Will another 50-something contend at British Open

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2010, 4:23 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – First it was Greg Norman, proving for three rounds that age is merely a number. Then along came Tom Watson, just a couple of months shy of his 60th birthday, standing over an 8-foot putt that would have made him the oldest major champion in golf history.

Both Norman and Watson came up short, of course.

But their turn-back-the-clock efforts at the past two British Opens showed it’s not unfeasible for someone to win golf’s oldest major title when they’re past their prime.

Should we expect another Old-timer’s Day at St. Andrews?

Two-time winner Padraig Harrington, who beat a then-53-year-old Norman in the final round of the 2008 Open at Birkdale, wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Tom Watson
Watson lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink in the 2009 Open at Turnberry. (Getty Images)
“One thing with golf,” the Irishman said, “experience will always, always counter talent. Talent, yeah, it’s good. It’s nice to have it. It will certainly show up unbelievable on some days. But experience can always match it, certainly on certain golf courses.”

A links course is certainly one of those spots, though Phil Mickelson believes St. Andrews – with the daunting length of certain holes, such as No. 4, and wide-open spaces that invite a player to go with his driver all over the course – is more favorable to a younger player than either Birkdale or Turnberry, where Watson lost to Stewart Cink in a playoff last year at age 59.

“It would not surprise me to see somebody with a lot of experience, a little bit older, play well here,” Mickelson said. “However, I do think that some of the younger players who hit the ball a long ways off the tee have a distinct advantage. So I would anticipate that those players would come out on top.”

Graeme McDowell, coming off a surprising triumph at the U.S. Open, looks at it differently. Experience counters the mental strain of playing in a major – especially for a player who already has captured a title on one of golf’s biggest stages.

“Major championships require patience and discipline,” McDowell said. “A guy in his late 50s and 60s is not as long as he used to be, but he has the mental discipline and the patience to realize that you’ve got to plot your way around. Even if the wind was to drop here at St. Andrews and all of a sudden the golf course becomes sort of a presumed gift, the pins are going to be tucked away and they’re going to be tough to get at and you’ve got to position your ball well.”

Mickelson played a practice round Tuesday with 52-year-old Nick Faldo, who captured one of his three Open titles at St. Andrews two decades ago. Sir Nick isn’t likely to contend this week, devoting more time these days to the broadcast booth than the driving range, but his local knowledge is invaluable.

“I asked him a bunch of questions because he’s got a lot of great thoughts on St. Andrews and avoiding bunkers and shots into the greens and what allowed him to win and be so dominant in 1990,” Mickelson said. “He played some of the best golf you’ve ever seen here.”

The late Julius Boros remains the oldest major winner, capturing the 1968 PGA Championship when he was 48. But the old-timers keep knocking on the door, especially at this tournament and the Masters.

At 48, Kenny Perry was poised to win the 2009 Masters until he bogeyed the final two holes of regulation then lost to Angel Cabrera in a playoff. This past April, 50-year-old Fred Couples opened with a 66 to become the oldest player to hold the outright lead after the first round at Augusta National; he faded to sixth at the end but managed to strike another blow for the geriatric generation.

But Watson’s showing at Turnberry was the most amazing of all. He went to the 72nd hole with a one-stroke lead, struck his second shot solidly but just over the green, and wound up badly missing an 8-foot putt for par that would have clinched the claret jug for the sixth time.

Unable to bounce back after coming so close, Watson was drubbed in the four-hole playoff by Cink. Still, it was a performance for the ages.

“Tom Watson should have, could have won,” McDowell said. “I’m sure Cink was a great champion, but the fairy-tale story was for Tom to win, and we’re all kind of disappointed to not see that happen.”

Watson is among nine golfers in the Open’s 50-and-over flight, and perhaps the strongest contender in the bunch even though he’s the oldest. But keep an eye on Mark O’Meara, who won the Open in 1998 and has been playing well on the Champions Tour. And there’s also Perry, who turns 50 in less than a month and has missed only one cut all year on the PGA Tour, though he’s never been a fan of links golf.

“There’s no doubt that a player who stays physically fit can keep competing,” Harrington said. “But really, does he stay mentally sharp? Does he have that adrenaline?”

Watson knows that everything would have to come together perfectly for him to have another shot at winning, and his iron play was a bit shaky coming into the week. But he made the cut at the first two majors of the year – finishing 18th at Augusta and 29th at the U.S. Open on daunting Pebble Beach – and no one is ruling out another age-defying weekend.

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

Getty Images

Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."