Long Tough Road to the Top

By Associated PressJanuary 2, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Adam Scott was in his final year of high school in Australia when he awoke at 5 a.m. one Monday in April to watch the final round of the Masters. What he saw that morning brought equal doses of awe and reality.
Scott had spent countless hours working on his game, driven by the dream of being No. 1 in the world. On the screen that morning was 21-year-old Tiger Woods becoming the youngest Masters champion with a record score of 18-under 270 for a 12-shot victory, the largest margin in a major championship since 1862.
Adam Scott
Adam Scott has a long way to go to catch Tiger Woods at the top.
'I thought it was unreal,' Scott said.
And it didn't take long for him to recognize that his dream might be just that.
Scott showed up at Kapalua for the start of the 2007 season with his game as good as it has ever been. He found consistency to go with that polished swing, rose to a career-high No. 4 in the world ranking and captured the TOUR Championship to finish a career-best No. 3 on the PGA TOUR money list.
The final few steps, though, seem like a marathon.
'All my life as a kid, I dreamt of being No. 1 in the world,' Scott said 'How am I going to live up that dream? I've got to somehow figure out a way to play better than this guy over a pretty long period of time. I don't think I'm making up ground on him, but at least I'm creeping up to a level that's competitive.'
Then he paused, and finished the sentence with a smile.
'On a good day.'
That's not giving up. That's reality.
Woods first rose to No. 1 in the summer of 1997, and only two players have taken that away from him -- David Duval in 1999 and Vijay Singh in 2004.
So it can be done.
Then again, neither stayed at No. 1 for more than six months. And both times Woods lost the No. 1 ranking, he was at the tail end of overhauling his swing.
A new year brings renewed optimism, yet the one question that remains is whether any young player is capable of challenging Woods. The list of candidates has become more refined, spearheaded by Scott, U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Paul Casey. All of them are in their 20s.
And all of them understand what they are facing.
'It's unfortunate for us that we've probably got the best golfer of all time that we have to be better than to be No. 1 in the world,' Ogilvy said. 'But we're also fortunate to be playing in his generation. We're all better because of him. The tournaments are better, there's more people to play in front of.'
Ogilvy broke through in a major way last year, winning the Accenture Match Play Championship and the U.S. Open. He finished fifth on the money list despite missing two months when his wife gave birth to their first child. Long considered one of the most talented Aussies, his goal was always to be the best, figuring the No. 1 ranking would come along with that.
And now?
'I still have aspirations to be No. 1,' said Ogilvy, now at No. 10. 'I think it's feasible. Is it feasible when he's having a run like he's having now? I don't know.'
Inspiration comes from Singh, who set a lofty goal in 2002 to take down Tiger. Remember, this was the year that Woods won the Masters and the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, and finished second at the PGA Championship. Singh closed that year by winning the Tour Championship to move to No. 7 in the world.
But the Fijian matched Woods' five victories in '03, then won nine times in '04 to dethrone Woods.
'If someone told you that Vijay would be No. 1 in the world after Bethpage, you would have laughed,' Ogilvy said. 'Well, you wouldn't have laughed because Vijay is a great player. But you would have laughed if someone said anyone would be better than Tiger. He was winning tournaments for fun back then. No question, it's possible. But it's going to be tough. And a lot depends on him.'
Woods twice went 10 majors without winning, and he lost his No. 1 ranking during both those droughts. But his rebound was remarkable. After the first dry spell, he won seven of the next 11 majors; after the second, he won four of the next eight.
'If Tiger plays his best golf, it's hard to beat that,' Casey said. 'It can be done, and I don't think Tiger would disagree. But he would find a way to work twice as hard to make sure it didn't happen. And that's the difficult part.'
Garcia already has played in the final group twice in a major (both times losing to Woods). Scott's four victories include The Players Championship and the TOUR Championship. Casey won three times in Europe last year and was voted the tour's best golfer. Ogilvy will try to convert his first major into many more.
All of them have solid credentials, weakened only by comparisons to Woods.
'The hardest thing now is for young kids to realize this Tiger benchmark is out of most everyone's league,' Scott said. 'I think it's a hard thing for young kids to find out when they get here. I certainly found out it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.'
But he hasn't given up a dream nurtured as a teenager in Australia, even before he turned on his TV that Monday morning in 1997.
'You can't give up on your hope of being No. 1 in the world,' Scott said. 'I want to be No. 1, and I believe I can be. But I've got to be realistic. If I play my best golf in the next five years, then I might be No. 1. If. Maybe. And it depends on what he does. But it's five years away for me.'
Another pause, another smile.
'Maybe I'll catch him between swing changes,' Scott said. 'He'll be due for another one then.'
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    Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

    NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

    Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

    Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

    1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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    Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

    Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

    The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

    “Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

    Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

    But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

    Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

    “It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

    There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

    It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

    “It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”

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    Rain expected to shower Carnoustie Friday morning

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:43 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – By the end of the day Friday, we’ll be able to determine which side of The Open draw ended the first two rounds at Carnoustie with more favorable conditions. With rain expected for most of Friday morning, it seems those who played early/late may be more pleased.

    According to Weather.com, there is a 75 percent chance of rain beginning at 2 a.m. local time Friday here in Scotland. That percentage vaults up to 95 percent by 7 a.m., with the first tee time scheduled for 6:35. At 11, the number drops to 55 percent. After 2 p.m., the percentage chances of rain are 25 percent and below for the remainder of the day.

    Temperatures during the day are expected to be from the low 50s to the low 60s and winds will vary between 14-18 mph, again per Weather.com.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    This is The Open’s official weather report for the weekend:

    Saturday: A dull start with some drizzle possible. Staying cloudy for much of the day but gradually becoming brighter with a chance of some sunny intervals during the afternoon and evening. Winds light and variable in direction but should predominantly settle in to a SSE 8-12mph during the afternoon. Max temp 20C (68F).

    Sunday: Often cloudy but mainly dry. A better chance of some decent sunny spells compared to Saturday. Most likely the windiest day of the Championship; SW 12-18mph with gusts 20-25mph. Feeling warm, especially in any sunshine with a max temp of 23C (73F).

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    Bandaged Woods 5 back after even-par 71

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods arrived Thursday with therapeutic tape on the back of his neck.

    Carnoustie’s back nine inflicted even more pain.

    Playing in the most difficult conditions of the day, Woods’ progress was stalled by two late bogeys as he settled for an even-par 71 that left him five shots off the lead at The Open.

    “I played better than what the score indicates,” he said. “It certainly could have been a little bit better.”

    Woods created a stir when he showed up with black kinesiology tape on his neck. Afterward, he said that his neck has been bugging him “for a while” and that Thursday was merely the first time that the tape was visible.

    “Everyone acts like this is the first time I’ve been bandaged up,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been doing this for years.”

    Woods said that the discomfort didn’t really affect his swing, other than a few shots “here and there.” It didn’t seem to affect his score, either, as he went out in 2 under before a few stumbles on the back nine.

    On the fast, baked-out turf, he played conservatively off the tee, using driver only once and 3-wood just twice. Apparently he didn’t need the added distance, not with his 6-iron traveling 240 yards. He tried to play to his spots, even if it routinely left him more than 200 yards for his approach.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    That’s the strategy he employed at Hoylake in 2006, where he hit driver just once and captured the third of his Open titles. Despite some of the similarities in firmness, Woods said that Carnoustie presents a different challenge off the tee.

    “These fairways are very small,” he said. “They’re hard to hit right now. They’re so fast, and they’re so moundy.”

    Finding the fairway wasn’t the chief problem for Woods on Day 1, however. He missed just four fairways but found only 11 greens.

    More damaging to his score was his play on the par 5s. Despite having only an 8-iron in, he failed to birdie each of the two par 5s and then bogeyed Nos. 10, 13 and 15 to squander his early momentum.

    Though the draw here won’t be a significant factor – or at least not like in recent years, with a wide range in scores from morning to afternoon – it’s clear that Woods (in game 47 of 52) encountered the most difficult of the conditions Thursday, with the wind gusting to 20 mph and the fairways running even faster after another sun-splashed afternoon.

    Still, his opening 71 was one of the better scores in the late wave.

    “He hit it good,” said playing partner Russell Knox. “He plotted his way around, which I expected him to do, and he was very conservative off the tee. It’s kind of fun to watch him do that, to be honest.”

    Even more fun would be a major with Woods in contention.

    He hasn’t broken par in the opening round of his last eight majors. Indeed, for Woods, these slow starts have been the real pain in the neck.