International Field Readying for Open

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 28, 2003, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour in this weeks Memorial Tournament. It is his first Stateside event since the Masters, and his last before the U.S. Open.
Woods did play two weeks ago in the European Tours Deutsche Bank-SAP Open, where he tied for 29th.
I feel pretty good because I hit the ball really well in Germany. The greens over there werent like this. So Im pretty excited to be able to putt smooth greens again, Woods said Wednesday.
Pristine course conditions are just one of the amenities presented to players at Muirfield Village.
Everything about this event is second to none, said Irelands Padraig Harrington. Just everything, the clubhouse facilities, the welcome. There is nothing left to chance.
We are spoiled this week, thats basically it.
Harrington, who currently leads the European Tour's Order of Merit, is a part of a large international contingency this week.
Everyone is trying to get ready for the (U.S.) Open, explained Woods.
Harrington played two PGA Tour events prior to the Masters and will do the same before the seasons second major championship.
You need to come across a little bit early for a big event because there are a lot of distractions when you come over, said Europes top-ranked player at seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Harrington said the distractions range from getting acquainted with players you havent seen in a couple of months to tinkering with equipment.
Its best to come a couple of weeks early to get that all out of the way, so when you turn up at the U.S. Open, you are ready to play that you dont need to change a thing, he said.
Getting used to faster greens is one of the keys for me coming over two weeks early, Harrington added. I think the greens here are 13 (on the stimpmeter). We get some events up to that (on the European Tour). But generally we would be somewhere around 11.
While Harrington and the rest of the 105 players in this weeks field are trying to stay focused on the task at hand, they definitely have one eye on the Open.
Woods got a chance to play Olympia Fields, which will host the 103rd U.S. Open in two weeks, Tuesday with Michael Jordan. By his caddies estimation, he shot 68 or 69 on the par-70 layout, located just outside of Chicago, Ill.
Its going to be a heck of a test. The opening holes youll see somebody go low early because the opening holes are short, but the closing holes are something else, Woods described.
The greens are obviously not up to speed yet, and I know the rough will probably grow another inch by the time we get there.
Woods, a two-time U.S. Open champion, is trying to put behind him a disappointing tie for 15th at the Masters. This will be only his seventh start on the PGA Tour this season. He captured the Buick Invitational in his 2003 debut and the Match Play Championship. He also won the Bay Hill Invitational for the fourth consecutive year.
Woods won the Memorial three straight years before finishing tied for 22nd last year.
Tiger is currently third on the money list behind Davis Love III and Masters champion Mike Weir, both of whom have three victories this year.
Davis and Weir have had great years, Woods said. I look at the fact that I have only played in six tournaments and I am up there. Thats the positive side. Now, the summer I can play more and see how I am after the end of the summer.
Woods didnt play in last weeks Bank of America Colonial, but he did watch Annika Sorenstam, with whom he shares his agent, on television.
I thought she played beautifully. I thought she drove the ball well and hit the ball well. I think she managed her game well. She just didn't make the putts, said Woods, who recommended Sorenstam play in three or four tour events.
I think she is proud of the way she handled everything. I think everyone else is, too. She competed and she did very well. As far as the business side of it, I think Colonial is very happy about their choice in exemptions, and I think that's what they try to do with all exemptions is try to make the field better. Ultimately it is a business out here. Every tournament, every sponsor, is trying to make money. I think they made a wise choice there because I think their return is going to be pretty good.
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    Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


    Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

    Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

    Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

    Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

    New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


    Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

    Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

    Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

    Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

    Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.