Goosen takes first-round lead at Firestone

By Associated PressJuly 31, 2008, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' Retief Goosen, a late arrival and an early starter, took advantage of a Firestone South Course that played long and short on his way to a 4-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead Thursday in the Bridgestone Invitational.
 
One year after Tiger Woods was the only player to break par, Goosen and 32 other players in the 80-man field met only minor resistance on a balmy afternoon at this World Golf Championship.
 
Vijay Singh and former Masters champion Zach Johnson were among those at 67, while Steve Stricker was headed for the outright lead until running into trouble off the tee late in his round, losing three shots in two holes and joining another large group at 68.
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is the man to catch after Rd. 1 of the WGC-Bridgestone. (Getty Images)
The length came from rain earlier in the week that softened Firestone and made it play every bit of its 7,400 yards. Tim Clark, a medium hitter who was at 67, hit his hybrid so often he was amazed it had any grooves left.
 
And the short? That would be the rough.
 
It was so deep last year that players often had trouble just getting it back to the fairway, and there were shots that squirted sideways leading to several big numbers. But the rough is only about 2 inches this year, at least giving players a chance.
 
Last year, the rough here was almost out of control. This year, the rough is very average and its part of an experiment theyre doing. Theyre trying to see if the rough height has any effect on scoring.
 
Based on Thursdays scoring, theres no need to send the data to MIT.
 
Goosen, who arrived Wednesday at the tournament in time for rain to wash out his scheduled practice round, was in the second group out and didnt find any trouble until he missed the par-3 15th green to the left and made his only bogey. It was another step in the right direction for the two-time U.S. Open champion, who has not had a top 10 on U.S. soil since he tied for second in the World Golf Championship at Doral in March.
 
The course is playing tough, Goosen said through a European Tour official after declining to speak to reporters. Im not saying its playing easy, but the rough is not nearly as thick as it was last year.
 
Phil Mickelson, cryptic in his criticism of the high rough at the Memorial two months ago, finished with a birdie on the 18th after scrambling out of the trees and shot 68. He said Firestone has become one of his favorite courses this year.
 
You fall in love with a golf course when you have a setup thats as wonderful as this, Mickelson said. The greens are fast, the pin placements are great, the rough is challenging but fair and it lets you hit some recovery shots. This year, Firestone is one of my favorite golf courses that we have on tour.
 
It allowed for one amazing recovery for Mickelson. He was left of the trees on the 18th, 169 yards away, contemplating whether to hit a 9-iron, wedge or a lob wedge over the trees. He settled on a 4-iron under the trees to 15 feet for an unlikely birdie.
 
It was risky, but it paid off, Mickelson said.
 
British Open champion Padraig Harrington was in the group at 69 that included Sergio Garcia.
 
Not everyone took advantage, the most noteworthy being Kenny Perry.
 
The hottest player on the PGA TOUR ' at least those still playing not recovering from knee surgery ' Perry came to this WGC event having won three times in his last six starts. But he struggled to hit fairways and make putts, and he wound up with a 74.
 
Masters champion Trevor Immelman opened with a 75, while Woody Austin didnt help his Ryder Cup cause with a 71. Austin is ninth in the U.S. standings with two tournaments left to earn one of eight automatic spots.
 
Goosen hasnt won since the Qatar Masters in January 2007, which moved him up to No. 6 in the world. He has fallen to No. 39 as he struggles to put together his swing, and he headed home to Florida from the Canadian Open to work with his coach.
 
He showed signs at the U.S. Open when he had two sub-70 rounds and tied for 14th, and at the British Open, where he was in contention going into the weekend. But he has never fared well at Firestone, recording only one top 10 in six appearances.
 
It helps not having to deal with Woods, a six-time winner on this track.
 
The guy thats won here every year is not here, and all the losers are still here, Goosen said. Its nice.
 
Woods absence was obvious in other ways.
 
The course was virtually empty, with most of the traffic following Mickelson and Ernie Els (69). Stricker hit a 5-iron over the bunker on No. 4 to 6 feet for birdie that put him at 5 under, and all of 17 fans followed him to the next hole. Some of the concession stands had no visitors, about like a Montreal Expos game before they moved to Washington.
 
Woods, who finished at 8-under 272 for an eight-shot victory, might not have recognized the place. Some felt the Bridgestone Invitational last year was even tougher than the PGA Championship the following week at Southern Hills.
 
That might not be the case this year, although it was still a stern test.
 
Its just a good course, Stricker said. Its got length, its got rough, its got tough greens. So you need to be on your game.
 
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    Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

    His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

    “I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

    “I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

    Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

    It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.

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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.


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    Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

    Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

    But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

    Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

    “It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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    After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

    In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

    No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

    Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

    “I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

    Let it go.

    Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

    “I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

    It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

    During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

    Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

    “It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

    McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

    It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

    “I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

    The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

    Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

    The only thing left to do?

    Let it go.