Maggert wins first Champions major in playoff

By Associated PressMay 17, 2015, 9:52 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Jeff Maggert didn't let the missed putts haunt him when he faced the most pressurized one of the day.

Maggert won the Regions Tradition on Sunday for his first Champions Tour major title, beating Kevin Sutherland with a 3-foot par putt on the first hole of a playoff. He missed from a similar distance on No. 17 and failed to hole other modest putts over the final nine holes in a day-long, back-and-forth Shoal Creek scramble.

''No one likes to miss 3-footers,'' Maggert said. ''It doesn't matter if you're a 20-handicapper or a golf pro. When you miss a few of them, you start to second-guess yourself. On 18, I said, 'Hey, you missed it, no big deal, on 17. Let's just go to your routine and your game plan and try to put a good stroke on it.'

''I was nervous, shaking a little bit.''

It didn't show in his stroke on the straight-on putt.

Sutherland two-putted for bogey to set up Maggert for the winning shot on the 18th hole.



Maggert closed with an even-par 72 to match Sutherland at 14-under 274. Sutherland had a 71.

Maggert's only previous Champions Tour win came in Mississippi last year in his first start on the 50-and-over tour. He won three times on the PGA Tour, the last in the 2006 St. Jude Classic.

Sutherland had his second runner-up finish of the year and remains stuck at one career win in 544 tournaments spread across the PGA, Champions and Web.com tours.

Maggert won $345,000 and moved into the points lead after the first of five majors.

Sutherland's tee shot on the playoff hole dropped into the left bunker a few feet from the lip and about 130 yards from the green. His next shot landed near fans lining the fairway and he was left needing a long putt to make par.

Sutherland said a nearly day-long struggle with his driver ''reared its ugly head at the last moment and got underneath the lip of the bunker and didn't have much of a play really. Couldn't get it to the green.''

He said jitters weren't a problem, though.

''I was as relaxed as you could possibly be,'' Sutherland said. ''I was much more relaxed on the 19th hole than I was on the first hole.''

Jeff Hart and Gene Sauers both shot 69 to tie for third at 11 under, three shots back. Michael Allen (68), Bernhard Langer (70), two-time winner Tom Lehman (69) and defending champion Kenny Perry (70) were 9 under.

Both players parred the 18th hole the first time to force the playoff. Maggert needed to make a three-footer to stay alive, similar to the one he missed on the previous hole.

''Second time's the charm,'' Maggert said, adding that the shot on 17 ''was a putt that I was expecting to walk up and tap it in.''

It was a change-up after Maggert had birdied the final two holes each of the previous two days.

Maggert's the first 36-hole leader to hold on for the win at the tournament since Tom Watson in 2003.

Maggert and Sutherland traded birdies on No. 15 to remain deadlocked after jockeying for position the past two days and then set up similar tap-ins on 16.

Sutherland had reclaimed the edge with an eagle on the par-5 third hole, while Maggert bogeyed for a three-stroke turnaround. He regrouped with a birdie on No. 6 while Sutherland had three bogeys on the first nine holes for a 1-over 32.

Maggert had three-putted from five feet on No. 12, saying he had trouble gauging the speed of the greens after overnight rains.

Hart, meanwhile, managed his first top-three finish on the Champions Tour, having finished no better than 29th in his three previous events this season.

He extended his string without a bogey to 54 holes and finished with a birdie. Hart's two bogeys was the fewest in a Tradition.

''At that point, I didn't care where I finished,'' Hart said. ''But I didn't want to blow the non-bogey string on the final hole.''

Sauers ended with back-to-back birdies. He has finished in the top three over the last two majors he's played, losing a playoff to Colin Montgomerie in last year's U.S. Senior Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


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“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”

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How will players game-plan for Carnoustie?

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:31 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Thomas took a familiar slash with his driver on the 18th tee on Monday at Carnoustie and watched anxiously as his golf ball bounced and bounded down the fairway.

Unlike the two previous editions of The Open, at what is widely considered the rota’s most demanding test, a particularly warm and dry summer has left Carnoustie a parched shade of yellow and players like Thomas searching for answers.

Under the best circumstances, Carnoustie is every bit the unforgiving participant. But this week promises to be something altogether different, with players already dumbfounded by how far the ball is chasing down fairways and over greens.

Brown is beautiful here at Royal Dark & Dusty.

But then it’s also proving to be something of a unique test.

Where most practice rounds at The Open are spent trying to figure out what lines are best off tees, this is more a study of lesser evils.

Tee shots, like at the par-4 17th hole, ask multiple questions with few answers. On his first attempt, Thomas hit 2-iron off the tee at No. 17. It cleared the Barry Burn and bounded down the middle of the fairway. Perfect, right? Not this year at Carnoustie, as Thomas’ tee shot kept rolling until it reached the same burn, which twists and turns through both the 17th and 18th fairways, at a farther intersection.


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“A hole like 17 in this wind, the trick is getting a club that will carry [the burn],” said Thomas, who played 18 holes on Monday with Tiger Woods. “If that hole gets downwind you can have a hard time carrying the burn and keeping it short of the other burn. It’s pretty bizarre.”

The sixth hole can offer a similar dilemma, with players needing to carry their tee shots 275 yards to avoid a pair of pot bunkers down the right side of the fairway. Yet just 26 yards past those pitfalls looms a second set of bunkers. Even for the game’s best, trying to weave a fairway wood or long-iron into a 26-yard window can be challenging.

“Six is a really hard hole, it really just depends on how you want to play it. If you want to take everything on and have a chance of hitting an iron into a par 5, or just kind of lay back and play it as a three-shot hole,” Thomas shrugged.

It’s difficult to quantify precisely how short the 7,400-yard layout is playing. It’s not so far players are flying the ball in the air, particularly with relatively little wind in the forecast the rest of the week, so much as it is a question of how a particular shot will run out after it’s made contact with the firm turf.

As the field began to get their first taste of the bouncy fun, one of the earliest indications something was askew came on Sunday when Padraig Harrington, who won The Open the last time it was played at Carnoustie in 2007, announced to the social world that he’d hit into the burn on the 18th hole.

“This time it was the one at the green, 457 yards away,” the Irishman tweeted. “The fairways are a tad fast.”

Most players have already resigned themselves to a steady diet of mid-irons off tees this week in an attempt to at least partially control the amount of run-out each shot will have.

Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, hadn’t played a practice round prior to his media session, but could tell what’s in store just from his abbreviated range session on Monday. “Extremely baked out,” he said.

The conditions have already led Spieth and his caddie, Micheal Greller, to conjure up a tentative game plan.

“You might wear out your 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you’re used to,” Greller told him.

But even that might not be the answer, as Tommy Fleetwood discovered on Sunday during a practice round. Fleetwood has a unique connection with Carnoustie having shot the course record (63) during last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.

The Englishman doesn’t expect his record to be in danger this week.

In fact, he explained the dramatically different conditions were evident on the third hole on Sunday.

“There’s holes that have been nothing tee shots, like the third. If you play that in the middle of September or October [when the Dunhill is played] and it’s green and soft, you could just hit a mid-iron down the fairway and knock it on with a wedge,” Fleetwood said. “Yesterday it was playing so firm, the fairways really undulate and you have bunkers on either side, it’s actually all of a sudden a tough tee shot.”

The alternative to the iron game plan off the tee would be to simply hit driver, an option at least one long-hitter is considering this week if his practice round was any indication.

On Sunday, Jon Rahm played aggressively off each tee, taking the ubiquitous fairway bunkers out of play but at the same time tempting fate with each fairway ringed by fescue rough, which is relatively tame given the dry conditions. But even that option has consequences.

“It’s kind of strange where there’s not really a number that you know you’re going to be short,” said Fleetwood, who played his Sunday practice round with Rahm. “[Rahm] hit a drive on 15 that was like 400 yards. You just can’t account for that kind of stuff.”

Whatever tactic players choose, this Open Championship promises to be a much different test than what players have become accustomed to at Carnoustie.

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Fleetwood: Carnoustie course record won't help at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, but he’s skeptical that his past experience will help him at The Open.

Last fall, in the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, Fleetwood birdied six of his last eight holes to card a bogey-free, 9-under 63, the lowest score ever at what is widely considered to be the most difficult course in the Open rota.

No one expects a repeat this week at Carnoustie – not with the conditions this brown, firm and fast.

“It’s a completely different course,” Fleetwood said Monday. “Shots that you’ve hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it.


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“It doesn’t do any harm to have played it for a few years. It doesn’t do any harm to have a course record, but it’s a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”

Fleetwood took a much-needed two-week break after the French Open, deciding to withdraw from last week’s Scottish Open for a bit more time in his own bed. (He said it was his last full week at home until mid-October.) Since his sparkling 63 to nearly steal the U.S. Open, the Englishman said that he’d “run out of steam” but now feels energized.  

“There’s not really a good reason why I couldn’t do it (this week),” he said. “It really doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. The only thing they could do is build your confidence and give you examples of what you can do – examples that you can end up there, and you have the game to compete.”