Notes Ford Championship Garners Big Ratings
The final round peaked with an 8.1 rating over the last 30 minutes, when Woods surged ahead to win the Ford Championship at Doral and return to No. 1 in the world.
The four players who took part in a corporate outing for a reported $150,000 on the Monday before the Ford Championship at Doral were not there by coincidence.
Golf World magazine reports this week that IMG sent a letter to tournament directors offering to help put together a 'unique' Monday outing, in which the agency would try to secure five players who do not have a history playing that event. The letter also said the players 'will look favorably upon staying for the
The IMG letter, obtained by Golf World, included a menu of players.
In the $100,000 to $200,000 price range were Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, John Daly and Davis Love III. The second tier, for a meager $50,000 to $100,000, included David Duval, Todd Hamilton, Charles Howell III, Mike Weir, Ben Curtis, Fred Couples and Jim Furyk.
Singh, Goosen, Garcia and Padraig Harrington played in the Ford outing. All are IMG clients.
Tour regulations prohibit players or their agents from soliciting or accepting compensation to guarantee their appearance.
The IMG letter pushes that policy to the brink, and the PGA Tour is looking into it.
'We will review this recent solicitation and take whatever steps we deem necessary,' the tour said in a statement.
Mike Weir could do without his results the last two weeks, getting ousted in the first round of the Match Play Championship and tying for 52nd at Doral.
Still, the Canadian showed plenty of grit when it might not matter to others.
Trailing by one hole on the 18th at La Costa, with Kirk Triplett some 8 feet away for birdie, Weir made a 20-foot birdie putt to keep alive his chances. Triplett knocked his in to win the match.
Then at Doral, Weir needed a par to make the cut and fanned his drive into the water. He had 5-iron into the green, then made a 12-foot par putt with severe left-to-right break.
'I think it's just my attitude. I don't give in,' Weir said. 'Those help big-time. It was just to make the cut, but at least I was playing. Any momentum you can get leading into Augusta is good.'
In the twilight at La Costa Resort, after the Match Play Championship was over for the day, a lone figure was on the practice range working on his swing.
'Colonial is three months away and I'm already nervous,' Ian Baker-Finch said with a smile.
Baker-Finch is a past champion at Colonial and plans to play in May, which would be his first PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at Colonial in 2001.
The congenial Aussie won the '91 British Open, but then suffered so badly off the tee that it drove him away from golf after he shot 92 in the first round of the 1997 British Open. Baker-Finch, who works for ABC Sports, has been encouraged enough at his home club in Florida that he has hinted at playing a few tournaments.
That might also include the British Open at St. Andrews.
Baker-Finch has not entered, and said he probably won't make up his mind until the last minute.
'I don't expect to be able to compete,' Baker-Finch said. 'But I at least want to believe I can compete, instead of hoping I don't play poorly.'
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM?
The final pick in the NFL draft is known as 'Mr. Irrelevant,' and he gets a paid trip to Newport Beach, Calif., for a week of festivities. Maybe something should be done for the first guy to sign up for the U.S. Open.
That would be Ed McDugle, a high school golf coach in Memphis, Tenn., who sent in his U.S. Open entry a mere nine minutes after applications were made available online March 2.
'I just happened to check that morning,' McDugle said. 'I had an open period after teaching honors economics, I clicked on and it was there. I wasn't even thinking about being the first.'
Alas, there is no free trip to sectionals or any other such perk.
McDugle will go to 18-hole local qualifying May 17 for the ninth consecutive year, and he already has signed up for East Lake to play the 36-hole sectional if he makes it that far.
McDugle, 43, is the Memphis city public links champion and the epitome of what the U.S. Open is all about -- amateurs who are allowed to dream big about competing against Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson & Co. at Pinehurst No. 2.
U.S. Open entries have averaged about 8,000 the last couple of years, making McDugle a long shot.
He made it to sectionals his first year in 1997, and it required no small amount of work. He was coaching softball and raising young children, putting them to bed at 9:30 p.m. and going to the driving range until it closed.
'I ended up in a playoff and beat a couple of the local pros,' he said.
He also learned a lesson about the big time that year.
'Teachers don't make a lot of money, and I was using some knockoff clubs,' he said. 'I was playing with the No. 3 player on the Nike Tour, and he was sponsored everywhere. I learned that second-rate clubs don't get it done at that level. His technology was brand new, and I was losing 30 yards off the tee.'
The good news is that McDugle has upgraded to some Titleist 690 irons, the Pro V1 ball and a new V-Foil putter.
'But I'm still lacking in the driver,' he said. 'I've got an Orlimar Tri-Metal, but I hit it dead straight.'
Jim Furyk tied for eighth at Doral and became the seventh player on the PGA Tour to surpass $20 million in career earnings. ... Greg Norman had to withdraw after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic because of a recurring back injury. His manager said he tried to hit 60 balls on the range, but felt numbness and couldn't make a turn. He hopes to be ready for The Players Championship.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Bart Bryant has 29 consecutive rounds at par or better, dating to Las Vegas last year. He has only one top-10 finish during that stretch.
'He was just on the Ed Sullivan show the other day.' -- Jack Nicklaus, told that Tiger Woods was in his 10th season on the PGA Tour.
Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie
While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.
There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.
According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)
Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.
McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1
They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.
McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.
On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.
Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
12/1: Tony Finau
14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
20/1: Francesco Molinari
25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner
30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka
40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day
50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate
80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na
100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman
Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience
Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.
It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.
Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.
“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.
“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.
At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.
Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.
“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.
“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.
“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”
After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.
“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”
Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.
“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.
“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”
On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.
Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.
“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”
Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.
At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.
At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.
Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.
“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”
Her overall assessment of her day?
“It was a great experience,” she said.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.