Car-Nifty Delivers The Goods

By Brian HewittJuly 19, 2007, 4:00 pm
Carnoustie is still Car-Nasty. Just not as nasty as it was in 1999. Carnoustie is definitely not Car-Nicety when long hitters like Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi need driver and fairway wood to get home on the 499-yard 18th hole Thursday during the first round of the 136th Open Championship.
Actually Carnoustie was more like Car-Nifty when you considered how many interesting and varied story lines developed during a day that greeted the early starters with raw weather and bathed the late finishers in cool but calm conditions.
There was:
  • First round leader Sergio Garcia shooting 65 and acting like he has wielded his new long putter for years.
  • Tiger Woods stalking the lead and winding up with a 2-under par 69 highlighted by a 100-foot birdie putt that found the hole on the difficult par 3 16th. A ho-hum shoulder turn putt, Woods called it. Lo and behold. Woods is gunning for his third straight victory in this event. A final pairing of Tiger and Sergio Sunday would be choice.
  • Rory McIlroy, the precocious Ulster-teen from Northern Ireland, who carded the days only bogey free round, a 68. This is awesome, said the baby-faced McIlroy, 18, who will turn pro in the fall. McIlroy once shot a 61 at Northern Irelands Royal Portrush, one of the great and difficult golf courses in the world. His dream, he said, is to win the Open Championship this week. He said he also wants to play on the PGA TOUR one day. Thats where all the good players are, he said. One thing McIlroy will not become this week is the youngest Open Championship winner. Young Tom Morris still holds that record. He was 17 years, five months and three days when he won at Prestwick way back in 1868.
  • More news on the drugs and golf front: Wednesday Gary Player touched off a firestorm of controversy and a predictable tabloid frenzy when he said he knew of players using performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, Player said, he had talked to top players who had told him of their drug use. He never, however, named names.
    Thursday I received this response from the PGA TOUR when I requested a reaction from Ponte Vedra Beach to Players allegations:
    Any conversations Gary Player had with other players about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in golf were private conversations to which the PGA TOUR was not privy, came the reply from TOUR spokesman Bob Combs in a prepared statement E-mailed to me. We dont know the identity of any individuals involved in those conversations, nor what was discussed, so we cant comment.
    However, it is important to note, as Commissioner Tim Finchem reiterated in recent weeks, that the PGA TOUR is formulating an anti-doping policy that is comprehensive and supported by other major golf organizations globally.
  • The play of Darren Clarke, who navigated the last 12 holes in 3-under, salvaged a 72 and showed more signs of re-discovering a golf game that has been a second priority in the wake of the loss of his wife to cancer last year.
  • The play of Japans little-known Achi Sato, who birdied the third, fourth, fifth and sixth holes before taking a header off the leaderboard. Sato finished with a 71.
  • John Daly, who won the Open Championship in 1995, outdoing Sato. When Daly holed his second shot for eagle on the par 4 11th, he stood at 5-under and alone atop the leaderboard. He then proceeded to double bogey two of the next three holes and close with bogeys on three of the last four to finish with a bitterly-disappointing and bloated 74.
  • Phil Mickelson, the second-ranked player in the world, playing beautifully everywhere but on the greens. His 71 could have been better. But he appeared to have complete control of his golf ball during a round that looked pain free. Mickelson, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month thanks mainly to a wrist injury, let his left hand come off the club during his second shot from the rough on the brutal 18th. But Carnoustie, as it played Thursday, agrees with him.
  • Irishman Paul McGinley, 40 and mired in mediocrity much of this year, getting it to 6-under through 14 holes and scrapping home nicely for his 67, which left him alone in second behind Garcia. No European has won the Open Championship since Paul Lawrie broke through at Carnoustie eighth years ago. Its just, McGinley said, a matter of time.
  • Once again the name of K.J. Choi among the leaders. Choi already has won tournaments hosted by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods this year. Capturing one hosted by the R&A would instantly catapult him to the head of the class of candidates for PGA TOUR Player of the Year.
  • The names of these players lurking within four shots of Garcia: Michael Campbell (-3), Angel Cabrera (-3), Boo Weekley (-3), Stewart Cink (-2) and Padraig Harrington (-2).
    Dont take your eyes off of any of them. And dont count on Carnoustie remaining Car-Nifty. Yes, the fairways are wider than in 1999 and the rough is shorter. But the weather is always a threat. And it can get very, very Nasty.

    Related Links:
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.