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Back-To-Back Albatrosses at Carnoustie

Titleist staff members Todd Huizinga and Mike Russell defy astronomical odds and score back-to-back double-eagle 2's on Carnoustie's famed Par-5 sixth hole.

Todd and Mike on Carnoustie's 6th Green

As The Open Championship approaches, we wanted to share an amazing story of what can happen in links style golf. We first learned of this story from John Parker, Titleist's Sales Representative in the Tucson, AZ area. John had just visited with Titleist Leadership Advisory Board Member Todd Huizinga, who is the Director of Golf at The Stone Canyon Club in Tucson. Each year Todd, along with fellow Titleist Staff Members Mike Russell (Head Professional of The Golf Club at Vistoso) and Paul Nolen (Head Professional at The Gallery Golf Club) as well as Dean Vomacka, Head Professional at The Stone Canyon Club, take a group of their members to either Scotland or Ireland for a golf trip. Their 2008 trip will live long in their memories, as Todd and Mike capped off their 10-day Scottish tour with a remarkable golf accomplishment at Carnoustie.

Carnoustie Golf Links in the town of Carnoustie, Angus, in the east of Scotland is one of the venues in the Open Championship rotation. Nicknamed "Car-nasty", Carnoustie is considered by many to be the most difficult course in the Open rota, and one of the toughest courses in the world. Golf is recorded as having been played here in the early 16th century. Carnoustie first played host to The Open Championship in 1931, when Tommy Armour of Scotland was crowned champion. Titleist Pro V1x loyalist Padraig Harrington of Ireland won the Claret Jug the last time the Open Championship was played there in 2007.

The group played Carnoustie on September 24th, a week before the Dunhill Cup would be contested. Usually the pros would all split up and take three member amateurs each to form their foursomes. But at Carnoustie, the pros all played together, having been granted the special privilege from the club to play from the Medal tees. It was a partly cloudy day, with 15-20 mph winds as the pros led the Arizona contingent out on the links. They arrived at Carnoustie's sixth hole aware that they were standing on hallowed golf ground. The hole was playing downwind that day and as Todd describes it, #6 is a "tough, hard and fair golf hole." The par-5 sixth hole was made famous by Ben Hogan. Its wide fairway is split by a pair of deep bunkers, one beyond the other, forming two avenues. The safe, right-hand fairway presents a difficult second shot over dunes and the end of Jockie's Burn to reach the green. The dangerous left-hand route is lined by out-of-bounds down the entire left side but presents a much better angle from which to attack the green. The left fairway looks extremely narrow and intimidating from the tee, just 20 yards from the first center bunker to the O.B. stakes, but the landing area widens to 32 yards past the second bunker. After Hogan aggressively drove down the left side in each round in the 1953 Open, it was dubbed Hogan's Alley.

Todd and Mike both took the aggressive route, down Hogan's Alley.  Todd's ball found a large depression in the middle of the left-hand fairway.  He was left with 203 yards to the green. Todd hit his Titleist AP2 5-iron and felt immediately that he had caught it. Mike, who was standing nearby, says, "It was a pure shot all the way." Todd couldn't see the hole from his vantage point in the foxhole lie, but he had factored in the firm and fast conditions (by U.S. standards, not Scottish) and he knew that if he could hit the front part of the green there was a good chance it would run all the way to the back pin position. Todd's Pro V1x followed his mental flight plan as if it were radio-controlled. The ball hit the front part of the green, released on line with the pin and tumbled into the hole with perfect speed, as if it had been putted. Todd had made an albatross 2 on one of golf's most famous holes.

Mike and Todd back in the States

"There was a lot of high-fiving going on, and my heart was pounding," Todd says. "I was kind of eager to get up to the green to see if it really went in."

As the excitement died down a bit, Mike shook his head bemusedly at Todd's shot. As he walked into his own shot, which had found a flat lie and gave him a clear view of the green, Mike joked, "All right, let's top him." From 200 yards out, Mike drew back his Titleist Z-Muscle 6-iron and launched his own Pro V1x towards the green.

"I had walked over to the left side of the hole at this point," describes Todd, "and Mike's shot looked great 100 yards off the clubface. It was tracking on that pin like a magnet. Mike starting inching his way up the fairway. Then we saw the ball hit the front of the green and release towards the hole. Mike took off like a Brazilian soccer player and jumped in the air as his ball dropped in, too."

Todd's Pro V1x

They heard a roar from the adjoining fifth fairway and tee, where their member friends and a Carnoustie Ranger had witnessed the feat. Two albatrosses on back-to-back swings. Todd and Mike walked down the fairway together and peered into the hole, side by side. "There they were, a Pro V1x on the left side of the cup and a Pro V1x on the right side. It was a great feeling," Todd says, " but then I immediately realized, 'Oh, no! He halved me. We pushed the skin with 2's!'"

Mike's Pro V1x

On the next hole, neither man could find the fairway with irons. Presumably, adrenaline can be blamed for that. Todd and Mike finished out the round each shooting under par on the front nine, over par on the back, and each shooting very respectable total scores in the mid-seventies. The head Golf Professional at Carnoustie presented both Todd and Mike with a "100 Years of Carnoustie" plaque to commemorate their rare achievement, a gesture for which both men are very grateful.

"It was a great moment, and it was even more special to do it on a legendary course like Carnoustie. Having a buddy to share that memory with is a great bonus, too."

"And," Mike pointed out, "one nice advantage to us both making the double-eagle is that we got to split the big bar tab afterwards."

We were curious to find out just how unusual Todd and Mike's feat was. We couldn't find any albatross-specific statistics, but it is interesting to consider the odds of making an albatross compared to a hole-in-one. The following odds are presented courtesy of a 2000 study published in Golf Digest. These odds are based on estimated numbers for rounds played each year (528 million) and estimated holes-in-one (100,000). It is also assumes four par-3 holes of varying lengths in an 18-hole round.

A player making an ace in a given round: 5,000 to 1

Two players, same foursome, acing same hole: 17 million to 1

Acing a designated hole in a single round: 20,000 to 1

Two players in a field of 200 acing same hole in a single round: 5,000 to 1

Acing the same hole more than once in 1,000 rounds: 1 in 200

Two aces in a single round, same player: 67 million to 1

Getting an ace in a 1,000-round career: 1 in 5

Three aces in a single round, same player: 2 trillion to 1

Getting an ace in a 5,000-round career: Almost a sure thing

The odds of making an albatross is frequently stated at about 6 million to 1. However, a 2004 article in Golf World magazine quoted Dean Knuth, inventor of the USGA's slope rating system for golf courses and handicaps, as saying the 6-million-to-1 figure was a little too high. Knuth put the odds at 1-million-to-1.

So if the odds of two players, same foursome, acing the same hole are in the neighborhood of 17 million to one, and if it's conservatively 200 times more difficult to score an albatross than a hole-in-one, then the odds against Todd and Mike doing what they did at Carnoustie are 3,400,000,000 to 1.

Whatever, the exact odds are, congratulations, Todd and Mike from all your friends at Titleist! It's a truly amazing achievement, one that perhaps has never before been accomplished in the history of the game.

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