Obama playing lots of golf with basketball stars while on vacation

By Associated PressAugust 12, 2016, 1:49 pm

CHILMARK, Mass. – When President Barack Obama goes on vacation, he plays a lot of golf. And when he plays, he likes to hang out with big-name basketball players.

Five days into his family vacation on Martha's Vineyard, the president has spent four of them hitting the links. While the president rarely plays basketball anymore, he could put together a pretty strong pickup team with his golf partners if he were so inclined.

In his first outing, Obama joined up with Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers. In the second round, it was Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, and in his third and fourth rounds, Obama's foursome included former all-stars Alonzo Mourning and Ray Allen. The latter two were playing partners during last year's vacation as well.

The round with Curry makes good on Obama's promise of a rematch when the Warriors visited the White House in February to be honored for winning the 2015 NBA championship.



''I heard during this summer, after our golf game, that Steph was using the excuse of Secret Service being intimidating for why he lost the match,'' Obama said at the time. ''That is not the case. But he will have another opportunity.''

When Obama plays golf, a handful of reporters, a camera team and photographers – known as the pool – are nearby, usually kept far enough away so the president doesn't see them, and vice versa. But the press was allowed to watch Obama on the first hole on the first day.

A skunk livened things up when it waddled by the press van on the second day of golf. No damage was done before it wandered over to an area where the Secret Service was checking cars for bombs before their drivers were allowed to enter the course's parking lot.

Many weekends in Washington, Obama also plays golf, but generally on just one of the days.

On Martha's Vineyard, Obama also has gone out twice for dinner. In the town of Oak Bluffs, he dined Sunday evening at Down Island, a new, trendy restaurant that has a $59 prix fixe menu.

Executive chef Scott Cummings told the Cape Cod Times the president shook hands with staff and posed for photos. The menu included island-caught striped bass, roasted carrots, octopus and chocolate pate. Obama tried all the dishes that were brought to him, Cummings said.

Hundreds lined the street hoping for a glimpse of the president and first lady, cheering enthusiastically as their motorcade sped away to drop them off on the other side of the island. It's friendly country for Democrats, though a couple of Trump supporters watched the motorcade Thursday behind a ''Trump'' sign.

The Clintons also frequented the vineyard during Bill Clinton's two terms, and the motorcade passed a permanent sign reading ''Hoo-rah for Bill.'' The sign was erected by the late Craig Kingsbury, an eccentric local who was the inspiration for Quint in the movie ''Jaws.'' Much of the movie was filmed on the island.

For their second dinner out, the Obamas headed back Tuesday to State Road restaurant in West Tisbury, which has become a yearly stop for them. Lobster salad, local greens, striped bass, monkfish, duck breast and cheeseburgers were on the menu.

The Obama's have vacationed every year but one on Martha's Vineyard. They generally keep a low profile, and indeed there were few people on the street in West Tisbury when they left the restaurant around 10:30 p.m.

On the day Obama didn't play golf, he and the first family went to a private beach. The White House said Thursday he and daughter Malia also went for a walk in the morning on a trail near the house the Obamas are renting. The White House doesn't disclose exactly where he is staying, but he's in the same neighborhood of a home the Obamas stayed at in 2014 and 2015. One of the local papers, the Martha's Vineyard Times, describes the home as containing seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, expansive views of Vineyard Sound, a swimming pool, a hot tub and a dual tennis-basketball court.

Obama has added a new event to this year's itinerary, a fundraiser Monday for the Democratic National Committee. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton will be on the island as well on August 20. Her campaign website stated that she'll be in Edgartown at the home of Carol and Frank Biondi, a former CEO for Viacom and Universal Studios. It's unclear for now whether the two politicians will spend any time together.

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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 all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

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

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 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, GolfChannel.com 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.