A picturesque start to British Open week

By Doug FergusonJuly 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Walking up to the 15th green at Turnberry, his ball safely in the middle, Tiger Woods turned to his left and pointed to a spot a few yards off the putting surface.
 
Is this where Watson made the putt? he asked Monday morning.
 
Indeed, it was. Tom Watson holed a putt from some 60 feet for birdie in the final round of the 1977 British Open, pulling into a tie with Jack Nicklaus and sending him to a one-shot victory in one of the great duels in major championship history.
 
Two holes later, as gray clouds gathered at sea over the Ailsa Craig, a gust came up over the dunes. Woods then asked about the time Greg Norman shot 63 at Turnberry in similar conditions in 1986, which some believe was the best of the 23 scores at 63 in any major.
 
Woods is hardly a history buff, certainly not in the same league as Ben Crenshaw, from another generation, or Geoff Ogilvy, from this one. He does have a working knowledge of where he is playing, however, which is why his thoughts on Turnberry sounded ominous.
 
Its a lot more difficult than people are letting on, he said after his second practice round.
 
Turnberry has the least amount of history of any British Open venue, a links course gutted by the Royal Air Force Coastal Command, which used it as an air base during World War II.
 
Not until 1977 did it host its first British Open, and the 138th edition of golfs oldest championship will be only the fourth visit to Turnberry. Even so, the scores stand out. Watson set a record when he won at 268 in 1977. Nick Price matched that score in 1994. In blustery conditions, Norman won at 280.
 
Sorry, I just dont see 12 under winning, Paul Goydos said. Maybe thats just me.
 
Turnberry has been lengthened significantly, and a wet spring has created lush conditions, which can be fearsome for those who cant seem to keep it straight off the tee. Colin Montgomerie told of a tournament for club members within the last few weeks in which 480 golf balls were lost in the rough.
 
Except for Carnoustie in 1999, its as good as any of them, Rod Pampling said with a chuckle, referring to the history he made 10 years ago when he went from the first-round lead to missing the cut.
 
Pampling only got into the British Open on Sunday when no one from Loch Lomond qualified for the one spot available, and it went to him as the next alternate. He drove down to this tiny golf town about an hour south of Glasgow and played his first practice round.
 
The rough got his attention, but he found it to be fair.
 
This is right there with the best of them, he said. If you get yourself out of shape, youre in big trouble. But youve got to hit a pretty bad shot. You can lose a golf ball.
 
Pampling did just that on the 16th hole, waiting for a gust off the Firth of Clyde to push his ball toward the fairway. It never happened, and while the ball landed only a few yards from the marshals, it was never found.
 
I know where not to go, Pampling said.
 
But he realized this was the place to be, especially on a pleasant day of stunning sights.
 
The lighthouse is the signature landmark at Turnberry, perched along the rocks at a bend in the shore, reminiscent of the stretch at Pebble Beach from the fifth hole until the coast straightens at the ninth hole.
 
Josh Geary and Mark Brown walked up the 10th fairway and turned back toward the water. Monday was a time to gaze, with patches of sunshine and clouds, enough light in the morning to shine on the far corner of the Ailsa Craig, the 1,100-foot mass of island that rises out of the sea. The rain came in the afternoon, and more is expected throughout the week.
 
They can say what they want about the weather, Pampling said. They wont know until Thursday.
 
Thats when the British Open begins amid much fanfare. Padraig Harrington will be going for his third straight claret jug, a feat no one has matched since Peter Thomson in 1954-56.
 
Woods returns after missing the British Open last year with knee surgery. This is the first time since 2004 that the worlds No. 1 player has been without a major title in his possession.
 
The last year Woods was not eligible for the British Open was in 1994, which was also the last time it was held at Turnberry. Woods did not arrive at the course until Sunday morning, and already he has played two practice rounds.
 
It is nothing new for him to see a major championship course for the first time, even in the United States. Remember, no one had seen Royal Liverpool from this current generation when the Open returned there in 2006.
 
Ive done that before, Woods said, referencing his victory at Royal Liverpool. Youve just got to do your homework.
 
The study session began in earnest Monday, with several U.S. tour players arriving on a charter flight from the John Deere Classic, many of them heading to the range to begin adjusting to the time difference.
 
Goydos arrived Sunday to play a practice round, with his 18-year-old daughter Chelsea in tow. He arranged for her to have an instructors badge, reasoning that she was taking photos of his golf swing.
 
That was the idea, anyway.
 
We got down by the lighthouse and she probably took 100 pictures, Goydos said, nodding to the spectacular scenery. Its got a Pebble Beach feel, especially down by the 11th tee, which is right out there on the rocks. The only thing missing are the otters.
 
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."