Vijays 31st Flavor

By Brian HewittMarch 19, 2007, 4:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- This is the time of the year when PGA TOUR victories automatically move players onto the short list of who to watch at the Masters Tournament, which begins three Thursdays from now.
Not that Vijay Singh, who earned a green jacket in 2000 and is suddenly the first player to win twice in America in 2007, wasnt on everybodys watch list already.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is finally the King of Bay Hill. (WireImage)
Singh, who turned 44 just last month, captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard Sunday at Bay Hill by two shots. It was his 31st PGA TOUR victory. And as flavors of victory go, it was a sweet one.
I feel, Singh said afterward, like Ive got my game back.
Singh had arrived here with distinctly sour-tasting memories of Bay Hill. He had finished with at least a share of second place on three different occasions, the most recent being two years ago.
On that Sunday in 2005 he rinsed a 7-iron on the 72nd hole to hand the tournament to Kenny Perry. Afterward Singh admitted he had selected the wrong club. Even though he moved back into the top spot in the world rankings that day, it was small consolation. And it didnt help his confidence much that he had missed a 3-footer the previous week that allowed Padraig Harrington to beat defeat him at the Honda Classic.
This Bay Hill felt more like Bay Hell for Singh Thursday when he bogeyed his first two holes. But a Friday 68 followed by a Saturday 67 followed by an outgoing Sunday 31 put him in full command with a three-shot lead at the turn.
That was right about the same time Tiger Woods, a four-time champion at Bay Hill, was double-bogeying the 11th hole to fall from 5 under to 3 under. Tiger had sent a jolt through the galleries when he birdied his first two holes in the final round. A bogey on No. 3 blunted the charge and the 11th (drive in rough, lay-up still in rough, three putts) ended his hopes.
And it got worse for the worlds No. 1. Woods followed a bogey on 16 with a double and a triple to finish with a final nine of 43 that sent pressroom statisticians scurrying to find out if Woods had ever shot that high a number for a final nine in his professional career that began in 1996.
Turns out the 43 tied for the worst nine-hole score for Woods since the front nine of the second round of the 1996 TOUR Championship at Southern Hills in Oklahoma. At that event Woods had spent the entire night in the hospital with his father who had suffered a heart attack.
Woods did not stop and talk to the media after his round Sunday. And who could blame him?
Meanwhile, 54-hole leader Vaughn Taylor labored mightily much of the day. He began the last round with a two-shot lead over Ben Curtis, three ahead of Singh and Tom Lehman. But bogeys on the second and fourth holes pretty much killed his buzz. And it was not unexpected. Taylor arrived this week ranked 166th in final round scoring average.
And he was still fighting a reputation for being too hard on himself, a tendency that PGA TOUR players must learn to curb if for no reason other than a desire for longevity. Its almost like a disease Taylor confessed of his quest for perfection.
Taylor did birdie the last hole to finish solo third behind runner-up Rocco Mediate and it was good enough to earn Taylor a berth in next weeks WGC-CA Championship at Doral.
Singhs three-shot lead at the turn had shrunk to just one momentarily when Mediate, the 36-hole leader, birdied the 14th hole while Singh was making bogey at 11. But Singh responded immediately with a clever third from behind a tree on the par 5 12th followed by a 20-footer for birdie.
The lead was still two when Singh got to the 72nd hole which had punched a hole in his memory bank two years ago. It was a good feeling standing on 18 knowing you dont have to make par to win the tournament.
Par, thanks to a one-putt, is what Singh made.
Coming in, Singh had quietly slipped all the way down to No. 9 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The Bay Hill win moved him back up to No. 7.
So Im all excited, yeah. Singh said at the prospect of the approaching Masters.
Not too many others who faced the stern test of Bay Hill last week can say the same.
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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 all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

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

    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 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, 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

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    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.