Asia leads Europe in Royal Trophy

By Associated PressJanuary 8, 2010, 6:03 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Asia took a 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 lead over Europe in the Royal Trophy team competition on Friday after Japanese pair of Ryo Ishikawa and Koukei Oda rallied to beat European captain Colin Montgomerie and Pablo Martin.

Ishikawa, Japan’s 18-year-old rising star, and Oda were two down after three holes before storming back to win the foursomes 3-and-2.

Europe leveled for 1-1 when Swedish pair Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren won 4-and-2 over an erratic Charlie Wie of South Korea and Liang Wenchong of China.

The third match, pitching Indian pair Gaganjeet Bhullar and Jeev Milkha Singh against Peter Hanson of Sweden and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, was squared. Singh sank a nervous five-foot putt on the final hole to square it.

Thai pair Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee maintained their lead all afternoon over Europe’s top pairing of Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Simon Dyson of England 3-and-1 to put Asia in a strong position to defend the title won in 2009.

The European pair carded six bogeys and just one birdie, and Prayad was honest enough to acknowledge he and Thongchai did not have to play great golf to win. They had three bogeys and a double themselves - but countered that with three birdies.

“When we made mistakes we were fortunate that the European team made mistakes too, and did not take advantage,” Thongchai said. “We did not feel we drove the ball particularly well and we were happy to have earned another important point for the Asian team.”

Montgomerie was also satisfied to come away from the day only one point down at Amata Spring Country Club.

“I’m delighted how we escaped through it today. At one stage it was 1-3 down , it was a big different from 2- 1/2 to 1- 1/2 ,” Montgomerie told reporters.

“All credits to the players for coming back, especially Peter Hanson and Soren Kjedlsen to get that half point which was vital,” he said. “A good putt of Jeev Milkha Singh to be honest, or else it would be all square throughout the day.”

Martin and Montgomerie got off to a good start but the match turned following a great tee shot by Oda on the eighth and a chip in for birdie by Ishikawa on the 9th.

“I was not trying for the hole, just to get it close,” Ishikawa said. “But Koumei and I talked about it later and we both agreed those two holes gave us the momentum to go on and win the match.”

Martin said he and Montgomerie perhaps pushed too hard in trying to claw back the deficit, only winning one hole for the remainder of the round.

“Its difficult not to take chances when you are a couple behind,” Martin said.

Kjedlsen acknowledged he felt the pressure to step up and gain some points for his team knowing they were down early.

“It was important to get something out of our game, because I looked at the board and we were down in three matches at one stage,” he said.

“We gave away three holes on the back nine, going bogey, double bogey, bogey and we showed a lot of character to come back from that,” he continued. “It was a real seesaw match. We hardly halved a hole after the sixth, but it was fun to play in, and I’m sure it was great to watch too.”

Asia won last year’s competition after losing to Europe in the first two editions of the event in 2006 and 2007.

The competition continues Saturday with a four-ball matches. Bhullar and Singh will begin proceedings against Montgomerie and fellow Briton Dyson, while Wie and Liang will take on Hanson and Kjeldsen.

Two winning pairs from Friday – Ishikawa and Oda against Karlsson and Noren – will set the stage for the crowd favorites Prayad and Thongchai against Stenson and Martin.

Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

Getty Images

Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”