Notes Carnousties Redemption Steroid User
For years reputed to be the toughest links course in the world, Carnoustie had become somewhat of an enigma for the younger generation. It had gone 24 years without hosting a British Open, and when it returned to the rotation in 1999, the setup was so outrageous that it became known as 'Car-Nasty.'
There was nothing but high praise this time around.
The Royal & Ancient proved that a golf course that can be a strong test without rough up to the knees and fairways cut at the waist. The conditions could have not been more ideal for scoring last week. Rain all summer in Scotland made this a green British Open with lush fairways and soft greens, and the wind rarely got stronger than 10 mph all week.
The result was the first winning score all year in a major (7-under 277), and by far the most exciting major of the year.
It allowed for a dynamic charge by Andres Romero, who made 10 birdies in 16 holes before the pressure overcame him. Romero's play over 16 holes rivaled Johnny Miller at Oakmont in 1973. If not for an approach into the gorse bush for double bogey on No. 12, and a bounce off the stone face of Barry Burn that went out-of-bounds for double bogey on No. 17, golf might have had its first 62 in a major.
Train wrecks were a certainty.
One only had to watch Padraig Harrington twice hit into the burn on the 18th hole and make a gutsy double bogey, then see Sergio Garcia make bogey by playing an iron off the tee for safety, leaving him a 3-iron to the green. He went into the bunker and missed his par putt from 10 feet to set up the playoff.
Harrington twice had birdie putts inside 10 feet in the four-hole playoff, far more entertaining than hanging on with pars.
It should be a lesson that nasty rough might make it a tough test, but not a good one. Ian Poulter and Romero had good rounds evaporate because they were given a chance to advance the ball out of the rough and paid dearly for it. And the wild fluctuation in scores along the back nine, such as Harrington's eagle on the 14th and double bogey on the 18th, made for better golf than seeing who can get to the clubhouse with the fewest bogeys.
Augusta National will always be the most mystical major because of its history and familiarity. St. Andrews will always have the tradition as the home of golf. And with one week, Carnoustie was such a good show that the British Open can't return soon enough.
Gary Player was saluted by some and vilified by most for saying he knew for a fact that at least one player had tried performance-enhancing drugs, although he refused to identify the player.
Turns out at least one player at Carnoustie was taking a steroid.
'I suspect in the next year, I'll be getting more and more questions about it,' former PGA champion Shaun Micheel said. 'I'm not a doctor, but I'm married to a lawyer, so I know how to answer the questions.'
Micheel was diagnosed two years ago with low testosterone, and he has been taking a synthetic steroid (Testim 1 percent), and says he could be on the drug for a while. He said doctors told him his testosterone level should be between 700 and 800 for someone his age (38), and his is around 480. It was 260 when he was diagnosed in April 2005.
'I think people have a better understanding of it because I've been outspoken about it,' said Micheel, who wears 'Testim.com' on the front of his cap. 'I've been on it a couple of years, and I suspect I'll be on it a long time. Once you start taking something, your body stops making it. If I were to test way high ... it wouldn't benefit me in any way. I'm in the wrong sport for something like that to happen.'
He catches some flak from players, but only because of how he takes the drug. It's a clear gel he rubs into his shoulder.
'That's where I get harassed the most,' he said. 'They say I'm using the clear. I do laugh about it. But I don't want to take this stuff. I don't like taking stuff for a cold.'
ON A ROLL
John Wood sounded like a typical caddie when he said his boss was swinging well at the U.S. Open at Oakmont and could be about to break through.
Wood was only off by a week.
Hunter Mahan tied for 13th at the U.S. Open, then won the following week in Hartford at the Travelers Championship. He tied for eighth in the AT&T National at Congressional, then shot 69-65 on the weekend at Carnoustie to tie for sixth in the British Open.
Suddenly, things are looking up.
He is 16th in the FedEx Cup standings, and 16th in the Presidents Cup standings, which is determined by PGA TOUR earnings. Mahan has three weeks left to make up more ground, including his first World Golf Championship next week at Firestone.
'I'm letting myself play,' Mahan said. 'It was a struggle early in the year. I was thinking negative and using my mind as a disadvantage and not an advantage.'
Mike Weir is playing better, but finding it hard to pick up ground in his bid to make the Presidents Cup team for what figures to be the biggest event in Canada (Royal Montreal). He tied for eighth in the British Open, but was passed in the standings by Richard Green of Australia, who shot 64 on Sunday and tied for fourth. Weir has moved up only two spots the last three weeks to No. 17. ... Some players who missed the cut at Carnoustie hung around to catch a charter flight for the Canadian Open. One of them was Brett Wetterich, only he was going in the opposite direction. The Ryder Cup rookie is playing in Germany on the European Tour this week.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Three of the seven British Opens held at Carnoustie were decided in a playoff.
'John Daly is on about every non-performance enhancing drug imaginable.' -- Bill Kratzert.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019
The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.
The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.
The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.
The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at Club de Golf de Panama.
Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins
An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.
It was too much “socializing.”
“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”
Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.
“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”
Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.
His plan for doing that?
“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”
McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018
Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.
So much for easing into the new year.
So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.
McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.
“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”
McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.
If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.
After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.
“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.
McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.
“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”
A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.
A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.
Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.
To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.
Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.
McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.
“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.
A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.
“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”
A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.
Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open
SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.
The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.
Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.
Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.
''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''
The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.
''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''
Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.
''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.
Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.
He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.
Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.
Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.
He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.
Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.