Els Temporarily on Top

By Brian HewittOctober 20, 2003, 4:00 pm
If anybody had asked me, I would have told them that:
  • Ernie Els is the best player in the world at the moment. That is not to say he should be ranked No. 1. That is not to say (as Seve Ballesteros contends) that Els has more talent than Tiger Woods. That is not to say Woods isn't the greatest player who ever lived. He is.
    What it is meant to suggest is two things: First, Els may turn out to be one of the five great players in golf history before all is said and done. It is also meant to suggest that 2003 was a year in which Woods struggled with his swing, his equipment and a full recovery from knee surgery. Will Woods ever play back to his form of 2000? I think so. But in golf, there are no guarantees.
  • Shigeki Maruyama and Tommy Armour III have very little in common. But Armour's recent victory at the Valero Texas Open and Maruyama's win Sunday at Chrysler Classic of Greensboro were similar. Both players made lots of putts. Both won going away. By the way, Maruyama, now that he is mostly healthy again, will be sorely missed on Gary Player's International Presidents Cup team next month in South Africa. Remember how the effervescent Maruyama won all five of his matches for the Internationals at Royal Melbourne in 1998? Teammate Frank Nobilo says Maruyama was an inspiration to his teammates at that venue.
    Maruyama was honored just to be part of it all. There's a lesson there for those who would learn from it.
  • And how about Brad Faxon? Shows up at Greensboro ranked 58th in putting and 19th on the money list (that's a trick in itself). Putts great and finishes second for the third time this year. Faxon is perhaps the most naturally articulate and likeable player in the game today. When Johnny Miller retires from NBC's booth, they ought to hire Faxon to replace him. Faxon won't have quite the edge. But he knows how to make his points and his mind is every bit as lively as Johnny's.
  • Olin Browne once told me a story about bacon. Specifically, he asked me if I'd ever seen bacon that had been in the frying pan too long. Crispy and burnt, he said. That, he added, is what happens to players this time of year who have played too much.
  • Last year's runner-up at Greensboro, Mark Calcavecchia, five-putted the 18th hole Thursday, packed his bags and withdrew. Garrett Willis carded a Thursday 79. He, too, withdrew. Neither gave a reason to tour officials.
  • Because he didn't win the SBC Championship Sunday, Scotland's Sam Torrance will have to survive two stages of Champions Tour Q-School. 'That can be hard to do,' he said. Lots of people are hoping Sam makes it through. 'He's a wonderful guy,' says Craig Stadler, that Tour's hottest player.
  • Next time you see Thomas Bjorn being interviewed on television, close your eyes and just pay attention to the sound of his voice. It's Sean Connery in Goldfinger. The strange part is Bjorn's a Dane. Connery's a Scot.
    Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
    Getty Images

    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

    Getty Images

    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

    Getty Images

    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”