O'Meara, Calcavecchia near lead at rain-delayed Sr. Open

By Associated PressJuly 30, 2011, 1:16 am

TOLEDO, Ohio – Olin Browne likes old stuff. That’s a perfect attitude for someone playing on the over-50 tour.

On a course he didn’t know but has come to love, Browne followed a record-tying 64 with a solid 69 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over a talent-laden leaderboard in the rain-delayed second round of the U.S. Senior Open.

“I really like this old style,” he said of venerable Inverness Club.

Mark O’Meara, who shot a 68, was one of a number of major championship winners lurking close to Browne. He was one stroke back.

“Eight-under after two rounds around this golf course is good,” O’Meara said. “I’ve got my work cut out for me because there’s a lot of good players on that leaderboard.”

Browne, who led by two strokes after matching the tournament’s low first-round score, had a double-bogey and a bogey but added five birdies– including 3s on the two closing par 4s. He was at 9-under 133 at Inverness, which has hosted four U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, a U.S. Amateur and the 2003 U.S. Senior Open.

Inverness, famous as the first club to officially welcome pros to compete at a U.S. Open in 1920, is growing on Browne.

“I hadn’t played here before,” he said after completing his second round under cloudy skies. “I wasn’t here for the PGAs and I wasn’t 50 in ’03. It’s just a really cool layout. I love the way the holes are framed. I love how the greens are set up.”

No wonder he likes it so much: He’s been tearing it up.

Then again, he played a course softened by 4 inches of rain in the last week. The forecast calls for high heat and humidity the next two days, which could turn greens that have been balky into glass.

O’Meara, winner of the 1998 Masters and British Open, escaped a couple of shots that were offline to remain on Browne’s heels. He made a slight change in his swing on Tuesday after flying home from the Senior British Open the previous day.

“I’ve got to be committed to go ahead and make sure I’m aggressive through the ball,” he said, as if reminding himself. “Today when I did it right, I hit a lot of quality shots. But there were a couple of times I hit wayward ones.”

Mark Calcavecchia (67), Joey Sindelar (66) and Michael Allen (69) were at 135. Peter Senior (67) was three shots behind Browne, with Corey Pavin(69), Trevor Dodds (69) and Kiyoshi Murota (69) at 137.

There’s no real secret to winning a major, said Calcavecchia, who won the 1989 British Open.

“You can’t make big, big numbers on the weekend,” said Calcavecchia, in his second full year on the Champions Tour. “It’s not like it’s rocket science or noon news. Doubles or triple (bogeys) are never good, no matter what day you make them. But especially on the weekend of a major.”

He set the stage for the final two rounds by playing bogey-free with four birdies.

A 2-hour, 45-minute rain delay in the morning prevented the last seven threesomes from finishing the second round. Play was suspended by darkness, with those left on the course to return early Saturday morning.

Among the other household names within six shots of the lead were John Huston, Larry Nelson, Jeff Sluman,Jay Haas, Nick Price, Steve Pate, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer and Russ Cochran, the winner of last week’s Senior British Open.

Browne said after the opening round that leading the tournament didn’t mean much with three rounds left. Then he went out and played well enough to hold onto the top spot.

He was level par through his first 16 holes, but then hit a 6-iron from 185 yards to 5 feet at 17 for birdie. At the final hole, he hit a big drive which left him only 86 yards to the green. His wedge came to rest 6 feet from the hole before he hit another short putt.

The 52-year-old, who lives in Florida, hasn’t won a tournament since the 2005 Deutsche Bank Championship. His other PGA Tour victories came at the 1998 Travelers and 1999 Colonial.

He is winless in 50 starts on the senior circuit, although he started this year with five top-10s finishes.

But he feels like he has an ally in Inverness.

Allen and Sindelar, among the last players to conclude the second round before darkness fell, took different routes to the same 36-hole score. Allen pulled even at 9 under with Browne only to bogey two of the final three holes. Sindelar, who played his collegiate golf at Ohio State, birdied the last two holes in a 66 that matched the low round of the day.

“In the middle of that back nine, you hang, you hang, and you try to get to a place where you get close enough to have something happen,” Sindelar said.

The top of the leaderboard is packed with players who have captured major championships before turning 50: Pavin (1995 U.S. Open), Jones (1996 U.S. Open), Nelson (1981 and `83 PGA Championships, ’83 U.S. Open), Sluman (1988 PGA), Price (1992 and `94 PGA, ’94 British Open), Langer (1985 and ’93 Masters) and Kite (1992 U.S. Open).

Price, six shots back after a 69, isn’t conceding anything.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend now,” he said. “That is the best I’ve played out of the last five rounds. I’m going to have to shoot low on the weekend, but if I hit the ball like I did today I’ve got a chance.”

So do a lot of others.

Getty Images

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.  

@radiosarks on Twitter

Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

Getty Images

Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

 

Getty Images

Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.