Notes Tales of Iceman and Snowmen

By Associated PressApril 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Henrik Stenson was one of the popular darkhorse picks for this year's Masters. He did nothing in the first round to prove the prognostigators wrong.
The big-hitting Swede, who won the Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this year, shot even-par 72 to get in contention, three strokes off the lead.
'I'm happy with level par because the game doesn't feel 100 percent and the swing is so-so,' said Stenson, who came into the week ranked sixth in the world. 'But I made some good putts and was pretty sharp around the greens, which is why I managed to keep it together as well as that.'
Stenson has been down on his game of late, saying he was hoping simply for a top-10 finish at Augusta this year. He said he flared a couple irons out to the right in his opening round -- a sign that things aren't quite yet worked out.
'It comes with not feeling comfortable over the ball, so I'm going to the range right now and keep working on my game,' he said. 'That's all I can do and hopefully I can feel a little better tomorrow.'
Fred Couples' achy back held up through the round. His pride might be a different matter.
The 1992 champion came to Augusta having played only two competitive rounds this year because of severe back problems. He held up fine through the first nine, coming in with a 37. But the wheels came off on the back nine, and he finished his round in particularly brutal fashion.
After pushing his drive on the par-4 18th into trees off the right side of the fairway, Couples' second shot sailed over the fairway and onto a hill that runs between the 9th and 18th greens.
That wasn't the worst of it.
After several seconds, the ball began rolling slowly down the hill. A security guard chased after it, bellowing at fans to get out of the way. It finally came to a rest at the bottom of the hill.
Couples hit a low shot that landed on the green and drew loud applause from the adoring fans. But a few seconds later, the ball began another slow roll and trickled off the green.
Couples chipped to within 8 feet of the pin, and two-putted from there for a double-bogey that left him at 4-over 76.
Gary Player would probably be the first to tell people that his mind is sharp as a tack. Funny, then, to see him forget to bring something pretty basic to the course Thursday -- like a ball marker.
The 71-year-old former champion held up play for a brief moment on the first green when he realized he had nothing to mark his ball on the green.
'No big deal,' said Vaughn Taylor, who was playing with the wee South African. 'You just kind of chuckle about it and play on.'
Player was among the older champions that members were targeting a few years ago, when they sent out letters subtly suggesting they consider not taking advantage of one of the tournament's most storied traditions -- lifetime exemptions for all winners.
Player will have none of it, at least not yet. His goal is to play this year and next so he can say he competed in 51 Masters, which would be one more than Arnold Palmer.
As he found out once again Thursday, getting those rounds in is work.
'This place has turned out to be one of the three toughest courses in the world,' said Player, who shot an 83 that included two 7's on the back nine.
The other two on his list: The Links in South Africa and Carnoustie, the home of this year's British Open.
There were seven 8s logged on Thursday, none uglier or more ill-timed than Padraig Harrington's on the par-5 15th.
It turned a promising round, albeit one in which he didn't chip or putt very well, into a semi-disaster. He finished at 5-over 77.
Harrington's strategy going into the narrow green surrounded by two small ponds was to avoid hitting long, and risking the ball rolling into the back water.
'I succeeded very nicely,' he said ... but only by sticking in the water in front.
Another ugly 8 was logged by amateur Casey Watabu. He hit his tee shot on No. 12 short and watched it slowly and painfully roll backward into the water. Later came an instant replay, after he skulled his drop short of the green and down the hill, also into the drink.
His fifth went into the sand in back of the green, then he got out and two-putted for the quintuple bogey. It was still five shots short of the famous 13 logged there by Tom Weiskopf in 1980.
The first round of the Masters offered more proof that team play and medal play are two completely different animals.
Of the nine below-par rounds shot on Thursday, four belonged to Americans who were on the team that got blown out in the Ryder Cup in Ireland last fall.
Brett Wetterich was a co-leader at 3-under. Augusta native Vaughn Taylor, Zach Johnson and J.J. Henry all went 1 under. Those four combined to go 1-5-5 last year in America's 18 1/2 -9 1/2 blowout loss.
Meanwhile, two stars from the European victory -- Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal -- shot 76 and 74, respectively.
Craig Stadler, the 1982 champion, spent most of the day on the leaderboard. A double-bogey on 16 knocked him off, but he still shot 74 -- ahead of other past champions like Phil Mickelson and only one stroke behind Tiger Woods.
'The golf course gets harder and longer, but I don't get any younger,' said the 53-year-old Stadler.
He wasn't the only veteran to enjoy a good day.
Fuzzy Zoeller also spent much of the day under par and finished with a 74.
At the end, the 1979 champion made a comment sure to go over well with the Augusta brass: 'Washington Road is softer than the No. 1 green,' he said. 'That's the hardest green I think I've ever seen.'
Tom Watson, the 57-year-old two-time champion, finished at 75, and Ben Crenshaw shot 76. With scores not plummeting, all these past champions could have a chance at making the cut.
'Last year, I actually hit it better and shot 77 and 78,' Stadler said. 'It was nice to kind of hang in there.'
Fred Funk had the worst collapse of the day, turning a front-side 36 into an 82. ... Ian Woosnam withdrew with a bad back before teeing off...Former two-time champion Seve Ballersteros, playing for the first time in four years, shot a 14-over 86.
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    'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

    By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

    “The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

    Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

    Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

    A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

    "Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

    Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

    He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

    Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

    “It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

    "The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

    In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

    “I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

    The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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    Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

    Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

    Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

    “Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

    The problem was an expired visa.

    Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

    No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

    His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

    One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

    His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

    “Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

    He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

    “It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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    'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

    Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

    “The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

    The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

    “That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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    Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

    “They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

    “The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”