Spittle takes lead at Dick's Sporting Goods Open

By Associated PressAugust 30, 2015, 1:33 am

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - For Canadian Rod Spittle, just playing on the Champions Tour at age 60 is old hat that never gets old. Now, he finds himself in a most unusual place - alone in the lead for the first time heading to Sunday.

Spittle shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead over tour newcomer Scott McCarron (64) and John Huston (68) after the second round of the Dick's Sporting Goods Open. Spittle was at 10-under 134.

Huston, the 2011 champion, is trying to become the first two-time winner in the event that started in 2007.

Jeff Maggert (68), Stephen Ames (64), Ian Woosnam (69) and first-round co-leader Paul Goydos (70) were tied for fourth at 8 under, with Corey Pavin (66) and Willie Wood (69) another shot behind.

Spittle, a star at Ohio State in the late 1970s with Joey Sindelar and John Cook, turned pro at age 49 after working as a corporate insurance executive for 25 years. He won the 2010 AT&T Championship, 106 starts ago.

''I was home being a husband and a dad,'' said Spittle, who wanted to watch his three children grow up instead of traveling and living out of a suitcase. ''We've won all of one time out here. It's very fun to have a chance to win. The reason I still play is I think I can win again.''



Spittle, who had a 68 on the opening round, had four birdies and a bogey on the front nine, barely missing a fifth birdie when his putt at the par-3 seventh hole stopped at the lip and didn't drop. He had two more birdies and another bogey over the first five holes on the back side, then vaulted into the lead with an eagle at the par-4 No. 16, his chip from 65 yards bouncing twice on the green before hitting the flag and dropping in the hole.

''Folks started jumping up and down, so we guessed right,'' Spittle said with a chuckle. ''I've played very solid this summer, been very consistent the last five or six weeks. We'll see if we can have some more fun tomorrow.''

Right behind was McCarron, playing just his fourth event on the Champions Tour since turning 50 in July. He made up considerable ground on the leaderboard as he chases his first victory and said playing in the final group with Schwab Cup points leader Colin Montgomerie at the Shaw Charity Classic at Calgary, Alberta in early August did wonders for his game.

''It's been a long time,'' said McCarron, who had three PGA Tour victories, the last at the 2001 BellSouth Classic. ''I learned a lot just being in the final group with Colin on Saturday. When you don't get in tournaments on the PGA Tour, you play once a month, once every two months, and you miss every cut by a shot, that's not a lot of fun.

''Being out here, knowing there's no cut, I'm having fun playing golf again,'' said McCarron, who has overcome surgery for a bone spur and torn ligaments in his left thumb in 2012 and right elbow surgery in 2006. ''I'm healthy, I'm happy and I'm in better shape now than I've ever been.''

Montgomerie is not playing for a second straight week because of commitments in Europe, giving Maggert and Bernhard Langer a chance to take over the top spot. Montgomerie has 2,873 points, Maggert 2,707 and Langer 2,604 in what has become a three-way competition with four more events until the Schwab Cup Championship in November.

Langer, who won here last year, plummeted with three bogeys in the last six holes Saturday to finish with his second straight 71 and at 2 under is likely out of contention for a top-10 finish and a chance to gain in the points race.

Maggert isn't

''I need to be a little more aggressive on the front nine tomorrow, make four or five birdies if I can, and set myself up for a good finish,'' said Maggert, who birdied the three par-5s on the front side but also had a pair of bogeys.

A bogey on his final hole after seven birdies put a frown on Pavin's face. Still, he was just three shots behind and playing well.

''Tomorrow, I've got to go out and probably shoot another score like that to have a chance,'' said the 55-year-old Pavin, who has 15 PGA Tour wins but just one on the senior tour, three years ago. ''We'll just see. I'm in a position where I can make a run, hopefully.''

Just like the opening round, conditions on the narrow, tree-lined 6,974-yard En-Joie Golf Club course were ideal, with partly cloudy skies, temperatures around 80, and just the hint of a breeze.

Getty Images

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.

@kharms27 on Instagram

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.

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?’”