Doral Again Draws Top Players

By Associated PressMarch 1, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 Ford Championship at DoralMIAMI -- Phil Mickelson has a hard time forgetting the bitter end to his duel at Doral with Tiger Woods.
He was just off the 18th green, facing a 30-foot birdie chip to force a playoff at worst, and possibly win the best showdown of the year. The chip came off perfectly, ran true toward the cup and then broke sharply across the hole and spun out of the right side. Woods made his 6-foot par putt to win.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts to his victory over Phil Mickelson in last year's Ford Championship.
Mickelson might be able to put that out of his mind if he wouldn't turn on the TV in his room at Doral.
'Unfortunately, they have the video running on one of the channels here at the hotel, so I get to see it every night,' he said Wednesday. 'Isn't that great?'
It was great theater, no doubt.
This generation of golf rarely produces such duels between the top players, with such a fine line between so much talent. The Ford Championship at Doral got one of the moments that are sheer magic, and it produced a buzz that even drowned out the parade of jetliners descending over the Blue Monster.
Woods reached the 12th green with a 3-wood that traveled 293 yards in the air to make eagle. Mickelson fired back with consecutive birdies to catch him. Each made 27 birdies in four days, and Woods got the last one, a 30-footer on the 17th that was the difference in his victory.
Rare as that was, odds are in Doral's favor of that happening again because of sheer numbers.
Nine of the top 10 players from the world ranking are gathered at the Blue Monster, a course that favors power hitters with lush fairways that don't have a lot of roll and rough that is thicker than last year, but still not terribly troublesome for players with a wedge in their hands.
Vijay Singh tied for third last year. Also in the field is Ernie Els, who joins Woods as the defending champion because the Big Easy won the last time he was at Doral in 2002. That was another showdown of sorts, although Els played in the group ahead of Woods. He saw an eight-shot lead dwindle to one before Els pulled away.
Anyone ready for an encore?
'I would love to get in that position again,' Mickelson said. 'I want to have a chance to win the tournament, obviously. It would be great if I had a chance to go head-to-head with Tiger. It would be great to have a chance to go head-to-head with anybody in the top 10.'
Woods gets those opportunities more often than most.
There was that incredible matchup with Els at Kapalua in 2000, as good a show this side of the majors. He has gone up against Singh in the final round at the '03 American Express (which he won) and the '04 Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston (which he lost). He was tied for the lead with Retief Goosen at the '02 Masters, where the Goose finished three shots behind and asked if he got green trousers for finishing second.
Woods said the view is different from inside the ropes. Mickelson was just another player he was trying to beat, even if the volume was cranked up and the cheers were evenly divided.
'You could care less,' he said. 'You're just trying to post a low number and try to beat your opponent. You're just in your own little world, and you're trying to handle your business. Afterwards? Yeah, you can reminisce over what happened, but not when you're in it.'
Some of his most dramatic duels have come against unheralded players, whether it was Bob May at the PGA Championship in 2000 or Chris DiMarco last year at the Masters or Grant Waite at the 2000 Canadian Open.
Woods was quick to point out that the top five players often are atop the leaderboard at the majors, even if they aren't there at the same time, or in the final group on Sunday.
Recent history bears that out.
The Big Five has won 15 of the last 24 majors dating to 2000. And even in those majors where someone else wins, there have been only four times that one of the Big Five was not at least the runner-up.
'You've seen myself, Mickelson, Goose, Ernie or Vijay, generally one of us five in just about every major championship down the stretch,' Woods said. 'Whether or not we can separate outselves and go one-on-one, it's a totally different story.'
Woods and Mickelson were five shots clear of anyone else last year, which made it a different story, indeed.
And while Woods says he was too wrapped up in winning to care about whom he was beating, the satisfaction clearly goes to a higher level.
What got Mickelson more fired up? Going against Woods at Doral last year, or beating Skip Kendall in a playoff at the Bob Hope Classic?
'I don't know how to answer that,' Mickelson said. 'What I try to do is hit the shots where I can make birdies. But certainly, it seems as though when I'm playing against Tiger, playing against Ernie or Vijay or Retief, I've got to shoot low scores and make more birdies than against some guys that have won.'
Goosen has been in that position.
He beat Mark Brooks in the U.S. Open playoff at Southern Hills. And while they weren't in the final group, Goosen beat Mickelson to win the U.S. Open two years ago Shinnecock Hills.
'It doesn't make much difference who it is,' Goosen said.
But then he thought back to Shinnecock Hills, where the New York gallery was so squarely behind Mickelson that 'it felt like I was playing with him.'
'You always get more pleasure if you beat great players,' Goosen said.
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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.

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    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.

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    “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?

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    “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.”