Winning Open further fueled Stenson's desire

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2017, 4:05 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – Pete Cowen will explain that Henrik Stenson has three distinct swings – good, very good and excellent.

“Two of those [good and very good] he doesn’t like to accept,” Stenson’s longtime swing coach explained following the Swede’s victory last year at The Open.

Stenson is a perfectionist, driven to exceedingly high levels by the notion that mediocrity is not an option even though he’s playing a game that is often decided by the thin margins between good and great.

Last year Stenson was perfect, at least by any reasonable standard, on his way to his first major victory over Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon, where he closed with a 63 in what was among the greatest major championship duels.

He hit 11 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens in regulation and needed just 27 putts, but even that performance comes with an asterisk when Stenson strolls down memory lane.

“It was certainly a standout in terms of how we played, but also how I putted that day,” he said. “If I would have hit the same amount of shots, but I wouldn't have rolled in as many putts from 10, 15 feet, obviously the score would have been a whole lot different.”

It’s not as though Stenson is naturally a negative person. It’s just his standards have always been set ridiculously high and that’s not always a good thing.

The Open: Full-field tee times | Full coverage

Following his tie for 26th last week at the Scottish Open, Stenson was downright dismissive of his chances of defending this week at Royal Birkdale.

“It's always that battle and I don't feel I have enough game to play the way I want to, and as soon as you go into practice mode you are losing the possibility to play your best,” he said on Sunday.

On Tuesday, his outlook was slightly more upbeat but was still a telling example of how hard the world’s eighth-ranked player can be on himself.

It’s been that kind of year for Stenson.

Outside of a runner-up finish to Sergio Garcia at the Dubai Desert Classic in February, he hasn’t contended and he begins this week after missing five of his last seven cuts on the PGA Tour, including missed weekends at the year’s first two majors.

 The double-edged benefit of holding one’s self to such a high standard is that there’s no room for complacency, but there’s also precious little space for anything approaching a benefit of the doubt.

“Henrik is a perfectionist,” Cowen said. “Can you play at your best all the time? Who plays at their best all the time? The only person that I know that does that is Usain Bolt, that’s why he wins everything. Winning majors is not easy.”

For most players, winning a major at age 40 would have been a license to savor the fruits of decades of work. Henrik isn’t most players.

Getting on the Grand Slam board only spurred him to want to do it again, replacing the pressure to win his first major with an even higher standard of collecting more before his career is over.

 “Once you win one, obviously that's off your shoulder,” he said. “And it's more about putting yourself in contention again and trying to win a second one. Given how long and successful a career I've had, I think that's pretty much what we're aiming for, a few more chances to win more major championships. That's really where that extra spark can come from.”

Predictably, Stenson has spent this week grinding on the practice tee with Cowen, but then he would be doing the same thing even if he’d won his last three starts. For Henrik, the struggle is real and the search never stops.

He can take some competitive solace from last year’s championship, when he admits he also wasn’t feeling great about his game. He can also take into account his history when he commits to a links fortnight.

Twice in the last four years he’s played the Scottish Open the week before The Open, in 2016 and ’13, when he finished first and second, respectively. In ’14 and ’15 when he skipped the Scottish he finished in the middle of the pack at The Open.

“For me it's crucial, both to play the week before the major is ideal for me, and also playing links because you just get in kind of that mindset of where you're going to land the ball and playing the three-quarter shots in the crosswinds,” he said.

Or, if Stenson is truly in need of a paradigm of hope heading into his 13th Open he can consider the finality that this week brings. Winning his first major brought a host of new media duties and unfamiliar attention, which only served to remind him of what he’s capable of doing if only he could perform at his absolute best week in and week out.

“I feel like it's a little bit easier to turn the page and look ahead, rather than speaking about what happened three, six, nine, 12 months ago all the time,” he admitted a day after handing the claret jug back to the R&A. “That's kind of where I feel I'm at.”

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.