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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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.