No asterisk necessary at this British Open

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
Follow the 137th Open Championship all week on GOLF CHANNEL. Click for our TV schedule!
Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England -- The claret jug deserves an asterisk.
How else to describe a British Open in which the winner did not have to beat the best player around? Your name is engraved on the oldest trophy in golf, but did you really earn it? Was it a true test?
Were talking, of course, about the 76 British Open at St. Andrews.
That would be 1876.
Davie Strath was in the lead and on the 17th hole when he hit his third shot while the group ahead was still on the green. The ball hit one of the players and stopped near the hole, instead of possibly running over the back of the green and onto the road. He two-putted for 5, took a double bogey on the 18th and finished two rounds at 176 to tie with Bob Martin.
But there was a protest about Straths play on the 17th, and the Royal & Ancient committee decided it would rule on the complaint following a playoff Monday. Strath insisted the committee decide before the playoff, and he refused to play until it did.
Ultimately, all Martin had to do was walk the Old Course in the playoff to win the claret jug.
Now thats an asterisk.
Shooting the lowest score at Royal Birkdale without Tiger Woods in the field?
Thats a major champion.
I just hope theyve taught the engraver how to put an asterisk on the trophy, Geoff Ogilvy said, eyes rolling and sarcasm dripping. Then everyone will know what the tournament was all about.
Sergio Garcia has heard enough of the asterisk question to know what was coming Tuesday when someone asked whether 20 years from now, this would be remembered as the British Open that Woods didnt play.
He didnt even wait for the question to be finished.
It doesnt matter, he said. With all due respect, the Open is bigger than any of us, even Tiger Woods. Nobody is bigger than the tournament itself. If I manage to win this week, Im not going to go, Oh, I won the British Open, but Tiger wasnt there. I still have the claret jug, which is the most important thing.
Woods has as much of a chance to win as Kenny Perry because hes not here, done for the year after surgery on his left knee.
There is no denying something is missing from this British Open, the first without Woods since Turnberry in 1994. He was an attraction as an amateur, especially when he shot 66 in the second round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1996, and certainly at every Open after that when he began piling up majors.
The gallery early in the week at Birkdale has been moderate at best. Woods brings a buzz to the British Open, even if hes usually done with his practice rounds before most fans can have a cup of tea and a bacon bap.
For this week, Im not overly disappointed that hes not here, Els said with a laugh. For the tournament itself, its a big blow. As a player, it feels different, to be honest. Its very different.
How is it different?
Well, you guys are writing up different stories now, he said to more laughter. Youve got to really work at it now.
Therein lies part of the problem, although the media cant be faulted.
Woods has received so much attention over the last dozen years that it seems at times as though no one else is playing the game. Then again, no one else has won 65 times on the PGA Tour and 14 majors before turning 33. The next best record from his generation belongs to Phil Mickelson, who has won 34 times and three majors.
In some respects, its fair enough because hes won a lot of golf tournaments and hes the best player of all time, Ogilvy said. Everyone knows what hes done. And the way it gets portrayed when youre actually watching a golf tournament, its as if he doesnt have any competition, which is not correct.
Someone suggested an asterisk for Ogilvys U.S. Open victory at Winged Foot, the only major where Woods missed the cut.
He started the tournament, Ogilvy said with a smile. I cant help it if he missed the cut.
And therein lies the answer.
Woods played all 72 holes last year at Carnoustie. He was an afterthought by the time Els faltered, Andres Romero made too many double bogeys, Garcia couldnt make a par and Padraig Harrington won in a playoff.
The worlds best player never seriously contended twice at Royal Troon, twice at Carnoustie, once at Royal Lytham. And he wasnt the only guy who caught the bad end of the draw at Muirfield in 2002, when he shot an 81 in the third round.
Paul Goydos summed it up best by bringing Jack Nicklaus into the conversation.
The aspects of professional golf are a number of different things, and one of them is that youre healthy, he said. So when you start hearing somebody write about maybe these next two majors need an asterisk, well, then we need to put an asterisk next to all 18 of Jacks. Because Tiger didnt play in any of those.
Woods wont be playing in this major.
This may be hard to believe, but the 137th British Open still starts on Thursday. Someone will shoot the lowest score, over 72 holes or in a playoff. Someone will hoist the silver claret jug.
And some might ask what would have happened if Woods had been around.
Thats OK.
Because questions arent etched in silver.

Related Links:
  • Full Open Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

    Getty Images

    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

    Getty Images

    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

    Getty Images

    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.