Notes From the Desert

By David Marr IiiJanuary 23, 2003, 5:00 pm
Kelly Tilghman and I are involved with a new show which starts on February 17th called The Grey Goose 19th Hole. It will be shot at Mortons Steakhouse in Orlando and should be a great deal of fun. Kelly will host, and Ill add my insight from the years Ive been around the game. Were going to talk about issues, fun stories and the like.
I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Phoenix Open doing some very preliminary research and had a good time reconnecting with the tour, players, caddies and officials after the holiday season.
Rather than fight my way through the hordes to get a sound bite from Phil Mickelson or Sergio Garcia, I spent time with some other players whom I wasnt as familiar with, as well as a few favorites who could give me the skinny. Here are some random observations.
JAY HAAS: Always a favorite of mine: friendly, open and fun. We talked about Fred Couples and his on-air work in Hawaii. He thought Fred was outstanding, and I agreed. I knew he was approaching Champions Tour eligibility, so I asked him when he would turn 49. He said last December. His putting instructor Stan Utley (whos assembling quite a nice stable of players) laughed and said if he had Jays bag for two years on the Champions Tour he could retire. We all laughed, but seriously, watch out for Jay Haas in 2004.
PAT BATES: Another Utley disciple, the pro with the flowing golden locks looked at young James McLean and said, That guy needs a haircut. More on McLean in a moment. Id never met Bates before, but I found him to be a personable young man who crushed the ball. He made six birdies on the back nine. He proved his mettle on the Nationwide Tour last year and on Tuesday, he helped Lee Janzen win the front, back and overall against a couple of pretty good Davids (Toms and Gossett).
HAL SUTTON: The 2004 United States Ryder Cup captain worked hard on his game over the holidays and feels like hes found some answers. He only missed one drive on the back nine Tuesday then went back to the practice tee for more work on the rock pile.
JOEY SINDELAR: One of the truly good guys on the tour. Hes been off for 2 1/2 months and is trying to get rid of the rust. He said hes not confident hitting anything more than a 6 or 7-iron. I saw him hit a 1-iron off the first tee. He then hit a nice gentle draw that wound up in the left center of the fairway. Not bad for a rusty old pro hitting the most difficult of clubs.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Another great guy who is having a ball during this home game. It's a 10-15 minute commute to the course, and hes looking forward to joining the ABC announce team this spring. He will be a huge success in that role. But I sense that hed rather win an event and regain his status than make a permanent move to the TV arena. Hes too young for retirement.
JAMES MCLEAN: This kid was on the practice putting green for hours on Monday. He looked like a young Richard Gere with longer hair and a foreign accent. He wore those clothes that would have gotten you beaten up on my block in New York, yet so many of those young golfers seem to be able to pull them off nowadays. Anyway he was at the practice area all day Monday and most of Tuesday. When I didnt see him I figured he had burned out in the desert sun, but lo and behold he was playing a practice round on the back nine hitting multiple balls and working on his game with a fervor. Vijay Singh may have some competition for the range rat of the year award.
DAVID TOMS: Rob Aiken has worked with David Toms and David Gossett for years. In 2000 Toms won the International the same day Gossett won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble. Not a bad day for a teacher. Rob told me that he considers Toms consistency to be the key to his game, specifically his iron play. He had Toms at his teaching facility in Memphis where theyve recently installed a piece of equipment that measures the elapsed time from take-away to impact. It helps determine tempo and timing and the consistency of a swing under pressure. Toms hit 20 consecutive shots with identical timing to the thousandth of a second. That kind of repetition will make a player a champion. It did for David Toms.
DAVID GOSSETT: Call me crazy, but I walked with a group that included two major champions, a new player on the PGA Tour and a kid who finished 86th on the money list last year. I was there to see the kid. Ive always liked David Gossetts style: intense, aggressive, polite, athletic and talented. I liked what I was seeing, then his father joined us with about four holes remaining and we had a wonderful conversation. Larry Gossett was a fighter pilot who took to the game late in life. My conversation with Mr. Gossett included a story about young David that showed me that my first instinct was correct. Mr. Gossett took David to the Masters when David was in his early teens. He saw the wheels turning in Davids head but the two didnt really talk much about what David was thinking. Six years later, David won the Amateur and qualified to play at Augusta. As they prepared to go to the tournament, with David staying in the crows nest, Mr. Gossett offered to go to the merchandise area and buy a Masters umbrella. David told his father that he already had one. Mr. Gossett said, Where in the world did you get a Masters umbrella? David showed him an umbrella that he had kept unopened in his closet for six years. He had bought it as a teenager, but he wouldnt allow himself to enjoy it until he had earned his way into the tournament. How can you not love a kid like that?
Those are a few of the nuggets mined in the desert this week. There will be plenty more for use during updates or the Grey Goose 19th Hole with Kelly in February. Make sure you tune in: Were going to have fun, tell some stories, debate a little, and have mystery guests dropping by. It should be enjoyable.
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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”