Wicked and Wonderful What a Perfect Start

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- It was wicked one minute, wonderful the next.
 
The rain and wind were so strong Monday morning at Carnoustie that Tiger Woods and Rod Pampling didn't even bother with umbrellas, and Woods took off his glove when he lost feeling in his ring finger. By the afternoon, Henrik Stenson sat on the side of the practice range trying to decide which sunglasses to wear.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods practices in the rain and wind Monday at Carnoustie. (Getty Images)
'It can turn in a hurry,' Chad Campbell said. 'We saw it today.'
 
Sweaters gave way to short sleeves.
 
Coffee sales slowed as fans queued up at the ice cream stand.
 
The weather is often the best defense in links golf, and it's what makes the British Open so unique. Along with being brutal, it can change without notice, and sometimes having the good end of the draw can matter as much as raw talent.
 
But it has been on somewhat of a holiday since Woods' bid for the calendar Grand Slam in 2002 ended in a blast of arctic wind and stinging rain at Muirfield that sent him to an 81, still his highest score as a professional.
 
Sure, there has been the occasional rain and a wee breeze, but nothing nasty.
 
Charles Howell III didn't play his first British Open until 2003 and has never really experienced a miserable day on the links. Monday was the first full day of practice for many players, and presented with the opportunity, Howell didn't want to miss it.
 
'I didn't play that year at Muirfield, and I don't know how it compared,' Howell said. 'I just wanted to play it and see. And it was really rough. It was very rough.'
 
He played Carnoustie on Sunday and hit a 4-iron to the fourth fairway and a 7-iron to the green. One day later, hands stuffed in his pockets as he practiced alone, Howell hit a driver and a 3-iron to reach the green at the 412-yard hole.
 
No telling how Mother Nature will behave when the British Open begins Thursday, or the rest of the week.
 
Woods, Pampling, Howell, Brett Quigley and Robert Karlsson were among those who left nothing to chance. Woods was on the first tee at 6 a.m., his typical starting time during practice rounds at the British Open.
 
Once he made the turn, he must have wondered why he bothered.
 
'One good thing about today is he's playing in a rain jacket,' swing coach Hank Haney said. 'He hasn't done that all year.
 
The round was quiet and quick. The harder the wind blew, the more the rain blew sideways, the more fun they seemed to have.
 
'Good thing we're playing today,' caddie Steve Williams said. 'It could be worse tomorrow.'
 
No one bothered practicing putts or chips around the greens because the green was too soft, and some of them had puddles on the edges. Woods was duly impressed when Pampling hit driver off the deck for his second shot (on a par 4), and doubled over in laughter when Pampling hit a 2-iron to the 176-yard 13th hole that didn't clear a bunker 150 yards in front of them.
 
But the joke was on Woods at the 14th, a par 5 at 514 yards known for the Spectacle bunkers some 65 yards in front of the greens that players usually can carry easily. But not on this day.
 
Woods hit driver in the fairway and hit 2-iron short of the Spectacles, just left in a sparse patch of rough. He swung hard and watched his third shot over the bunkers, and stopped in his tracks when he arrived at the green and found his ball a few yards from the green.
 
'I didn't get there,' Woods said incredulously. 'With a 4-iron!'
 
Even more stunning was the yardage he had with that 4-iron -- 112 yards to the front, 128 yards to the hole.
 
At this point it became a quest, not just to finish the round, but neither wanting to yield anything to par. This became an impossibility, especially since Pampling hit 3-wood short of the green on the next hole. The day earlier, it was a 3-wood and a 7-iron.
 
Memories of Muirfield for Woods?
 
'Muirfield, by far, was worse than this,' he said. 'Do you realize it was 34 degrees that day?'
 
This wasn't exactly Florida in summer, yet another reason that Haney found it valuable for his star pupil to face the elements. Woods was grinding like it was the tournament and he celebrated as if he had won when his driver -- yes, driver -- barely reached the green on the par-3 16th, traveling some 225 yards.
 
'That's what I'm talking about, baby,' he said.
 
Alas, his hopes of finishing with pars were finished on the 18th, a 499-yard hole playing into the full strength of the wind. Woods tried to find a way, hitting 2-iron to the adjacent 17th fairway, then another 2-iron to clear the Barry Burn. It went a tad too far and disappeared into the rough.
 
'He ain't making par from there,' Pampling said.
 
They were long gone when the rain stopped and fog rolled in, perhaps napping when the sun burst out from behind the clouds and the British Open looked as it has the last four years.
 
Phil Mickelson, a runner-up at Loch Lomond on Sunday, arrived late in afternoon wearing shorts and flip-flops. Campbell, who heard the rain pelting his window when he first woke up, headed out for a practice round with the sun casting shadows all around him.
 
Could any good have come out of a three-hour struggle against Mother Nature?
 
'You never know what you might get around here,' Woods said.
 
Peter Thomson would tend to agree with that. The five-time British Open champion is the last player to win the claret jug three straight times, and he believes Woods can do more than join him.
 
'He has a chance to win eight in a row,' Thomson said.
 
'I'm serious about that,' Thomson said. 'I think there's nobody that can beat Tiger when he's playing his best. Now, the only thing he's got against him this year is the weather, just like the weather gets him at Muirfield in 2002. The weather is very unsettling.'
 
Woods might now be a little more prepared this time.
 
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    Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

    Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

    Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

    It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

    "Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

    Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

    But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

    As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

    The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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    Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

    Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

    Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    "I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

    Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

    Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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    Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

    A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

    The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

    There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

    As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

    This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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    Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

    There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

    Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

    Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

    The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

    Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.