Notes Nervous Start for Hometown Kids

By Associated PressApril 6, 2006, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Vaughn Taylor grew up in Augusta, so the nerves were understandable when he made his Masters debut.
 
He had a bogey on his opening hole, another one at No. 2 and settled down for a 75.
 
'It took me a while to get comfortable,' Taylor said. 'I was a little more nervous than I wanted to be.'
 
Taylor is a two-time winner of the Reno-Tahoe Open who became eligible for the Masters by finishing in the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list a year ago. He is doing a diary for The Augusta Chronicle and seeing more friendly faces than normal, although he tends to walk with his eyes to the ground.
 
It wasn't his best, but it was a start.
 
'I hit a good shot on the first tee,' he said. 'You learn what your body feels like. You learn how to deal with it. Each time you go through, you get better at it.'
 
Taylor played with Rocco Mediate, who shot 68 and was one shot out of the lead. Mediate hardly considers himself a veteran of Augusta National, although he offered sound advice.
 
'I said, 'Vaughn, a 7-iron still goes ... 160 yards. There's no green jackets hanging in the trees. Just play golf,'' Mediate said. 'He kind of laughed. You could tell he was a bit nervous. He didn't shoot a good score today, but that's fine.'
 
Charles Howell III didn't quite figure it out Thursday.
 
He also grew up in Augusta, and has been playing in the Masters every year since 2002.
 
Howell recently revamped the circle around him, switching swing coaches and sports psychologists. But he bogeyed five of his first six holes and wound up with an 80, by four shots his worst score in the Masters.
 
AMATEUR HOUR
The five amateurs at this year's Masters played like, well, amateurs.
 
U.S. Amateur champion Edoardo Molinari of Italy failed to make a birdie while playing with defending champion Tiger Woods and wound up with an 80. He was tied with British Amateur champion Brian McElhinney, who at least birdied the 16th.
 
Clay Ogden, the U.S. Amateur Public Links winner who beat Michelle Wie in the quarterfinals, took quadruple-bogey 8 on the ninth hole on his way to an 83, while U.S. Amateur runner-up Dillon Dougherty went without a birdie and shot 82.
 
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Kevin Marsh was low amateur Thursday -- no birdies in a 79.
 
Molinari had few complaints, spending the day before massive galleries while playing alongside Woods. The Masters traditionally puts the defending champion with the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.
 
'I was lucky to win the U.S. Amateur, and especially on the year I would play with Tiger,' Molinari said. 'It was really cool, and he was so nice. The most amazing experience I've ever had on a golf course. It beat my expectations by far.'
 
The Masters awards a sterling silver cup to the low amateur, provided he makes the cut. It has been awarded each of the last three years, a streak that looks to be over.
 
SCOTT'S REBOUND
Even par never looked so good to Adam Scott.
 
The Aussie got off to a rough start in the first round of the Masters on Thursday, dropping three strokes in the first five holes. But he closed the front nine with three straight birdies to get back to even par, then had another 36 on the back nine.
 
'I got off to a bit of a nervous start, and then got it together,' he said. 'Even par is pretty good after being three over early.'
 
Scott's putter was the cause of his early problems. He needed three putts on Nos. 1 and 3, and missed a short one on No. 2.
 
'I was hitting shots OK, but I was a little shaky on the greens. That's always a little scary here,' said Scott, whose best finish in his previous four Masters is a tie for ninth in 2002. 'It was nice to pull myself together by the end of the front nine and give myself a chance.'
 
He wasn't the only player who recovered.
 
Davis Love III hit his tee shot on the par-3 12th over the green and into a bush, had to take a penalty drop and wound up with a triple bogey that left him 5 over par. He then birdied his next four holes and finished with a 2-over 74.
 
Robert Allenby was 3 over after three holes and headed south when he made a 35-foot par putt on the fourth. He shot 33 on the back nine and salvaged a 73.
 
ROCCO TIME
Rocco Mediate hasn't been playing well the last two years as he copes with ongoing back problems.
 
He had to use a one-time exemption to keep his card last year, and a late surge allowed him to narrowly finish inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list. He is not the kind of guy anyone expected to see at the Masters.
 
Forgotten, however, is that he tied for sixth in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, his only top 10 last year. The Masters invites the top eight players from the U.S. Open.
 
Did anyone ask him why he was at Augusta National?
 
'Actually, they didn't,' Mediate said after his 68, leaving him one shot behind Vijay Singh. 'But I'd tell them, 'Just look at last year's U.S. Open,' and then they shut up.'
 
Mediate said he wouldn't blame anyone for asking.
 
'I haven't played a lot of golf, and I've been hurt,' he said. 'That's all body related, not golf swing or golf game related. Because otherwise, I would have killed myself by now.'
 
DIVOTS
David Duval began using a cross-handed putting grip this week, although it didn't do him much good. He shot an 84. ... Fred Couples opened with a 71 and is in good shape to continue his streak as the only Masters champion to have never missed the cut at Augusta National. ... Thongchai Jaidee, the first Thai in 35 years at the Masters, shot 78. ... Ben Curtis had another good start at a major. The surprising winner of the '03 British Open was 3 under par until dropping two shots on the final five holes for a 71. He opened with a 67 at Baltusrol at the PGA Championship last year before tumbling into a tie for 34th. Curtis and his wife, Candace, recently learned they are expecting their first child in September.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 70th Masters Tournament
  • Full Coverage - 70th Masters Tournament
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Merritt earns second win at rain-delayed Barbasol

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 5:44 pm

    It took an extra day, but Troy Merritt found a way back to the winner's circle at the Barbasol Championship.

    With much of the final round spilling into Monday because of inclement weather, Merritt shot a 5-under 67 to finish the week at 23 under par at Keene Trace Golf Club in Lexington, Ky. That total left him one shot clear of a group that included Billy Horschel, Tom Lovelady and Richy Werenski.

    Merritt started the round in a four-way tie for the lead, and the highlight of his finale came on the par-4 eighth where he holed a 133-yard approach shot for an eagle. He didn't drop a shot over his final 13 holes, securing a narrow victory when Lovelady failed to make a lengthy birdie attempt on the final green.

    Merritt broke through at the 2015 Quicken Loans National for his first career PGA Tour victory, but he struggled to maintain that form in the subsequent months. Merritt had only one top-10 finish in both 2016 and 2017 and had to return to Web.com Tour Finals last fall to keep his card.

    His 2018 campaign wasn't much better, with a T-8 finish at Pebble Beach his lone top-10 result, and Merritt started the week ranked 131st in the season-long points race with his 2019 status very much in jeopardy. But after earning win No. 2, he's now exempt through August 2020 and has earned spots into the PGA Championship as well as the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions and Players Championship.

    "You always ask yourself, 'Is this the time to move on?'" Merritt told reporters. "But to get a win like this, late in the season, and to move up to 65 on the points list and to secure a job for two more years, it's a pretty good feeling."

    Tour veteran Brian Gay finished alone in sixth at 20 under, while Hunter Mahan tied for seventh. The Barbasol has been played opposite The Open every year since 2015, but this year marked the first time it was played in Kentucky after three years in Alabama.

    Getty Images

    Monday Scramble: Flawless Francesco outlasts them all

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 2:00 pm

    Francesco Molinari outlasts the rest, Tiger Woods inches closer to an earth-shattering victory, Jordan Spieth lets a successful title defense slip away, Eddie Pepperell toasts his success and more in this week’s Open edition of Monday Scramble:

    Forza Italia.

    Amid a wild and windy afternoon at Carnoustie, where seemingly no less than a dozen players had a viable shot at the claret jug, it was a steady performance from Francesco Molinari that translated into breakthrough.

    Molinari is no stranger to the big stage, and five years ago he played the final round alongside Phil Mickelson as Lefty stormed from behind to win at Muirfield. But this time, this day, it was his turn to shine as he put forth a ball-striking and scrambling clinic that yielded 16 pars and two birdies while the other leaders struggled around him.

    It's the cap of an impressive heater for Molinari, who is now the first Italian to ever win a major. He outlasted Rory McIlroy at the BMW PGA Championship in May, won the Quicken Loans National by eight shots last month and now has finished first or second in five of his last six worldwide starts.

    The soft-spoken veteran played the final two rounds without making a bogey, and he is a worthy champion. Expect the jug to receive a few refills of wine - and perhaps a little coffee - over the next year.


    1. For about a 90-minute stretch Sunday, it seemed like Tiger Woods would finally find a way to silence the critics once and for all.

    Playing alongside Molinari, Woods displayed the same tactical brilliance on the opening nine, carding two birdies while others struggled out of the gates and, at one point, taking the lead alone. But an errant approach and a poor flop shot led to a double bogey on No. 11, and his bid for the jug was diverted soon thereafter.

    But man, what a ride it was through that opening stretch. For months the questions have lingered about exactly how and when Tiger might put all the pieces together, and after an early exit at Shinnecock it was easy to write him off. But his inner tactician shined for much of the week on a toasty layout, and he was steady in all facets over the weekend.

    Just as Woods' five-win season in 2013 has been used as a recent example of just how high his ceiling reaches, so too this performance will be viewed like manna from heaven for Tiger apologists. He didn't quite pull it off, but there's every reason to expect that he can do so the next time around.

    2. While he came up three shots short of catching Molinari, even Woods appeared to savor the final leg of a T-6 finish that serves as his best result in a major in five years and becomes the new high water mark for an already impressive season.

    "It was a blast," Woods told reporters. "I was saying earlier that I need to try and keep it in perspective because, beginning of the year, if they'd have said you're playing the Open Championship, I would have said I'd be very lucky to do that."



    3. A bit more on Molinari, the newest Champion Golfer of the Year who has turned into a weekend assassin over the last three months. 

    Between his stirring victory at Wentworth, his rout at TPC Potomac and his comeback at Carnoustie, Molinari has now played six weekend rounds while making only a single bogey. One!

    That includes 36 bogey-free holes over the last two days in Scotland, as Molinari methodically took apart the demanding links layout while turning in the only bogey-free scorecard out of the entire field on Sunday.

    "To go the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest," Molinari said. "But I felt really good this morning. When I came here, I felt ready for the challenge."

    4 While many players would quiver at the thought of a final-round tee time alongside Woods with a major on the line, Molinari didn't blink. Perhaps because he's been in similar situations before.

    In addition to his supporting role during Mickelson's win in 2013, Molinari has twice faced off with Woods in the Ryder Cup - including a 2012 singles' draw that remains Woods' most recent Ryder Cup match. So stepping to the tee Sunday, Molinari was fazed neither by his playing partner nor by the three co-leaders that sat three shots ahead of him.

    "Clearly in my group, the attention wasn't really on me, let's put it that way," Molinari said. "If someone was expecting a charge, probably they weren't expecting it from me, but it's been the same the whole of my career."

    5. How times change. Just a few weeks ago, Molinari opted to tee it up at the Quicken Loans National instead of the French Open at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National. The reason? He was concerned about his FedExCup standing.

    Molinari hadn't done much in the States this year, and he was 123rd in points with his 2019 status very much in limbo. Fast forward a few weeks - including two wins and a runner-up - and Molinari can safely book travel plans on both sides of the Atlantic for years to come.



    6. It was a week of what might have been for Jordan Spieth.

    Spieth started his stint in Scotland by handing back the claret jug in a ceremony he admitted was more bitter than sweet. But through 54 holes, he was the betting favorite as one of three co-leaders, equipped with a great chance to go back-to-back and end a victory drought that extended back to Royal Birkdale.

    Amid a disappointing campaign, it was the first time he started the final round closer than four shots to the lead.

    But Spieth apparently used up his magic last year in Southport, as he seemed out of sorts from the start and quickly faded. Spieth didn't make a birdie all day, and he found a gorse bush at an inopportune time en route to a double bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

    It added up to a 76 and a tie for ninth, another disappointing finish in a year of mixed results. Now he'll have to wait another year for a potential reunion with the jug.

    7. Of course, Spieth wasn't the only player who watched a share of the 54-hole lead slip away.

    Kevin Kisner held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three days, but his bid for a maiden major went sideways in a bunker on the second hole Sunday. Xander Schauffele's bid lasted significantly longer, as he kept pace with Molinari until the 17th hole.

    But in the end, it was a 3-over 74 and a share of second place for both men, who now find themselves firmly in the Ryder Cup mix heading into the homestretch of the selection process.



    8. For the first time in his career, Rory McIlroy has a runner-up finish in a major championship. But good luck making sense of his week at Carnoustie years from now.

    McIlroy was barely a factor over the weekend, having seemingly forfeited his shot at a second Open title during benign third-round conditions. But when his lengthy eagle putt fell on the 14th hole Sunday and sparked a celebration reminiscent of Hazeltine, hope was once again alive.

    Ultimately, it was too little too late for the Ulsterman, who couldn't convert a lengthy birdie putt on the 72nd hole that could have putt pressure on the leaders behind him. He'll leave Scotland with a healthy check, but without the feeling that he ever got both feet planted in his quest for the claret jug.

    "I just ran out of holes," McIlroy said.

    9. If McIlroy's runner-up felt like somewhat of a disappointment, Justin Rose's T-2 finish was nothing short of found money.

    Rose needed to birdie the difficult 18th on Friday simply to make the cut on the number, and he rebounded with a third-round 64. The Englishman added a Sunday 69 to lend credence to the notion that, despite only two top-10s in the tournament as a pro, Rose might still have an Open title in him after all.

    "I just think having made the cut number, it's a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday," Rose said.

    The weekend close continues a recent run of solid form for Rose, who won a few weeks back at Colonial and now has reached a career-best No. 2 in the world rankings.


    So the Champion Golfer of the Year walks into a coffee shop...

    Sadly, it seems we may not see these creative retirement plans come to fruition - at least not for a few years. But credit to Molinari for thinking outside the box, and credit to Wesley Bryan for a timely share.

    This week's award winners ... 


    Hair of the Dog: Eddie Pepperell. The 27-year-old Englishman admitted he was "a little hungover" during the final round, but he still put up the day's best score with a 4-under 67 that gave him a share of sixth and his first ever top-10 finish in a major. Drinks all around.

    Paris Bound?: Webb Simpson. The Players champ tied for 12th to move past Bryson DeChambeau at No. 8 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically. Schauffele moved to 11th, while Kisner moved to 13th.

    Quiet Consistency: Tony Finau. Finau tied for ninth at Carnoustie and has now cracked the top 10 in each of the three majors this year. In fact, six of his 10 career major starts have gone for T-18 or better. Perhaps something for Captain Furyk to consider.

    Quietly Slumping: Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard is barely a year removed from his watershed win, but he has now missed the cut in four straight majors and has missed six of nine cuts overall dating back to the Masters.

    Role Reversal: Molinari, who won The Open while playing alongside Tiger 12 years after he caddied for his brother, Edoardo, in a group with Woods at the 2006 Masters. Woods was the defending champ, and Edoardo was the reigning U.S. Amateur winner:

    King of Yelp: To the Carnoustie barber that gave Spieth a trim before the third round that set social media ablaze. While Spieth admitted it was a little "high and tight," it became the most famous £9 haircut in years.

    Make Your Own Bed: To the frat house of American stars that has become something of an Open annual tradition. While Spieth, Kisner and Zach Johnson fell short of winning the jug for the house, hopefully they all got a few good shots in on all-time goalie Jason Dufner during intra-squad soccer scrimmages.

    Kick Him Out: To the obnoxious fan that nearly derailed Tiger's final tee shot. One-upsmanship has become somewhat of a plague among American crowds, but Sunday showed that even the revered Scottish faithful have a few bad eggs in the bunch.

    Place Your Bets: With only 17 days until the opening round of the PGA Championship, the Westgate Las Vegas installed Dustin Johnson as a 12/1 co-favorite alongside Spieth and McIlroy. Woods headlines the group next in line at 16/1.


    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. For the second year in a row, Thomas' Open chances fell apart during a rainy second round. It was 67-80 at Birkdale, and this time 69-77 to miss the cut by a shot at Carnoustie. Watching what Rose did after finishing only one shot better through 36 holes only adds salt to the wound.

    Getty Images

    DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.

    While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.

    Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.

    McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

    Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.

    Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth

    16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

    18/1: Justin Rose

    20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day

    30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

    40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar

    60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson

    80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner

    100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman

    Getty Images

    Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.

    The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.

    A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.

    The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.

    That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.

    Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.