Tiger Close to Closing the Open

By Mercer BaggsJune 17, 2000, 4:00 pm
For the first time this week, the Pebble Beach golf course put up a fight against Tiger Woods in the third round. And though Tiger took a couple on the chin, he landed some pretty good shots of his own. In the end, the round was a draw, with Woods shooting an even-par 71. Yet, if the 100th U.S. Open were truly a boxing match, Woods would have already won by TKO.
 
Conjuring up images of his runaway victory in the 1997 Masters Tournament, Woods is once again lapping the field in a major championship. At -8, Tiger is the only player currently under par. His nearest competitor is Ernie Els, who's at 2-over-par.

Tiger's 10-shot lead after 54 holes is a U.S. Open record. The previous margin was seven, set by James Barnes in 1921. That's not the only record Woods set on Saturday. His six-stroke lead through 36 holes is also a new record; breaking the five-stroke margin set by Willie Anderson in 1903, and tied by Mike Souchak in 1960.
 
Tiger's record-breaking Saturday began at 4:30am PT. After stepping off the course 10 hours prior, Tiger was forced to complete his second round beginning at 6:30am. Woods did so by posting one birdie and two bogeys over his final six holes. Ironically, the two bogeys came on the par-5 14th and par-5 18th. Still Woods' 134 total tied him with Jack Nicklaus, T.C. Chen and Lee Janzen for yet another Open record. Nicklaus' and Janzen's two-day scores both came at Baltusrol in 1980 and 1993, respectively. Chen's came in the 1985 Open at Oakland Hills.
 
'Well, I guess if you go on to lose, you look like an idiot,' Woods said after completing his second round. 'I'm going to play hard and do the same things I've been doing, which is hit the fairways. If I have a good situation, I'll go ahead and attack. If not, I'll dump it on the side of the green and make my par.'
 
Seven hours after finishing his second round, a fully rested and stomach-filled Woods once again made his way to the course. However, this time the course was waiting. Strong winds were wreaking havoc on the 61 others already out on the course. Tiger had successfully avoided such conditions through two rounds, but there was no such luck in Round 3. Of course, Tiger doesn't need much luck.
 
Paired with Thomas Bjorn, Woods embarked on his third round with a six-shot cushion at 8-under-par. Tiger moved to nine-under after sinking a remarkable 30-foot birdie putt on the 2nd, but trouble - and hope for the rest of the field - lurked on the par-4 3rd. Tiger's approach shot came up short and right of the green. It landed outside of a bunker, yet buried deep down in the nightmarish Open rough. Woods nearly whiffed his next shot, and then managed to barely advance his fourth. His fifth finally made the green. Two putts later, Tiger had carded a triple-bogey-7.
 
Woods was now at six-under, yet in the difficult conditions, no one was able to make a run at him. His playing companion, Bjorn, bogeyed two of his first three holes to remain six shots off the lead. In fact, after making a par on the 4th, Woods reached the par-3 5th as the only man under par. It would stay that way for the remainder of the day.
 
On the par-5 6th, Tiger escaped trouble by playing a phenomenal shot from the roughage encompassing a fairway bunker. The resultant birdie lifted him back to seven-under. Then came the short par-3 7th. The wind had been howling throughout the third round, causing near-comical miscues from the world's best players. But as Tiger reached the tee, the conditions calmed and watched as he struck an iron pin high to eight feet. Another birdie ensued, and Woods was level for the day at 8-under-par.
 
The wind soon returned, and Woods sandwiched a birdie at the par-4 9th between two bogeys at the 8th and 10th, with a final birdie coming at the 14th. In all, Tiger posted five birdies, two bogeys and one triple for an even-par 71. Woods finished the round where he stared, at eight-under. But though his position didn't change, his lead did.
 
'I knew if I shot even par or somewhere close to that, I'd probably pick up a shot or two, just because the conditions were so severe out there,' Woods said following his third round. 'Going into tomorrow, if I can just go out there and hit a lot of good solid shots, especially off the tees, I feel like if I drive the ball in a lot of fairways tomorrow, I have a pretty good chance, no matter what (Els) shoots.'
 
Only one player managed to break par in Saturday's third round. That was Els, who posted an early 3-under-par 69 to finish 54 holes at 2-over-par. Ernie's round included a holed wedge shot from 99 yards for an eagle-2 at the 4th. Els had started the day in a tie for 36th, but jumped into a tie for 8th upon the completion of his round. By the end of the day, he was in second place alone.
 
The par-71 Pebble Beach course played at a 77.124 scoring average in the third round. Sixteen players shot 80 or higher, including Bjorn. The Dane began the day tied for second at 2-under-par, but carded one birdie, eight bogeys and two double-bogeys for an 11-over-par 82. He's now tied for 22nd.
 
Jimenez did break 80, but he didn't fare much better. Like Bjorn, the Spaniard started his third round tied for second at two-under. But Jimenez bogeyed the first and never recovered. He posted five bogeys and no birdies for a round of 76. He's still tied for third, but is now 11 shots off the lead.
 
With a ten shot lead over his closest competition, Woods is a near-mortal lock to win his first U.S. Open. In his '97 Masters romp, Woods led by nine shots through 54 holes, yet still shot 69 on Sunday to increase his winning margin to 12.
 
In terms of Tiger, the only suspense left is to see how many records he can match or break. But there is still the matter of a $475,000 second-place check. In the event within the event, there are ten players within four shots of one another.
 
NEWS, NOTES AND NUMBERS
*Woods and Els will tee off at 12:40pm PT.
 
*The last player to win the U.S. Open wire-to-wire was Tony Jacklin in 1970.
 
*The record for largest winning margin in an Open is 11 strokes, set by Willie Smith in 1899.
 
*The record aggregate 72-hole total at an Open is 272, set by Jack Nicklaus (1980) and Lee Janzen (1993).
 
*The lowest 72-hole score in relation to par is eight under.
 
*The best comeback in a final Open round is seven strokes, set by Arnold Palmer in 1960.
 
*Gil Morgan holds the record for most strokes under par at any point in an Open, 12 in the third round in 1992 at Pebble Beach.
 
*Kirk Triplett began the third round at 1-under-par, but shot a third-round 84, including a nine on the par-5 18th to finish at 12-over-par, tied for 43rd.
 
*Triplett is tied with Hal Sutton, who played his first five holes in the third round at 6-over-par. Sutton shot a 12-over-par 83.
 
*Jim Furyk began his day with a birdie on the 1st, but then bogeyed the 2nd, tripled the 3rd and after a par at the 4th, began a stretch of eight straight bogeys at the 5th. Furyk shot 13-over-par 84 for the day.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

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

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.