Sergio Gives Oak Tree Identity All Its Own

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill -- Their eyes scan from tree to tree, ultimately homing in on what seems like a nondescript old oak.
 
And then, spectators ask: 'Is this the 'Sergio Tree?''
 
Pebble Beach has its famed 18th hole. Augusta National has the Eisenhower Tree. And Medinah Country Club has an oak about eight feet to the right of the fairway near a bend and a slope along the 453-yard 16th hole.
 
It is about 100 years old and showing its age, with several large scars where there were branches. It stands about 45 feet tall, its trunk about three feet in diameter.
 
There's nothing unusual about it except its place in golf lore, because this tree was the site of Sergio Garcia's improbable shot during the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship.
 
Who can forget, especially with the PGA back at Medinah.
 
'A lot of the shots have changed since 1999,' Garcia said after Thursday's first round.
 
Earlier in the week, he revisited his past when he took a look at the old tree.
 
'I remember three or four weeks ago, before coming in here, they were telling me that the tree was struggling a little bit and they've had to overseed that little spot because everybody's been hitting from it,' he said.
 
As a 19-year-old competing in his second major as a pro, Garcia grabbed the lead after the first round in 1999 but trailed Tiger Woods by as many as five strokes on the final day before making a charge.
 
Down two on the 16th tee, Garcia seemed to knock himself out of contention when the ball sailed wide right and settled between the roots of the tree, 189 yards from the pin and near the bottom of a steep slope. The green was hidden.
 
Instead, he -- and the tree -- earned a spot in history.
 
Garcia grabbed his 6-iron and closed his eyes as he made contact. Then, he sprinted, jumped and scissors-kicked as the ball somehow made its way to the green.
 
It was a memorable shot, a memorable celebration.
 
Garcia saved par, but Woods took the title by one stroke for his second win at a major. He's going for No. 12 this week while Garcia, with 11 top-10 finishes, is still searching for his first.
 
Seven years later at No. 16, hole marshal Robert Bradshaw hears the question 'about once every four, five minutes.'
 
One spectator wonders why there's no sign marking the tree. Hey, Arnold Palmer got a plaque at Royal Birkdale for his wondrous shot nearly 40 years earlier, when he uprooted a shrub with a 6-iron.
 
Another fan, Ron Newman, wants to know the distance from the tee to the oak.
 
'Actually, it was even more (hectic) on the practice-round days,' Bradshaw says.
 
On those days, people asked if they could touch the tree. Bradshaw's answer: No.
 
'It would be nice to,' he says.
 
When he arrived at the course, Dudley Colton of Denver headed for the tree -- just like Garcia's shot. A national accounts manager for the Johns Manville insulation and roofing company, he's here with customers.
 
And he's in awe.
 
'This is probably like (seeing) Tiger Stadium or Yankee Stadium,' he says.
 
He looks at the tree, looks at the slope and shakes his head.
 
As impressive as Garcia's shot looks on TV, the view changes up close.
 
'It's more impressive,' Colton said. 'On TV, people don't see the elevation. They don't see everything he was faced with. It looked tough on TV. But to see it here, it just made it more incredible -- especially for a 19-year-old.'
 
Colton said he would take a drop rather than attempt a shot like that.
 
Ron Newman of nearby Elgin, Ill., said he would probably break his wrists if he tried, so he would punch the ball onto the fairway, instead.
 
Garcia was in contention at a major so he went for it. And after imitating a weekend golfer on his tee shot, he did something incredible.
 
Now, weekend golfers try to copy him. And a nondescript oak has an identity -- the 'Sergio tree.'
 
'People naturally want to go and try that shot, just for the heck of it,' course superintendent Tom Lively says. 'There are always people who have to do that.'
 
The ground around the oak takes a beating. Sometimes, a new patch of sod is needed because people keep chopping away.
 
But the tree itself? It's OK.
 
Lightning and wind damage killed some branches over the years, but overall, the old oak is healthy. Removing it was never a consideration.
 
'The leaves are trimmed and it looks great,' Lively said.
 
That shot simply looks daunting.
 
'It's probably half skill and half luck,' Newman's friend Tom McTavish says, before changing his mind. 'Probably 60 percent luck. If he was 29, he probably wouldn't have done it. He would have pitched it up, like everyone else. You're bulletproof when you're 19 -- at least that's what I always thought.'
 
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    Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

    Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

    Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



    Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

    He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

    "I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

    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)

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    The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

    Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

    What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

    What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

    How old is it?

    It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

    Where is it played?

    There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

    Where will it be played this year?

    At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

    Who has won The Open on that course?

    Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

    Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

    Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

    Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

    This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

    Who has won this event the most?

    Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

    What about the Morrises?

    Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

    Have players from any particular country dominated?

    In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

    Who is this year's defending champion?

    That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

    What is the trophy called?

    The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

    Which Opens have been the most memorable?

    Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

    When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

    Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.