Notes Cheeseheads Choose Scotland Over Home


CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were among the first to arrive at the British Open, playing a practice round at Carnoustie over the weekend that included a spirited bet and took them back to their junior days in Wisconsin.
This is the place to be this week, even if a part of them would rather be somewhere else.
Under the reconfigured PGA TOUR schedule, the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee is now held the same week as the British Open. That's not a big deal for most players, except those who grew up and still live in the state.
'It's Jerry's major,' Stricker said with a laugh, noting that Kelly has twice been runner-up at Milwaukee.
Some thought Milwaukee would be relegated to the fall when the PGA TOUR shortened its regular season under the new FedExCup competition, so it could have been worse. Although the U.S. Bank Championship rarely attracted the biggest names, it stings to lose two of the state's most popular players.
'It's a tough deal,' said Stricker, noting he also skipped the John Deere Classic last week, another longtime favorite. 'I've got to be here, because it's a major. It's a little more important than U.S. Bank, but it hurts us both not to be there.'
Stricker knew in May he would be at Carnoustie, qualifying through the top 50 in the world ranking. Kelly chose to go through the U.S. qualifier at Oakland Hills, and he never gave it another thought.
'I could not take a chance at missing a major,' Kelly said. 'The U.S. Bank, if we won that, would be the closest tournament to our hearts. The emotion we get from all the people is incredible. Everybody from Wisconsin is so behind is. But winning a major would change our lives. Winning the U.S. Bank would feel great, but it wouldn't change our lives.'
Colin Montgomerie has only seriously challenged to win the claret jug once, but the combination of his victory two weeks ago in Ireland and the British Open being played in his native Scotland has bookmakers nervous.
William Hill has lowered his odds to 25-to-1, but the number of bets placed on Montgomerie to win has been so large that bookmakers say the betting turnover would be more than $50 million.
'Despite his failure to make the cut in the Scottish Open last week, Monty is the man the punters want to back for the Open,' Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said. 'Every other bet seems to have his name on at the moment, and we will certainly be handing over a hefty, seven-figure sum to punters should Monty manage to win.'
The second worst-case-scenario for the bookmakers would be Luke Donald winning.
The bookmakers say Phil Mickelson, who lost the Scottish Open in a playoff, was not getting much action at 14-to-1.
Woods remained the favorite at 3-to-1, followed by Ernie Els at 12-to-1.
Butch Harmon has what some of his clients want -- a No. 1 ranking.
Harmon was voted the top teacher in golf for the fourth straight year in Golf Digest magazine's biennial ranking of America's 50 greatest teachers. More than 1,000 teachers from the 50 states were asked to rate instructors in their region and nominate the best teachers in the nation. Golf Digest combined the results from the local and national survey.
Harmon is the swing coach for Adam Scott (No. 4 in the world ranking) and recently was hired by Phil Mickelson, who slipped one spot to No. 3 in the ranking this week. Harmon previously worked with Greg Norman and Tiger Woods when they rose to No. 1.
Harmon narrowly beat out David Leadbetter. Hank Haney, who coaches Woods, checked in at No. 3, followed by Jim McLean and Jim Flick. The highest-rated female coach was Pia Nilsson, who works with Annika Sorenstam, at No. 21.
Golfers can get downright emotional about their clubs. Just listen to Zach Johnson, who was clearly rattled when his bag didn't accompany him on the flight to Scotland.
The Masters champ was practicing Tuesday with a backup set when he got a call from his trainer on the fourth hole.
'He goes, 'Where are you?'' Johnson recounted. 'I'm like, 'Are my clubs here?' He said, 'Where are you?' And I said, 'Are my clubs here?' And he said, 'Yes.''
And what was Johnson's reaction?
'I nearly cried, put it that way,' he said. 'Not that the clubs I was using were bad, they just weren't mine. I don't like to mess around. I'm very particular about my grips. They don't have my grips here.'
Of course, it's easy to understand why Johnson is so attached to these clubs. He used them to pull off his upset win at Augusta National in April.
'I was very concerned,' he said. 'And now I'm very, very, very, very happy that my clubs are here.'
Annika Sorenstam has launched her own Web site ( She tried to get 'Annika' as her site, but it already was taken by an unknown Swedish outfit. Along with offering details of her career, academy, golf course design and fitness advice, Sorenstam also shares some of her favorite recipes. ... Former U.S. Open and British Open champion Tony Jacklin has been named the 2007 Ambassador of Golf, an award presented each year at Firestone to the person who has fostered ideals of the game on an international level.
Europe has had 18 players finish in the top five at a major since Paul Lawrie became the last European to win a major championship at Carnoustie in 1999.
'You enjoy a major afterward. From Thursday to Sunday, it's hard work.' -- Ernie Els.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 136th Open Championship