Open victory will give Watson another 10 years to play

By Doug FergusonJuly 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Tom Watson arrived at Turnberry knowing that his time at the British Open was running out. A recent change in the criteria meant former champions could no longer compete when they were older than 60.
 
Then again, a victory by the 59-year-old Watson would change that.
 
The age limit has been getting more attention as Watson has stayed atop the leaderboard this week at Turnberry, particularly given the nature of links golf that doesnt always require power to compete.
 
Watson prodded reporters by deferring questions to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson.
 
Then came an announcement Saturday night that began A point of clarification.
 
Turns out the Open exempts champions for 10 years, although it is listed this year only as champions from 1999-2008. R&A spokesman Malcolm Booth said that criteria still applies, no matter how old the champion is.
 
Watson, a two-time Masters champion, can play at Augusta National as long as he wants, but it likely wont be much longer. That course now is too long for him ' Watson shot 74-83 this year.
 
I dont want to be a ceremonial golfer, Watson said. When Peter Dawson called me to tell me about the 60-year age limit for the tournament, I said, Peter, I think thats a sensible decision. Youve got to let the younger kids play.
 
Even so, the British Open is different.
 
Being a ceremonial golfer is when you feel like you cant compete, Watson said earlier this week. Im a ceremonial golfer at Augusta, I can tell you that. I can still beat this golf course somehow.
 
The British Open returns next year to St. Andrews, the only course in Scotland where Watson has not won.
 

 
WATSONS CADDIE: Tiger Woods has a caddie who races cars. Tom Watson has one who runs political races.
 
Neil Oxman estimates hes run 650 campaigns over the years through his Philadelphia company, the Campaign Group. In his spare time, Ox travels around carrying Watsons bag in various tournaments.
 
We just have history together, said Oxman, who was a good friend of Bruce Edwards, the longtime caddie for Watson who died of Lou Gehrigs disease in 2004.
 
Oxman gained his caddie credentials working for various PGA Tour players to pay his way through college. He has been on the bag for Watson in about 50 tournaments and is in the first week of a summer run that will include the Senior British Open and the Senior U.S. Open.
 
He and Watson arent close in political philosophy ' he runs Democratic campaigns and Watson has conservative Republican views ' but they are close both on the course and off. On Saturday, they shed a tear together walking up to the 18th green when Watson told him that Edwards was watching over them.
 
Oxman didnt expect to be carrying the bag in the final group on Sunday in the Open, but he expects Watson to perform well under the pressure.
 
Hes just very good at managing himself in links golf, Oxman said. He thinks his way around the golf course.
 

 
BRYCE WAS RIGHT: Bryce Molder was on the verge of missing the cut Friday afternoon, one shot over the limit until making a 20-foot birdie on the 16th hole, then adding a birdie on the par-5 17th to make it with one shot to spare.
 
This was his first trip to the British Open, and Molder had every reason to be satisfied with playing all four days.
 
Apparently, he wasnt.
 
A 3-iron into 30 feet for birdie on the eighth hole turned him around, and he went on to the low score of the third round, a 3-under 67 that kept moving up the leaderboard. By the end of the day, Molder was tied for eighth at even-par 210, only four shots behind.
 
All he knew when he left the course was that he would be sleeping later and facing more nerves.
 
At least hes had some experience with the latter. Molder finished fourth at Congressional and was a runner-up in Memphis, two tournament that enabled him to qualify for the British Open.
 
Saturdays round was the 23rd time in his last 25 rounds that he has shot par or better.
 

 
WESTWOODS FOCUS: Lee Westwood got a taste of what it was like to play under increased scrutiny when he was paired with Tiger Woods and Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa in the first two rounds of the British Open.
 
He found out he liked it.
 
It was a good atmosphere playing out there with those two guys, Westwood said. They were great to play with. Unfortunately they didnt play as well as they probably would have liked. But it was a good grouping to be in the first couple of days.
 
Westwood found things had changed when he went to the first tee Saturday. There were only about five photographers there, not the dozens that trailed his pairing the first two days.
 
I thought they were there for me, but obviously not, he said.
 
Westwood, who will play with Ross Fisher in the next-to-last group Sunday, said being paired with Woods and Ishikawa helped him get on the leaderboard.
 
There was so much going on I needed to have almost 110 percent concentration, rather than the usual 100 percent, he said.
 

 
ELEMENTARY, DEAR HARRINGTON: Padraig Harrington has been working all year on retooling his swing, even though he won two majors last year, including a second successive British Open.
 
He feels if hes not working, hes not improving.
 
He wont be winning a third Claret Jug after a 76 in the third round put 13 shots out of the lead.
 
Tom Watson, the 54-hole leader at age 59, said one reason he can still compete is because of a long swing. And he believes thats what is hurting Harrington.
 
When I was a kid, my dad said, Shorten the swing, shorten the swing. Well, you shorten the swing, its hard to go longer once you shorten the swing, Watson said. And my old pro, Stan Thirsk, he said to me, Dont listen to your dad. When you get to be an old guy, that long swing will really do you well, because youll have that rhythm.
 
I look at Padraig Harrington right now, he shortened his swing, and I think hes having troubles because of it, Watson said. I liked the length of the swing last year, and now hes shortened the swing and hes having a hard time with it. You lose your rhythm when you shorten the swing.
 

 
DIVOTS: Tom Watson was asked if he was the George Foreman of golf, a reference to become an ancient champion. No, I dont name all my kids George. My kids have different names, he said. In another sign of the times, Watson was talking about the amount of text messages he has received this week when he stopped and shook his head. Isnt it amazing? he said. In 1975, there were about 15 press people after I won in the playoff. Here we are talking about text messages in 2009.
 
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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.