Players Ready to Battle Elements at Troon

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- From the time Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and the rest of golf's top players set foot on Royal Troon, they have lavished this piece of linksland with praise.
The greens are among the purest on the British Open rotation. The rough is thick, but not deep enough to lose a caddie. A 200-yard shot can be either a 9-iron or a 2-iron, depending on the wind.
And unlike the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills, opinions are not likely to change.
Justin Leonard won at Royal Troon in 1997 and hardly noticed anything different when he returned, a tribute to the Royal & Ancient philosophy of letting Mother Nature have more of an influence than a lawn mower. Tournament officials even considered turning on the sprinklers until it rained Tuesday night.
'I think the R&A does an incredible job of setting the golf course up fairly and maintaining the course the way it is meant to be played, and not worrying about what the winning score is,' Leonard said. 'The weather dictates that. I think that's the way it should be.'
It wasn't like that at Shinnecock Hills.
Still fresh in the minds of players is the debacle on Long Island, when the U.S. Golf Association tried to protect its most precious commodity -- par -- by keeping water off the greens until shots no longer stayed there, scores soared into the 80s and no one managed to break 70 in the final round.
Robert Allenby was asked to give three examples of how he knows this is the British Open. He didn't mention the traditional yellow-and-black scoreboards, fish and chips, or even brilliant views of the Ailsa Craig jutting out of the sea.
'The greens are playable,' Allenby said. 'The greens are not running 15 on the Stimpmeter. And the course is set up the way it should be set up. It is set up to be a true test of golf.'
Allenby, whose even-par 70 was the best score on Sunday at Shinnecock, then was asked to look ahead at a scenario where Royal Troon gets out of hand.
'They can't do it,' he said.
The best example of how comfortable the R&A is with the British Open setup is that it cares little about the winning score. The wind howled at St. Andrews in 1995, and John Daly won in a playoff at 6 under par. Five years later, there was barely a breeze and Woods set a major championship record at 19 under par.
Well done. See you next year.
'I think one of the big differences to the United States and the U.K. is that we are very fortunate that our weather patterns and nature itself allows golf courses to flourish without too much interference,' said Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A. 'I think the USGA would agree that they got it wrong on Sunday at Shinnecock, but when you're trying to set up a golf course that's a strong test for players, it can be very difficult to get it right.
'We're out to find the best player in the conditions that prevail this week.'
For the first time in more than five years, the search doesn't begin with Woods.
He is still the No. 1 player in the world, although he can lose that ranking at Royal Troon if Els wins the claret jug and Woods finishes 17th or lower.
Woods played his final practice round Wednesday morning in the kind of weather that defines the British Open -- calm, wind, rain, rain that came down sideways and then sunshine. All that before he got through the front nine.
He starts this major with an afternoon tee time Thursday, playing alongside Greg Norman and Lee Westwood. Woods has been playing links golf since he was a teenager, and knows this is the one major that is beyond his control more than the other three.
'This one presents a different challenge,' he said. 'You're going to hit a good shot and get a bad bounce, or hit a marginal shot and get a great bounce. You know everyone is going to be dealing with it.'
The betting favorite is Els, who won the Open at Muirfield two years ago and had good chances at the first two majors this year. If the Big Easy needed any additional inspiration, he might have found it Tuesday when told that a prominent USGA official suggested Els 'gave up' in the final round of the U.S. Open, where he closed with an 80.
'If I did give up, I would have shot 100,' Els said. 'I'd like to meet the guy that said that.'
Els played his first major at Royal Troon as a 19-year-old in 1989, and he considers this one of the best tests on the rotation.
He also took a dig at the USGA.
'It's a very fair, good test of golf,' he said. 'The greens are running beautiful, and I can't see the greens getting away from us this time.'
Els might have the best odds by British bookies, but the list of favorites is longer than ever. Adding to the openness of this British Open is that the claret jug has gone to 13 players in the last 13 years, the longest streak at any major.
'I think everybody will feel like they have a chance,' Padraig Harrington said. 'It's not a golf course that suits long or straight hitters. It suits everybody.'
It might even suit Mickelson.
The Masters champion has never finished higher than 11th in the British Open, but he has never prepared for one quite like this. He has played three full practice rounds, writing down notes along the way. The same shots he has worked on all year -- lower trajectory with less spin -- should come in handy at Royal Troon.
Mickelson showed up a week ago for his first round of practice and was duly impressed.
'I thought it looked sensational,' he said. 'But then again, so did Shinnecock the week before.'
Not to worry.
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    Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

    By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

    While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

    The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

    "I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

    Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

    According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

    "I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

    Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

    Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

    "I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

    Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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    Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

    Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

    “It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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    Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

    “I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”

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    U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters

    By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:12 pm

    Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.

    Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.

    According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.

    "They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."

    Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.

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    Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.

    In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.

    “It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”

    Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.

    Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.