Bubble Boys Try to Keep Cards

By Associated PressOctober 30, 2003, 5:00 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Per-Ulrik Johansson has won five times on the European Tour, played in the final singles match against Phil Mickelson in the 1995 Ryder Cup and had three straight finishes in the top 24 in the Masters.
He is accustomed to success.
He can do without the stress he faces this week in the Chrysler Championship.
The final, full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour is one last chance for players to finish in the top 125 on the money list to keep their cards for next year.
Johannson is at No. 125 by a mere $654.
'The plan when I first came over was to not fight for my card,' he said. '(It) was to get to the next level. When I played in Europe, I was playing in the majors and World (Golf) Championship tournaments.
'All of a sudden, here I am fighting for my card,' he said. 'It wasn't by plan, but here I am. And I have to deal with it.'
Johansson is not alone.
Vijay Singh has a chance to clinch the PGA Tour money title and end Tiger Woods' four-year reign with a victory this week. A dozen others are trying to get into the $6 million Tour Championship next week in Houston.
Still, most of the focus is on those just trying to keep their jobs.
Instead of cutting up with each other on the practice range, players quietly went about their business, desperate to find a swing that will pay off in their final at bat.
Otherwise, it's back to Q-school or they are saddled with conditional status, meaning they get the leftovers - the weaker tournaments that top players avoid, which usually amounts to about 20 starts.
Aaron Barber had one of the most amazing weeks of his career at the Colonial, when he played the first two rounds with Annika Sorenstam. But as the season comes to a conclusion, he is No. 140 on the money list and needs to finish in the top 15 at the Chrysler Championship to keep his card.
He was in a similar position a few years ago on the Canadian Tour, but made a birdie on the last hole of the last tournament and kept his card by about $20.
'That wasn't quite as big a deal as this,' Barber said. 'This is my 32nd tournament. In a perfect world, I wouldn't play that many. But as a rookie, you don't know the courses, you know what taking a week off is.
'Looking back, I wish I had paced myself,' he said. 'Hopefully, I'll get another chance.'
Each shot could be the difference between a PGA Tour card and a trip to Q-school. One player moving up the leaderboard means another player is falling behind.
It's a good week to be a mathematician. Every dollar counts.
Rocco Mediate tried to give the bubble boys reason for optimism.
'I would look at it this way,' Mediate said. 'If you are 125th or 126th or whatever, you obviously haven't played really well this year yet. So, I feel like I would be due for something good.
'I don't ever want to be in that position.'
Mediate is on his own bubble.
He is No. 30 on the money list and trying to protect his position so he can play get into the Tour Championship. All but two players from No. 26 (Retief Goosen) to No. 51 (Tim Clark) on the money list are playing in the Chrysler Championship.
Fred Couples (No. 32), who was only about $12,000 behind Mediate, withdrew Wednesday after his back went out during the pro-am.
Mediate had no reason to believe he could qualify for the Tour Championship until a recent surge in his play.
He was second in Boston, tied for fifth in Pennsylvania and tied for ninth last week in the Funai Classic at Disney. In between, he withdrew twice because of back problems. He feels much better now.
'In September, I was 60th or 70th,' he said. 'So to have this opportunity is good. I just need to take advantage of it. I'm beat up a little bit, but I'm ready to go.'
John Huston is also injured (neck), but he can't afford to miss the final tournament of the year. Huston is 40th on the money list, and Augusta National invites the top 40 players to the Masters.
Jeff Brehaut is No. 99 on the money list, courtesy of a tie for fifth two weeks ago in Greensboro that finally put him over the hump. It's the first time in four tries that he will finish in the top 125, meaning he can determine his own schedule.
Looking at the bubble boys on both sides of him, he could relate to the tension.
'If they're not talking about it, they're thinking about it,' he said. 'It comes down to playing good golf. What everyone is trying to do is have the one week that gets them over the top, so they can be in the spot I am now.'
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    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

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    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.

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    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.”

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    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.”