Players Hold Strong Memories of Stewart
Monday marked the five-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed Stewart and five others. Disney was the last tournament he played.
Three days after he missed the cut by one shot, Stewart boarded a private plane for a meeting on a golf course project in Dallas and then to play the Tour Championship in Houston. The plane lost cabin pressure and flew uncontrolled across the country until it ran out of fuel and plunged into a field in South Dakota.
Azinger and Stewart were partners for the first two pro-am rounds at Disney that year. Even though he shot 71-71, Stewart managed to make headlines by speaking in a mock Chinese accent on ESPN during a rain delay to retaliate for comments British golf analyst Peter Alliss had made about the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
'I watched him do it,' Azinger said, smiling and shaking his head. 'He comes over to me and says, 'Hey, that was pretty funny, huh?' I told him, 'Congratulations, Payne. You just insulted about 3 billion people.''
Azinger remembers the loose lips, the pranks, the jabs. He remembers their favorite fishing spot behind the fifth hole on the Magnolia course, where they once came across a rattlesnake on a dirt path and hit 1-irons at it. Ask him about the Ryder Cup, and Azinger talks about the music Stewart brought: 'Born in the USA' blared down the hallways of the hotel.
Tom Lehman remembers, too.
He delivered a powerful tribute to Stewart during a chilling ceremony before the start of the '99 Tour Championship, where an eerie fog shrouded the first fairway as players sat in shock. Lehman tries to have dinner with Stewart's widow, Tracey, every time he comes to Orlando for Bay Hill or Disney.
'I think about Payne fairly frequently,' Lehman said. 'It could be anything ' highlights of a golf tournament, a guy in knickers, thinking about the Ryder Cup, coming to Orlando, getting on a private jet. You don't want to forget. I don't know if you want to dwell on what happened five years ago, but you don't want to forget.'
Anyone who goes in the locker room at Disney cannot forget Stewart.
Past champions have their own row of lockers. Stewart's locker has a glass door to show its contents ' a pair of red plus-fours on a hanger, a white shirt with his silhouette stitched in navy blue. A white tam-o'-shanter cap is on a hook above white shoes and a worn glove. A box of golf balls is on the top shelf.
One look at the balls ' a black box of Titleist Tour Prestige, a wound golf ball now obsolete ' was a reminder of how long ago it seems that the reigning U.S. Open champion died.
Even more startling was to see Stewart's son on the practice range early last week. Aaron is 15, a sophomore on the junior varsity golf team at Olympia High in Orlando.
'He's a big boy now,' Azinger said. 'He's got a nice swing ' a two-plane swing, just like his daddy.'
On Sunday, some volunteers wore a picture of Stewart around their necks, urging fans not to forget.
But there was another part of Disney that made Azinger think of his dear friend.
This usually is the time when the PGA of America interviews candidates for Ryder Cup captain. Among those under consideration are Azinger, Lehman, Mark O'Meara, Fred Couples, perhaps even Larry Nelson.
The Ryder Cup was not even mentioned last week. The PGA of America is huddled at headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, trying to figure out who should get the job.
'They're in a jam, because Payne Stewart would be the logical choice,' Azinger said. 'And now, they don't know what to do. He wanted to be the captain in Ireland. He had already looked that far out. Unfortunately, he isn't here.'
Azinger said he already has talked to PGA president M.G. Orender, but he doesn't want to be captain in 2006. He also said Tracey Stewart wanted to see Azinger as captain in Ireland, to take over for her husband.
'I'm just not quite ready to do it,' Azinger said.
Stewart epitomized the Ryder Cup. He was intense, patriotic, never lacking in sportsmanship. In his last match in 1999, Stewart conceded a birdie putt to Colin Montgomerie to spare the Scotsman from further heckling at Brookline.
He was a regular in Ireland before the British Open, endearing himself on the golf course and in pubs alike. Stewart would have been the logical choice for the '06 matches on the Emerald Isle.
He would have been the only choice.
'A no-brainer,' Lehman said.
Hal Sutton was walking down his hallway this summer when he saw a framed picture from the '99 Ryder Cup. There was Stewart in the middle of the celebration, spraying champagne from the balcony of The Country Club after a stunning U.S. comeback.
Sutton brought the picture to Oakland Hills and hung it in the team room.
'That picture showed passion. It showed that he cared,' Sutton said. 'I wanted to remember him in that way.'
Stewart left memories for everyone.
He also left the PGA of America without a simple choice for Ryder Cup captain.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Woods: New putter should help on slower greens
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.
The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.
“To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”
To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.
“You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”
For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.
Woods: Open best chance for long-term major success
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods is more than a decade removed from his last major title, but he said Tuesday that The Open is the major that gives him the best chance for long-term success.
“I would say yes, because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links-style golf course,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference. “It certainly can be done.”
Woods pointed to the late-career success for both Greg Norman (2008) and Tom Watson (2009), both of whom challenged for the claret jug deep into their 50s.
“Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course,” he said.
That’s certainly not the case, however, at the Masters, where bombers long have thrived, or the U.S. Open, which places a premium on long and straight driving.
“You get to places like Augusta National, which is just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately,” he said. “But links-style courses, you can roll the ball. I hit a 3-iron that went down there 330. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”
"Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel
Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie
Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open
To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.
“It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”
Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:
- Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
- Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
- A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.
“This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like
that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange
“I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico
Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.
How to watch The Open on TV and online
You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.
Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie
In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.
Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:
(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)
Monday, July 16
GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tuesday, July 17
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Wednesday, July 18
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Thursday, July 19
GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Friday, July 20
GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Saturday, July 21
GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Sunday, July 22
GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)