Watson on brink of another milestone

By Al TaysJune 28, 2015, 1:36 am

He speaks of “not having the tools in the toolbox I used to have,” but somehow, Tom Watson still manages to make do. Now here he is, at age 65, on the precipice of yet another amazing accomplishment.

With one round to go in the U.S. Senior Open, Watson is just one shot off the lead. Bernhard Langer, who has established himself as one of the best Champions Tour players ever, and Jeff Maggert stand in front of him, and seven other players, including Champions Tour stalwarts Kenny Perry and Colin Montgomerie, are tied with him, so nothing is likely to come easy for Watson at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento.

But Watson has never shied away from challenges. Anybody else old enough to remember when he had the reputation of being a choker? That ugly tag came courtesy of his not being able to close after holding the 54-hole lead in the 1974 U.S. Open (the infamous “Massacre at Winged Foot”) and the 36-hole lead in the 1975 U.S. Open at Medinah, where he shot 67-68 on Thursday and Friday, 78-77 on Saturday and Sunday.

Watson put that image to rest when he broke through to win his first major, the 1975 Open Championship, where he beat Australian Jack Newton in an 18-hole playoff at Carnoustie. It was the first of Watson’s eight majors, which ranks sixth on the all-time list, and five Open Championships, which makes him one of four runners-up to Harry Vardon’s six titles. Watson birdied the 72nd hole to force the playoff, then benefited the following day when Newton bogeyed the final hole to lose by a stroke.

Langer, Maggert share U.S. Senior Open lead | Scores

Watson will be best remembered, of course, for his “Duel in the Sun” victory over Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977. Both golfers went 68-70 in the first two rounds. Nicklaus turned up the heat in the final two, going 65-66. It wasn’t enough. Watson went 65-65.

As hard as that major was to top, Watson almost did just that 32 years later at the same course. At the age of 59, he tied for the lead after 72 holes with Stewart Cink. Had he been able to get up and down for par after his second shot went over the 72nd green, he would have had his sixth Open Championship title. That miss seemed to deflate him. In the four-hole playoff that followed – his 1975 Open victory was the Championship’s final 18-hole playoff – he lost to Cink by six strokes.

Now Watson is looking ahead to his final Open Championship, next month at St. Andrews. He has won the Open on five different courses, but never at the home of golf. He shared the 54-hole lead in 1978, but closed with a 78. In 1984 he was tied for the lead with two holes to play, but bogeyed the 17th and lost as Seve Ballesteros birdied the 18th.

But first, there’s this little matter of the U.S. Senior Open. It’s a title Watson has never won. If he does, he would become the oldest winner of the event, the oldest to win a senior major and the oldest to win on the Champions Tour.

He’s not thinking in those terms, though.

''To hit a shot under pressure that's really a good golf shot is why I'm out here,'' he told reporters on Friday. ''That's what I like to do. And when I get to the point where I can't do it or I can't do it often enough to really satisfy myself, then I won't be out here.''

Those of us who love the game, who love to watch the game’s greats, are fortunate that day has not yet arrived.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.