Notes: Dufner's travels; Rory feels 'comfortable'

By Associated PressOctober 29, 2013, 8:02 pm

JASON'S TRAVELS: Jason Dufner has been traveling the world before anyone knew who he was.

The PGA champion first went to Australia for a Nationwide Tour event. He played a Tour de las Americas event in South America. He was the ''other American'' who received a sponsor's exemption to the Australian Masters in 2009 when record crowds watched Tiger Woods win at Kingston Heath.

''I've always wanted to go play different places in the world,'' Dufner said Tuesday at the HSBC Champions. ''Some of the guys I looked up were world players – Gary Player, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, guys like that. I think it's important for the game of golf. And now that I'm a higher-ranked player, it would be selfish for me not to do it. The game needs us to play more.''

Dufner even is contemplating European Tour membership for next year, though it might be too much on his plate.

He already plays two events in the Middle East. He can count the four majors and four World Golf Championships. The problem might be finding two more events in continental Europe.

''I've been kicking around the idea,'' he said. ''It's just figuring out what events might fit and what might not.''


DIALED IN: Heading into the final stretch of the season, Rory McIlroy was still tinkering with his equipment after the switch to Nike. He feels as if he finally has it figured out, thanks to a new combination of a driver with a slightly larger head, and a ball is softer around the greens.

Of course, it helps that he is swinging better than he has all year.

Asked if it was the best ball-driver combination he has had all season, McIlroy thought for a moment and replied, ''It's the best ball-driver I've ever had.''

''It's the highest ball speed I ever got - 184 mph ball speed, which is high,'' he said. ''This is the first year I comfortably going into the 180s in all speed, and this has upped it again. I feel comfortable with it. And the most comforting thing is I'm swinging the club well.''


UNLUCKY ALTERNATES: Joost Luiten was first alternate at the British Open, and he wasn't very happy when Peter Hanson played only five holes before he withdrew with a bad back. Hanson knew he couldn't finish the tournament. He felt he had to tee off so it would count as a start toward the minimum 15 required to remain a PGA Tour member.

''Those things are always tough,'' Hanson said.

Luiten found that out for himself last week at the BMW Masters. He had a shoulder injury and felt he couldn't play. Justin Walters of South Africa was the first alternate who desperately needed a start.

The problem was a European Tour policy that requires players to compete in two of the three events in the Final Series to be eligible for the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai. Luiten's best chance of getting to Dubai was to count the BMW Masters, take off two weeks to heal his shoulder, play in Turkey and then be eligible for Dubai. He is No. 14 on the money list.

Among the players he sought for advice? Hanson, of all people.

''In the locker room, he's asking me, 'Should I play or should I not?' We had a laugh about that,'' Hanson said.

Luiten hit a weak tee shot with his driver on the first hole and withdrew. He got credit for the start. Walters is likely out of the Race to Dubai.

In Hanson's case, his only other option was to take a minor medical exemption, which would have given him low priority for the 2013-14 season. He felt bad about his WD at the Open, but it worked out well. He managed to finish his next two events (Firestone, PGA Championship) to reach 15 starts, and he finished at No. 125 on the money list to keep his card for the next season.

''He was first alternate at the Open, and I don't blame him for being upset,'' Hanson said. ''But like I said, I wanted to keep my job. And my best chance to keep my job in America was to tee it up. In the end, you have to look after yourself.''


RYDER CUP: Padraig Harrington winced when asked if he would like to be a vice captain next year in Scotland at the Ryder Cup because it brings up the possibility the three-time major champion might not make the team.

''If I didn't make the team, I would be delighted to be a vice captain,'' Harrington said.

He said he has not spoken to European captain Paul McGinley, and McGinley hasn't said anything to him. It's a conversation he hopes doesn't take place.

''I'm in that situation that I hope he's not thinking like that,'' Harrington said.


ASIA-PACIFIC SPOILS: Augusta National and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club were behind the creation of the Asia-Pacific Amateur. The perks they offer are different.

The winner gets an invitation to the Masters, but only a spot in the final stage of qualifying for the British Open. With the changes to Open qualifying, that means Lee Chang-woo will be exempt into a tournament in Thailand where he will try to be among the top three finishers not already eligible.

''I want to see that maybe the winner of this Asian Amateur Championship can play directly over there as they can play at the Masters,'' said Kwang Soo Hur, president of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation.

Perhaps that day is coming.

The Masters has the smallest field among majors – fewer than 100 players – and has room for an extra amateur. The Open is a 156-man field, with an alternate list. Plus, it was hard to predict the quality of the competition when this event began five years ago. The previous three winners all made the cut at Augusta National.

''It's become very, very evident from the champions that have been produced through this championship that they are of a world-class standard, and I think this is something that we and the R&A will continue to consider,'' R&A chairman Wilson Sibbett said last week. ''We haven't a plan as yet for direct entry, and so at the moment, it would still be through qualifying. But it may well be that in the future, that may change.

''But we do recognize that the standard is extremely high, and the evidence from last year at the Masters was a very clear indicator that in a world calibration, these golfers are competitive and make the cut.''

The British Open has exemptions for the British Amateur, U.S. Amateur and European Amateur champions. The Masters offers six amateur exemptions – the winner and runner-up of the U.S. Amateur, and the winners of the British Amateur, Asia-Pacific Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Mid-Amateur.


DIVOTS: The European Tour returns to South Korea next year, even though it lost Ballantine's as a title sponsor. The tournament will be played May 1-4 at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon. The tour said it would announce a new title sponsor later. ... Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is indebted to Soren Kjeldsen. The Spaniard forgot his wide-brim Cleveland visor last week, so he played without a hat. He won the BMW Masters, and for the trophy presentation, borrowed Kjeldsen's Cleveland visor so his primary sponsor could get its due in the victory photos.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy (24) is the only player in his 20s in the top 10 of the world ranking.


FINAL WORD: ''When I was an amateur, it didn't mean much about me going up and down score wise. And now it's pretty much $1,000 on the line. I've just got to learn to not think about that and just enjoy myself.'' - Lydia Ko on joining the LPGA Tour next year.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”