Notes: Crane heading to British despite no invite

By Doug FergusonJuly 10, 2012, 6:34 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ben Crane was on vacation with his family three years ago when it came to an abrupt end. His brother just happened to notice a crawler on television that said Phil Mickelson had withdrawn from the British Open, and Crane was next alternate to replace him.

There was one problem. This was on a Friday. Crane was in Idaho. The Open was at Turnberry.

''I went to a golf shop and bought every piece of warm clothing they had,'' Crane said Monday. ''I went with my brother, and we had a great time.''

It's a tougher call this year.

The alternate list for the British Open was established Monday by the most recent world ranking. Crane is at No. 54, making him the highest player not eligible, and therefore the first reserve. He is planning to go to Royal Lytham & St. Annes and take his chances of playing a major championship he loves.

But the alternate list won't kick in until the field dips below 156 players.

Even with Mark O'Meara withdrawing Tuesday, there already are 156 players who are exempt or who have qualified for the British Open, which is supposed to have a 156-man field. Still on offer are two spots this weekend to the leading player from the top five, not already eligible, at the John Deere Classic and Scottish Open.

Royal & Ancient spokesman Malcolm Booth said an overbooked Open can happen. For example, there were four Presidents Cup team players who didn't already qualify by being among the top 50 in the world. Three players got in only because they were among the top 20 in the FedEx Cup standings. Both those numbers are unusually high.

''We had this situation in 2008 at Royal Birkdale,'' Booth said. ''By the time a couple of players dropped out, it just resolved itself.''

And that could be the case again.

Webb Simpson has not officially withdrawn, though he is not likely to play because his wife is expecting. There's a chance Jason Day won't travel to England because his wife his expecting their first child. By the time next week gets here, it's possible the field will be down to 156 players.

Even if there were more than 156 players, that's not a problem like it would be for other majors. Another tee time simply would be added. Daylight is not an issue at the British Open, where the final group typically tees off at 4:21 p.m.

Crane took his family vacation in Idaho last week. He headed for the John Deere Classic knowing he was the first reserve, just not certain how many spots he was away from getting in. If it works out for him, this might be the only thing that has gone right for Crane when it comes to the British Open this year.

He was at No. 50 going into the final week of qualifying. Just his luck, Nicolas Colsaerts won the World Match Play Championship that week in Spain, which bumped Crane to No. 51. Plus, he did not enter the British Open qualifier in the Dallas area.

The second alternate is Michael Thompson, who is not playing the John Deere. Thompson plans to monitor the size of the field and decide this weekend if he is close enough to getting in that it warrants the flight over to England.

MOTIVATED MAHAN: Hunter Mahan had a good time making the ''Golf Boys'' video with Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, and it now has more than 5 million views on YouTube. But it also helped serve up some motivation for Mahan.

Early in the video, it is not difficult to detect a slight bulge in his belly. And it's still a slightly sensitive subject.

''Two things,'' Mahan protested when it was brought up last week. ''I'm fitter than I was back then. And the pants were about a 28-inch waist. And I am not a 28-inch waist. They got all the clothes from Goodwill. As soon as I put them on, I said, 'Oh, boy.' I better get this coat on top of me. I don't want to be a fully Monty in front.''

He just looked fuller than he realized.

Mahan said some of his buddies in Dallas gave him some grief. Mahan was never out of shape, though seeing that video made him work even harder. A year later, whatever flab is now muscle. His waist is trimmer. His upper body is thicker. He is stronger, and he cares deeply about his fitness.

''Those are things that are good, because they motivate you,'' he said. ''I've tried to make it a priority and get in the best shape I can. I eat right. You look at (Rory) McIlroy and what he's done. In golf, it pays to be stronger. Over 30 tournaments a year, over 30 years of playing golf, it pays to take care of yourself. You see guys in their 40s, they start breaking down. They try to fix it, but it becomes difficult at that point.''

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: Most players keep an eye on the top 50 in the world ranking as a major championship approaches. For Jeff Overton, the trick is to stay in the top 100.

Overton, who has not qualified for a major this year, has a spot waiting for him at the PGA Championship, which will be played Aug. 9-12 at Kiawah Island. The final major offers an exemption to all members of the most recent Ryder Cup team, provided they remain within the top 100 in the world on July 29.

Even though he tied for 17th last week at The Greenbrier Classic, Overton dropped to No. 96. Unless the PGA of America gives him an exemption - as it did for Jerry Pate last year in Atlanta - Overton has three weeks to stay inside the top 100.

The other Ryder Cup players are in the same predicament - Ross Fisher at No. 113 and Edoardo Molinari at No. 158.

PLAYING THEIR OWN AGE: To get a sense of how young golf is getting, Andy Zhang and Beau Hossler will be playing in the U.S. Junior Amateur, which starts next week at The Golf Club of New England.

It was only last month that Zhang, 14, became the youngest player in U.S. Open history at The Olympic Club.

Hossler, a 17-year-old going into his senior year of high school, briefly had the lead on Saturday at the U.S. Open, and only a sloppy finish kept him from being low amateur. Two weeks later, Hossler made the 36-hole cut in the AT&T National at Congressional.

Now they are back to playing against guys their own age. And keep this in mind - while Hossler qualified for the U.S. Open last year, he didn't even reach the semifinals of the U.S. Junior.

Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Junior last year. A sophomore at Texas, he is too old to compete and plans to try PGA Tour qualifying later this year.

DIVOTS: Geoff Ogilvy has vanished from the golf scene since the U.S. Open. His oldest daughter starts school in San Diego this fall, meaning it no longer is practical for them to spend December in Australia with family. Instead, Ogilvy, his wife and three children have spent the last month in Melbourne, even though it's winter Down Under. ''I'm as far away from the PGA Tour as you can get,'' he said Tuesday. ... The John Deere Classic has a $4.6 million purse. That's the smallest among tournaments that offer full FedEx Cup points, and the prize money is less than two domestic tournaments that are part of the Fall Series. ... Steve Stricker made his 300th career cut at The Greenbrier Classic.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of The Greenbrier Classic have been ranked No. 159 (Stuart Appleby), No. 224 (Scott Stallings) and No. 218 (Ted Potter Jr.).

FINAL WORD: ''The more different guys that win them, the more guys who think they can win them.'' - Geoff Ogilvy, on 15 different players winning the last 15 majors.

Getty Images

After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

Getty Images

Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Getty Images

Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



Getty Images

Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”