Woods Practices with Old Stanford Friend

By Associated PressJune 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
Four days ago, Conrad Ray was getting ready for the summer golf camp at Stanford University, where he just finished his first year as the golf coach. Monday morning, he was on the first tee with Tiger Woods, getting ready for the U.S. Open.
 
'What a crazy week it's been,' Ray said on the practice range at Pinehurst No. 2, where he got into the 156-man field as the first alternate when Darren Clarke withdrew last week.
 
The week is just getting started at the major championship known as the toughest test in golf, famous for its narrow fairways and brick-hard greens that require as much patience as shotmaking and putting.
 
Ray was just thrilled to be part of the show.
 
A former teammate of Woods at Stanford who never made it past the Nationwide Tour, this was his 12th time to try to qualify for the U.S. Open, and he figured he had missed again when he made par in a playoff and was eliminated at the 36-hole sectional qualifying last week at Tarzana, Calif.
 
But when Clarke withdrew to be with his ailing wife, Ray became the first alternate.
 
'I thought it was one of my kids on the team playing a joke on me,' he said.
 
The first people Ray called were his parents. Then he called Woods.
 
They were teammates for two years at Stanford and tried to keep in touch over the years. Ray last saw him at the Stanford-Cal basketball game in February. He said Woods put in a good word for him when Ray applied to replace longtime Cardinal golf coach Wally Goodwin.
 
'I said, 'Hey, the broke-down coach is in. Can we play?'' Ray said. 'He called last night and said to meet him on the first tee at 7 a.m.'
 
Euan Walters of Australia filled out the threesome, the first group off in three days of practice.
 
Most players already know what to expect from the 1999 U.S. Open.
 
Pinehurst No. 2 is renowned for the domed greens that Donald Ross designed, the strength of the golf course. John Daly was among those who practiced Monday and had a large crowd following, perhaps remembering when Daly got so frustrated that he swatted a moving ball with his putter on the eighth hole and made an 11.
 
The condition of the course was a concern on two fronts.
 
The grass suffered at Pinehurst because of a cool spring, and USGA officials had to put sod around the slopes of some of the greens. Most of it has blended in, although Scott Verplank noticed some brown patches, and said it could be a factor depending on the shot.
 
'If you have a burnout, or a dead spot between you and the hole, you might have to decide whether to go over it or through it, and that could definitely affect what you're going to do,' Verplank said. 'And if you get on that spot and get a dirt lie, you've got to deal with it.'
 
David Toms noticed some of the tees that had been moved back, making it more difficult to find the correct line off the tee. As for the greens? Tough as ever.
 
'The misses are going to be the key,' Toms said. 'Where are you going to be if you miss? You have to consider that when you're hitting your second shot.'
 
Ray soaked it all in.
 
The 30-year-old played with Woods and Walter in the morning, then spent the afternoon squeezed between Bob Tway and Ted Purdy on the practice range, getting full service from a Nike Golf rep who was helping him with a new driver and shaft.
 
Ray isn't sure how the rest of the week will unfold. He has spent more time recruiting than practicing over the last two months. Stanford went from last in the Pac-10 to 18th at the NCAA championship two weeks ago.
 
His day job as Stanford's coach presented one dilemma during qualifying. Ray was in an eight-man playoff for three spots in local qualifying, joined by one of the players he had been recruiting for his 2006 class.
 
'There's all these NCAA rules, I'm a young coach, and I didn't know if I could talk to him,' Ray said. 'I gave him a quick handshake on the first tee and walked to the other side of the fairway. We both birdied and got through. I found out later I could talk to him, just not about Stanford.'
 
He planned to play a practice round Tuesday with J.J. Henry and Matt Kuchar, two other guys he played against in college, and will be grouped the first two days with Graeme McDowell and Steve Allan.
 
'I've made it to sectionals a few times, but to get to the big dance is pretty cool,' he said.
 
After calling his parents to celebrate and calling Woods to arrange a practice round, Ray had one last call to make.
 
'It was to the women's golf coach at Stanford,' he said, 'to thank her for handling those golf camps for me.'
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.