Notes Slumans Back and Lefty Goes Left

By Associated PressMay 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jeff Sluman couldn't even finish last week in New Orleans, forced to withdraw during the final round with a bad back.
After two days of treatment and a couple more of just being careful, the 47-year-old veteran is having little problems in the Wachovia Championship. A 2-under 70 Friday left him tied for eighth at 141, four shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
Sluman would have been much closer if not for a double bogey on the 18th hole.
'I was happy with it,' the 1988 PGA champ said. 'I really wasn't obviously happy with the way I finished, but I hit the shots the way I wanted. So overall, I got no complaints.'
Particularly after his injury last Sunday. He went back home to Chicago and did some rehab on his back, then came to Quail Hollow in time to play three holes Tuesday. He got through the pro-am with no flare-ups, and so far, he hasn't felt the pain through two rounds of the tournament, including a brisk, windy day Friday.
'It seems pretty good,' Sluman said. 'If it wasn't going to bother me today, then I'm probably home free for the most part - if I just don't something stupid with it.'
His problems on the final hole certainly weren't unique. The par-4 played at 478 yards in the second round, with a steady breeze blowing right into the player's faces. Sluman's drive found the creek down the left side, and after a drop, he hacked it out of the rough and still had about 120 yards left to the green.
He pitched on and two-putted for his 6.
'This golf course setup is fantastic, the conditions are playing firm and fast,' Sluman said. 'Now there's some skill involved. Let's see if you can control your ball flight. I think all in all, it was sort of prime out there today.'
And he's making the most of a new putting stroke. Sluman went to the claw putting grip in New Orleans and has enjoyed the results.
'I'm rolling the ball, I think, like I used to, at least,' he said. 'I've made a lot of putts, and hit a lot of good putts that came close to going in, which I haven't seen, quite frankly, in a number of years.'
Chris DiMarco isn't painfree, even while his game sure is.
The runner-up to Tiger Woods in the Masters nearly pulled out of the Wachovia Championship before it began, troubled by a sore neck. He made it to the first tee Thursday and managed a 2-over 74, then really got going in the second round.
Thanks to an eagle-birdie-birdie run late in his final nine, DiMarco tied Greg Owen and D.J. Trahan for low round of the day with a 67, moving him to 3 under and four shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
'I made about a 70-footer on No. 5 for eagle, chipped in for birdie on No. 6,' DiMarco said. 'Playing those holes 4 under usually helps the score pretty good.'
He's hopeful more treatment on his neck will help for the weekend.
'It hurt out there today,' he said. 'Obviously, looking up there and seeing good shots makes the pain a little bit less. And obviously, it didn't affect my play too much.'
Phil Mickelson was in contention, 2 under on the day to move within sight of the leaders.
One swing brought his progress to a screeching halt.
Lefty blocked a 6-iron well left on No. 17 and his ball found the water, leading to a double bogey. More troubles on 18 gave him a bogey and left him at even-par heading into the weekend.
'It was a tough course today with the wind,' Mickelson said. 'It played very difficult. But there were some low scores out there, too. Jeff Sluman in the group in front of me played pretty well, and Sergio (Garcia), the leader, he played under par. So it was out there.'
When asked about his tee shot on the 17th, Mickelson cut the question short.
'I knocked it in the water, made double. It happens,' he said.
One of his playing partners, Jonathan Kaye, also knocked it in the hazard there.
'Jonathan Kaye hit a good shot right in the middle of the green, landed on the front third and it still went in the water, so go figure,' Mickelson said.
Mercifully, the wind that the morning groups faced calmed later in the day, leaving the closing holes for the two-tee start - Nos. 9, 17 and 18 - a bit more playable.
At one point, the scoring average on the par-3 17th was 3.8. Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot in the water and made a double bogey, but he fared better than six players who made 6. Jimmy Walker and Brian Bateman did it in the same group.
Walker put it in the water short, and Bateman's shot bounced across the left side of the green before rolling off into the hazard. Daniel Chopra, Cameron Beckman, Tom Pernice Jr. and Ryan Palmer also made triple bogeys.
'It's downwind today,' Jeff Sluman said. 'We've got our names on our bags, so we're supposed to be able to hit the green. But it's still a very difficult shot, because the wind is gusting a little bit here and there, so you've got to get up and decide what kind of shot you want to hit.
'And you're still not guaranteed it's going to end up good.'
That also was the case at the ninth, a par-4 that was listed at 486 yards and left many players hitting fairway metals for their second shots. Pernice couldn't reach it even then, and many others were in the same predicament.
'I annihilated a drive, low and left, and it got caught up in the rough,' Dennis Paulson said. 'But I had only 213 yards to the front edge, and I just crushed a 2-iron, and it still came up 8 yards short of the green.'
Beckman, also in Paulson's group, had 270 yards left for his approach to the hole, set 32 yards deep in the 37-yard green.
'It's just playing ridiculous, and it's a bad pin for how it's playing, too,' Paulson said. 'They had a couple of holes that were marginal setup today.'
He added No. 6 to the list of problems, a par-3 that measured 263 yards.
'Just your average par-3,' Paulson quipped. 'We all hit it on the green there, and I made birdie, but it's brutal.'
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Wachovia Championship

  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship

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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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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.