Will another 50-something contend at British Open

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2010, 4:23 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – First it was Greg Norman, proving for three rounds that age is merely a number. Then along came Tom Watson, just a couple of months shy of his 60th birthday, standing over an 8-foot putt that would have made him the oldest major champion in golf history.

Both Norman and Watson came up short, of course.

But their turn-back-the-clock efforts at the past two British Opens showed it’s not unfeasible for someone to win golf’s oldest major title when they’re past their prime.

Should we expect another Old-timer’s Day at St. Andrews?

Two-time winner Padraig Harrington, who beat a then-53-year-old Norman in the final round of the 2008 Open at Birkdale, wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Tom Watson
Watson lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink in the 2009 Open at Turnberry. (Getty Images)
“One thing with golf,” the Irishman said, “experience will always, always counter talent. Talent, yeah, it’s good. It’s nice to have it. It will certainly show up unbelievable on some days. But experience can always match it, certainly on certain golf courses.”

A links course is certainly one of those spots, though Phil Mickelson believes St. Andrews – with the daunting length of certain holes, such as No. 4, and wide-open spaces that invite a player to go with his driver all over the course – is more favorable to a younger player than either Birkdale or Turnberry, where Watson lost to Stewart Cink in a playoff last year at age 59.

“It would not surprise me to see somebody with a lot of experience, a little bit older, play well here,” Mickelson said. “However, I do think that some of the younger players who hit the ball a long ways off the tee have a distinct advantage. So I would anticipate that those players would come out on top.”

Graeme McDowell, coming off a surprising triumph at the U.S. Open, looks at it differently. Experience counters the mental strain of playing in a major – especially for a player who already has captured a title on one of golf’s biggest stages.

“Major championships require patience and discipline,” McDowell said. “A guy in his late 50s and 60s is not as long as he used to be, but he has the mental discipline and the patience to realize that you’ve got to plot your way around. Even if the wind was to drop here at St. Andrews and all of a sudden the golf course becomes sort of a presumed gift, the pins are going to be tucked away and they’re going to be tough to get at and you’ve got to position your ball well.”

Mickelson played a practice round Tuesday with 52-year-old Nick Faldo, who captured one of his three Open titles at St. Andrews two decades ago. Sir Nick isn’t likely to contend this week, devoting more time these days to the broadcast booth than the driving range, but his local knowledge is invaluable.

“I asked him a bunch of questions because he’s got a lot of great thoughts on St. Andrews and avoiding bunkers and shots into the greens and what allowed him to win and be so dominant in 1990,” Mickelson said. “He played some of the best golf you’ve ever seen here.”

The late Julius Boros remains the oldest major winner, capturing the 1968 PGA Championship when he was 48. But the old-timers keep knocking on the door, especially at this tournament and the Masters.

At 48, Kenny Perry was poised to win the 2009 Masters until he bogeyed the final two holes of regulation then lost to Angel Cabrera in a playoff. This past April, 50-year-old Fred Couples opened with a 66 to become the oldest player to hold the outright lead after the first round at Augusta National; he faded to sixth at the end but managed to strike another blow for the geriatric generation.

But Watson’s showing at Turnberry was the most amazing of all. He went to the 72nd hole with a one-stroke lead, struck his second shot solidly but just over the green, and wound up badly missing an 8-foot putt for par that would have clinched the claret jug for the sixth time.

Unable to bounce back after coming so close, Watson was drubbed in the four-hole playoff by Cink. Still, it was a performance for the ages.

“Tom Watson should have, could have won,” McDowell said. “I’m sure Cink was a great champion, but the fairy-tale story was for Tom to win, and we’re all kind of disappointed to not see that happen.”

Watson is among nine golfers in the Open’s 50-and-over flight, and perhaps the strongest contender in the bunch even though he’s the oldest. But keep an eye on Mark O’Meara, who won the Open in 1998 and has been playing well on the Champions Tour. And there’s also Perry, who turns 50 in less than a month and has missed only one cut all year on the PGA Tour, though he’s never been a fan of links golf.

“There’s no doubt that a player who stays physically fit can keep competing,” Harrington said. “But really, does he stay mentally sharp? Does he have that adrenaline?”

Watson knows that everything would have to come together perfectly for him to have another shot at winning, and his iron play was a bit shaky coming into the week. But he made the cut at the first two majors of the year – finishing 18th at Augusta and 29th at the U.S. Open on daunting Pebble Beach – and no one is ruling out another age-defying weekend.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.