Langer leads seniors in Champions Tour lid-lifter

By Associated PressJanuary 22, 2009, 5:00 pm
Champions TourKAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii ' Bernhard Langer has long fought back problems that limit his flexibility and get worse with age, not that any one could tell.
 
The two-time Masters champion is coming off a three-win season on the Champions Tour. He was the only one to break $2 million and became just the third player in the tours 30-year history to earn both player and rookie of the year honors.
 
With a full year to get familiarized with the courses, theres big expectations surrounding the German star as the tour opens Friday at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the first of 26 events this season, the fewest since 1985.
 
I expect because hes a little more comfortable out here, that hes going to be doubly tough to beat, said Jay Haas, runner-up to Langer on the money list.
 
Langer had 14 top-10 finishes in 20 starts in his first full season on the 50-and-over circuit. He also had a second-place finish at the Senior PGA Championship and a 15th-place tie in the PGA Tours Players Championship, where he was in contention until he closed with a 77.
 
Langer said the biggest adjustment in his transition from the regular to the senior tour wasnt adjusting to the courses. It was the need to be more aggressive.
 
Out here, the guys are just going for every pin, Langer said. Theyre hitting driver on every hole almost. Theres no letting up.
 
On the PGA Tour, the first two rounds is more like getting yourself in position, making cut, being close to the leaders. You dont want to take a chance to get a big number and miss the cut. Out here, its different.
 
The players will need to be on the attack this weekend at Hualalai, which features generous fairways, a spectacular ocean vista and the tours easiest layout in the last six years with an average score below 70.
 
Here, the guys run the table here, so youve got to shoot low, Haas said. You got to stay aggressive and keep the pedal down. You cant let up.
 
Haas, the 2007 player of the year, has a string of nine straight rounds in the 60s at the Mitsubishi, formerly known as the MasterCard Championship, and tied for third last year, fifth in 2007 and third in 06.
 
Langer said he has enjoyed the camaraderie and competition from the players, many of whom have competed against each other for decades.
 
Many of us are not here to prove anything. That doesnt mean were not competitive. We are here because we are competitive. Thats what it boils to, he said.
 
Its a strange dynamic, he said, where the players are all close friends, but once were on the golf course, to try to beat each other brains (in).
 
The 51-year-old Langer began his 2008 season at Hualalai, where he tied for third with Haas. Last year, Fred Funk birdied the final two holes for a 21-under 195 total, two strokes over Allen Doyle and four better than Haas and Langer.
 
Funk, recovering from a knee injury, is one of three players who have withdrawn from the winners-only event, leaving just 34 participants. The other sidelined players are Peter Jacobsen (left shoulder) and Scott Hoch (sore left wrist).
 
Tom Watson and Jerry Pate, however, are returning to action for the first time since their surgeries last year. Watson, who had his left hip replaced in October, is making his first start since August.
 
Pate, the 2008 Turtle Bay champion, hasnt played since the Senior PGA Championship in May. He had left-shoulder surgery and left-knee surgery in the summer.
 
Langer, meanwhile, said he feels good most of the time, but hes still bothered by his back that he injured when he was 19 as a member of the German Air Force.
 
He sustained two stress fractures and bulging disks while marching with a 30-pound sack and a rifle.
 
And its bad ever since. I just need to live with that. I dont talk about it much, I just get on with it, Langer said.
 
The injury has left his lower back stiff, which limits his motion in his swing. But hes not complaining.
 
Overall, Ive been blessed, Langer said. Im still here. Im still swinging.
 

Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

    Getty Images

    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

    Getty Images

    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

    @CallawayGolf via @goodwalkspoiled on Twitter

    Watch: Phil flops ball over guy's head from 2 feet away

    By Nick MentaJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    Sure, you trust Phil Mickelson to hit a flop shot. But would you trust him to hit one over your head from 2 feet away?

    Evidently, this guy did, and his faith was rewarded.

    Callaway Golf sent out this Twitter video on Tuesday taken by Mickelson's bother and caddie, Tim, ahead of this week's Open at Carnoustie:

    If you look closely, you can see the guy holding his ... breath.

    Yeah, that's it. His breath.