Brian Gay wins Verizon Heritage in a romp

By Associated PressApril 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2007 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' Brian Gay put on a record-setting show at the Verizon Heritage. And this time, he didnt have to share the spotlight with anyone.
 
Gay shot a 7-under 64 Sunday to win at Harbour Town Golf Links by an astounding 10 shots. He broke the 13-year-old scoring record, finishing at 20-under 264 on the way to his second PGA Tour victory.
 
Just another unbelievable day, Gay said.
 
There have been many more of them the last two years for the former Florida Gator, who remains the only player to win two Southeastern Conference championships.
 
But finding golf success has been a struggle for the 37-year-old, who did not break through for his first win until his 293rd start in February 2008 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
 
Bad luck for Gay, that triumph came the same weekend Tiger Woods finished off the field at the World Golf Championships Match Play event.
 
Yeah, its a bit of validation, Gay said.
 
And perhaps one of the PGA Tours more dominating performances.
 
He had the tours largest margin of victory since Phil Mickelson won the 2006 BellSouth Classic by 13 strokes.
 
Gay bested Loren Roberts mark of 19 under in winning the 1996 Verizon Heritage. Gays 10-shot edge over Luke Donald (66) and Briny Baird (68) shattered the seven strokes five-time champ Davis Love won by in 1998.
 
Besides a $1.026 million first prize, Gay earned a spot in next years Masters, something he also didnt get with the Mayakoba victory. It will be his first time at Augusta National.
 
Ive had a lot of heartache not getting in that tournament, winning (and) not getting in, and missing by one spot on the money list two times, he said. I just figured, who cares? Whats going to happen is going to happen, just go play golf.
 
Gay moved into the lead Friday and carried a three-stroke margin over Tim Wilkinson into the final round. Gays game plan? Dont do what he did at Mayakoba, holding on despite some passive, wait-for-pars play.
 
I told myself to keep my head down and keep plugging along, Gay said. I didnt watch any (leader) boards. I didnt watch anything.
 
Soon enough, Gay was out of sight of the field.
 
He essentially wrapped things up two holes into the round ' and never gave the chasers a chance to climb back in.
 
Gay struck his approach to 10 feet on No. 1 for a birdie to increase the lead to four. A hole later, he rolled in a curling, uphill 57-footer for an eagle-3, raising his putter as the ball disappeared into the cup.
 
Playing partner Wilkinson, facing a 10-footer for birdie, never had a chance with the cheers for Gay still in his ears and the margin increased to six shots.
 
A birdie on the par-5 fifth gave Gay a seven-shot edge that no one could dent.
 
Gay moved into the lead Friday with a run of five straight birdies and continued his precise, accurate play throughout. He made only two bogeys ' one Friday and one Sunday ' and bettered Roberts low of three bogeys for the 1996 tournament.
 
The tour began keeping hole-by-hole scoring records in 1983.
 
Im happy for the guy. Hes playing phenomenal, Baird said.
 
The only back-nine drama was if Gay could break Roberts scoring mark. It looked dicey when Gay posted a bogey on the 12th hole to fall back to 17-under.
 
Surely, with a large lead and victory all but wrapped up, Gay would pull back a bit the rest of the way.
 
Not this time.
 
Gay regained the lost stroke with a birdie on the next hole, then matched Roberts with a birdie on the par-5 15th.
 
A hole later on No. 16, Gay rolled in a 15-footer to reach 20 under.
 
On the final hole, Gay finally asked caddie Kip Henley who was in second and how far ahead were they. He told me he didnt know, Gay smiled.
 
Therell be no hiding Gays victory this time.
 

DIVOTS
Two-time defending champion Boo Weekley ended at 5-under after a closing 68. Spencer Levin made the most of his chance at the Verizon Heritage. Levin was the second alternate and got in only after Bart Bryant withdrew. Levin made the cut, then had his best weekend of the year going 66-69 to finish tied for 13th at 5-under. Rory McIlroy, the 19-year-old star from Northern Ireland trying to become the youngest winner in PGA Tour history, will put that quest on hold for a couple of weeks. McIlroy is returning home until The Players Championship in three weeks. He finished 2 over in his first visit to Harbour Town.
 

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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.