U.S. Open the 'most democratic championship'

By Doug FergusonJune 5, 2012, 8:46 pm

The U.S. Open prides itself on being the toughest test in golf.

It never said anything about wanting to have the toughest field in golf, and we can only hope it doesn't follow the British Open down that road.

By staying true to its title - ''Open'' - the 36-hole qualifiers across the country delivered compelling stories of players who earned a spot in the U.S. Open. They were young and old, some with professional aspirations, others with only dreams, and one who can only get by riding in a cart.

Casey Martin rode his way to a tie for 23rd at The Olympic Club in 1998, the only major he ever played. He never imagined going back to the same course in San Francisco at age 40, now the golf coach at Oregon, his limp more severe but his resolve stronger.

A former teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, he suffers from a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg that causes extreme pain and makes it virtually impossible for him to walk 18 holes. Martin had to prove that to the PGA Tour in a lawsuit, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld. His single-rider cart caused a sensation at the U.S. Open, but it only took him so far. Martin earned his Tour card a year later, though he stayed in the big leagues only one season. Six years ago, he gave up his tour career to become a golf coach.

In a race to finish because he was exhausted, Martin holed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole at Emerald Valley to earn the first of two spots from the Oregon qualifier. He turned with his hands on his hips and looked to the gathering storm clouds, amazed at what just happened.

Woods was as amazed as anyone. He said Tuesday on Twitter, ''Simply incredible. Ability, attitude and guts. See you at Olympic Casey.''

Oregon reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship last weekend at Riviera, and Martin had not played golf in nine days. He was not expecting to get through, so he booked a recruiting trip to North Carolina for next week.

''This,'' he told Golf Channel with a grin, ''is a little better.''

The last U.S. Open champion who had to go through the 18-hole local qualifier and 36-hole sectional qualifier was Orville Moody in 1969. But that was a different era. Moody had lost in a playoff on Tour only two months earlier.

Casey Martin isn't going to win the U.S. Open.

Neither is Dennis Miller, the 42-year-old teaching pro from Ohio who provided the ''Caddyshack'' moment of U.S. Open qualifying when his putt hung on the lip so long that he turned his back and never saw it fall in. Unlike the movie, at least the assistant head greenskeeper didn't blow up Scioto with plastic explosives trying to kill a gopher.

Brice Garnett has never played in a major, much less a Tour-sanctioned event. He will be at The Olympic Club. Cole Howard, an alternate out of the first stage of qualifying, learned the day after his grandmother died that he made it to the final stage and will be making his U.S. Open debut.

Anthony Summers used to clean toilets at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Still toiling away on the OneAsia circuit, he flew from Australia to Chicago and qualified for his first major championship at age 42.

These are the stories that set the U.S. Open apart from the other three majors.

The PGA Championship is restricted to professionals. The Masters is the most elite. The British Open, the oldest championship in golf, gave up part of its charm in 2004 when it tried to strengthen its field. Instead of having the final qualifying stage at four links courses on the weekend before the tournament, it opted for international qualifiers at odd times of the year in Asia, Africa and Australia and in Europe and America.

Gone are the days when mini-tour players, amateurs and proven tour players shared the same parking lot and tee time to try to get into the British Open.

The U.S. Open now offers qualifying in Europe and Japan, but it still forces most players to earn their tee times through qualifying. That's old school. U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis rarely misses a chance to say how many players must qualify (typically about half the 156-man field). And it was his predecessor, David Fay, who once said, ''It's not the best field in golf. It never pretended to be. It's the most democratic championship.''

Now, the British Open offers only 12 spots from its final stage of local qualifying. The U.S. Open, during the last 10 years, averages 29 players who made it through local and sectional qualifying for a chance to play in the same championship as Woods and Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

Getting to the U.S. Open is half the fun.

Qualifying, where nearly 800 players competed for 58 spots at The Olympic Club, soon will be the only place to find such stories. This fall will be the last edition of Q-school, where some of these no-name players have six days to try to earn a job on Tour. That's for a chance to play in the big leagues for one year. This is a chance to play one week.

Martin, of course, knows what comes next. He was 26 and still trying to make it onto the Tour when he last played the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. He never broke par, but not many did, including Woods. The course, built on a hill that drops down toward Lake Merced, is no pushover.

''I want to be excited,'' Martin said on Monday night. ''But I know when I get on that first tee, it's going to be really difficult.''

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.