Calcavecchia surges into tie for lead at Senior British

By Associated PressJuly 22, 2011, 2:24 pm

WALTON ON THE HILL, England – Mark Calcavecchia and Lee Rinker headed an American charge in the second round of the Senior British Open on Friday as Germany’s Bernhard Langer faded badly in the defense of his title.

Calcavecchia – one of three overnight leaders – made six birdies in his 3-under 69 before being joined on 7 under by Rinker and Canada’s Rod Spittle, whose afternoon 67s were the joint second-lowest rounds of the week at Walton Heath.

In-form Australian Peter Fowler was two shots back after a 68, with American pair John Cook (67) and Mike Goodes (70) together at 4 under.

With players from the United States filling six of the top nine places – as well as 20 of the leading 31 – and three-time winner Tom Watson also getting back in contention with a bogey-free 68 for 1 under, the likelihood of an eighth American winner in nine years was growing.

Langer isn’t expected to be challenging Sunday, though, after a 4-over 76 left him nine shots off the pace.

Calcavecchia and Rinker, who will be the last pairing to go out in the third round, live near each other in Jupiter, South Florida and are also childhood friends, playing junior golf from the age of 12.

Their careers have taken different paths since then, however.

While the 50-year-old Rinker is unknown outside the U.S. and without a career victory to his name, Calcavecchia is best known for winning the British Open at Troon in 1989 and has 12 more victories on the PGA tour.

Calcavecchia is bidding to become the fourth player – after Watson, Gary Player and Bob Charles – to achieve the British Open double and has a great chance if he maintains his form off the tee this week.

“That would be awesome company to keep. They’re three Hall of Famers. That would be really special,” said Calcavecchia, who led by three shots after 36 holes of the first Champions Tour major of the year – the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek in May.

After grabbing birdies at Nos. 1 and 2, morale-boosting up-and-downs for par on Nos. 11 and 13 kept up the momentum. Although he bogeyed No. 16, his third dropped shot of the round, he picked up another birdie at the last to sign for a second straight round in the 60s.

“I played well for the most part – not too many crooked drives, I’m putting pretty good, not too many mistakes. So far so good,” the 51-year-old Calcavecchia, who has six top-10 finishes in 12 events on this season’s Champions Tour.

Rinker, in his first season on the Champions Tour, only sealed his spot at Walton Heath with a top-10 finish at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open at Endicott, New York last month.

He is certainly making the most of his first tournament in England, hitting five birdies in a blemish-free round in the mid-afternoon sunshine on the parkland course just south of London.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position,” said Rinker, whose best displays on the regular tour were two second places in 1997. “But my game’s been coming along this year. We’ll see how I hold up.”

Spittle joined the American pair at the top of the leaderboard toward the end of the second round, finishing with six birdies from the last 10 holes on a closing stretch that has troubled many of the field because of the length of the par 4s.

“To say I have played well is an understatement,” said Spittle, winner of the AT&T Championship in 2010 by beating Jeff Sluman in a one-hole playoff.

It was the first time since 2004 that at least three players have held a share of the lead after 36 holes of a Senior British Open.

Fowler, a two-time winner on the Senior European Tour this season, is handily place on 5 under after a 68 – aided by the holing of a pitch for birdie on No. 16 – while Cook followed Rinker and Spittle in shooting a flawless round of 5 under.

That score was only beaten on Friday by England’s Kevin Spurgeon, whose 66 contained eight birdies.

Goodes would have been closer to the lead trio if he hadn’t double-bogeyed the par-4 No. 10.

Other Americans in with a good chance heading into the weekend were Bob Tway (70) and 2010 runner-up Corey Pavin (72), who were tied on 3 under with England’s Barry Lane (70).

The vast contingent on 1 under, alongside Watson, included Mark O’Meara and Tom Lehman (both 72).

Australia’s Mike Harwood and Zimbabwean-born Mark McNulty shared the overnight lead with Calcavecchia but carded 74 and 76 respectively to drop back.

Langer also had a poor round, a double-bogey on the par-4 No. 4 adding to three other dropped shots.

The two-time Masters champion was at least one of 76 players to make the cut, which came at 4 over. Two of those are amateurs – American pair Paul Simson (2 over) and Randy Haag (3 over).

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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

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

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.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.


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Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.