Dustin Johnson set to defend at Turning Stone

By Associated PressSeptember 30, 2009, 11:43 pm

turning stone resort championshipVERONA, N.Y. – Dustin Johnson loves the forecast for the Turning Stone Resort Championship: Rain on three of the next four days.

“Seeing how the two coldest and the two wettest tournaments I’ve played so far – I’ve won both of them – I don’t mind it at all,” he said.

That initial PGA Tour triumph came a year ago on Turning Stone’s 7,482-yard Atunyote Golf Club course. Johnson endured soggy conditions and a rain delay that even included a blast of hail that blanketed at least one green.

Four months later, he won his second event at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a tournament shortened to 54 holes when the final round was canceled due to strong winds and heavy rain. That left Johnson the winner by four strokes over Mike Weir.

Dustin Johnson Turning Stone
Dustin Johnson poses with the trophy after winning the 2008 Turning Stone Resort Championship. (Getty Images)

The victories injected confidence into Johnson’s game, and this year has been a breakthrough as he prepares to start defense of his Turning Stone title on Thursday. Johnson ranks third on the PGA Tour in driving distance (308.4), third in birdie average (4.08), and nearly was picked by U.S. captain Fred Couples for the Presidents Cup.

“I’m a lot more comfortable out here,” Johnson said. “Last year was my first year and I didn’t quite understand. I’ve scheduled a lot better this year. I’m a little more organized, and as far as golf goes I’ve been better at preparing for each tournament. The more you’re out here and the more experience you have out here, the better you get as far as preparing.”

Turning Stone is the first tournament of the Fall Series, which is comprised of five events. Players are vying to finish the year in the top 125 on the money list to retain full exemption for 2010.

With a $6 million purse and $1.08 million of it going to the champion, it’s an attractive stop, and the third rendition of the event has attracted its strongest field. The original field had 17 of the top 50 money leaders on the PGA Tour heading to the resort, but three – Jerry Kelly, Steve Marino, and John Mallinger – have since withdrawn.

Johnson, 15th in earnings, is one of three players in the field who advanced through all four of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, along with John Senden and rookie Marc Leishman.

Others prominent players in the field include: Ben Curtis, Rocco Mediate, David Duval, Rich Beem, Mark Calcavecchia, Steve Elkington, Adam Scott, Davis Love III, Rocco Mediate, Rory Sabbatini, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley and 2010 Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. Turning Stone’s inaugural champ, Steve Flesch, also returns, as does John Rollins, who won at Atunyote when it hosted the final B.C. Open in 2006.

Still, Johnson, an All-American at Coastal Carolina and three-time Big South Conference Player of the Year in college, likes his chances.

A year ago, he birdied the final two holes, saving his best and longest drive for last. He boomed a 357-yard shot off the tee at the 616-yard, par-5 18th hole, then hit his second shot 37 feet past the green and into the rough before recovering with a clutch chip and nerve-racking 8-foot putt to beat Allenby by one stroke.

“I’m hitting the ball well, but it’s hard to hit it close from the rough,” Johnson said. “Whenever I drive it straight, I’m going to play well, and I’ve been driving it in the fairway the last few weeks.”

Getty Images

Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

Getty Images

'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

Getty Images

Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”