Norman playing in first Champions event since 2009

By Associated PressJune 27, 2012, 11:52 pm

PITTSBURGH – Back when Greg Norman was the top-ranked golfer in the world, he'd practice by playing a transposed, almost-torturous version of ''best ball.''

''I'd play two golf balls, and you always had to hit the worst shot,'' Norman said Wednesday after a playing in the pro-am for the Senior Players Championship. ''So if you hit a great drive, you had to hit the next drive great, too.''

That was when Norman's golf game was a priority in his life. Nowadays, with a burgeoning portfolio of business interests, the 57-year-old isn't nearly as maniacal about his swing.

''The best score I remember playing ('worst ball') was 72. So, it really makes you concentrate,'' Norman said in his familiar Australian accent.

''Now ... I'm not worried about that anymore.''

Secure with his legacy and a realist enough to know his best golf is behind him, Norman plays tournaments sparingly these days. He will make his first start on the Champions Tour in almost three years Thursday at the Fox Chapel Golf Club.

The two-time British Open winner will be making only his 12th Champions Tour start over more than seven years of eligibility at what is the third of five majors this season. He hasn't played on the tour since Pebble Beach in September 2009.

''I don't think your competitive juices ever go away,'' Norman said. ''Do I have the passion to play? I enjoy playing. I don't enjoy practicing. There's a big difference now. When I go out to play, I don't go out to try and shoot 65 because everybody expects you to shoot 65, even in a practice round or playing with your friends. When I go out to play now, I just go out to play, to have fun and not to worry about my score.

''Preparing for a golf tournament, you have to practice for a score, you have to push yourself, you have to train yourself to focus.''

For a Wednesday practice round at a Champions Tour event, a larger-than-expected gallery followed him around the 93-year-old course.

This despite – or, perhaps, because of – the fact he rarely plays in the U.S. anymore. This year, Norman made two early-season starts on the PGA Tour, and one of those was in Cancun, Mexico. Norman has plans to play only two more tournaments this year (the Senior British Open and the European Masters).

He said he was drawn to the Senior Players not so much by the $2.7 million purse, but by his ties to Pittsburgh. Norman has become friends with Dr. Jim Bradley, the Pittsburgh Steelers team physician who has performed two surgeries on him.

Norman also has helped assist in biomechanical research on the golf swing at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

As recently as 2008, Norman was the leader heading into the final round of the British Open. Still, his age and lack of dedication to practice time would seem to make contention this weekend unlikely. Less than 10 percent of winners in the 32-year history of the Champions Tour have been as old as Norman is now.

''I don't have a target score in mind,'' Norman said. ''Whatever game I brought here is the game I've got.''

Norman played Fox Chapel for the first time Wednesday in the pro-am. Many of the pros came away gushing about the ''unique'' old-style 1919 Seth Raynor-designed course.

''The course is in the best shape possible,'' said Mark Calcavecchia, who won the tour event last weekend in Montreal. ''I won't say ever. But it's close to being the best ever. It's just perfect.''

The tournament has its fourth different home in as many years and has been staged at five courses since a 16-year run at TPC Michigan in Dearborn ended in 2006.

''I hope they keep it here forever,'' Tom Watson said. ''It's a wonderful golf course. I am so impressed with it here at Fox Chapel.

''(Corey Pavin) made the comment, and I agreed with him 100 percent, he said 'When I finished the 18th hole, I wanted to go start playing again.' That's the true measure of a great golf course.''

Watson is making his first start since he withdrew from a tournament in April due to a wrist injury.

Defending champion Fred Couples plays in the third group to tee off Thursday along with Calcavecchia and Jay Haas. Norman, Watson and Tom Lehman are in the following group.

The only two-time winner on the tour this year, Michael Allen, tees off with the sixth group. He retook the series points lead by tying for fifth in Montreal.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish 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.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“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.”