Notes Player Not Thinking of Retiring

By Associated PressJuly 28, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 US Senior OpenST. LOUIS, Mo. -- At 69 and still in great physical shape, Gary Player has no plans to slow down.
'I'm not only going to continue events like this (U.S. Senior Open), I'm going to continue the (Champions) tour,' Player said.
Player hopes to become the first golfer to win in six decades -- his first PGA victory was the 1958 Kentucky Derby Open, and his most recent Champions Tour win cam at the 1998 Northville Long Island Classic.
'I've broken my age this year around the world six times,' Player said. 'I'm still athletic enough to win. I haven't been playing particularly well this year, but golf changes in a matter of seconds, minutes.'
Gary Player received a surprise visitor during his return to Bellerive Country Club for the U.S. Senior Open -- the caddie from his 1965 U.S. Open victory here.
Frank Pagel was a 16-year-old working at Bellerive, when players used local caddies. Player drew Pagel's name out of a hat.
Pagel, now a 55-year-old computer architect, visited with Player at an appearance Tuesday night and again after Player met with the media Wednesday.
Pagel said he enjoyed caddying for Player and despite some nerves, avoided any major mistakes.
'He was in such a trance I don't think I could have done anything to bother him,' Pagel said.
For the first three rounds of the tournament, Player listened to the teenager's advice on clubs. But not in the final round.
'I'd say, 'It's a 4-iron,' and he'd say, 'I'm pumped -- it's a five,'' Pagel recalled.
Bellerive Country Club might favor players who hook the ball, but don't expect Bruce Lietzke to change his swing.
The defending U.S. Senior Open champ figures he's at a slight disadvantage on the lengthy layout because hitting a hook isn't his game.
'I'm the poster boy for muscle memory,' Lietzke said. 'I have one swing.'
That one swing -- a soft, arcing fade -- has served the 53-year-old Lietzke well in over three decades. He has won 13 PGA Tour and seven Champions events.
But certain courses simply aren't set up well for Lietzke's swing. Augusta National, site of the Master's, is one layout. Bellerive is another.
'I've resisted all the temptations of a swing guru,' Lietzke said. 'If my swing works well on most courses, except for a couple a year, I'm happy with that.'
One thing that has changed for Lietzke is his putting. Early in his career, he putted cross-handed, then went conventional. In 1991, he began using a long putter and has kept it ever since.
'I found I was a half-putt better per day with the long putter,' Lietzke said. 'By Sunday afternoon, that's two shots in your pocket. That's the difference in money and, sometimes, a trophy.'
Hometown favorites Hale Irwin and Jay Haas drew big crowds for their practice rounds, but Arnie's Army was still in full force.
Arnold Palmer hasn't won since taking the Crestar Classic in 1988. Still, huge crowds follow his every step, cheer wildly for every good shot. At 75, Palmer doesn't see himself as simply a ceremonial figure.
'I would certainly, as all of you know, want to play better than I've been playing,' Palmer said. 'But I'm almost to the point where, yeah, I'm here because in the back of my head I'm still stupid enough to think that I can win a golf tournament.'
Palmer acknowledged that 'everything would have to go right, and that is important to me, and when that doesn't happen, then I won't be here, and this may be my last, but I'm going to enjoy it.'
After second-place finishes in the last two Senior Opens, Tom Watson believes he has a chance to win this year, despite a nerve condition that is limiting power in this right arm.
Watson said the nerve problem is believed to stem from his neck. It affects not only his length off the tee, but even his putting because of some weakness in his right hand.
'It's strange playing golf when I don't have the horsepower on my right side,' Watson said.
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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, 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.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”