Notes US Team Teed-Off
Not everyone was amused by a package of tees being passed around Mount Juliet during the American Express Championship that had the Ryder Cup score - Europe 18 1/2, USA 9 1/2 - painted on them, blue scores for the shorter tees, red scores for the longer tees.
The tees came from Ian Poulter, who wasn't eligible to play the World Golf Championship event. He left instructions for players to leave plenty of them around the tee box.
'I'm not using any of those,' said Thomas Bjorn, a vice captain for Europe at Oakland Hills. 'I think that would be just a little bit too much of an insult.'
Bjorn is one of the Europeans who could needle the Americans without hard feelings because he is close friends with many of them. Still, he said it was important to remain gracious in victory.
'We want to win, America wants to win, but we're all friends,' Bjorn said. 'When it's over, it's over. But you've got to be careful, because there's a fine line between joking around and just stepping over that line. And these golf tees are just balancing on that line, I think.'
Chris Riley also was perturbed at Mount Juliet, which is rare for him.
'I've had a couple of little cheap shots this week,' Riley said. 'Thomas Levet comes up to me and says, 'You know what the Europeans say: You guys were favored on paper, but good thing we play on grass.' I didn't need to hear that. I think he was just trying to be friendly, but I didn't take it that way.
'He had another one, but I think it's the French sense of humor. He thought it was funny.'
Tiger Woods hasn't played the PGA Grand Slam the last two years because he hasn't won a major, but he might have a chance to go back this year.
U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen said he might not be able to play because his wife is expecting their second child on Nov. 25. The Grand Slam was moved up one week to Nov. 23-24 at Poipu Bay in Hawaii.
'If the baby comes early, that might change things,' Goosen said. 'Otherwise, I wouldn't play.'
The first alternate is Ernie Els, but the Big Easy already said he would not play.
Next in line is Woods. He won the Grand Slam in 1998 as an alternate, the start of his five straight victories at the two-day event for the major championship winners. Woods is playing at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan the previous week, so Hawaii would be on the way to California, where he has the Skins Game on Thanksgiving weekend.
After Woods on the alternate list is Justin Leonard, followed by Shaun Micheel.
Vijay Singh feels the world ranking system works against him because he plays so often, and was encouraged to hear of a proposed change - a maximum of 25 events a year counting toward the ranking.
But the Fijian might have to wait.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says the proposal is under review by a committee of the world ranking board, and by the sound of things, it might not go much further. The argument against the change is that players would not be penalized for their worst events, such as missing the cut.
'There continues to be a strong feeling on the technical committee that every shot should count,' Finchem said. 'We are continuing to evaluate it. At this point, it will be at least next year before they make a final decision.'
The good news for Finchem and the board is that complaints about the ranking have gone down.
'I do think people accept the rankings because it's such an acceptable list when you look at the first 20 names,' he said. 'People sitting at home and talking about how to do things differently, we don't get that as much any more.'
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
Steve Williams can be aloof even among his peers, although the caddie for Tiger Woods was a big hit at the Ryder Cup for taking a stand against the PGA of America on wearing shorts.
Williams said he requested shorts while filling out clothing sizes, noting that it could be warm in Detroit and that some caddies would be going 36 holes a day. When he got his uniforms, only pants were included. Williams decided to wear shorts, anyway, and said he was confronted by PGA officials.
'They told me I couldn't wear shorts,' Williams said. 'I told them to find another caddie for Tiger Woods.'
The next day, several other caddies, such as Frank Williams (Stewart Cink) and John Wood (Chris Riley), also began wearing shorts. When European captain Bernhard Langer purchased shorts for his caddies, the PGA had no choice.
Wood said the caddies gave Williams a new nickname - Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer who refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Alabama in 1955.
'Being from New Zealand, Stevie wasn't sure who that was,' Wood said.
This wasn't the first debate over shorts for either the PGA of America or Williams.
Two caddies tried to wear shorts at the '96 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and were ordered to change into pants.
And five years ago at 'Showdown at Sherwood' between Woods and David Duval, a PGA Tour rules official ordered Williams to change into pants or he would no longer work on tour.
Williams refused, and the threat was rescinded when Woods told the official, 'Guess I'll be playing the European tour next year.'
With the American Express Championship going to The Grove outside London in 2006, that means the World Golf Championships played in Britain & Ireland will have been played on courses designed by Americans - Kyle Phillips (The Grove) and Jack Nicklaus (Mount Juliet). ... The Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews is being sold for about $65 million to a partnership that includes Herb Kohler, who owns Whistling Straits. ... Fred Funk's last two PGA Tour victories have been opposite-field events - 1998 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic (British Open) and 2004 Southern Farm Bureau Classic (American Express).
STAT OF THE WEEK
Vijay Singh has won 11 times since the age of 40. Sam Snead holds the PGA Tour record with 17 victories in his 40s.
'The next step is some of our younger guys winning a major. No disrespect to Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton, but there are better players than them on our tour.' - Raymond Russell of Scotland.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”
Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.
Hoylake in 2006.
That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.
So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?
“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”
With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?
“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”