I witnessed part of this red-letter morning in golf through a tiny frame provided by the head posts of two fine Chicago gents. We crowded around the 14th tee at Medinah No. 3 as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy began the fifth hole of the most popular pairing since peanut butter and jelly. And by crowded, I mean, wow. And how. Insert your favorite intensifier here.
It was a polite and quiet group, to be sure (peppered with a number of kind Whats In The Bag? watchers, which I greatly appreciate). But Ive had more wiggle room in a Tokyo subway.
So between the necks, collars, golf hats and haircuts of a number of Chicagoans, I watched this years major championship winners settle into the campaign to get another big title. Im six feet tall, and I had a tough time seeing. In the absence of my own son, I kept looking around for a little kid to hoist onto my shoulders.
Tiger and Ogilvy hit good drives on the par-5 14th; Mickelson shoved his into the trees left. Tiger birdied, Ogilvy bogeyed, and Mickelson saved par. The crowd moved on in a controlled surge.
Its times like these I remember golf tournament photographs from the 1950s and 1960s, when five-deep crowds held cardboard tubes with angled mirrors at either end: makeshift periscopes.
You dont see those anymore. Some tournaments, disquieted by the cornfield-like look of a bunch of cardboard stalks growing out of the crowd, prohibit them. But the old school scope isnt the only option.
As it happens, the father of one of the golfers in Thursdays featured pairing has updated the old periscope. Phil Mickelson, Sr. has for more than a decade been making a small, portable periscope, two tubes about an inch in diameter that slide up and down to adjust for height. Its black, unobtrusive, and easy to hold, thanks to a hand grip on the bottom. Theyre available in the merchandise pavilion at Medinah, $65 for the basic model and $75 for one with a nifty zoom feature. The display wasnt full this morning; there were about six left. With Tiger and Phil and Geoff playing early, I figured people would be beating down the doors for them. Perhaps they will, in anticipation of the second round with that group, which starts on No. 1 at 1:35 p.m. CDT Friday.
Periscope or not, if its an education in the state of modern golf to watch any group that includes Tiger or Phil, seeing them together is a high-powered graduate seminar. They were cheered for whatever they did, wherever they went. Roar upon roar greeted them even during the walks from tee to green, and curtain-call applause rose in volume from tee to tee.
It appears from the clapping that Chicagoans like Tiger, but they got vocal for Phil, shouting his name over and over as he walked onto the 14th tee Thursday morning. Then, when poor Ogilvy came on, the crowd chuckled as a group at his plight and burst into clapping for the good sport from Australia, who has been gentlemanly and smiling throughout.
It pays sometimes to back a few steps out of the crowd, as I did after the tee shots on 14, and watch the tableau unfold. From under the shade of the ancient trees I could see the players strolling up the slope of fairway beyond the pond that fronts the tee, well-dressed gladiators in an emerald arena, gilded by flawless summer sunlight. The fans along the left side, those who had waited by the tee of the par-3 13th, now moved like an advancing army to stake out their positions along the ropes as the players came back their way. Conversation after conversation could be overheard about the wisdom (or not) of hitting driver, and what the second shot would be like.
Viewed between necks or from above, ten years after Tiger first came on the professional scene, it is still quite a spectacle.
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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing
The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.
Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.
The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.
Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:
"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.
"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.
"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.
"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."
Wallace holds off Olesen to win BMW International
PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.
Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.
''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''
Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.
''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''
Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.
England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.
Choi, Park qualify for Carnoustie from Korean Open
Two players - Minchel Choi and Sanghyun Park - qualified for next month's Open Championship at Carnoustie via the Open Qualifying Series on Sunday.
Choi (69) held off Park (66) to win the Korean Open by two shots.
This was the Qualifying Series debut for the Korean Open, whiched awarded Open Championship exemptions to the tournament's top two finishers inside the top eight and ties who were not already qualified.
Choi, the 532nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, punched his ticket in his first professional win.
Park, the 146th in the world, is a six-time Korean Tour champion who has already won twice this season.
Both players will be making their first ever major starts.
“I am absolutely honored to be playing in The Open and I wanted to win this championship to give me [that] opportunity," Choi said. "I cannot believe that I have won today. I am so happy and excited."
“It is a great honor to have qualified for The Open and make my first appearance in the championship," Park added. "I’ve watched The Open on television every single year and I can’t really believe that I have qualified, it is amazing."
The Open Qualifying Series continues next week at the Open de France, where as many as three exemptions will be awarded to the three leading players inside the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified.
The 147th Open will be held at Carnoustie from July 19-22.
Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.
Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.
''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''
The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.
Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.
Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.
''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''
Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.
First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.