Moment of Claret-y

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' It had been 15 years since Turnberry had hosted an Open Championship, and for good reason. For the fourth time the course, which clings to the craggy coast, produced copious amounts of high drama, history and heresy, not to mention 71 holes of near legendary proportion.
 
From the same shores that gave us Robert the Bruce and 1977s Duel in the Sun between a young Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, came four windswept and unprecedented days ' a Duel for the Ageless.
 
Its an unbelievable fairytale story, Padraig Harrington, who knows a thing or two about silver slippers, said of Watsons quest for a sixth Claret Jug.
 
Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink holds on tightly to the Claret Jug. (Getty Images)
But then this fairytale had a twist by way of a lanky Alabamian. For 71 holes the improbable inched closer to impossibly perfect with each flawlessly hit shot until Watson was ultimately undone by a familiar foe ' his putter.
 
Staked to a one-shot lead and eyeing the all-to-familiar 18th green from the middle of the fairway, Watson bounced his approach over the putting surface and failed to salvage a par to slip into a tie at 2 under with Stewart Cink.
 
Fifty-nine is still golfs magic number, but for all the wrong reasons.
 
The 59-year-old Watson made a mess of the playoff, starting with a bogey and ending, figuratively if not literally, his week with a double bogey-7 at the third extra frame. He picked a bad time to start missing the middle of the clubface.
 
They go 54 holes on the Champions Tour for a reason, and 76 proved to be four too many for the toothy hero of Turnberry.
 
By the time Cink eased onto the 18th green in the playoff he had the look of a man who had just crashed a party thrown in someone elses honor and Watson, who played 71 holes like a 39-year-old, finally began looking his age.
 
Dream almost came true, sighed Watson, who closed with a 2-over 72, his highest card of the week.
 
Nicklaus recently said his 77 loss to Watson at Turnberry was the best hed ever played without winning. Watsons effort on the Ailsa Course this week may be the best anyone has ever played without cashing gold.
 
Watson, who went to bed in the grand hotels Watson Suite each of the previous two nights with the lead, was impossible to dismiss even when he began his final round bogey-par-bogey to slip out of the top spot.
 
From there, he appeared to answer all challenges, first from Ross Fisher followed in order by Lee Westwood, Chris Wood and Mathew Goggin.
 
Jeremy Kavanagh, a young Brit who lucked his way into a Tuesday practice round with Watson, ventured to a nearby horse track Monday night and eyed an entry named Whaston.
 
I put 5 pounds on her at 16 to 1 and hit, Kavanagh said. The next day I told Tom and he said, Maybe that name has a lucky ring to it this week.
 
For the better part of four days, it felt more historic than lucky.
 
After battling with Westwood and Goggin down the stretch, Watson put what appeared to be the tournament out of reach with a birdie at the 17th and a one-stroke lead.
 
But then Cink, as sentimental as the next, had a plan of his own.
 
Amid a cacophony of misses and messes, with the leaders peeling away with each gust, Cink went blank and rolled in a 15-footer at the 72nd hole to sign for one of just six birdies at the closer and a final-round 69, a full hour ahead of the pack, to post 2-under 278.
 
Its the kind of putt that had eluded Cink for much of his career.
 
After ditching his long putter two months ago and enlisting the services of sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens, Cink came across from the United States early, took his knocks on three of Irelands finest links courses to prepare and shouldered into the final round three shots out of the lead.
 
I actually believed I could win this tournament starting today, Cink said. In the past I wouldnt have done that.
 
History will note Cinks birdie at the 72nd hole as the catalyst to victory, but it was a missed 2-footer on the seventh hole Saturday for bogey that set his victory march in motion.
 
I missed and I didnt let it get to me, Cink said. That was one of the moments that was pivotal.
 
Cink went on to post a 71 in Round 3 and weathered a pair of late miscues Sunday on Nos. 14 and 16 to put himself in position to end Watsons fairytale.
 
Lost, however, in a playoff that seemed to suck every breath of air out of the Firth of Clyde was Cinks ball-striking exhibition.
 
He scrambled for par at the first extra hole; two-putted at the second to keep his lead; and rifled his second at the par-5 17th to 40 feet, while Watson was making hay down the left side of the fairway, to put the title out of reach. His towering approach at the 18th rolled to 3 feet for an apropos birdie.
 
He needed one here, said Cinks caddie, Frank Williams. He wont admit it, but Im sure Southern Hills (the 2001 U.S. Open and site of Cinks closest brush with major glory before Turnberry) is still in his mind and a lot of other peoples minds as well.
 
In Cinks defense, there were no shortage of rally killers looking to spoil Watsons wonderful ride. On Sunday the grounds of the former World War II airstrip had the look of rush hour at JFK.
 
Fisher, the lean Englishman with an overdue wife, ran in birdies at the first and second holes to move to 5 under early, but his title chances unraveled like a modern dance step ' hay, hay, hay, drop ' when he went from the rough to the rough to the rough at the fifth for a quadruple bogey-8.
 
Westwood held at least a share of the lead as late as the 16th hole, but the perennial major bridesmaid pitched his approach long at the demanding par-4 16th and missed an 18-footer for par to slip to 1 under and never recovered.
 
Tasmanias best hope for a major ended when Mathew Goggin bogeyed the same hole a few minutes later.
 
Wood, a 1,500-to-1 long shot when the week began, looked to trade his 08 silver medal (for winning low-amateur honors last year at Royal Birkdale) in for the gold version presented to the Open champion, finishing at 1 under with two birdies over his last four holes. But he finished tied with Westwood, one shot out of the playoff.
 
An Open that was unkind to favorites, sentimental or otherwise, went to the Tours favorite Twitterer.
 
In the end, Watson won the senior division, and Cink the tournament proper, his first major and his first victory since last years Travelers Championship.
 
But then the enormity of the situation was not lost on Cink. Far from it. We thought Jack Nicklaus had hung the moon when he won the Masters at 46, Cink said. This is 13 years on from that. . . . I dont feel ashamed. I dont feel disappointed.
 
Given the gravity of his historic run, neither should Watson.
 
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    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.