Crowded Leaderboard in Tampa

By Associated PressMarch 8, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Cliff Kresge nearly holed out from the fairway twice with a wedge in hand, so when his 5-iron from 184 yards headed toward the flag Thursday, his caddie instinctively said, 'Go in this time.'
 
And it did
 
It was one of two eagles for Kresge, who was 8 under through 11 holes until a few errant drives down the stretch made him settle for a 6-under 65 and a two-shot lead in the PODS Championship, the first time he has ever led any round in 114 starts on the PGA TOUR.
 
Among those at 67 was Arron Oberholser, who believes he has a grip on his back problems with an innovative workout routine.
 
'For 11 holes, it was a dream round,' Kresge said. 'And then I kind of got in my way a little bit at the end. Still, 6 under is darn good.'
 
He was so flawless with his irons that the longest putt he made was from 10 feet for eagle on No. 11, and while Kresge knew he was playing well, the scoreboard offered even greater proof. At one point, he was five shots clear of the field.
 
'That was kind of funny,' Kresge said. 'It's not a course that's going to give up 8 under after 11. Everything was just happening.'
 
Most players were curious about the Copperhead course at Innisbrook, one of the best on tour in Florida. This tournament had been held in the fall since it began in 2000, a time when the fairways are crispy and quick, and the Bermuda grass is tricky.
 
With rye grass keeping the course green and lush, it didn't allow anyone to run away, even though Kresge tried.
 
'It played a lot longer than it has ever played,' Jesper Parnevik said after a 68. 'We hit shots into the green that you would never dream about hitting in the fall.'
 
The greens added to the adventure, firm and fast, with a tinge of brown from being mowed so tight.
 
'The greens react like they're dead,' said Tim Herron, who chipped in for birdie on his last hole for a 73. 'When you get real close to the greens, they're actually brown. It was tough.'
 
Kresge had a simple solution for that, not leaving himself much distance between the ball and the cup.
 
He got up-and-down on the par-5 first, then hit wedge into a foot on the third. After laying up on the par-5 fifth, he hit another wedge that spun within 18 inches of the cup. Then came No. 6, where Kresge found his ball at the front edge of a divot. He was between clubs and opted for the 5-iron, playing a cut shot because of a lie that favored a hook.
 
'It was going to stay pretty straight, and it landed perfectly,' Kresge said.
 
Even when he was at 8 under through 11 holes -- the course record is 9-under 62 -- he didn't get much attention. Kresge said he didn't notice any photographers with him until about the 14th hole, and it wasn't long after that when he started missing fairways and paying the price, with bogeys on the 16th and 18th.
 
'Charlie Wi said, 'What's going on out here? You're lapping the field and nobody is out there,'' Kresge said. 'They only show up when I play bad. I don't know what the deal is.'
 
There were cameras on Kresge during his most infamous moment playing this game. That was the final stage of Q-school in 2000, lining up an important putt when he backed up and tumbled into the creek behind him.
 
'Every time I do anything good, somebody is going to bring it up,' he said. 'It's something different that happened that nobody has ever really done. It's unique.'
 
Oberholser was joined at 67 by Daniel Chopra and rookies Anthony Kim and Doug LaBelle.
 
Vijay Singh, the only player from the top 10 in the world ranking at Innisbrook, was at 70, along with Nissan Open champion Charles Howell III and Sergio Garcia.
 
Oberholser has back problem that are certainly not unique to him.
 
He played only one round this year, at Kapalua for the Mercedes-Benz Championship, when he felt twinges that turned out to be bulging disks. It was the third time in four years he has been hampered by a back injury, but he thinks he found a solution.
 
Oberholser began a training regimen he described as 'Eastern Bloc stuff' that straps him to an Accelerated Recovery Performance machine and requires him to hold various postures. His fiancee, LPGA Tour player Angie Rizzo, talked him into it.
 
'You don't go to these guys when you're feeling good,' he said. 'You go to these guys because this is the last stop. It's extremely intense. You hear people crying in the gym.'
 
He wasn't crying at Innisbrook, rather pleasantly surprised that he felt good and scored well.
 
Divots
Only 27 players managed to break par, and the scoring average was 72.3. ... Brad Faxon, who has missed every cut this year, finally put together a good round with a 1-under 70. Faxon has started working with Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, who have a diverse list of players that include Mike Weir, Dean Wilson and Will MacKenzie. ... Ryan Moore made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole, then followed that with a birdie to shoot 69.
 
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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 all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

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

    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 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

    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.