A lush and green Open Championship

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2008, 4:00 pm
Open ChampionshipFor a tournament built on tradition, change was everywhere at Royal Birkdale on Monday.
 
Typical of the first full day of practice at the British Open, one of the biggest names in the field was among the first to tee off under leaden skies as fans scurried over sand dunes to call out his name, ask for an autograph or simply watch him create shots.
 
Only it wasnt Tiger Woods, out for the rest of the year with a bad knee.
 
And instead of the gallery growing by the hour until more than a thousand circled every green, only about 75 people chased after Justin Rose, the 27-year-old from England who might be the best chance for Royal Birkdale to finally crown a champion from Britain.
 
Mark OMeara, who won the claret jug 10 years ago on this links course, again took on the role of pied piper by playing a practice round with a rising star barely older than his son. That would be 23-year-old Anthony Kim, who has won twice since May on two of the toughest tracks on the PGA TOUR.
 
I need all the help I can get, said Kim, who is playing links golf for the first time.
 
But perhaps the biggest change was the color of this British Open.
 
No other major is more influenced by weather, and not just during the four days of competition. Players arriving on the Lancashire coast only needed to look at the grass to see what kind of year it has been in Britain.
 
When the weather is dry in spring and early summer, the links are brown and yellow, firm and fast, with wispy native grasses that look like wheat fields. When its a wet spring, the course is green and lush, grass so thick in some spots that its difficult to find a golf ball.
 
This is seriously green, Scott Verplank said Monday. As green as youll ever see.
 
Carnoustie also was green last year, when Padraig Harrington outlasted Sergio Garcia in a playoff, but Royal & Ancient officials found the keys to the lawn mowers and kept the rough at minimal length, still smarting over the 99 debacle that was Car-Nasty.
 
The previous five years, the British Open mainly went brown.
 
Geoff Ogilvy slowly made his way to Royal Birkdale, stopping along the way to get acclimated to this brand of golf by playing at Royal Liverpool, West Lancashire and Formby. It was the same everywhere.
 
This is the healthiest rough weve had in quite awhile, Ogilvy said.
 
OMeara finished at even-par 280 in 1998, beating Brian Watts in a playoff, and that score might be a good target this week if the stiff breeze off the Irish Sea prevails, as it did Monday morning when it was a steady 15 to 20 mph.
 
Birkdale isnt terribly long at 7,173 yards, but its fairways are plenty tight considering what awaits beyond their borders.
 
Its almost like a U.S. Open in that youve got 10 yards off the fairway to play with, and if you miss it beyond that, then good luck trying to find it, former British Open champion Ben Curtis said. I think youll see more big numbers than the other Opens. If youre 15 yards off line, youll see some 6s and 7s.
 
Verplank and Steve Stricker, a successful team at the Presidents Cup last September, played a match against John Rollins and former British Open champion Justin Leonard, and they had an idea what to expect this week.
 
Verplank hit a tee shot on No. 5 that traveled only 150 yards into the wind ' it wasnt entirely his fault, as it clipped the netting covering the front portion of the tee box'then hit a 3-iron right of the green. For the next several minutes, he walked in circles in the high grass, hands on hips, looking for his ball.
 
From the right rough, some 15 yards off the fairway, Rollins swung with all his might and let go of the club with his right hand after the thick stuff twisted the blade at impact.
 
It starts getting thick a little closer to the green, Verplank said. The course is not overly long, but when the wind starts ripping, its a little tight. And if the wind gets going, its going to be a real struggle.
 
Furyk likes it when the Open is brown, preferring fast conditions that require precision over power, since the crusty ground will help tee shots roll an additional 40 or 50 yards.
 
But he has learned to take what the British Open gives, and that means lush grass this year.
 
When we went to Muirfield (in 2002), we come here, you know its been raining, Furyk said. When you go to Liverpool (in 2006), you know its been dry. You look at the golf course, and the weather for the past couple of months will dictate how the course plays. If I had it my way, Id want it to play as firm and as fast as possible.
 
Birkdale has gone through some moderate changes in the past 10 years aimed at making it play a little tighter. Some fairways have been moved to alter the angle of attack. The most significant change was the 17th green, pushed farther back into the dunes, with severe contours and a steep change in elevation from the back of the green to the front.
 
This has not been well-received by most players, including Stephen Ames, who said, It goes with a Pete Dye course.
 
It was all new to Kim, who took last week off following his victory at Congressional. He played the front nine Sunday afternoon when he arrived from Dallas to help get over the jet lag, and those two hours made him feel even more tired.
 
It beat me up, he said. Everything is tiny here. The fairways are tiny. The hole may be smaller, for all I know.
 
OMeara spent early Monday evening guiding him around, looking after Kim the way he once took Woods under his wing as a young pro.
 
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    Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

    By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

    Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

    Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

    "I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

    Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

    While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

    "I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

    Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

    Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

    By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

    Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

    In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

    Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

    Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

    Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    “I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

    On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

    Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

    Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

    Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

    “The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

    Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

    Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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    D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

    By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

    ''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

    The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

    Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

    Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

    ''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

    Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

    Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

    Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

    The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

    Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

    ''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

    Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

    Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

    She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

    If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

    ''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

    Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

    Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

    ''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

    Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

    ''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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    Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

    By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

    BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

    Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

    One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


    Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


    McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

    Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.