5-10) Liberty National gets rave reviews. But as of right now Liberty National is like a beautiful girl showing up to a new school for the first time: She looks pretty at first glance, but once you get to know her she’s not as great as you first thought.
The course is still too young to host an event this big. The lack of space at the course, the unusual green structures, and some of the subtle nuances around the course really turned players off. If anything, the tour should’ve sent a couple of pros out to the course on a reconnaissance mission to get a general opinion of the course. Instead, they had to settle for cryptic comments from the players, Tiger using the word “interesting” 1,000 times to describe the course, and more off-the-record comments than we’ve seen in a long time to give their opinion.
In Lehman’s terms: Liberty National isn’t that great. Sure, it looks great on television. But if you take a closer look at the end product, you’ll notice the venue still has a long way to go before it’s a tour-ready facility.
The sad part of this whole story is that Liberty National may not never get that chance to prove how great it can be. They’ve got to tour to thank for making that possible.