Wilson Finally Makes Mark on PGA TOUR

By Associated PressMarch 5, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Mark Wilson was a math major at North Carolina and confesses that one of his favorite things is crossing off items on his to-do lists.
 
He can now erase the top entry on that sheet of goals.
 
Wilson made a birdie to beat Jose Coceres on the third playoff hole and win the Honda Classic at PGA National on Monday, the 32-year-old player's first PGA TOUR victory in 111 career tries. He won a four-man playoff that began Sunday, was interrupted by darkness, then ended when he hit from 10 feet on the par-3 17th hole.
 
'I didn't sleep very good last night at all just because I really wanted to finish it off here and win,' he said.
 
He got into the playoff with some big putts Sunday: par from 45 feet on the 16th hole, par from 8 feet on the final regulation hole, then a 30-footer -- in near-dark conditions, remember -- on the playoff first hole.
 
Some of his competitors acknowledged buckling under pressure.
 
Wilson seemed cool the whole way.
 
'Maybe in these moments, I'm nervous,' said Coceres, who also lost a playoff to Fred Funk last week at the tour's stop in Mexico. 'Mr. Wilson, he played very good.'
 
With the win, Wilson got a $990,000 winner's check, an exemption through the 2009 season and a reprieve from making an 11th consecutive trip to the tour's qualifying school. He also vaulted 179 spots to No. 86 in the world rankings. And, if he can stay in the top 10 on the money list, he has a chance at playing the Masters for the first time.
 
His caddy, Chris Jones, got two things: a nice cut of Wilson's earnings, and a huge sense of relief.
 
Wilson, Coceres, Boo Weekley -- who missed a 3-foot par putt Sunday on the 18th hole that would have given him his first career win -- and Camilo Villegas all finished the 72 regulation holes at 5-under 275. But Wilson's score included a two-stroke penalty from his round of 66 on Friday, after Jones made a major goof.
 
On the fifth tee Friday, Jones overheard Villegas and his caddy talking about club selection at that par-3 hole. Jones blurted out, 'It's an 18-degree,' referring to the hybrid club that Wilson carries in his bag.
 
Offering advice to competitors like that is against the rules, and Wilson knew it. So he summoned a rules official at the next hole and docked himself two shots.
 
'I felt like I almost cost us this tournament Friday,' said Jones, who cried after Friday's round and was fighting tears after Wilson got the win Monday. 'But he hung in there and knew I didn't mean to do it. It was just a mental error. ... A lot of guys wouldn't have even called it on themselves.'
 
'If that's true, Wilson isn't one of them. The rule was one of the first things he discussed with Jones when he hired him to carry the bag.
 
Part of me thought he was just upset with me for even making a big deal about it,' Wilson said. 'But then I finally just put my arm around him and said, 'Hey, let's go; let's go play golf.' Camilo was a gentleman. He did the same thing. ... From there on, I just played some of the best golf of my life.'
 
On the second playoff hole -- the first one played Monday -- Wilson used that 18-degree hybrid to set up a putt that nearly ended the tournament. A 224-yard approach put him in birdie range at the par-4 10th, but he settled for par.
 
Weekley and Villegas weren't so lucky.
 
Weekley's drive landed in the left rough, buried so deeply he had no chance of reaching the green. He chopped the ball out, advancing it about 100 yards. His third shot hit 8 feet from the pin but spun backward, and his par try slipped past.
 
He walked to the front of the green, hands on hips, head bent, knowing his chance was gone.
 
'It's a learning experience. I'm disappointed in myself after yesterday, but that's golf, man,' Weekley said. 'That just happens. ... Just a part of it.'
 
Villegas missed the 10th green to the left, but hit a great flop shot to within 4 feet. His par attempt, though, ducked beneath the hole, ending his day.
 
'I was feeling good over it. ... I wasn't shaking as much as I thought,' Villegas said.
 
Coceres made his par putt, and he and Wilson headed to the par-3 17th, where each hit tee balls to about 10 feet. Wilson putted first, made his, and Coceres couldn't answer.
 
So about 45 minutes afterward, he settled into his chair in the interview room, then summed up five days of play in five words.
 
'It's been a weird week,' he said.
 
Notes:
Wilson will play in the Pods Championship at Innisbrook this week. ... Weekley, Coceres and Villegas each got $410,667. For Weekley, that's $121,553 more than he won in his first 30 tour events. ... It was the 200th time a Nationwide Tour alum won on the PGA TOUR. ... Weekley's world ranking jumped 75 spots to No. 121.
 
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    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.