At the Masters Par is Merely Another Number

By Associated PressApril 7, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- They walked off Augusta National much the way they came on it, two by two, bundled against the cold. Their misery finally over, they trudged into the scorer's shack where the carnage could be tallied.
 
Phil Mickelson lingered longer than most. He had assigned himself some extra work to do, and the warmth of the tiny green shack next to the 18th green seemed just the place to do it.
 
'Just checking scores, figuring out where I'm at and where I need to go,' Mickelson said. 'I've got to get a game plan on how to shoot a round in the 60s.'
 
Good luck with that, Phil. That's about as easy as solving global warming.
 
Not that global warming was a major concern on this spring Saturday in Augusta, where record cold threatened both the azalea bushes and the sanity of players who pretty much already live on the edge mentally anyway.
 
There were plenty of other things to worry about, though, most of them involving some new variation of getting the proverbial square peg into a round hole.
 
In this case, it was getting a round golf ball into a round hole, something the 60 players who ventured out on this wintry day get paid to do every day. They're usually quite good at it, particularly this one fellow named Tiger Woods.
 
But on a day when the course was as easy to hate as it was lovely to look at, there were so many wrecks going on that they might have held the Daytona 500 in Amen Corner.
 
Just off the beautifully manicured fairways were billions of trees and oceans of water to threaten wayward balls. The greens were so hard and slick they were better suited to bowling balls than Pro VI's.
 
Or maybe it just seemed that way for those unfortunate enough to find out what the guys in the green jackets really had in mind when they decided that enough was enough and people had better quit messing with their golf course.
 
Believe it or not, they actually moved some tees up and watered the greens in a last-minute but ultimately futile effort not to make things any more embarrassing than they already were.
 
They held a Masters, and a U.S. Open broke out.
 
'It was like trying to land a golf ball on your driveway, but your driveway has mounds on them and they stick the pin near the mounds,' Rich Beem said.
 
Beem is a funny guy, but there was nothing funny about what unfolded before the shivering patrons of Augusta National on this afternoon. It's hard to find much humor on a day when the two co-leaders going into the round couldn't even break 80.
 
One by one, players collapsed, staggering to the finish in the worst day of scoring in the Masters since they went to Bentgrass greens in 1981. Things were so bad that anybody turning in a scorecard should have been handed a box of Kleenex.
 
Stuart Appleby had the most to cry about, though Aussies generally don't do that kind of thing. He was 1 under and leading by two shots when he came to the 17th hole, yanked a drive left and walked off the green with a triple bogey 7.
 
Not to worry, mate. With everyone else spitting it up around him, he'll still have a one-shot lead to sleep on, assuming the nightmares don't interfere.
 
'The course is just ready to slap you in the head if you do anything wrong,' Appleby said.
 
Woods wasn't immune, bogeying the last two holes to ruin what had been a remarkably steady round under the circumstances. Little did he know walking off the 18th green with a scowl on his face an hour ahead of the leaders that things would go so south for them that he would be playing in the final group on Sunday.
 
Woods was one of the lucky ones. He was one of only two players to shoot par.
 
Only one player broke par, and it wasn't surprising that it was Retief Goosen. When you've been struck by lightning on the golf course, slick greens are the least of your worries.
 
This Masters has been tough from the opening ceremonial tee shot that Arnold Palmer pulled into the left rough on Thursday, and it's been that way by design. The green jackets added yards, trees, rough and sand last year to make it more of a test for today's big hitters, and they succeeded beyond expectations.
 
It doesn't figure to get any better on Sunday, a day when viewers are used to watching a back nine duel of eagles and birdies. The course is so dry and hard that they could turn the sprinklers on all night and it wouldn't make a difference. And there are only so many easy pin placements to be had.
 
Woods, of course, will be a heavy favorite to win for the fifth time here. He's just a stroke behind, and there's no one else in the top seven who has ever won a major, much less 12 of them.
 
But don't count Mickelson out. He is the defending champion, and he is the only player who was concocting a game plan even while others around him were signing their scorecards.
 
Best of all, the late collapses mean he probably doesn't even need anything in the 60s anymore.
 
Now if he could just do something about global warming.
 
Related Links:
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He will return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finished worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.