The Great National Divide

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Tiger Woods is back to defend his title ' and doing so after missing his first cut as a professional in a major championship. Phil Mickelson is playing in a major for the first time since giving away the U.S. Open. Colin Montgomerie is doing the same thing.
The 135th edition of the Open Championship has a bevy of intriguing storylines just waiting to be played out this week near Liverpool, England. But the most intriguing of them all may well be the course itself.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hopes to keep hold of his claret jug.
For the first time since Robert De Vicenzo won in 1967, Royal Liverpool will play host to the seasons third major. Because it hasnt been in the Open rota for nearly 40 years, most players know little if anything about the venue.
I haven't been there, haven't seen any photos of it. All I know is it's in Liverpool, Woods said at the Western Open two weeks ago.
Not that he seems too concerned.
'I honestly don't know anything about Royal Liverpool, but I'll play three or four practice rounds and that should be enough time to prepare. The key is to make sure you do your homework and find out what the golf course will allow you to do,' he said last week in his monthly newsletter.
'It was the same with Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Carnoustie and St. Andrews. It's not like I haven't done it before. We play around the world and learn different golf courses in a day or two. It's part of playing golf. I think people are making too big a deal out of the fact that the tournament hasn't been played at Hoylake since 1967.'
Like most everyone else in the field of 156, Woods will be getting his first look at the location which hosted the first British Amateur in 1895 this week.
Mickelson, however, is not arriving to Royal Liverpool sight unseen. He came a few weeks ago, prior to the Western Open, doing his usual preparatory routine for major championships. And he skipped this past week's Scottish Open, which he normally plays prior to the British, in order to get in a few more practice sessions.
Surprisingly, Royal Liverpool has a lot similar shots required as Cog Hill (site of the Western) than what I had expected. I thought it would be a lot more run-up shots, but full shots will be working out very well there, said Mickelson, who didnt want to divulge too much of his inside knowledge.
Mickelson said he was using the Western as a chance to sharpen his game for the British, but he will have to greatly improve upon his tie for 65th to have a chance to hoist the claret jug for the first time.
Woods, meanwhile, tied for second at Cog Hill.
Does that make Tiger the favorite this week to repeat as champion? Perhaps with the betting public, but not necessarily with us. Here are our favorites ' with a twist. We have picked one player from five different groups, based on national and continental affiliation.
Unfortunately for countries like England, Spain and Ireland, they all get lumped into one big continental group. Obviously, there are plenty of names from which to choose, given the deep, Olympic-size pool of talent here. Scotlands Paul Lawrie was the last European to win this event, in 1999 ' making him the last European to win any major, for that matter. It would be poetic if fellow Scot Montgomerie ended that drought this week ' but thats probably not going to happen.
Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke looks to become the first European to win a major this century.
The best European player may be David Howell, the Englishman who leads the European Tours Order of Merit. But, as evidenced at the U.S. Open where he stormed to an early lead and then melted like Icarus wings, he doesnt appear ready to handle the pressure of contending in a major championship. The same thing could be said for most European players, but eventually one of them has to win a major. Right? If it is to happen this week, were going to go with Northern Irelands Darren Clarke. He is one of the few players familiar with the course. And this is by far the one major above all others that he plays best, with six top-20 finishes -- as many as in the three other majors combined.
Americans have claimed nine of the last 11 Opens. But, on paper, they might not be the collective favorite this year; that distinction might go to the Australians or the South Africans. Obviously, two Yankee names immediately come to mind: Woods and Mickelson. But, take away St. Andrews and Woods is a guy with almost as many finishes outside the top 20 as inside the top 10 at this event ' and no wins. And Mickelson is a guy who has all of one top-10 in 13 career Open appearances. Between the two, Woods will likely have the better result. But will he beat everyone else? Probably not ' yet hes still Americas best bet. He looked like a much different player at the Western Open than he did at the U.S. Open. If he can continue his improvement along those lines, he could claim his third claret jug, and his second in a row.
Five different Australians have won seven different tournaments on the PGA TOUR this season: Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Rod Pampling, Aaron Baddeley, and John Senden just last week at the John Deere to earn an invitation to the Open. Appleby and Ogilvy have each won twice, with Ogilvy capturing the U.S. Open. Ogilvy will be making his first start since becoming the great benefactor of Mickelsons and Montys collapses at Winged Foot. He tied for fifth in last years Open, but it will probably prove too great a task to win back-to-back majors ' especially when he cant sneak up on anyone. Greg Norman was the last Aussie to win this championship, doing so in 1993 (he also won in 86). Countryman Ian Baker-Finch was victorious in 1991. There are no fewer than 20 Aussies in this field. And though there are the likes of the previously mentioned, as well as Adam Scott and Robert Allenby and Steve Elkington, were going with Mark Hensby. He has four top-25s in seven career major championship starts, including a tie for 15th in his Open debut last year.
South Africa
South Africa may have only about half the representation as does Australia, but they pack plenty of power in their smaller number. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini lead the charge. And unlike with Australia, we dont expect one of the lesser known countrymen, like Louis Oosthuizen, to outshine the notables. If someone is to join Els as the only South Africans to win this event since Gary Player in 1974, then it will most certainly come from the top of the class. Then again, that person may very well be Els. The countrys most recognizable player of this era has gotten far more publicity for his knee injury than he has for his play over the last year. The head says go with Immelman, who won the Western Open two weeks ago, but the heart says Els ' and the heart always seems to win out. Els has a remarkable record in this tournament in even-numbered years. He tied for second in 1996; tied for second in 2000; won in 2002; and finished second in 2004.
Rest of the World
It would be easy to say that Fijis Vijay Singh is the favorite in this group. But that would be wrong. Singh has been way too inconsistent this year ' particularly on Sundays ' to be considered a favorite to make this the third leg of his career Grand Slam. Since most of the field falls into one of the four other categories, there arent many options in this one. But, pick we must. And pick Michael Campbell we will. The Kiwi has a lot to prove after missing the cut in his title defense at the U.S. Open. He talked a big game prior to the tournament, but came up small, shooting 12-over 152. Campbells win at Pinehurst a year ago came as a surprise to most. Not because hes not talented, but because if he was to ever win a major, it figured to be at the Open Championship. Campbell almost claimed the claret jug in 1995, when he held the 54-hole lead but ultimately finished tied for third. He tied for fifth last year.
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''