Notes A Golf Balls Wild Ride Irish Tag Team

By Associated PressJuly 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- John Senden strolled toward the 18th green with a troubled look. He knew his ball should be somewhere right of the green, but he didn't see it.
Then some of the fans began yelling for him to look on the other side of the cup.
The Aussie played a version of bumper golf as he came to the end of Saturday's third round at the British Open, hitting both a metal railing and an out-of-bounds marker with one shot. He wound up taking a double bogey, but figures it could have been much worse.
'I guess I can't be picky,' Senden said. 'I'm lucky it wasn't an 8 or 9.'
His adventurous route to the flag began when he drove into a hazard, forcing him to take a penalty drop. He decided to go for the green with a 3-wood, but the ball faded out toward a grandstand along the right.
Senden strained to see where his shot had landed, not knowing that it clanked off a temporary barrier and shot straight left -- probably a good break for those folks staying at the hotel behind the 18th green, who might have ended up with a golf ball in their salad.
Instead, it shot straight across the green and was heading out of bounds, until it ricocheted off a pole that stakes off the forbidden zone in front of another set of stands. Still in play.
'I didn't have a clue where it was,' Senden said.
After two lucky bounces, he now had a chance to get up-and-down for bogey. Alas, he had used up all his good fortune, missing the putt to take a 6. But that was better than the possible alternative.
'If I had gone out of bounds, it would have been a long walk back to hit another shot,' he said.
Already assured of the silver medal as low amateur, Rory McIlroy was in no mood to relax.
'I want to play in this next year,' McIlroy said.
The top 15 at the British Open are exempt for next year, and that's what the 18-year-old amateur had in mind Saturday. He started and finished just fine, but four bogeys in an eight-hole stretch in the middle of his round sent him to a 73.
'That is what my mind-set was, to go out and play my best golf and sort of hit a few good shots,' he said.
After a three-putt bogey on the 11th, McIlroy found his form with one of only five birdies at No. 12 and gave himself good looks at the 13th and 15th. He wound up at 4-over 217, leaving him tied for 45th.
'I'm happy enough,' McIlroy said. 'If I can go out tomorrow and shoot something in the 60s, I'll be very happy.'
McIlroy got into the British Open by winning the European Amateur.
Paul Casey was appreciative of the scoreboard operators who recognized his birthday.
He just wished they had left it at that.
Casey turned 30 on Saturday.
'It was nice to see it on the scoreboard,' he said. 'But they didn't have to say 30th birthday.'
Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley are teammates for Ireland in the World Cup, and they were on the same page Saturday at Carnoustie. Both had three birdies on the front nine, both dropped only one shot, and both shot 68.
And yes, both finished three rounds at 3-under 210.
Whether they feel they still have a chance to give Ireland its first major depends on Sergio Garcia, who was six shots ahead.
'Maybe the two of us could play better-ball tomorrow against Sergio,' Harrington said. 'We might catch him that way.'
McGinley sounded more realistic than optimistic. He has played with Garcia in the Ryder Cup, which he called the biggest stage in golf. Then again, funny things can happen at golf's oldest championship.
'I'm one of 10 or 15 guys who may have a chance of winning,' McGinley said. 'You never know what's going to happen.'
Sandy Lyle, who won the British Open 22 years ago, knows he won't be getting his name on the claret jug a second time.
But the 49-year-old ex-champion deserves some sort of award for consistency this year.
For the third day in row, Lyle shot a 2-over 73 on a course that is quite a test for his aging game.
'I feel 73 is almost par around here,' he said. 'I'd like to have been around in 71 and perhaps make something up on the field, but I mustn't be too greedy. I'm happy to be playing.'
Lyle worried that he might miss the cut after making a bogey on the final hole Friday. But he got through to the weekend, which was like a victory in its own right. He has only one top-10 finish in the Open since his '85 win at Royal St. George's.
'It was a lot easier for me, pressure wise, to go out there and play on the weekend,' he said. 'Nothing to lose, nothing to gain. Just go out there and play for my own satisfaction. Making the cut was obviously my target.'
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.