Good Open at The Open for Tiger

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- A little rain took the fire and fear out of Royal Liverpool. Still intact was the strange nature of the British Open, such as the peculiar path Tiger Woods took toward the top of the leaderboard Thursday.
 
He started by missing a par putt from 30 inches and finished by making an eagle putt from 25 feet, giving him a 5-under 67 to leave him one shot behind Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.
 
Graeme McDowell
Tiger Woods may grab the headlines, but Graeme McDowell has the lead after Day 1.
Along the way, Woods took two shots to escape a pot bunker, had to bend a shot around a signpost after marshals tried in vain to twist it loose, and hit the fairway the one time he decided to hit driver. That was the 16th hole, and the ball landed in the 17th fairway.
 
'You can make birdies out there,' Woods said, showing that in a myriad of ways. 'And, obviously, guys are doing it.'
 
McDowell made six of them without losing a shot, and his 66 broke by one shot the course record set by Roberto De Vicenzo in 1967. Then again, that was the last time the British Open came to these forgotten links south of the Mersey River.
 
And as tidy as his round was, even McDowell had to endure a bizarre moment at the British Open.
 
He was in a pub Wednesday night when a local lad recognized him, asked for his autograph, then gave him a swing tip.
 
'He said, 'You get it pretty laid off at the top, don't you?' And I said, 'Yeah, I guess I do.' He said, 'Get a bit of work done on that, will you?' ' McDowell said. 'I was kind of joking with the guys, if I shoot 66, I guess I'll be wanting to see that guy on the range Friday morning.'
 
The biggest surprise of all was the change to a crusty course that had caused consternation early in the week. It had been so brown and brittle that the Royal & Ancient asked that two fire engines be allowed inside the gates in case the links caught fire.
 
Instead, rain showed up overnight and caused a 30-minute delay in the morning because of lingering thunder. It hardly flooded the century-old course, although it didn't take long to notice the difference.
 
'Nobody expected the course to be like this,' Jim Furyk said after his 68. 'It's just a day where you need to post a good number and keep up with everyone else. The biggest change I started seeing was when I fixed a ball mark. I knew the scores would be good then.'
 
And they were.
 
For those concerned that Royal Liverpool could not hold its own against the best players and their titanium toys, the best anyone could muster in relatively benign conditions was McDowell's 66, the same score that has led after one round at the last two Opens.
 
It was the 67 rounds under par -- 32 of them in the 60s -- that got everyone's attention.
 
Since the PGA TOUR began keeping records in relation to par in 1956, the highest number of sub-par scores in the first round of the British Open was 59 at St. Andrews in 1995. No other major has had so many low scores in the first round.
 
'If it hadn't rained, it would have been unbelievable for four days,' Fred Couples said after a 70.
 
Greg Owen of England, the hard-luck runner-up at Bay Hill, was among four other players who joined Woods at 67. The baker's dozen at 68 included Ernie Els, Mike Weir, Adam Scott and Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman.
 
Phil Mickelson, trying to put his U.S. Open collapse behind him, soared to the top of the leaderboard before cooling over the final eight holes, missing two greens in spots he knew were forbidden to take bogeys. He finished at 69.
 
'I've just got to execute better,' he said.
 
Els figured scores might have been lower if players were not so cautious about the first round.
 
'You don't want to shoot yourself out of it the first day, so you're not taking as many chances,' Els said. 'It's not the hardest course we've ever played because of the weather. But there's enough trouble out there where it makes you really think on every hole.'
 
Not all the names atop the leaderboard were familiar, another tradition at the British Open.
 
One of them belonged to Anthony Wall, the son of a London cab driver whose only European tour victory came in South Africa. He made two eagles on his way to a 67, and didn't see anything surprising about being in contention at only his second major.
 
'No reason why not,' he said. 'I have two legs and two arms. I played some good golf. You need the luck, that's the main thing. And here I am.'
 
Perhaps the craziest round belonged to Mark Hensby, one of 23 Aussies in the field. He hit a 2-iron out-of-bounds on the third hole and took triple bogey. He rebounded with nine birdies the rest of the way and joined the crowd at 68.
 
McDowell shot into the lead with three straight birdies, none more unlikely than holing a bunker shot on the par-3 ninth. He had to settle for a birdie on the par-5 16th after hitting 4-iron to 15 feet, then lost a chance for birdie on the par-5 18th when his tee shot found the rough. Still, seeing his name atop the gold-and-black leaderboard behind the 18th green was sweet.
 
'I just want to be up there on Sunday and enjoy myself coming down the last hole,' McDowell said.
 
Woods was pleased to see his name so high on the board, too, considering his forgettable episode the last time he played in a major. With consecutive rounds of 76 at Winged Foot, the world's No. 1 player missed the cut for the first time as a pro in a major championship.
 
The defending champion at the British Open now looks like a good bet to become the first repeat winner since Tom Watson in 1983. It was the sixth time Woods has shot 5 under or better in the first round of a major, and he won four of the others.
 
Asked about his confidence, Woods replied, 'Shooting 67 makes me feel good, yes.'
 
Then he headed for the practice range, still needing to sort out some mechanics in a swing under constant scrutiny. One piece of criticism came 18 months ago from six-time major winner Nick Faldo, while working for ABC Sports.
 
Woods and Faldo played together, and while the photographers crowded into position for the big showdown, all they got was a handshake. Faldo then turned to the gallery and tapped his cheek, signaling they had kissed and made up.
 
Faldo, however, missed one putt after another and was 10 shots behind Woods, shooting a 77 his worst opening round at the British Open since he opened with a 78 at Carnoustie in 1999.
 
The day was a mad scramble for the lead, a Daytona 500 with cars four-wide in the turn. Woods was a late arrival with his birdie-par-eagle finish. What saved him was a couple of pars, however, particularly on the 14th. From right of the green in tall grass, with only 8 feet of green to land the ball, he chopped at a flop shot and it stopped 5 feet from the hole.
 
'I had three potential birdie holes. I didn't want to drop a shot there and go back to 1 under,' he said. 'It was nice to hit that save and keep the momentum going, and I finished off the round very well.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
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  • Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

    By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

    Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

    Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

    After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

    With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    “Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

    Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

    “Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

    Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

    Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

    In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

    She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

    How did she evaluate her season?

    “I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

    “It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

    Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

    “Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

    “I think everybody has little ups and downs.”