Notes The long wait Tiger or no Tiger fans flock

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England -- Heath Slocum debated whether to come to the British Open as an alternate.
Now he doesnt want to leave.
Slocum had planned to be in Milwaukee this week for the U.S. Bank Championship, but that was before Kenny Perry stood by his decision not to play in golfs oldest championship and David Toms withdrew.
That moved Slocum up to No. 1 on the alternate list, and it left him with a difficult choice'fly to England with no guarantee of playing, or go to Milwaukee with the chance of passing up a spot in the British Open.
It was 50-50 to come here and sit, Slocum said Wednesday. You hate to miss out, especially in a Ryder Cup year. Its an opportunity to earn some points, get another win or help with the FedExCup. Its effectively a week off if Im not in here.
Slocum is at No. 22 in the Ryder Cup standings, and with the exchange rate, no other tournament offers more points than the British Open. He is No. 41 in the FedEx Cup standings with only five tournaments left before players are ranked for the playoffs.
So why not just go to Milwaukee?
Because if I got in here, Id be sick to my stomach, Slocum said.
On the eve of the tournament, his best hope for a withdrawal was defending champion Padraig Harrington, who injured his right wrist. Harrington said after 18 holes of chipping and putting that it was 75 percent he would play, 50 percent he would finish.
I dont want to see anyone get hurt, Slocum said. But if they withdraw, Im here.
And unlike the U.S. Open, it hasnt been a total waste of his time. The U.S. Open policy is that alternates are not allowed to play the golf course until they officially are part of the 156-man field.
The top four alternates at the British Open are allowed to play. In fact, they are extended full privileges, which surprised Slocum when he arrived on the charter from the John Deere Classic.
They give you credentials, your allotment of tickets, everything, he said. And I do have privileges on the course. It would be tough if I didnt. I couldnt imagine playing this course blind.
The toughest part might be the waiting on Thursday. Among the three majors with at least 150 players, the British Open is the only one that sends everyone off the first tee. The first tee time is 6:30 a.m., and the last group goes off at 4:21 p.m.
Slocum cant stray too far from the first tee if his name is called.
It could be a long day, he said.
And it could be a very short week, which could leave him with one big regret.
This is my first links experience, which almost makes it worse, he said. Because now I really want to play.
Tiger Woods isnt at the British Open. Thousands of fans are.
There already has been noticeable declines in attendance at two tournaments Woods typically plays on the PGA TOUR, but that apparently isnt the case at golfs oldest championship.
David Hill of the Royal & Ancient said advance ticket sales are up 28 percent from 1998, the last time the Open was held at Royal Birkdale, and he was confident that more than 200,000 fans will attend this week.
Even today, theyre pouring in through the pay gates more than we anticipated, Hill said Wednesday. I think people are coming to see the Open more than ever. Its disappointing Tiger is not here, but the fans think this is a special week. And theyve made their minds up to come.
Hill said about 230,000 fans came to the Open at nearly Royal Liverpool in 2006, which Woods won for his second straight claret jug, although that was a product of warm sunshine for the week.
Trevor Immelman came to Royal Birkdale searching for some silver to go with his green.
Only eight players have won the Masters and the British Open in the same season, and Mark OMeara is the only player on that short list to have added the silver claret jug at Royal Birkdale.
Its definitely inspiration, said Immelman, who won the Masters by three shots. But thats going to be a pretty tall order. I think Mark was a seriously accomplished player by that point, had spent many years on tour, and he had also had a pretty good record around this golf course. So it was obviously a course he liked and was looking forward to coming to.
But Ill be giving it my best shot, theres no doubt about that.
Masters champions are allowed to keep their green jacket at home during their reign, although Immelman said he hasnt worn it often.
It sits in my closet and I see it every morning, he said. At times its still hard to believe. It comes out whenever friends and family come around to the house who havent seen it, and they kind of have a look at it. So I havent traveled with it or anything like that. Wouldnt want to lose it. Id get in trouble.
The winner of the British Open gets roughly $1.5 million, the richest payoff among the majors. And because majors count double in this Ryder Cup year, an American could earn 3,000 points by winning.
How big of a boost would that be?
Tom Gillis, who has no status on any tour in the world, could win this week and move up to No. 8 in the standings.
As much as Steve Stricker loves competing in the British Open, it hurts to miss the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, close to where he grew up and still lives.
For cheeseheads like Stricker and Jerry Kelly, the PGA TOUR stop in Milwaukee is close to a fifth major.
I do wish Milwaukee could have another date, Stricker said. Im kind of a proponent of having no tournaments opposite these majors. I would love to be able to take advantage of some of the tournaments that are opposite the majors, especially Milwaukee. I miss being there. I havent been there the last couple years. But obviously, youve got to come here when youre exempt and able to play.
The first Open champion of the week was a girl. Moriya Jutanugarn, a 13-year-old from Thailand who had never been to Europe, became the first girl to win the Junior Open on Wednesday when she closed with a 78 at Hesketh Golf Club for a
one-shot victory over Steven Lam of Hong Kong and Jordan Speith of the United States.
Jutanugarn is a scratch golfer, but this was her first time to play a links course. She finished at 9-over 225.
The Junior Open is a 54-hole tournament for players under the age 16.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.