Notes: Open qualifying leaves young players out

By Doug FergusonJuly 1, 2014, 11:48 pm

The British Open this year decided to scrap its 36-hole qualifiers on the European Tour and PGA Tour in favor of what effectively is 72-hole qualifiers. Four leading players from the top 12 on the leaderboard at Congressional and the Greenbrier earn spots. In Europe, the leading three players from the Irish Open, French Open and Scottish Open get into The Open. The John Deere Classic gets one spot.

It's the same amount of qualifying spots as were available last year through both 36-hole qualifiers.

But it eliminates any chance for Tour players, or for some of the top college players who turn pro in the summer. The only chance they have to qualify - without a trip across the Atlantic - is to get a spot in the PGA Tour (or European Tour) fields.

''These matters have been very much considered by the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and their request certainly has been to evolve from what we were with the 36-hole stand-alone into the series we have now,'' R&A executive director Michael Tate said Tuesday. ''They don't have that simple opportunity. They can, of course, still travel to the UK and qualify. But I understand how difficult that is.

''I think in the world of the game of golf, what we achieved and what we are doing now is probably correct.''

Indeed, 288 players currently are playing for 12 spots at four regional spots in Britain the next two days. A decade ago, local qualifying was the only way into The Open, and it was held the weekend before the championship.

MATCH PLAY: There's still no word on a title sponsor, though the Match Play Championship at least has a spot on the 2015 schedule.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that Harding Park will host the Match Play next year. The only open date for it is May 13-17, when the weather is ideal in the Bay Area. It would be a huge coup for Harding Park, which also is getting the PGA Championship in 2020 and the Presidents Cup in 2025.

It would be the second World Golf Championship for Harding Park. Tiger Woods beat John Daly in the American Express Championship in 2015.

A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday. The PGA Tour had no comment.

The Match Play Championship had been held the last eight years at Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Arizona, and the field was beginning to lose top stars amid complaints of the golf course. Among those who missed last year were Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.

A move to San Francisco would cause a lot of congestion for May. It would follow the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and The Players Championship in Florida. The PGA Tour would go from California to Texas the next two weeks.

And it would be a big dose of golf for San Francisco, one of the country's great golf markets. Already on tap for 2015 is the LPGA Tour event at Lake Merced, which was played this year the last weekend in April; and the new U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship the first week of May at The Olympic Club.

WATSON'S HOPES: Tom Watson has played 36 times in the British Open, but only four rounds at Royal Liverpool. That's mainly because it was out of the Open rotation from 1967 until 2006. Watson tied for 48th with no rounds in the 60s in 2006.

But he saw enough of it to believe that age 64, he can contend - especially if it's firm.

Watson concedes that he doesn't have the distance to compete with players more than half of his age. Then again, Tiger Woods only used a driver one time when he won eight years ago.

''One of the things about playing Hoylake is I don't hit the ball far enough to have to lay up with the driver,'' he said. ''So go ahead and hit the driver. The driver is one of the strong suits of my game, so that fits right in against some of the kids. They have to kind of guess what to lay up with. I just go ahead and hit the driver out there. The course plays simpler for me than it does the kids.''

LPGA SELFIE: Karrie Webb took a selfie when she won the JTBC Founders Cup, not realizing how quickly it would catch on.

It now is one of the best traditions going in golf.

LPGA photographer Gabe Roux shot the photo of Webb taking her own picture with her cellphone, and the LPGA immediately posted it to its social media channels. Since then, every LPGA Tour winner has taken a selfie with the trophy.

That included Michelle Wie at the U.S. Women's Open, and the USGA asked the LPGA to be sure to tag them to the photo on Twitter.

SLOW START: Justin Rose opened with a 74 on his way to a playoff win at the Quicken Loans National. That was the highest first-round score by a PGA Tour winner this year. And it was only the second time a player shot over par in the opening round and went on to win.

John Senden opened with a 1-over 72 when he won the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, and Adam Scott shot a 1-over 71 when he won at Colonial.

DIVOTS: Henrik Stenson, who lived in Dubai with his family before moving to Orlando, Florida, has signed a two-year partnership with Jumeirah Golf Estates. ... Justin Thomas has shot par or better in 39 of his 41 rounds on the Tour this year. The exceptions were both 1-over 73 in the third round in Panama and Midland, Texas. He is 78-under par for the year and No. 7 on the money list, virtually assured of a PGA Tour card next season. ... Jimmy Walker has been atop the FedEx Cup all but one week this year. Walker and Bubba Watson (No. 2) are playing The Greenbrier Classic this week. ... No one had a bogey-free round at Congressional on the weekend.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Martin Kaymer won The Players Championship and Bernhard Langer won the Senior Players Championship, the first time the winners have come from the same country other than the United States.

FINAL WORD: ''You get used to scoring how you're scoring.'' - Geoff Ogilvy, who has only four scores in the 60s in his last 28 rounds on the PGA Tour.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x