Notes Love takes exception to American whining

By Associated PressJuly 22, 2008, 4:00 pm
Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England -- Kenny Perry was the butt of jokes for playing in Milwaukee instead of a major championship, even though he had already wrapped up a spot on the Ryder Cup team.
 
Its not like he was the first American to skip the British Open.
 
Curtis Strange played only 13 times in his career, missing five starts in the 1980s when he was at the peak of his game. Scott Hoch only played the British Open five times, and never bothered to learn the names of the courses.
 
They are exceptions.
 
Brad Faxon once tried to qualify, then flew home and defended his title when he didnt make it. Bob Estes flew from Texas to St. Andrews as an alternate and never got in.
 
Davis Love III, who considers this one of his favorite tournaments, doesnt hold grudges against those who are eligible and dont come.
 
Kenny is a great guy. Theres nothing bad in his heart, Love said. He wasnt complaining. He just doesnt want to play.
 
What bothers Love more are the players that do fly across the Atlantic and start complaining. He didnt mention names, but Pat Perez would have been a candidate for saying the rain and wind in the first round didnt feel like golf.
 
Just dont come, Love said. If youre going to have a bad attitude on Thursday before you tee off because its raining, then dont come, because youre just wasting your time. Its going to be bad, eventually, one way or another.
 
Love believes the Americans get a bad reputation when one or two players dont come to the British Open -- remember Woody Austin last year, who had played eight of nine weeks? -- but he got a different perspective while qualifying in Detroit earlier this month.
 
There were a lot of Tour players there, and there were a lot of guys grinding it out, trying to make it, he said. There are guys who are desperate to play.
 
His advice is to expect the worse, which is what Health Slocum did when he came over as first alternate and didnt have a spot in the field until Thursday morning. Slocum said wind, cold and rain were part of his British Open memories when he watched on TV as a kid.
 
Youre not going to have an easy round of golf every day, Love said. If its warm, its just as hard in another way. Its firm and fast and you get bad bounces, and theres a lot of luck involved. Then it gets like this, and its incredibly tough to control your ball and you just have to have the patience, no matter which way it goes. Its very rarely nice and comfortable.
 
But worth it? It is for more Americans than people realize.
 
Even after he withdrew after nine holes, Rich Beem said he would continue to attempt qualifying if he wasnt exempt.
 
Its the greatest golf known to man, he said.
 
TIGER WHO?
 
Tiger Woods missing his first major as a pro didnt keep the fans away from Royal Birkdale. More than 200,000 attended the British Open, which Royal & Ancient officials said was among the top six in history.
 
Three of the largest crowds were at St. Andrews, and two others that were larger than last week were at Royal Liverpool in 2006 and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
 
The Birkdale attendance was particularly impressive because there was a steady rain and 30 mph wind for most of the first round, which officials said probably kept as many as 5,000 people at home that day.
 
When you think of the weather, people talking about a possible economic recession, Tiger Woods not here I think it was a wonderful crowd, R&A chief Peter Dawson said.
 
Perhaps a better measure than attendance was the sale of 280,000 cups of coffee and 30,000 servings of fish and chips.
 
STEADY KARLSSON
 
Robert Karlsson is fourth in the European standings for the Ryder Cup, and its not difficult to see why. The Swede is the only player to finish in the top 10 at all three majors this year.
 
Karlsson tied for eighth in the Masters, closed with an even-par 71 and tied for fourth at the U.S. Open, then had a 69 -- one of only six rounds under par on the last day at Royal Birkdale -- to tie for seventh at the British Open.
 
Thats nearly one-third of his points from three tournaments.
 
LOADED QUESTION
 
The LPGA Tour had a fan poll on its Web site during the second round of the State Farm Classic, asking for predictions on who would win the tournament.
 
Michelle Wie, who is not an LPGA member, was among the names atop the leaderboard, but she was not part of the poll. The choices were LPGA champion Yani Tseng, Angela Park, Angela Stanford, Sherri Steinhauer, Jee Young Lee and Other.
 
Tseng received 12 percent of the votes.
 
Other was the leader at 63 percent.
 
VIEW FROM ABOVE
 
Fans were startled Friday morning at Royal Birkdale when a large corporate jet flew over the golf course early in the second round, banked sharply and continued south down the coast.
 
It was a Gulfstream V bringing a special guest to the British Open -- three-time champion Jack Nicklaus.
 
And the Golden Bear wasnt quite sure where he was.
 
Looking out from his window, Nicklaus told his assistants, Wow, what a beautiful piece of property. Thats when they informed him that links land was Royal Birkdale.
 
Nicklaus best finish on this links was a tie for second -- six shots behind Johnny Miller -- in 1976.
 
HARRINGTON DIVOTS
 
Padraig Harrington opened with a 74, the highest start by a British Open champion since Greg Norman had the same score at Turnberry in 1986. He is the seventh player to win consecutive British Opens since World War II. All but two of them recorded one of those victories at Royal Birkdale. The exceptions were Tiger Woods (St. Andrews, Royal Liverpool) and Bobby Locke (Royal St. Georges, Royal Troon). Only two players from Dublin have won the British Open -- Harrington and Ben Hogan, who was born in Dublin, Texas.
 
DIVOTS
 
Woody Austin received more Ryder Cup points from his tie for 39th at the British Open than Kenny Perry received from his tie for sixth in the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Arron Oberholser was to have surgery Tuesday on his left hand to remove a bone spur and was expected to miss two months.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
 
Americans have finished among the top three in 32 of the 35 majors this decade. The exceptions are the British Open in 2002, 2007 and 2008.
 
FINAL WORD
 
It wasnt the disaster it was built up to be. -- R&A chief executive Peter Dawson on criticism of the 17th green at Royal Birkdale, where Padraig Harrington hit 5-wood to 4 feet for eagle that clinched victory in the British Open.
 
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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.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.