Double Standard for Woods and Mickelson

By Associated PressMay 1, 2007, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It looked as though Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson got off easy.
 
Both cases cried out for punishment. Both players were covered by the rules, although one was subject to interpretation. And in both instances, even though the circumstances were entirely different, there was outrage from their peers.
 
No wonder there's a perception of a double standard on the PGA TOUR.
 
Woods hit a 9-iron on the ninth hole at Firestone last year that bounced onto and over the clubhouse roof, landing in the service entry where a kid delivering crunchy cream pies scooped up the ball and drove away.
 
Woods got a free drop, because the clubhouse was not marked out-of-bounds.
 
Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia watched this development unfold and were disgusted that Woods could get such a break. He escaped with bogey and went on to win the tournament two days later.
 
Last Wednesday, Mickelson missed his pro-am at the Byron Nelson Championship. Mickelson had been in Little Rock, Ark., for a charity event, and severe thunderstorms grounded his private plane Tuesday night.
 
Under PGA TOUR policy adopted three years ago, anyone who doesn't take part in the pro-am doesn't get to play in the tournament. But the policy was tweaked last year to allow for 'serious personal emergencies,' and TOUR officials deemed that an act of God -- the weather in this case -- kept the world's No. 3 player from getting to the course.
 
He was allowed to play and tied for third, his best finish in two months.
 
'It seemed, from the outside looking in, very, very fishy,' Jim Furyk said Tuesday. 'Not being well enough versed on the rules, I don't know if the right call was made or not. But I understand why the red flag went up.'
 
One reason for the red flag was name -- Mickelson, the star attraction at a tournament otherwise deplete of stars.
 
The other reason was because of a pro-am policy that was designed to crack down on absenteeism, but instead has been filled with cracks the tour has been trying to patch up for the last two years.
 
In 2005, Chad Campbell wanted to play the 84 Lumber Classic -- the tournament even had his wife sing at one of its functions -- but he asked out of the pro-am Wednesday to attend his grandmother's funeral. The TOUR made him choose between the pro-am and the funeral, and Campbell withdrew from the tournament.
 
Bob Tway asked out of a pro-am at the BellSouth Classic last year so he and his son, Kevin, could attend the funeral of Bob Johnson, the teenager whom Tway's son had beaten in the final of the U.S. Junior Amateur. Tway was using a one-time exemption to keep his card, missed the funeral and then missed the cut.
 
Wes Short Jr. wanted to skip out on a pro-am because his father was about to have quadruple bypass surgery, but he had to choose between the pro-am and spending time with his father.
 
The TOUR has tweaked its policy with every incident.
 
It started out that a player only could miss a pro-am and still play in the tournament if he was on site with an injury and had a note from his doctor. After the Campbell episode, it was changed to allow players to miss pro-ams if there were a death in the immediate family. After the Tway and Short incidents, the tour added 'serious personal emergency.'
 
That was broad enough to cover a myriad of issues -- such as a plane being grounded by thunderstorms.
 
No one was more bemused by the Mickelson ruling than Retief Goosen, the poster boy for this policy.
 
The two-time U.S. Open champion flew across eight time zones, from London to Los Angeles, to play in the Nissan Open two years ago. He overslept Wednesday morning and arrived 20 minutes late for his pro-am time at Riviera.
 
His partners were on the first green. He was out of the tournament.
 
Imagine his surprise when he flipped on the TV last week in time to see Mickelson talking about his round at the Byron Nelson Championship with a subtitle on the screen that said, 'Missed his Wednesday pro-am.'
 
'Obviously, they abandoned that rule,' Goosen said.
 
He wasn't aware it had been altered over the last couple of years, and he was curious about the latest loophole.
 
'So he must have had a serious personal issue,' Goosen said.
 
Yes, well, he was doing a charity event in Arkansas and storms kept his plane from leaving Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
 
'Where was the charity?' he said.
 
Little Rock.
 
'And how far is it to drive from there?' Goosen inquired. Although he grew up in South Africa and lives in London, he realized one option would have been a five-hour drive.
 
Ultimately, he concluded that it was good for the tournament that Mickelson played.
 
But that opinion was not shared universally.
 
Scott Verplank drove three hours from Oklahoma that Tuesday night, calling friends in Dallas for weather updates to dodge the tornadoes. Once at the tournament, he heard so much griping that he sent a text message to a TOUR staff member that said, 'War paint on sale in locker room. Scalps wanted.'
 
'I heard a lot of guys complaining, and I don't think any of it was directed at Phil,' Verplank said. 'I think it was directed at the application of our rule. I'm sure they'll be working to clean that up.'
 
His solution was to fine a player $100,000 for missing a pro-am -- if he still wanted to play. Furyk suggested making anyone who missed the pro-am for whatever reason make it up by attending a two-hour corporate function.
 
'If it boiled down to me going out and playing for four or five hours ... or sitting in a room with a sports coat on for two hours, I think I'd take the outdoors.'
 
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

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Woods does everything but win

By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

Sure, after taking the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

“Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

But here’s where we take a deep breath.

Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.

Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

The scenario was improbable.

Inconceivable.

Impossible.

At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

“Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

“For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

“It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He removed his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

“Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing the Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

“She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

“To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.

Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:

LOVE THE HATERS.

After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?

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Molinari hopes to inspire others as Rocca inspired him

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:43 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Francesco Molinari was 12 years old when Costantino Rocca came within a playoff of becoming Italy’s first major champion at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews.

He remembers being inspired by Rocca’s play and motivated by the notion that he could one day be the player who would bring home his country’s first Grand Slam title. As he reflected on that moment late Sunday at Carnoustie it sunk in what his victory at The Open might mean.

“To achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who closed with a final-round 69 for a two-stroke victory. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the claret jug.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Molinari had already made plenty of headlines this year back home in Italy with victories at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and the Quicken Loans National earlier this month on the PGA Tour.

A major is sure to intensify that attention. How much attention, however, may be contingent on Sunday’s finish at the German Grand Prix.

“It depends on if Ferrari won today. If they won, they'll probably get the headlines,” Molinari laughed. “But, no, obviously, it would be massive news. It was big news. The last round already was big news in Italy.”

Molinari won’t have any competition for the front page on Monday; Ferrari didn’t win the German Grand Prix.

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Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.

Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.

Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.

“A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.

“It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”