Forgotten Man Wins the British
The perception has been that he backed in to the trophy, winning only because Jean Van de Velde needed just a double bogey on the 72nd hole to win ' and made a triple. The perception has been that it was the Open that was totally manufactured, Carnoustie greens superintendent John Philp being more important than Lawrie that week. The perception was, quite frankly, that NOBODY won, that Lawrie just happened to be hanging around when, through the process of elimination, he was the final man standing.
Lawrie, as it has developed, is a very solid golfer, ranked No. 47th in the world going into this weeks Open at Royal St. Georges. But he has not been particularly fond of interviews. Responses to questions have been largely yes or no, without much elaboration. Lawrie, from Aberdeen, Scotland, has been very content to simply play golf and let the publicity go elsewhere ' as long as he gets a little for winning the British Open.
Alas, though, he doesnt think he has gotten much.
Maybe hes right. Lawrie stared down a huge deficit ' 10 strokes on the final day, the largest deficit in major championship history ' and won. He shot a 67 in the final round, which tied Craig Parry for the lowest round in the championship. He entered a playoff with Van de Velde and Justin Leonard ' who two years earlier had won this same British Open. And he whipped them both decisively, scoring birdies on the last two holes.
However, he was No. 159 when the week began in 1999, winning just two times in eight years on the European Tour. It took him six years of toiling on minor circuits before he finally made it to the European.
In 1999, his moment of glory came. It began with qualifying, which he barely slid by. Lawrie had to shoot 4-under the final nine holes to make it. He was nothing more than a footnote the first three days. The final day it appeared that Van de Velde had won it, but playing nine groups ahead of the Frenchman, Lawries 67 was strong enough to deserve a king-sized share of credit. Nobody thought he had a chance of winning, including his local bookmakers, who had him at 80-1 odds going into the last round. But everyone agreed that his 67 was a terrific score, considering the manner in which Philp had set up the course.
The fairways were only 12 paces wide in some places. Golf is about character and how it stands up to adversity, Philp said staunchly. Sorry, but thats my opinion.
Virtually nobody who is a golfer agreed with him, but all had to play the course as it was presented to them. And in the end, it was No. 159 Lawrie coming to a playoff with No. 142 Van de Velde ' and a former British Open champion, Leonard.
Leonard should have won in regulation, but he heroically went for the final green in the regulation two and dumped it in the water. He can be forgiven, however, because at the time there appeared to be no way he was going to tie Van de Velde if Leonard did not make a birdie.
And in the four-hole playoff, he again found the water. I basically lost the British Open twice in one day, he said afterwards. That makes it twice as hard to take.
Van de Veldes butchery of the 72nd hole will live forever in golfing infamy, undoing a week of sterling play in which he did everything right in amassing the three-shot lead going into No. 18 Sunday. But beginning with his drive into the right rough, everything he did on that hole was guaranteed to elicit, at best, a playoff ' which he did when Van de Velde eventually sank a clutch six-foot putt.
Im not here to criticize him, said Lawrie. I feel sorry for him. He made a decision, and he went through with it. After being lucky with his tee shot, you expect him to chip it down the fairway and take 5 or 6 and be done with it.
Thankfully for me, he didnt ' but no disrespect to him.
The playoff was all Lawrie, especially after Leonards water ball. Lawrie hit two spectacular 4-iron shots of the final two holes to close the deal, and the reserved Scot was the champion.
The way the course is set up, I would have to say its the best round of golf I have ever played, said Lawrie of the final days heroics. To shoot 4-under par here, even with no wind, is just ' you know ' lovely.
And holding the Open trophy was as big as it gets to the simple man from Aberdeen.
I think every kid dreams about winning the Open, he said. Its a huge thing for anyone to do, especially when you win in Scotland and you live nearby.
But nobody can take the win away from him. Sometimes its true ' one day of magnificent golf can turn away 71 wonderful holes ' and one hole of Van de Velde butchery.
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.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
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."
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."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."