Rocco rolls and weather roils

By Brian HewittJuly 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
Follow the 137th Open Championship all week on GOLF CHANNEL. Click for our TV schedule!
 
Open ChampionshipWhat we needed, I had written in this space and opined on GOLF CHANNELs air, was something different, something to make us forget that this 137th Open Championship was Tigerless.
 
Little did I know at the outset Thursday that Rocco Mediates summer of love affair with the game would continue late in the first round at Royal Birkdale.
 
When last seen at a major championship Mediate was taking Tiger Woods to the limit at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. Woods triumphed, but only after 19 holes of playoff golf on the Monday after the Sunday on which the championship was supposed to end. Then Woods shut his season down because of a bum left leg.
 
Rocco Mediate
Rocco Mediate is looking for redemption after a near-miss at the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
Sneaky good Mediate remained on a roll Thursday in England when he birdied the last two holes to gain a share of the first-day lead with Robert Allenby and Graeme McDowell at 1-under 69.
 
It has been, Mediate said, an amazing trip.
 
Before that, the story was the weather. And I can guarantee that none of the early risers Thursday looked out their bedroom windows at the wind and chill and rain and thought about Tiger Woods.
 
For the first half of the first day Birkdale presented players with the kind of conditions where the wind whips so hard the flagsticks double over in silent laughter at the futility of the prospect of anybody breaking par. The kind of weather where, years from now, we will still be talking about the gale that blew and the compellingly miserable conditions at a place that changed from Birkdale to Barkdale on the first day of the 2008 championship.
 
You knew something odd was up when you saw the name Shintaro Kai at the top of the leaderboard early. This 27-year-old Japanese journeyman arrived in England having missed his last two cuts in his native land. But when he birdied the first hole he sprinted ahead of the field.
 
Then you looked at some of the other early numbers: Vijay Singh 11 over through 13; Rich Beem 9 over through six; Phil Mickelson 7 over through nine. Those are all former major champions, folks.
 
My pre-tournament pick, Lee Westwood, who grew up not that far from Birkdale, was 5 over through 10. Westwood managed to bring it home in 75. Singh wasnt so lucky. He shot 80.
 
To repeat, nobody at this point was thinking very much about the recuperating Woods, snug in his cozy Florida home back in the States.
 
The game was on and the game was hard. Temperatures in the 50s. Winds in 20s, gusting up to 35. Rain blowing sideways. Dunes and mounds looming like frozen tidal waves. Rough that was wet and thick and nasty and unforgiving.
 
No, Toto, we werent in Kansas anymore. Or, for that matter, Augusta or Torrey Pines.
 
You cant believe the ball can go that short, said Retief Goosen when asked about playing into the wind after shooting a 1-over 71.
 
Youre trying to keep your grips dry and youre trying to keep your glove dry and that throws off your rhythm, said 5-time Open Championship winner Tom Watson after carding 74.
 
Today it gave us a big test, said Justin Rose, who returned 74.
 
You can get an ear ache out there because its blowing so hard, said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger from the sanctuary of the TV booth.
 
I felt like anything in the 70s was gonna be a good score, said world No. 2 Phil Mickelson after shooting 79.
 
So now the big question is: How will Fridays weather shake out? There is no guarantee that Thursdays pattern will be repeated. If its calm in the morning and ugly in the afternoon, half the field will have had what amounts to about a six-shot lead over the other half.
 
Weather, the joke goes, has been around a long time. Weather also doesnt know what day of the week it is. Weather quite often isnt fair. And theres scientific evidence to prove that weather knows a Tiger Woods from a Shintaro Kai, who by the way, signed for 80 Thursday.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 137th Open Championship
  • Full Coverage - 137th Open Championship
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''