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?
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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.
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.