Notes: Stenson falls just short

By Doug FergusonJuly 21, 2013, 10:56 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Even after he made back-to-back bogeys to fall out of a tie for the lead, Henrik Stenson never thought he was out of the British Open.

Ian Poulter had posted a 1-over 285, and Stenson was 1 over with five holes to play.

He just had no idea Phil Mickelson in the group ahead of him was piling up so many birdies down the stretch Sunday at Muirfield.

''All of a sudden, I saw he was 2 under and I was three back with only two holes to go,'' Stenson said. ''So I said to my caddie when I made the birdie on 17, 'Maybe I can hole the second shot on 18 and get into a playoff.'''

Wishful thinking. Stenson could hear the crowd roar for another Mickelson birdie on the 18th that put Lefty at 3-under 281. The Swede with the slick sense of humor turned to his caddie again and told him, ''A hole-in-one is pushing it, I think.''

Stenson finished strong with a par, and his consolation prize was a silver medal. He closed with a 70 to finish three shots behind, alone in second place, for his best finish in a major. Stenson twice tied for third in the Open, though he was six shots behind Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale in 2008, and eight shots behind Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews two years later.

This time, he has a serious contender, one of four players to have at least a share of the lead on Sunday at Muirfield.

''Very happy with the performance,'' Stenson said. ''We're getting closer. I've got two thirds and now a second. We all know what we're longing for.''

Stenson, coming off three poor years brought on by illness and injuries since he won The Players Championship in 2009, is certainly headed in the right direction. He moved up to No. 20 in the world ranking.

''I've done some great improvements this season, getting back into form,'' Stenson said. ''I know it might sound silly, a bit stupid to say that I didn't feel like I'm that overly confident with some parts of my game. But I still managed to keep it together. I've played this golf course very good, I think. Even though I made a few mistakes, I haven't made some big mistakes that kind of put me out of the tournament.''


ATTENDANCE DOWN: Get this, the R&A believes the weather might have actually been too sunny and warm for the British Open.

Looking to put a favorable spin on a nearly 12 percent drop in attendance compared with the last Open at Muirfield in 2002, tournament organizers said advance sales were strong but not as many fans bought tickets at the gate. The weeklong tournament drew 142,036, compared with a turnout of 160,595 the last time it was held at this course near Edinburgh.

''We are pleased with this attendance,'' the R&A said in a statement. ''We believe the extremely warm weather put off some of our pay-at-the-gate customers. That is perhaps why, unusually, we had a higher attendance on Sunday in cooler weather than we did on Friday, which is normally the busiest day.

The weather was sunny most of the week, with temperatures generally in the 70s. It was overcast on Sunday, with highs only reaching the 60s.

Attendance for the final round was the highest of the week - 29,247. But that was still lower than all four rounds in 2002, when crowds exceeded 30,000 each day.

Organizers also noted that two other major sporting events may have hurt attendance - the Tour de France, won by Chris Froome in the second straight triumph for a British rider, as well as the Ashes cricket test between England and Australia.


SCOTTISH PROUD: No winning press conference at the British Open is complete without at least one provincial question.

One Scottish reporter had asked Phil Mickelson a week ago where he ranked his victory in the Scottish Open against all the other wins in his career. With the claret jug at his side, the reporter asked him to rank the British Open against the others.

''Winning Castle Stuart, at the time, was a big win for me,'' Mickelson said. ''But in seven days, it has gone down considerably.''

Another writer asked Mickelson if he had any Scottish heritage in his surname.

''I don't know,'' Mickelson said, and then said in his best (or worst) Scottish accent, ''I don't know. Maybe a wee bit.''

Another reporter went asked what took Mickelson so long to figure out how to play links golf. Instead of referencing Mickelson playing in his 15th British Open, he pointed out that Mickelson played a Walker Cup at Portmarnock and once said he was inspired by the links of Lahinch.3eee n

Yes, the reporter was Irish.


PAR SHOOTER: Padraig Harrington made 54 pars at the U.S. Open, and he made 50 pars in the British Open on a tough Muirfield course. That's usually the kind of golf that contends in major championships. Of course, it helps to make a few birdies along the way. That's where the Irishman was in short supply.

He only made six birdies in each championship.

Leave it to Harrington to realize during the final round Sunday that he had not made a single birdie on a par 3 or a par 4 the entire week. He desperately tried to change that, but his final chance was a 20-foot putt on the 18th that narrowly missed.

''And not to make a birdie on a par 4 or par 3 the whole week, what are the odds of that?'' he said. ''Seriously, what are the odds of that? You wouldn't have to be very good to at least stumble into a birdie at some stage.''

Harrington closed with a 70, making two birdies - on the par 5s, of course - and only one bogey on the par-3 13th when he pulled his shot into a bunker.

There were no bogey-free rounds all week at Muirfield. Harrington did not realize that during his final round, and he wish he didn't know when it was over.

''Really? Now you've upset me,'' he said. ''It would have been nice to achieve something.''

Out of the tournament, Harrington was chasing his own little goals. And so what annoyed him Sunday was missing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th. He was trying to play the final round without a 5 on his card.


VALUABLE LESSON: Matthew Fitzpatrick figures golf can only get easier from here on out.

After winning the silver medal as top amateur at the British Open, the 18-year-old said, ''I can't imagine any other amateur event ever being as hard as the course we've played this week.''

Fitzpatrick shot a 1-over 72 at Muirfield on Sunday to finish 10 over, five shots better than fellow amateur Jimmy Mullen.

''He doesn't miss many shots, hits it straight,'' said playing partner Fred Couples, who's nearly three times Fitzpatrick's age. ''As he gets bigger, he'll hit it a little further, but he hits it plenty far.''

Fitzpatrick's week on the big stage began with him being mistaken for Tiger Woods' ball-carrier on the range. It ended with him being labeled the next big thing in British golf. And like one of his predecessors, Luke Donald, he'll head to Northwestern University outside Chicago to play college golf.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."