Seeing Red at Augusta - COPIED

By Associated PressApril 13, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- So much hype over this Masters. So many folks leaving early.
 
Even as Tiger Woods took a risky detour down the 10th fairway on his way to a theatrical par on the final hole, only a moderate-sized gallery hung around long enough Friday afternoon to surround the 18th green. Hundreds of fans carrying their folding chairs already were headed toward the exit on a quiet golf course.
 
A Masters that began with so much buzz had become little more than a murmur.
 
The Grand Slam that Woods said was easily within reason will have to start with the second-best comeback at Augusta National.
 
You can come back pretty quickly here, Woods said. This golf course, anything can happen.
 
Plenty of things already have'just not what anyone expected.
 
The 36-hole leader was Trevor Immelman, who only four months ago was in a hospital in South Africa to begin a speedy recovery from a benign tumor that doctors removed from his diaphragm. He put together his best start of the year, adding another 4-under 68 to build a one-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker.
 
This year is special, said Immelman, who was at 8-under 136. To shoot two 68s in the first two days is probably beyond my expectations, so Im pretty thrilled right now.
 
Woods only came to life when the wind died late in the afternoon. He stuffed his approach into 2 feet for a birdie on the 17th, then escaped with par on the final hole when he drove into the trees. Woods hit a low hook off the pine straw around tree trunks and into the 10th fairway, then hit a sand wedge that might have spun back closer to the hole if not for hitting Stuart Applebys ball.
 
No matter. Woods made the 8-footer for par and a 71.
 
Even so, he was at 1-under 143 and seven shots out of the lead. The largest 36-hole comeback in Masters history was Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, and that required a weekend collapse by Ken Venturi, who played that year as an amateur.
 
Im in good shape, Woods said, perhaps knowing something the 40,000 fans at Augusta didnt. Im obviously seven back. I need to play well. Weve got tougher conditions coming in. Ive just got to hang in there.
 
Woods rallied to win from six shots behind over the final two rounds in 2005, but he was tied for third. This time, he had a dozen players ahead of him, and they were no amateurs.
 
Phil Mickelson, who has won the green jacket two of the last four years, got enough out of his second round to post a bogey-free 68 and was three shots behind at 139 along with Ian Poulter of England and Steve Flesch, whose 67 was the best score of the week.
 
You want to stay close, said Mickelson, who is emerging as the favorite. You dont want to make any big mistakes and get way out.
 
Immelman set an early target.
 
Playing in the fourth group of the morning, before the wind began to rustle the pines, he made the turn in 35 and navigated the dangerous 11th hole with a 7-iron that stopped 5 feet away for birdie. And while the 28-year-old South African failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine, he atoned for that by closing with two birdies.
 
Immelman has never taken the lead into a weekend at any major. Returning from his Dec. 18 surgery, he has not finished among the top 40 in seven stroke-play events this year.
 
But he received strong advice from a couple of Masters champions this week, South African icon Gary Player and Ben Crenshaw, who have told him his polished swing is more than adequate.
 
The best players in the world get nervous and they feel pressure, Immelman said. I guess its just who can disguise it the best and who can handle it the best. Im thrilled with my play thus far, but theres a very long way to go. I cant sit back and put my feet up. Ive got to go out there and just try and play as well as I can the next couple of days.
 
Snedeker, the PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2007, turned in the craziest birdie of the round when he used his wedge to chip from the upper tier of the par-3 sixth green, a perfect play that rattled into the cup.
 
I was more nervous over that shot than I was all day, Snedeker said. Because I knew if I messed it up, people were going to have a field day with me on that one. I had to pull it off.
 
He wound up with a 68, and will play in the final group Saturday in his first Masters as a pro.
 
If I had told you at the beginning of the week that I thought I was going to be in second place, you probably would have thought I was crazy, Snedeker said. And I probably would have thought you were right.
 
And the odds that Woods would be seven shots behind?
 
They were even-money he would win the Masters, outrageous odds for golf, and one Las Vegas bookie had 9-to-2 odds against him winning the Grand Slam'all four majors in the same year.
 
Woods might have disguised his nerves, but not his frustration.
 
After a birdie from the trees, he again played the par-5 second hole conservatively by laying up, then dumped a wedge into the bunker and wound up with bogey. He was nine shots behind when he made the turn, then promptly three-putted for bogey from 55 feet on the 10th hole, misreading the break on his first putt by 6 feet.
 
He stood over a slippery 10-footer for par on the 11th, but knocked that in to keep from falling farther behind. He saved his day over the final two holes, particularly the 18th.
 
Still, he needs some help.
 
The forecast calls for thunderstorms on Saturday, with a cold front behind it.
 
You have to play well. I dont care who you are in this tournament, Woods said. You have to play well under tough conditions here, and thats kind of how its going to end up being. Youve just got to stay so patient around this golf course.
 
The cut was at 3-over 147, leaving a short field of 45 players for the weekend.
 
Fred Couples wont be among them for the first time in his career. The 92 Masters champion missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole and shot 72 to miss the cut by one shot, leaving him tied with Player at a record 23 consecutive cuts at Augusta.
 
Even so, Saturday was loaded with possibilities.
 
Woods has never won any of his 13 majors when trailing after 54 holes, and knew he had to make up ground on the 12 players ahead of him, not to mention major champions Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh who joined him at 1 under.
 
The group at 4-under 140 included Stephen Ames (70) and Paul Casey (69), with former Masters champion Mike Weir (68) among those another shot back.
 
Its too difficult a golf course to chase anybody, Casey said, worried more about who was ahead of him than behind him.
 
Poulter, however, wasnt ruling out the worlds No. 1 player.
 
Who knows with Tiger? Poulter said. He can go out there and put two 65s on the board, I know that. Weve all seen it before. But Augusta National is a difficult golf course.
 
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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.  

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    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?’”