Legends acting like legends

By Rich LernerJuly 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Rich Lerner is at Royal Birkdale this week for the 137th Open Championship. Enjoy Rich's insight and perspective from the season's third major:
 
Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England ' I ran into Peter Dawson, secretary of the Royal and Ancient, near the clubhouse in the afternoon just before tea ' and it was a good day for hot tea and warm spirits. I wondered what he thought of mild player rumblings that the course was too tough with tees back on a day when all but four holes played into the stiff wind. He said politely, The set-ups perfectly fair. Its just a tough day by the sea.
 
  • Wouldnt it be sweet if Rocco won? Bet Tiger would enjoy it.
     
  • Greg Norman told me yesterday that Birkdales the best set-up hes ever seen at any Open. He played like a man who likes it. And I know its not happening, that its a pipe dream, but if it did, if he becomes the oldest ever to win a major, wouldnt that change the career conversation once and for all?
     
  • Speaking of Open legends, Tom Watson recounted his early struggles with links golf: The very first tee shot I ever hit I hit right down the middle of the fairway where the caddie told me to hit it and we couldnt find the ball. It had kicked off a mound into a pot bunker. I said, I dont like this. This is not golf. And it took about four years to get over that first tee ball. I was fighting it mentally and didnt like the luck of the bounce. I finally told myself, You know youre complaining too much, stop that and play the golf course the way you find it. Play it along the ground. If the wind is going to move the ball 30 yards in the air, dont fight it. When I started letting the wind be my friend I was a much better golfer.
     
  • Phil Mickelsons in a major championship rut again. True, hes won this year at classic venues Riviera and Colonial, and that would be more than enough for nearly every other player on TOUR. But if Phil ends another season without a major, hell be the first to tell you that 2008 will not have been what hed hoped for.
     
  • Phils not the only late-30s, future Hall of Fame lock in a bad way. Ernie Els is hurting, and not physically. Keep in mind, though, that horizontal rains and 35-mile-per-hour gusts can make even future Hall of Fame members look pitiful. Tiger, you may recall, shot 81 on a wicked Saturday at Muirfield six years ago, his single season slam hopes blown away.
     
  • Thinking this morning in the middle of the maelstrom that Tiger, pun intended, gets all the breaks. Elins probably serving him breakfast poolside in sunny Florida while everyone else is beating their brains out in the frigid slop of Birkdale.
     
  • Love the fact that Harrington loved being out in the crappy conditions. Thats the attitude Watson said you must have to win The Open. And Watson knows; he won five.
     
  • If its cold and windy and rainy, I always like a Canadian in a beanie. I like Mike Weir.
     
  • Ran into a sturdy, pasty Englishman who cracked, I actually have a tan. Its rust, though, not sunburn.
     
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.