Country and Western

By Brian HewittJuly 10, 2006, 4:00 pm
The hottest country in golf right now, arguably, is South Africa.
Trevor Immelman, Rory Sabbatini, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Tim Clark. Thats a pretty strong top five.
Immelman won his first PGA TOUR event Sunday at the Cialis Western Open in convincing style. He buried the winning birdie putt on the 72nd hole to hold off a charging Tiger Woods.
Immelman is 26 years old. Many people questioned his selection as a captains pick on last years International Presidents Cup squad. They said he didnt deserve the two-year exemption on the PGA TOUR that went with it.
And Immelman told me, privately, on Friday that the criticism got under his skin, especially since he won $750,000 in 13 events on the U.S. Tour last year.
Anyway, all of that sniping goes away now. Immelman will make the next Presidents Cup team on his own. Suddenly he is on a short list of favorites for the Open Championship to be played a week from Thursday at Royal Liverpool in England.
What wont go away are the memories of the Western Open. It began in 1899 and entertained many title sponsors. But next year its newest incarnation will be the BMW Championship.
The word Western will no longer be in the title. Chicagoans are a proud and proprietary group. I know. I grew up in the Chicago area. When the Chicago Tribune bought the Chicago Cubs the powers-that-be at The Trib were smart enough to keep the name Wrigley Field.
Similarly, somebody in marketing at BMW should be brave enough to march into the executive suite and convince the Beemer bosses to find a way to keep the word Western in the title.
The tournament has earned it. And the people involved in the running of the event, especially the volunteers, will appreciate it. Hard to find anything objectionable about The BMW Western Open.
There is still time to make this simple and thoughtful accommodation. As one person told me Sunday, They are going to play the Western Open next year at Cog Hill. It will just be under an assumed name.
It was a harsh bit of humor. BMW is stepping up to the plate and forking over a lot of money. The companys product is solid, it is upmarket and it has earned its good reputation.
Let this column just serve as a reminder that the people of Chicago believe the reputation of the Western earned its place as well.
Say Western Open and you think of Chick Evans and the caddie scholars. You think of Walter Hagen, who won this thing five times. You think of Joe Jemsek, the patriarch of Chicago public golf who brought the Western to his beloved Cog Hill. You think of Marshall Dann, the man who brought the tournament back to Chicago full time. And you think of Tiger Woods, who in the last 10 years has changed the way the Western was perceived by the casual sports fan.
It was reassuring to see Woods on the prowl again late Sunday, making four birdies on the back nine and energizing a professional golf tournament, as only he can, for the first time in months.
In two years this event will take place in St. Louis at Bellerive. Woods has nothing against that citys good burghers. But, he said Sunday, it was unfortunate that there will be no PGA TOUR event in Chicago that year.
Bringing all of this back to Immelman, my wish is that his countryman and boyhood idol, Ernie Els, completely heals from knee surgery and begins challenging Woods, who is still healing from the passing of his father earlier this year.
It wouldnt be the worst thing in the world for professional golf to have a three-way playoff for the BMW Western Open next year between Trevor Immelman, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
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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.