Punch Shot: Who's the British Open favorite?

By Jason SobelJuly 12, 2013, 8:12 pm

With Tiger Woods coming off an elbow injury and several recent major winners playing with sky-high confidence, is there a clear-cut favorite for next week's Open Championship? GolfChannel.com debates who will be the man to beat at Muirfield.


By JASON SOBEL

I've often maintained that Tiger Woods is the prohibitive favorite every time he tees it up. While the oddsmakers apparently agree with that sentiment going into next week's Open Championship, I'll go with Adam Scott instead.

The rationale is in the numbers. Since the beginning of 2011, Scott has played 10 majors and finished top 25 in eight of them. He has one win, of course, and could've, should've, would've had another at this tournament one year ago.

The fact is, nobody seems better prepared for majors these days than the reigning Masters champion.

This is also a matter, though, of process of elimination. Woods is dealing with an injured elbow. Rory McIlroy is suffering through a disappointing season. Justin Rose will be hard-pressed to go back to back. Phil Mickelson never plays his best golf overseas.

That leaves Scott as the pre-tournament favorite, which should mean absolutely nothing. If there's anything we've learned from so many recent majors where Woods was installed in that position, being the pre-tournament favorite doesn't mean much once the tournament actually starts. 


By RYAN LAVNER

There isn’t one, not a prohibitive favorite, at least. When’s the last time we could say that? A compelling argument could be made for five to 10 players, but each would be a flawed choice.

Forced to choose, however, any discussion must start with these three players:

• Co-favorite: Tiger Woods. Reason for caution: He’s rusty, not having played an event since the U.S. Open because of a balky elbow. Oh, and he also has that five-pound weight – his major-less drought, in pounds – strapped to his forehead.

• Co-favorite: Graeme McDowell. Reason for caution: He has three wins in his last eight worldwide starts. He also has five MCs over that stretch. So which G-Mac shows up at Muirfield?

• Co-favorite: Ernie Els. Reason for caution: You could argue that the Big Easy won at Lytham only because a.) Adam Scott collapsed; and b.) He miraculously brushed in putts with the belly putter.

But, you know, you could also add Lee Westwood to this list, since the Open is the major that least requires perfection on the greens, or Brandt Snedeker, who fits the mold of the next winner in this year of breakthrough major winners, or Adam Scott, looking to exact revenge on the major he lost last year.

This year, no pre-tournament favorite is no problem.


By REX HOGGARD

The betting houses say this is Tiger Woods’ Open Championship to win or lose, while sentimental types consider Graeme McDowell the man to beat. But both picks have awkward second sentences.

For Woods it is the elbow injury that forced him to miss the AT&T National, while G-Mac has endured almost as many valleys as peaks this season – winning three times around the globe, including last week’s French Open, and missing twice as many cuts.

Which leaves only Ernie Els, the defending champion and the last man to claim the claret jug at Muirfield.

The Big Easy seems to have everything on his side: a game that is rounding into shape at just the right moment, his health and a favorable history at the East Lothian gem.

Els won the BMW International Open with, of all things, a nearly flawless putter. Always considered one of the game’s top ball-strikers, the South African is taking new life from the belly putter for however long he’s allowed to use it.

He also seemed to team with karma last time around. In 2002, the last time the Open was played a Muirfield, Els teed off in one of the last groups on Saturday, was spared the worst of a storm that produced eight rounds in the 80s and survived a four-man playoff for his first Open title.

When picking a favorite, Els delivers the trifecta – good karma, good play and good timing.


By WILL GRAY

Let's face it. Whether he's at full strength or playing with one arm (or one leg), Tiger Woods will be the odds-on favorite at every major in which he plays for the forseeable future – a position that he certainly deserves at next week's British Open.

In this unprecedented era of parity, there exists a large pool of logical contenders, deriving a single 'favorite' from which can be difficult. Major champions such as Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els appear to be rounding into form, but the former has displayed consistency issues this season and the latter must deal with the heavy burden of trying to hoist the claret jug in consecutive years.

Each of the newest major champions, Adam Scott and Justin Rose, appears as likely as ever to contend, but choosing who will play better among the two is tough enough, let alone tabbing one of them as the pre-tournament favorite over the other 155 participants. And while the game boasts a deep stable of talent still in search of a maiden major win, top-ranked players such as Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Luke Donald likely must first follow in the footsteps of Scott and Rose before earning the role of favorite.

So we are left with Woods to lead the field, and with great reason. He has won this event three times prior, and tied for third just a year ago. Though injury kept him from defending his title at Congressional or teeing it up at Greenbrier, he has won four (four!) times already this season – including against an elite field at TPC Sawgrass, where his ailment apparently originated. Woods has earned his spot atop the world rankings with dominant play this season, and despite struggling in his last two starts he deserves to be installed as the favorite at Muirfield next week.


By RANDALL MELL

The elbow injury makes Tiger Woods suspect as a favorite.

The last time we saw him, he was shaking out pain after dozens of shots at the U.S. Open. With his sluggish form there and at the Memorial and with his withdrawal from the AT&T National, who really knows where his game is at? As much as his four victories this season may warrant it, he doesn’t go to Muirfield looking like a true favorite.

The view here is that Adam Scott and Justin Rose are the men to beat. They’re my co-favorites with their confidence high going to a championship where they have special motivation to prevail. Scott, winner of the Masters in April, looked like he had the British Open wrapped up at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year before bogeying the final four holes. Rose, winner of the U.S. Open last month, introduced himself to the world tying for fourth as an amateur in the ’98 British Open at Royal Birkdale before turning pro and missing his first 21 cuts.

Scott and Rose have the confidence, form and momentum to help them win an event that ties up loose ends in their British Open histories.

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.