Notes: R&A reviews an Open return to Northern Ireland

By Associated PressJuly 13, 2011, 8:49 pm

SANDWICH, England – The last time the British Open was held outside Britain was 60 years ago, when Max Faulkner won at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The Royal & Ancient has been asked over the years if it would ever go back.

The question takes on new meaning these days.

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland won the U.S. Open last year at Pebble Beach. Then it was Rory McIlroy winning the U.S. Open last month at Congressional. Only one player from Britain – Paul Lawrie of Scotland in 1999 at Carnoustie – has won a major in the last 15 years.

Is it time?

“Obviously, there’s much emotion about Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy’s victories and why don’t we go back to Northern Ireland and perhaps Portrush in particular,” R&A chief Peter Dawson said Wednesday. “And I understand that. You can’t, however, hold the Open on where players come from. I think that should be obvious to anyone.”

Dawson said although Portrush might be strong enough to hold the Open, there are concerns whether it has enough hotels and roads for such a big event, and whether it will be attractive to corporate sponsors and the fans.

“Not ruling it out by any stretch of the imagination,” Dawson said. “But it would have to meet all those criteria, and I don’t think it’s something that’s going to be in any way imminent. But it’s certainly something we’ll have a look at again in view of the success of the golfers from that part of the world.”

Turnberry was out of the rotation for 15 years because the roads were deemed inadequate along that part of the Ayrshire coast. Royal Liverpool went nearly 40 years without an Open because there wasn’t enough room on the property. Both those situations were remedied and held memorable championships with strong crowds.

“At Royal Portrush, there is the second course there, so there’s not a land issue on site,” Dawson said. “It’s more road access, quantity of hotels, what would the level of corporate support be, what would the crowd size be, things of that nature.”


STRICKER SCHEDULE: The record shows Steve Stricker plays his best golf at the British Open when he eases his way into a week of links golf. He played in the final group at Carnoustie in 2007 and tied for eighth, and a year later tied for seventh at Royal Birkdale.

Then he decided to play in the John Deere Classic the week before the Open and won. He came to Turnberry and tied for 52nd. He had to return to the John Deere to defend last year, won again, then tied for 55th at St. Andrews.

Sure enough, Stricker is coming off a third successive win at the John Deere and arrived at Royal St. George’s late Monday afternoon.

“Yeah, I’ve looked at that,” Stricker said. “But I feel good. I feel ready.”


WHO IS IT? Graeme McDowell was about to hit a wedge to the green from the right rough on the second hole during Wednesday’s practice round when he suddenly backed off the ball.

His cell phone was ringing, and McDowell fumbled in his pocket for it before handing it to his caddie to answer.

“We saw you a couple times,” the caddie told the caller. “You didn’t see us?”

Behind McDowell was something else not normally seen on the golf course during a major championship. John Daly, a two-time British Open champion, was puffing away on a cigarette, not even bothering to remove it from his mouth as he hit his second shot.


BAD MEMORIES: Thomas Bjorn isn’t the only player to return to Royal St. George’s with some memories he would like to erase. Bjorn gets the most attention because he had a two-shot lead on the 70th hole and took three shots to get out of a bunker on the 16th, making double bogey and eventually finishing one shot behind Ben Curtis.

And then there is Jerry Kelly.

Eight years ago, Kelly hit his opening tee shot into the rough and began chopping away with limited success. He wound up making an 11 on the first hole, shot 86 and had to withdraw with an injury.

As luck would have it – or someone’s sick sense of humor – Kelly will be hitting the opening shot Thursday morning.

“A cruel bit of lovely irony,” Kelly said with a grin. “I think it’s fantastic they’ve given me that opportunity. I think it’s an honor, I really do, to start off the 140th Open Championship.”

No scars from the last time he played that hole in competition?

“I’ve been licking my chops,” he said. “I’ve thought about that plenty.”


WATNEY’S COLLEGE LESSON: As the Americans take a tumble in the world ranking and struggle in the majors, some believe they are falling behind in world golf because too many of their players waste early years going to college instead of turning pro immediately.

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy turned pro right out of high school. Matteo Manassero of Italy won two tournaments before he turned 18 and still doesn’t have his driver’s license.

Nick Watney was quick to point out some other examples to poke holes in that theory.

“I wouldn’t say the college system doesn’t work because Graeme McDowell went to school in the States (Alabama-Birmingham),” he said. “I think Rory McIlroy is a very special player. You can’t grow players like that. I think things are cyclical. Luke Donald went to college in the States (Northwestern). Maybe the college system is working well. The Europeans are coming over.”


MEN ONLY: Royal St. George’s is another club on the British Open rotation that doesn’t allow female members, although the issue has not gained the same kind of traction as when Martha Burk campaigned about the all-male membership at Augusta National nine years ago.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson didn’t add much to the conversation Wednesday, despite a few more stories in the newspapers.

“I’ve seen articles about this again this morning,” he said. “I think I’ve been asked this question so often now that I really have nothing new to say. And from what I’ve read in the papers this morning, nor has anyone else.”

Another reporter asked what message it would send if Rory McIlroy’s win at the U.S. Open would inspire girls and boys, and whether it was a poor message to any young girls about the male-only clubs for a British Open.

“I actually don’t think it is in any way material to whether girls take up the game or not,” Dawson said. “In my experience, it’s not an issue people talk to me about very much, other than in a gathering like this, if I must be totally honest about it.”

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take an four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up once to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made XX birdies and just XX bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentianian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.  

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 8-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman, and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year. 

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th. 

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

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McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.

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McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."