Big Day for Surprising Batch of Euros

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Eager to break a seven-year drought in the majors, the Europeans figured this British Open might be their best chance yet to lift a winner's trophy on Sunday.
After all, they had 15 of the top 50 players in the world rankings, sufficient numbers to knock off the dominant Americans and hold off pesky countries such as Australia and South Africa.
Greg Owen
Greg Owen is one off the lead following a 5-under 67 Thursday.
Well, as the sun set on Royal Liverpool, the home continent -- heck, the home country -- was well represented at the top of the leaderboard after Thursday's opening round.
But it sure wasn't the names anyone suspected.
Instead of someone such as Colin Montgomerie, little-known Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland was holding down the top spot with a 6-under 66.
The English cheered on a couple of locals just one stroke back: Greg Owen and Anthony Wall, not higher-ranked players David Howell and Luke Donald.
The Spanish chipped in, too, but it's not two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal who shot a 67. That score was turned in by Miguel Angel Jimenez, the cigar-chomping, joke-cracking, ponytail-wearing prankster known as 'The Mechanic' for his love of cars.
For those who pay attention to the world rankings, Jimenez is the highest-ranked player of the bunch, way down in the 47th position.
Owen is 66th, Wall 89th and McDowell a lowly 103rd. Hardly the sort of players who usually contend at a major tournament, though the leader actually envisioned it happening during the practice rounds earlier in the week, when the names from each group were put on the scoreboard as they came to the final hole.
'It was right up there at the top,' McDowell remembered, 'and I was looking up thinking that it would be pretty nice to see that this weekend. And obviously coming down today and seeing my name up there, it's a lot of fun. I know it's Thursday, but it still excites me.'
Except for Spain's Sergio Garcia (the world's No. 9 player shot a 68) and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke (No. 23 turned in a 69), the top European players didn't fare especially well.
No. 10 Howell and No. 11 Donald both struggled to 74s on a warm, sunny day that provided the sort of prime scoring conditions rarely seen on a seaside links course, which count on pesky rain and bone-chilling wind to provide part of the defense.
No. 13 Montgomerie, who hoped to get off to a good start after squandering a chance to win his first career major at the U.S. Open, slogged to an uninspiring 73. So did Olazabal, ranked one spot lower that Monty.
Padraig Harrington of Ireland, 18th in the world and another player who made a strong run at Winged Foot last month, was especially disappointing with a 75.
But the no-namers made up for it.
Especially McDowell, who got some timely advice at a local pub the night before.
'I was having a couple of beers last night with some friends,' the Irishman passed along, 'and some local lad came up to me and basically kind of gives me that old, 'Oh, you're Graeme McDowell and stuff.' I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, (he wants an) autograph.''
Instead, the man mentioned that McDowell appeared a little out of kilter at the top of his backswing.
'Get a bit of work done on that, will you,' he told the golfer.
'Fantastic, thanks a lot for that,' McDowell replied.
'I was kind of joking with the guys I was with: 'If I shoot 66 here tomorrow, I guess I'll be wanting to see that guy on the range Friday morning,'' McDowell said.
He'd like to schedule an appointment for 7 a.m. sharp.
Owen is best known for throwing away his first PGA TOUR title at Bay Hill this year when he three-putted from 3 feet on the next-to-last hole.
'It still hurts now even thinking about it,' he said. 'You know that things happen, a bad bounce here or there or anywhere. I just hope I'll never do it again.'
Though he's now a regular on the American-based tour, Owen lives only a couple of hours away from Royal Liverpool.
'It's nice to have a few friends and family, because I don't get many in the states,' Owen said. 'It's nice to come back and feel the support.'
Of course, the majors are filled with one-day wonders, players who pulled it together for 18 holes but quickly faded back into the hinterlands.
Tiger Woods was only one stroke behind McDowell. Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman were two down. And three back was Phil Mickelson, who's won two of the last three majors and would have captured the other one, too, if not for a double bogey on the final hole of the U.S. Open.
On the other hand, the British Open has produced some unlikely champions over the years, including Paul Lawrie at Carnoutie in 1999. He watched Jean Van de Velde's historic collapse on the final hole, then beat the Frenchman in a playoff.
Lawrie is the last European to win a major, a drought that reached 27 straight events at last month's U.S. Open -- the longest dry spell since the 1970s.
'I just want to be up there on Sunday and enjoy myself coming down to the last hole,' McDowell said, speaking for an entire continent. 'It would be pretty nice.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.