Wheres Hal Sutton Choses to Lay Low

By Associated PressSeptember 9, 2006, 4:00 pm
FREDERICKSBURG, Texas -- In his final act as the Ryder Cup captain, Hal Sutton rose before dawn to meet the European team in its hotel lobby, giving the winners a gracious send-off by shaking the hand of every player.
That was two years ago.
Sutton has barely made a peep in public since then.
It's almost as if he put on his cowboy hat and rode into the sunset, tail between his legs, after being at the helm of an 18-9 loss that ranked as the worst ever for an American team in the Ryder Cup.
Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer
Hal Sutton talks with Bernhard Langer during the 2004 Ryder Cup matches.
He used a one-time exemption for career money to keep his PGA TOUR card this year, but only because he wanted to play the Nissan Open at Riviera, one of his favorite courses. Sutton missed the cut in February, sticking around long enough to see a lot of strange faces, wondering who they were and what were they doing in the locker room.
'Or maybe they were wondering who I was and what I was doing in their locker room,' Sutton said with a belly laugh, the sure sign he's living large again. 'I'm OK with that.'
Sutton can count on one hand the number of players who have called him in the last six months.
He's OK with that, too.
Sutton has moved on to what he calls the second stage in his life, things he wanted to do as a younger man but never took the time because he thought golf was all that mattered, that success was measured only by the score on his card.
He opened Sutton Children's Hospital in May, an 80-bed facility in Shreveport, La. The project was inspired by the death five years ago of 7-year-old Reagan Little, the daughter of longtime manager and friend Gilbert Little.
'I chose to think golf was everything, that I had to perform, that that's where your self-worth came from,' Sutton said. 'That was your identity, and you protect that. But the last five years taught me that's not nearly as important as I thought it was.'
When he isn't at the hospital, Sutton can be found at Boot Ranch, the opulent golf club he is building in the Hill Country of Texas, a rugged piece of nature about 60 miles north of San Antonio and 60 miles west of Austin.
Sutton has spared no expense. The name plates on the lockers are made of sterling silver. The benches are covered with hides of ostrich, alligator and longhorn. Each member -- former President Bush among them -- gets customized boots to be worn on property, much like members in their green jackets at Augusta National.
The only evidence of his Ryder Cup captaincy is in the far corner of a garage below the clubhouse, where the red golf cart he drove around Oakland Hills is collecting dust.
The Ryder Cup is a distant memory, not necessarily a good one. That much was clear when Sutton was asked whether he enjoyed his two years as captain, and the answer was prefaced by a long pause.
'I'll look back on it as a positive experience,' he said. 'I think it's the greatest marketing event in the world. It's a big to-do. And if somebody thinks you did something wrong, well, that's why it's a big to-do. If somebody badmouths something I did, if in some people's minute opinion they think putting Tiger and Phil together was a mistake ...'
His voice grew loud, thick, determined, just as it was that Thursday before the matches when he announced Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would be partners for the first time.
They lost both matches, setting the tone for a European rout.
'Here's the truth,' Sutton continued. 'Do you think they were going to get through their whole career on the same team and somebody wasn't going to put them together? You think the world wanted to see it? Absolutely! I wanted to see it. You wanted to see it. You had your opinion whether it would work, whether I was right or I was not. And it's easy to talk about now.'
He was lampooned for wearing a cowboy hat, a gift from the caddies whom Sutton had made feel like part of the team. He buried Chris Riley for complaining about being too tired after winning a key match with Woods. He was so irritated with Mickelson that he benched him Saturday morning and told the press the Masters champion would be a cheerleader.
Did that cost the Americans the Ryder Cup?
Or was it because it took seven shots before an American hit the first fairway in the opening session? Or that no one could make a putt? Or that his team was tight, as usual, trying desperately not to lose instead of playing to win.
No matter.
Sutton suddenly was captain of the Titanic, the latest line of U.S. captains who get blamed for defeat.
Now the burden falls to Tom Lehman, who leads the American team Sept. 22-24 at The K Club in Ireland, trying to stop Europe from winning the Ryder Cup for the fifth time in the last six matches.
'Am I prepared to get abused if we lose?' Lehman said with a wry smile.
It has been so long since Lehman has spoken to Sutton that he thought it was six months ago at Bay Hill, not a year-and-a-half ago.
'We talked a long, long time,' Lehman said. 'At the end of the day, he doesn't have great feelings about his experience. I can't speak for him, but I think it hurts him.'
Paul Azinger might be the next U.S. captain after Lehman.
'I've thought about whether it's worth it, and I've decided it probably is,' Azinger said. 'But there's a lot of experts out there that don't know squat.'
Azinger called Sutton about two months ago when he had not seen him and wondered if his absence was voluntary. He was happy to hear about Sutton's hospital and about Boot Ranch, and he checked up on Sutton's wife and his four children.
'He doesn't need this,' Azinger said. 'He's got a killer ranch, he's building a golf course. There's not anything he can do out here that will change the way he is perceived.'
And how is Sutton perceived?
Is he the guy who won The Players Championship and the PGA Championship in only his second year on tour? The player who lifted himself from a deep slump and beat Woods in a gutsy showdown at Sawgrass? The winner of 14 tournaments?
Or the Ryder Cup captain of a humiliating loss?
'There's a feeling I disappeared because I was embarrassed by what happened?' Sutton asked. 'Embarrassment has never driven me off. You're not trying if you haven't failed. I'm not afraid to fail, and I don't consider that a failure. I didn't hit a single drive or a hit a single putt all week. At the end of the day, failure is about whether the ball goes in the hole when it comes to golf.
'I think there's a much bigger picture out here.'
For all he has done in golf -- a career that began by beating Jack Nicklaus at the PGA in 1983 and culminated with a victory over Woods at The Players Championship in 2000 -- Sutton asked his father not too long ago what he thought was his favorite memory. The answer was the NCAA tournament when Sutton was at Centenary, losing to Jay Don Blake of Utah State in a four-hole playoff.
'The reason it was my fondest memory is my dad put his arm around me and said, 'You did the best you could,' Sutton said.
Did his father say anything to him after the Ryder Cup?
'He told me, 'Everybody is going to have an opinion. You did what you thought was right. Don't look back,' Sutton said.
The hospital now has a 7,000-square-foot outpatient clinic that opened two weeks ago. A pediatric emergency department is expected to be ready this fall.
Indeed, Sutton is moving on.
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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

“Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

“It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

“It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”

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Rain expected to shower Carnoustie Friday morning

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:43 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – By the end of the day Friday, we’ll be able to determine which side of The Open draw ended the first two rounds at Carnoustie with more favorable conditions. With rain expected for most of Friday morning, it seems those who played early/late may be more pleased.

According to Weather.com, there is a 75 percent chance of rain beginning at 2 a.m. local time Friday here in Scotland. That percentage vaults up to 95 percent by 7 a.m., with the first tee time scheduled for 6:35. At 11, the number drops to 55 percent. After 2 p.m., the percentage chances of rain are 25 percent and below for the remainder of the day.

Temperatures during the day are expected to be from the low 50s to the low 60s and winds will vary between 14-18 mph, again per Weather.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This is The Open’s official weather report for the weekend:

Saturday: A dull start with some drizzle possible. Staying cloudy for much of the day but gradually becoming brighter with a chance of some sunny intervals during the afternoon and evening. Winds light and variable in direction but should predominantly settle in to a SSE 8-12mph during the afternoon. Max temp 20C (68F).

Sunday: Often cloudy but mainly dry. A better chance of some decent sunny spells compared to Saturday. Most likely the windiest day of the Championship; SW 12-18mph with gusts 20-25mph. Feeling warm, especially in any sunshine with a max temp of 23C (73F).

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Bandaged Woods 5 back after even-par 71

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods arrived Thursday with therapeutic tape on the back of his neck.

Carnoustie’s back nine inflicted even more pain.

Playing in the most difficult conditions of the day, Woods’ progress was stalled by two late bogeys as he settled for an even-par 71 that left him five shots off the lead at The Open.

“I played better than what the score indicates,” he said. “It certainly could have been a little bit better.”

Woods created a stir when he showed up with black kinesiology tape on his neck. Afterward, he said that his neck has been bugging him “for a while” and that Thursday was merely the first time that the tape was visible.

“Everyone acts like this is the first time I’ve been bandaged up,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been doing this for years.”

Woods said that the discomfort didn’t really affect his swing, other than a few shots “here and there.” It didn’t seem to affect his score, either, as he went out in 2 under before a few stumbles on the back nine.

On the fast, baked-out turf, he played conservatively off the tee, using driver only once and 3-wood just twice. Apparently he didn’t need the added distance, not with his 6-iron traveling 240 yards. He tried to play to his spots, even if it routinely left him more than 200 yards for his approach.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

That’s the strategy he employed at Hoylake in 2006, where he hit driver just once and captured the third of his Open titles. Despite some of the similarities in firmness, Woods said that Carnoustie presents a different challenge off the tee.

“These fairways are very small,” he said. “They’re hard to hit right now. They’re so fast, and they’re so moundy.”

Finding the fairway wasn’t the chief problem for Woods on Day 1, however. He missed just four fairways but found only 11 greens.

More damaging to his score was his play on the par 5s. Despite having only an 8-iron in, he failed to birdie each of the two par 5s and then bogeyed Nos. 10, 13 and 15 to squander his early momentum.

Though the draw here won’t be a significant factor – or at least not like in recent years, with a wide range in scores from morning to afternoon – it’s clear that Woods (in game 47 of 52) encountered the most difficult of the conditions Thursday, with the wind gusting to 20 mph and the fairways running even faster after another sun-splashed afternoon.

Still, his opening 71 was one of the better scores in the late wave.

“He hit it good,” said playing partner Russell Knox. “He plotted his way around, which I expected him to do, and he was very conservative off the tee. It’s kind of fun to watch him do that, to be honest.”

Even more fun would be a major with Woods in contention.

He hasn’t broken par in the opening round of his last eight majors. Indeed, for Woods, these slow starts have been the real pain in the neck.