Youth the focus at golfs oldest championship

By Doug FergusonJuly 15, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' British bookmakers have listed Rory McIlroy as the third favorite at Turnberry, unusual for someone playing in his first British Open as a pro.
 
Stranger still is that he doesnt seem fazed, perhaps because his age (20) matches the odds (20-1).
 
McIlroy already has shown in small doses that he is capable.
 
He comes from Holywood ' a coastal town in Northern Ireland, not to be confused with the glitz of Los Angeles ' and already is easily recognized by his freckles and curly brown hair that tumbles out of his cap and over his ears. He made his British Open debut as a teenager two years ago at Carnoustie and opened with a 68 on the toughest links in golf.
 
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy is looking to win the Open Championship in just his second try. (Getty Images)
And without knowing it, he can put on quite the exhibition.
 
On a surprisingly sun-splashed day along the Ayrshire Coast, McIlroy found a flat part of the putting green Wednesday, and his caddie marked off 8 feet with a chalk line. The kid rapped three balls at a time, stopping to chat, constantly smiling, not really paying attention.
 
He made 105 putts in a row, seemed to lose interest, then moved on to another hole 30 feet away.
 
One reason he is getting so much attention, beyond the talent that allowed him to win the Dubai Desert Classic this year and rise to No. 22 in the world ranking, is constant search for someone to challenge Tiger Woods.
 
Even at golfs oldest championship, the focus turns to youth.
 
McIlroy will be playing the first two rounds with 24-year-old Anthony Kim, who is No. 15 in the world and an explosive talent. Martin Kaymer, the 24-year-old German, is coming off consecutive victories on the European Tour and can became the first player since Seve Ballesteros in 1986 to make it three in a row.
 
Among the older set are 29-year-old Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, who turns 29 on Thursday when the British Open begins.
 
So far, it has been a hopeless pursuit.
 
Woods set an obscure PGA Tour record two weeks ago when he won his AT&T National at Congressional for his 53rd victory this decade, topping the previous record of Ben Hogan, who won 52 times in the 1940s.
 
His 12 majors this decade is another record.
 
Woods is 0-for-2 in the majors this year since returning from knee surgery, both times giving himself a chance on Sunday, both times finishing in a tie for sixth, four shots behind Masters champion Angel Cabrera and U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.
 
Hes not just another player, McIlroy said. I remember when I first came out and I talked to Tiger, and I was even nervous talking to him. He just has some sort of aura about him, you know? Hes just an incredible competitor. He hits shots that I wouldnt be able to hit sometimes. Hes not won 14 majors for nothing. And Im sure hell win a few more before his career is over.
 
Woods returns to the United Kingdom for the first time in two years, having missed the British Open last year at Royal Birkdale while recovering from knee surgery.
 
He showed up at Turnberry on Wednesday only to hit balls on the range and rap a few putts, sticking to a routine that has worked fairly well for him in the majors.
 
One thing McIlroy has in his favor is having never faced Woods.
 
Its been more inspirational for me, rather than disheartening, that this guy is coming to win every major he plays, McIlroy said.
 
Kim played with him for the first time at Congressional in the final group, tied for the lead, hit one bad stretch of bogeys and pars and wound up chasing him the rest of the day.
 
Garcia might have won a few majors by now except for Woods.
 
It was 10 years ago when he first challenged Woods in the PGA Championship at Medinah, finishing one shot behind. They played in the final group at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and the 2006 British Open at Hoylake, both won easily by Woods.
 
Garcia is still without a major, still answering questions about winning his first, and not enjoying the topic.
 
The most important thing for me is obviously winning it, said Garcia, listed at 15-to-1 odds. But at least having the chance. The guy that is finishing 15th or 40th, he doesnt have even one shot. I know they say that second is the first lower. Id rather be the first loser than the 39th loser. When youre out there, you have your chance. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesnt.
 
Thats particularly true in links golf at the British Open.
 
No one thought Padraig Harrington had much of a chance last year when he showed up with a wrist injury and played in the worst of weather during the first round, rain that fell sideways. He wound up with a 32 on the final nine and a claret jug for the second straight year.
 
It all unfolds Thursday at Turnberry, with Woods teeing off with 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, another young player with hopes of someday challenging the worlds No. 1 players.
 
The biggest generation gap is five-time champion Tom Watson (59) playing with British Amateur champion Matteo Manassero (16).
 
Watson won the most famous Open at Turnberry in 1977, the Duel in the Sun against Jack Nicklaus. His biggest thrill was going head-to-head against the best and beating him.
 
Thats what the kids from this generation face.
 
There is that element of who is challenging Tiger, Watson said. Well, youre going to have some people challenge him and beat him. But hes beaten everybody a lot more than anybodys ever beaten anybody in this game of golf. He just as a run thats been unparalleled.
 
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  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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    NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

    NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

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    Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

    NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

    For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

    Rank

    Network

    Event

    Day

    Avg. Viewers P2+

    1

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Sunday

    1,100,526

    2

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Saturday

    968,202

    3

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    946,387

    4

    NBC

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    Sunday

    839,983

    5

    NBC

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    Saturday

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    6

    GOLF

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    795,000

    ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

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    • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
    • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

    GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

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    • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

    NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

    Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

    Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.