Notes: Why Britain has the best fans

By Doug FergusonJuly 16, 2011, 4:43 pm

SANDWICH, England – Gary Woodland was in the right rough on the 13th hole as he stared at the green, trying to figure out how to play his next shot. Then he broke into a big smile, and it had nothing to do with anything at Royal St. George’s on Saturday.

Beyond the green is a fence, and on the other side is Prince’s Golf Club.

It was pouring rain. The gusts topped 30 mph. And the club next door was filled with players in every fairway. Woodland smiled at the idea that while those competing at the British Open were suffering, these people were finding pleasure.

“I was shocked,” he said. “There’s no way back home people would be playing today. And it was packed over there.”

Even more impressive were the number of fans on such a miserable day.

Matt Millar was the first to play, in the worst of the weather, yet he was followed around by fans who took their hands off the umbrella long enough to applaud whatever good shots they saw.

“I just can’t believe how many volunteers, spectators, people who were just so encouraging. Would you spend your free weekend out there on this weather? There’s nowhere like it in the world, that I’ve seen,” Millar said. “That made it a lot easier to keep your head up and keep battling on.”

Rickie Fowler drew on the largest crowds, partly because he has treated the fans so well all week, and partly because he was playing with Rory McIlroy. Still, he was stunned to see bleachers full in the driving rain.

“I probably wouldn’t have been out there. I would have been home watching on TV,” he said. “It just shows you how great fans they are of golf to stick out in those conditions and the amount of people that were following our group.”

Most telling was Woodland’s adventure on the 14th hole.

After hitting his first tee shot out-of-bounds, Woodland’s next one went 50 yards to the left in grass so high that not even spectators walked there. A search party of nearly 40 people scoured the rough until they found the ball.

That begged this question: For an American who is not well known in these parts, who barely made the cut and was in the fourth group out, on the farthest end of Royal St. George’s, why were there that many people following him in the first place?

“These fans are unbelievable,” Woodland said. “For them to be out there watching, it was good to see.”

WHERE HAS HE BEEN? Having a half-dozen Americans among the top 12 on the leaderboard is not surprising.

Anthony Kim being among them was what caught so much attention.

Kim is having his worst year, with only one top 10 finish. He keeps saying that his game feels as though it’s good enough to compete, but disappears from the practice range to the first tee. But after an even-par 70 that was anything but even – 4 over his first eight holes, 4 under his last 10 – Kim was in a tie for seventh and only five shots behind.

“I’ve found my game, it’s just I haven’t brought it to the tournaments,” Kim said. “I’m excited that this is the tournament I brought it to. Other tournaments are very important, but to play well at major championships is what I work for. So to be able to put up some good rounds – probably my best rounds I’ve played all year at the British – is pretty rewarding.”

KEEPING DRY: Ryan Moore started out with six small towels and one big towel. After 18 holes, all of them were wet. Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen didn’t wear any extra layers except for his rain suit, and he kept his towels to four for the round.

That was the trick for the players who faced the worst of the weather in the morning—staying warm and staying dry.

“That’s why I just laughed, because I’ve never played in it like this,” Oosthuizen said. “Whenever you have social rounds and it just starts raining a little bit, you say, ‘I’m out of here, boys.’ But I couldn’t do that today.”

Oosthuizen shot 74.

WOODLAND’S RIDE: For a 25-hole stretch, Gary Woodland said it was the best golf he played all year.

It would be difficult to disagree.

Woodland appeared to be headed home early on Friday when he was 7 over at the British Open through four holes of the second round, and the wind was getting stronger by the minute. He made four birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way for a 68 to make the cut on the number, then looked even better Saturday morning in whipping wind and lashing rain.

Woodland was 2 under through 11 holes of the third round in the worst of the weather, five shots out of the lead. Then came a few bogeys, which was no shame on this day.

“The tee shot on 14 was the toughest shot out there for me today,” he said.

It turned out to be his undoing. His drive started some 30 yards left and rode the wind to the right out-of-bounds. Then came a tee shot into rough so deep that Woodland took a lob wedge and “swung as hard as I could” to get back to the fairway.

He did well to make a triple bogey, then came back on the next hole with another superb shot, this a 3-iron into the wind that bounded onto the green and touched the left edge of the cup as the gallery rose in the grandstands, thinking it might see an eagle.

From 7 over early Friday, Woodland played that 25-hole stretch in 6 under with no bogeys. On the last seven holes Saturday, he was 6 over and right back where he had started. He wound up with a 74.

But that start on Saturday?

“Some of the best golf I’ve ever seen,” said Ryan Moore, his playing partner.

RAIN READY: Matthew Millar of Australia didn’t mind playing alone as the first to tee off in the third round. He chose not to take a marker, not wanting anyone else to have to suffer through the conditions.

As for the weather? He was among the few looking forward to it.

Millar has spent the last few months playing alone in freezing, wet and windy conditions in his home city of Canberra to get ready for the British Open. What he found was 30 mph wind and a steady rain.

“It’s been quite cool back home. We’ve had quite a lot of rain and a lot of wind, so I’ve been practicing in that,” Millar said. “But you don’t spend five hours in it like we are doing here. This place is something else. It’s hard enough when it’s dry.”

He wound up with an 80.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: Bo Van Pelt called Saturday the second-worst conditions he has ever faced.

The first was in Kansas.

His senior year in college, Van Pelt went to Prairie Dunes, a classic design by Perry Maxwell. It was blowing about as hard as it was Saturday, except that it was 40 degrees. And he had to play 36 holes.

“I was having a flashback to that,” Van Pelt said. “This is the second-worst day. But at least you’re playing in a major. This is what it’s all about. You come here and know this is part of the deal, and if you’re not going to embrace it, you might as well go home.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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