Gamble Paying Off for Faxon

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Brad Faxon knew what the reaction would be.
 
Why would an American golfer fly eight hours across the Atlantic to play two rounds of golf on some obscure Scottish links for a shot -- make that a longshot -- at qualifying for the British Open?
 
``I have a lot of friends that were like, 'You're going over there to qualify?' With raised eyebrows,'' Faxon recalled. ``And part of them were saying, 'You're nuts.'''
 
Turns out, Faxon wasn't so crazy.
 
Last weekend, he claimed one of only three spots that were available in his 96-player qualifier. That was reason enough to celebrate, but Faxon didn't stop there.
 
On Friday, he posted one of the best rounds of the day on the Old Course, a 66 that sent him to the weekend in a seven-way tie for third and five strokes behind leader Tiger Woods.
 
Those same friends who questioned Faxon's sanity will likely be gathered around their TV sets this weekend, rooting on an improbable quest that just keeps getting better.
 
He's also getting plenty of cheers in Scotland, the Brits showing their appreciation for an American who went out of his way to play in the homeland of golf.
 
``I've had a lot of people say things about coming over here, how impressed people were by that,'' he said. ``I've told people from the beginning that I'm not doing it to impress anybody. I'm not trying to win over anybody. I want to play the Open. And that was my only choice.''
 
Faxon has always relied on his putter to score and it was no different Friday when he used it to birdie five holes on the front side. He made a 15-footer at No. 2, a 10-footer at 3 and a 20-footer at 8. He also pulled off a couple of lengthy two-putts on the massive St. Andrews' greens, getting down from 100 feet at 5 and 90 feet at 9.
 
Another two-putt birdie from off the green at 18 closed out his round.
 
``I saw the line very well today,'' Faxon said. ``And you have a lot of long putts here. It's stuff you can't practice. You don't know when you're going to have a 70-footer and it's hard to decide. Do you pace this off? How do you pick up speed here? But you've just got to kind of use your eyes and trust that you know how to hit it the right distance.''
 
Actually, it's not too surprising that Faxon has a keen feel around the humps and hollows of the Scottish coast. He's always had an appreciation for links golf, going back to his teenage years.
 
He remembers watching back home when Jack Nicklaus won for the second time at St. Andrews in 1978, wearing that famed navy blue argyle sweater. ``I've got two of them,'' Faxon said.
 
He was a big fan of Tom Watson during his dominating run in the 1970s and '80s, wearing that ``little woolen cap ... with the pompon on it.''
 
``I love coming over here,'' Faxon said.
 
Even though it doesn't always work out. Five years ago, he flew to Scotland in a failed attempt to qualify for St. Andrews, then flew right back home to successfully defend his title at the B.C. Open.
 
Faxon has struggled much of the year, missing the cut in eight of his first 16 tournaments with only one top-10 finish. And he couldn't take part in the U.S. qualifier for the British Open because it conflicted with a charity event he runs with fellow PGA Tour golfer Billy Andrade.
 
Notorious for tinkering with his swing, Faxon apparently got it right at just the right time. He tied for third at the Barclays Classic, his last tournament before the Open.
 
``I've played some of my worst golf in my career early on this year,'' Faxon said. ``I was experimenting with too much stuff, as I've been known to do. But in the last couple of months, I've played more consistently.''
 
The last time Faxon played an Open at the Old Course -- a decade ago -- he was tied for the lead with John Daly at the midway point. But Faxon slumped to 75-74 on the windy weekend, dropping him into a tie for 15th.
 
This time, he hopes to finish the job, though it will be a daunting task for anyone to catch Woods the way he's playing.
 
No matter what happens, Faxon's trip is already a success.
 
``Coming over here to qualify got me in the spirit a little bit,'' he said. ``I hope it carries through the next few days.''
 
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.