Westwood looks to continue run of British success

By Jay CoffinJuly 20, 2013, 8:29 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Let’s paint a pretty picture.

Justin Rose collected epic pars on the last two holes of the U.S. Open last month at Merion to become the first Englishman to claim the prize in 43 years.

Thirteen days ago, Scotland’s Andy Murray defeated favored Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the Wimbleon final to become the first British man to capture the coveted crown in 77 years. The United Kingdom still is celebrating the feat.

See what we’re doing here? This is a big deal.

England’s Lee Westwood leads his beloved Open Championship after 54 holes at Muirfield. If the Summer of Britain is to continue, the hopes rest on Westwood’s broad shoulders. More precisely, the hopes rest on his putter, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

As much as Westwood tried to downplay his position late Saturday evening – saying he enjoys this moment and he doesn’t consider this a high-pressure situation – this is his best chance to finally capture major glory. At 40 years old, Westwood has accumulated as much major-championship scar tissue as anyone in the Tiger Woods era.

142nd Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Westwood has collected seven top-three majors championship finishes since the 2008 U.S. Open, where he was one shot out of the Monday playoff between Woods and Rocco Mediate. Westwood held the 54-hole lead at the 2010 Masters and lost to a sizzling Phil Mickelson. During the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open, Westwood lost his ball in a tree on the fifth hole and had to declare it lost. He ultimately made double bogey on the hole and fell from contention and tied for 10th place.

He’s played well in majors and lost to someone better, he’s played poorly and thrown some away.

“I know what it takes,” Westwood said. “Even though I haven’t won a major, I know what it takes to win one.”

On this beautiful Saturday on the coast of the Firth of Forth, in the bright shining spotlight that goes with playing alongside Woods, that goes along with playing your home major championship, Westwood played like the man with 14 majors on the resume.

Both titans began the day at 2 under par, one shot behind Miguel Angel Jimenez. Four hours later, Westwood shot 70 to Woods’ 72 and will take a two-shot lead over Woods and Hunter Mahan into the final 18 holes. It was the eighth time in the last 13 occasions in which they have been paired together that Westwood shot a lower score than Woods. Woods had the lower score four times and they tied once.

“He’s won tournaments all over the world,” Woods said. “He knows how to win golf tournaments. He’s two shots ahead and we’re going to go out there and both compete and play.”

Woods struck the first blow when he made birdie on the second hole to grab a share of the lead but Westwood made eagle on the par-5 fifth hole when he putted from off the front of the massive green. In a four-hole stretch, between Nos. 4-7, Westwood gained four shots on his playing competitor.

The shot of the day – and quite likely the shot of the week if Westwood goes on to win the claret jug – came in the form of bogey on the par-3 16th hole. Westwood hit his worst shot of the day off the tee and the ball landed well left of the green in thick, gnarly hay. He chopped out but failed to put the ball on the green. The ensuing chip shot ended 20 feet from the hole and Westwood drained the putt, turning potential double bogey into bogey. Westwood made birdie from 15 feet on the 17th hole while Woods made bogey. The last three holes had plot twists aplenty.

Now, the putter. It has been Westwood’s nemesis in big moments for the better part of his career – sans the Ryder Cup, where he seems more at ease and putts fall more regularly. Here at Muirfield, not only is Westwood putting well, he leads the field with only 81 putts through three rounds. What once was a curse now is a blessing.

“I’ve won 40 times, you don’t not putt well winning that many,” Westwood said. “I putted nicely this week. I’ve got a key that I’m thinking about and I’m rolling the ball well. It’s starting on the line that I pick, which is nice to see.”

Westwood began working on his putting with Aussie Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, two weeks ago and the two have worked diligently on loosening up with the flatstick in hand and releasing all tension in the motion.

Putts will have to drop again for one more day if Westwood is going to please his people and claim the 142nd playing of the Open Championship. He’s paired with Mahan in the final group, while Woods and Adam Scott will be just ahead in the day’s penultimate pairing.

Woods has never won a major while trailing after 54 holes, a stat that’s not lost on Westwood. If Westwood is to win he’ll have to focus as well as he did Saturday and hope to fight off a once-nervous putting stroke, all while watching Woods try to win his 15th overall major and first in more than five years.

It’s a tall task, but one for which Westwood feels prepared.

“I’m hoping it’s going to turn out differently because I haven’t won one yet and I’d like to win one,” Westwood said. “You can only do what you think is right and put all that practice and hard work you’ve done tomorrow, try not to get in your own way mentally and just focus on the job at hand and believe you’re good enough.”

If it doesn’t, “it’s not the end of the world,” Westwood proclaimed.

No, but it’ll put a damper on what has been a great summer for Britain.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

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

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)