The 2002 Open Was Just - Well British
Lets play a silly little game for a moment. Pretend that Saturday never existed. Throw out Woods 81. Pretend that the variables of Sunday never followed the realities of Saturday ' and granted, that is a king-sized stretch of the imagination. But imagine it anyway, and do you know who would have been in the playoff?
None of the four who competed in the actual Sunday playoff. In our fantasy game, Tiger Woods would have played Padraig Harrington. Both would have had 54-hole scores of 10-under-par. Shigeki Maruyama would have just missed with a score of 9-under. Ernie Els, the eventual 2002 British Open champion, would have recorded 8-under, tying him with Duffy Waldorf.
And speculation of the calendar Grand Slam would still have been a distinct possibility. Harrington is a wonderful golfer with unlimited possibilities, but in a four-hole playoff ' especially in THOSE four holes ' youve got to like Tiger.
If Tiger had only shot 74 instead of 81, he would have been in the real-time playoff. If he had just shot 73 ' 2-over-par, he would have won outright. If, if, if
Woods, of course, played in the absolute worst of Muirfields Saturday trifecta of atrocious weather ' gales, cold, and pelting rain. He wasnt the only one ' Els played in it, too, and he fared far better. A 72 that seemed like a 62 in those conditions was what won it. Woods couldnt survive a Saturday score of 10-over-par, and his 10-under the other three rounds was just so much window dressing.
A lot of people say thats a shame. I say its wonderfully apropos, making the British Open again the most quirky major of them all. Check it out since in the recent tournaments 1990 ' theres something in there for everyone in this musty old championship.
In 1989, Mark Calcavecchia won when his approach shot at 17 caromed off a bank and, miraculously, came back onto the green. In the playoff, he beat Greg Norman and Wayne Grady. Norman seemingly had it won before he decided to chip from just off the green instead of putt. He made bogey there, and then blew it completely on the final hole when he selected driver instead of a fairway wood.
In 1992, John Cook had a two-shot lead with four two play, but Nick Faldo won with perhaps the best four holes of his career.
Who could forget Jesper Parnevik in 1994? He went into the 18th hole with a one-stroke lead, but he hadnt bothered to look in on the leaderboard. Consequently, Nick Price snuck in with a long eagle putt back on the 17th while Jesper made bogey up ahead on 18, thanks to an overly aggressive play by Parnevick.
How about 1995? John Daly won in a playoff, but not before Costantino Rocca holed a putt at the Valley of Sin at St. Andrews on the 72nd ' this after Rocca had made a mess of the previous shot. Mark OMeara in 1998 was 62nd at the halfway point, thought he had lost a ball the third round, and he had to go into extra holes to defeat Brian Watts ' who made one of the all-time great bunker shots to send it into the four-hole overtime.
Frenchman Jean Van de Velde did his macho thing in 1999, coming unraveled on the 72nd hole with a triple bogey and allowing Paul Lawrie to sneak in at pitifully prepared Carnoustie. Lawrie beat Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff.
David Duval lost the 2000 Open when he couldnt negotiate the road hole bunker at St. Andrews, slipping out of sight when Woods won. Last year Duval rebounded to play flawlessly, of course, and pick up this championship. Who was second? Niclas Fasth ' dont you remember?
Which brings us to this years oddity, capped by Saturdays horrific weather and Sundays four-man playoff ' which was played two-by-two, a weird one to be sure. In this one, there was another Frenchman ' Thomas Levet instead of Van de Velde ' and two Aussies, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington instead of Norman and Grady. Of course, none of the three won.
OK, so it was really weird. But it was the British Open. That should be nuff said. Anyone can win, and just as importantly, anyone can lose. The oldest Open is also the most wacky. Stiff upper lip, old chap! It is, dare we say, the most British?
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.