Notes: Laird's round goes from bad to worse

By Doug FergusonJuly 20, 2013, 11:16 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Martin Laird was at home in Scotland, closing in on the lead at the British Open when it all went wrong.

His mess at Muirfield began with a 2-iron that strayed into nasty, yellow rough right of the fairway. After a couple of hacks - and a couple of penalty shots - he staggered off with a quintuple-bogey 9.

And that wasn't even the worst of his forgettable Saturday. Walking up the 16th fairway, he was informed an additional shot was being added to his score for failing to alert all the right people when he moved his ball in the rough on the 10th hole to identify it.

''To say that deflated me, I think would be an understatement,'' Laird said.

He ended his long day with an 81 - 12 shots out of the lead.

''Every time I hit a shot that could go one way, it went the other,'' Laird said.

Even after chopping his way to a 9 on the third hole, Laird was only 3 over for the tournament. He bounced back with a beautiful 5-iron into the toughest hole, and then made birdie. What gnawed at him was the 10th hole.

In deep rough, Laird marked his ball with a tee and told the marshal who found it that he was going to make it was his. One problem. The rules require him to tell playing partner Dustin Johnson or one of the walking officials.

''If I had said, 'Dustin, just went down to find my ball.' Or, 'Rules Official, I'm going to identify my ball.' Even if I said it loud enough for one of them to hear, it would have been fine,'' Laird said. ''It's the fact that none of them heard it, even though I said it. So it's one of those lovely rules of golf.''

Instead, he violated Rule 12-2 that says, ''Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his ... fellow competitor.''

David Rickman, the rules director for the Royal & Ancient, said letting the spotter know wasn't enough.

''The rule is very specific,'' Rickman said. ''It needs to be the fellow competitor. The fellow competitor is there to protect the interests of the rest of the field, and therefore, we are specific about who that needs to be. Because you need to give that fellow competitor, or as I say this week, the referee, the opportunity to come over and observe the player's actions. That's the protection that the rule gives.''

Worse yet was finding out so deep in a round that had already gone so wrong.

''Walking up 16 when I was told I got a one-shot penalty on No. 10, I don't even think rubbing salt in the wounds would do enough to describe it,'' Laird said.


MECHANIC SPUTTERS: Miguel Angel Jimenez likes to relax with a good cigar and a glass of red wine. He might need something a little stronger after Saturday.

''The Mechanic'' played solidly over the first two rounds and went into Saturday with a one-stroke lead. But he plummeted from contention with a 6-over 77.

This one started bad - four bogeys in the first eight holes - and didn't improve much. Still within striking distance of the leaders, Jimenez played the final five holes at 4-over par. He took double-bogey at the 16th, needing two swings to escape a pot bunker. At the 17th, he lipped out a 3-footer to save par.

He still has an outside shot, going to the final round six strokes behind leader Lee Westwood. But the fun-loving Spaniard knows his chances are slim, especially with nine players between him and the lead, including Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson - major winners all.

Jimenez hoped to become the oldest major winner in golf history at age 49. Instead, he'll likely have to settle for a good smoke and a sip of vino from something besides the claret jug.



WHERE'S THE CROWDS?: Despite flawless weather, the crowds at Muirfield are noticeably smaller than the last time the British Open came here in 2002.

The R&A reported attendance figures for the first three days of the tournament, as well as the practice. The turnout was slightly higher for practice - a total of 31,320 turned out, but the higher-priced tournament tickets haven't been as much as 11 years ago.

The opening-round crowd Thursday was 23,393, a significant drop from 30,620 in '02. The trend was much the same the last two days. At Muirfield's previous Open, the crowds were 34,479 for the second round, 33,212 for the third.

Also noticeable: the number of empty seats at the 18th hole when Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods arrived. Even the BBC commentators noted that plenty of fans headed home early, despite two of the most popular players still contending for the lead.

No one can blame the weather for the smaller turnouts. It has been sunny all week, with temperatures in the 70s.


SCHOOL'S STILL IN SESSION: Jordan Spieth created a stir last weekend by becoming the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years.

But he's smart enough to know there's plenty left to learn.

The 19-year-old hobbled to a 5-over 76 Saturday, hurt by bad bounces and worse decisions.

''I wasn't patient and that was the issue,'' he said. ''Bad bounces are going to happen out here, but I could have shot three shots lower, without even playing any different.''

Despite being 6 over for the tournament, Spieth enjoyed himself, in part because he played alongside Northern Irishman and major winner Darren Clarke.

''He's obviously loved and I can see why. Extremely nice guy, he's very selfless, he's rooting for me. It was cool,'' Spieth said.

Despite a full schedule since March and the pressures of being in contention the previous three weekends, Spieth said he didn't think fatigue was a factor in his performance here. That said, he wasn't unhappy about taking time off after the Open.

''Yeah,'' Spieth acknowledged, ''I'm looking forward to it.''



MICKELSON'S GRIND: Phil Mickelson criticized the course setup at Muirfield after his first round in the British Open, then apologized for it after his second.

After finishing play Saturday, he was sticking with the party line.

''I thought today was excellent,'' Mickelson said. ''It was set up very well. We saw a few scores under par. We saw quite a few over par. If you manage your game well, I thought you could make pars, and an occasional birdie here and there.''

Mickelson shot a 72 in the third round, leaving him five shots behind leader Lee Westwood.

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”