Open Over for Jack Maybe Field

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- They leaned out of store-top windows, crammed onto hotel balconies and filled every inch of space along the 18th hole at St. Andrews to witness a historic moment at the home of golf.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking to complete the career Grand Slam for the second time.
First came the farewell of Jack Nicklaus, the greatest champion the game has known, ending his competitive career Friday by missing the cut at the British Open. Before the tears could dry, Tiger Woods re-emerged as the dominant force he was five years ago by ripping apart the Old Course to build a four-shot lead.
 
And so the torch was passed, just as it was when Nicklaus bowed out of the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and Masters, all of those won by Woods.
 
Nicklaus at least went out on his own terms. Determined to finish with a birdie, he struck his signature pose -- putter raised in his left hand -- when the 15-foot putt curled into the right side of the cup.
 
``I knew that hole would move wherever I hit it,'' Nicklaus said.
 
Thirty minutes later, Woods saved par from the Valley of Sin to polish off a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 that gave him his largest 36-hole lead at a major since his magical run in 2000.
 
``I still have to take care of my own business, and that's a lot out here on this golf course,'' Woods said. ``You have enough issues out there to worry about.''
 
Nicklaus and Woods finally met in the interview room -- fittingly, as the Golden Bear was leaving.
 
'Nice playing,' Nicklaus told him, extending his right hand.
 
'Thank you, sir,' Woods replied as they shook.
 
'You know, that's my best round of the year!' Nicklaus said proudly. 'And I still didn't make the cut.'
 
But he sure got an emotional sendoff on a mostly sunny, crisp afternoon at St. Andrews.
 
It started on the first hole, when the packed grandstand along the right side of the fairway rose and applauded as Nicklaus walked by in an argyle sweater, similar to the one he wore in 1978 when he won at St. Andrews. It traveled around the Old Course until he got the loudest cheer of all -- when he strode atop the Swilcan Bridge.
 
``You saw the greatest player who has ever played the game come up the 18th hole,'' five-time Open champion Tom Watson said.
 
The birdie gave him an even-par 72, and he finished at 147 to miss the cut by two shots.
 
It was his 164th major championship, and it was in these Grand Slam events that Nicklaus defined the modern standard for greatness. He won 18 professional majors, and even more staggering was his 19 times as the runner-up.
 
``He's been the benchmark for every player that's ever played the game, at least in my generation,'' said Woods, who already is halfway to Nicklaus' record and looks as though he might get his 10th major this week.
 
The departure of Nicklaus won't siphon all the drama from St. Andrews.
 
Woods, who was at 11-under 133 after wasting birdie chances on his last two holes, will play in the final pairing Saturday with Colin Montgomerie. The Scot got the second-loudest cheers as he birdied three of his final five holes for a 67 that put him at 137.
 
The last time they were paired in the final group at a major was the third round of the 1997 Masters, when Monty confidently predicted experience would be on his side. Woods put nine shots between them that day and won by 12.
 
All he can do now is hope.
 
``A lot can happen around here,'' Montgomerie said. ``We have a number of bounces that can go either way over the next couple of days. But in saying that, if Tiger Woods plays the way Tiger Woods can play around this type of course, I would have to agree with a number of other players that second place is what we're doing.
 
``We are watching here a unique golfer on a unique golf course.''
 
Not everyone feels that way. The seven players at 6-under 138 included Vijay Singh, who missed several birdie chances inside 10 feet and felt his 69 was about as poor as he could have done. He certainly isn't about to concede the claret jug to Woods.
 
``Look at Retief at the U.S. Open,'' Singh said, referring to Retief Goosen blowing a three-shot lead in the final round by shooting 81. ``You never thought he'd mess that up the way he was playing. I'm not worried about Tiger. I'll just go out and play my game and shoot as low as possible over the weekend.''
 
Others at 138 included Brad Faxon, a throwback who came to Scotland for local qualifying and shot 66; and Jose Maria Olazabal, keeping his chances alive with an eagle through the Valley of Sin on the final hole to salvage a 70.
 
Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson tried to get back into the mix, each with a 67 that got them to 3-under 141. By the end of the day, they still were eight shots behind.
 
This was only the fourth time Woods has started a major with two rounds in the 60s, and he has won them all. He also is 5-0 in the majors when he leads after 36 holes.
 
It's the way Woods has built this lead that is so daunting.
 
He putted for eagle five times in the second round, converting four of those into birdies. He was tied for the lead when he began his round, and quickly established himself as the guy to beat.
 
``It was nice to go out there with the lead and not drop any shots,'' Woods said.
 
It was a solid round, but you couldn't tell by the muted applause from the gallery. It's a rare occasion in a major when Woods is not the center of attention, with fans hustling along the native grasses and gorse bushes for a view of the world's No. 1 player.
 
On this day, their hearts were with Nicklaus.
 
The only time Woods saw his idol was around the loop -- the seventh through the 11th holes at the far end of the course -- when Nicklaus was teeing off on the 11th and Woods was coming up the eighth green.
 
``Other than that, it was really quiet where we were,'' Woods said. ``I wish I could have heard what was going on.''
 
He would have heard a salute like no other at St. Andrews, from as many people as the old gray town could contain, all packed into the rectangular shape of the first and 18th fairways.
 
Singh, Faxon, Tom Lehman, defending champion Todd Hamilton and other players stuck around to watch, joined by dignitaries and everyday fans. Nicklaus could only recall three other times when he felt such emotion -- twice at the British Open, once at Baltusrol, where he won the 1980 U.S. Open.
 
``The only difference was that I was then trying to figure out how to make a par and birdie on the last hole to win a tournament, and I had a few other things happening,'' Nicklaus said. ``Today, I wasn't too worried about having to make a birdie on the last hole.''
 
He made one anyway, just like old times.
 
Nicklaus blew kisses to the crowd, hugged his son Steve, his caddie this week, then wife Barbara and the rest of his family before heading to the scoring trailer.
 
A voice came over the loudspeaker at St. Andrews.
 
``Ladies and gentlemen, we do hope you enjoyed this special moment in Open history,'' it said. ``There may be some delays. We hope many of you will take this opportunity to watch some more moments in Open golf.''
 
They didn't have to look far. Woods was right behind.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 134th Open Champoinship
  • Daily Photo Gallery
  • Open Championship Trivia Challenge
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.