Musings from My Mind - COPIED
The Importance of Being Ernest
I guess we could say Ernie Els was ahead of his time; a pioneer in what has become a recent popular trend in making bold statements regarding Tiger Woods (see: Rory Sabatini, Jason Day, Ian Poulter), when at the end of 2006 the South African declared he had a three-year plan to overtake Tiger as World No. 1. Of course, we know he hasnt even come close to that goal, nor will he, even with his victory at The Honda. To be fair, Im in the second year of MY three-year plan to own (and rule with an iron-fist!) the GOLF CHANNEL and look where I am still getting coffee for Kraig Kann when he gives me the signal ' one sugar, no cream; yes, sir. So, I really have no room to criticize. Even with his rise to No. 3 in the world, Ernest simply needs to re-adjust his goals. In summary kids: stay earnest and have aspirations (just not unattainable ones).
Its all fun and games in Harding Park paradise until Robin Williams publicist denies you any remote possibility that his client will be available for your amusement. Turns out, Fred Couples thoughts of Williams entertaining the golf troops at the Presidents Cup in 09 -- a whole 19 months out (who plans comedy that far ahead?) -- were ix-nayed the same day Freddie joked about it at his captain's press conference. And thankfully so! Of all the possible comedians, Boom-Boom, your go-to was Patch Adams? Has Williams even been funny since Good Morning, Vietnam? And moreover, how alien is he going to be for young guns on the team like DJ Trahan, who hadn't even been born when Mork and Mindy hit the airwaves.
Who does 47-year-old Mark Calcavecchia think he is?... Julio Franco? His Italian surname translates to old crowd, but this guy has been playing like hes a spry spring chicken since, well, last spring when he captured his first PGA TOUR win in two years. With three top-20 finishes in 08 and 11 top-25 finishes in 07, including the event where hes defending this week, the PODS, Calc is STILL GETTING IT DONE! And as Vince Cellini pointed out in our production meeting on Monday, Marks not the only Methuselah on the PGA TOUR whos recently breathed a second (and/or third) life into his respective career. Fred Funk, Woody Austin, and Steve Stricker have all put together impressive resurgences, inspiring all nilla-wafer-eating, Matlock-watching codgers in hearing-aid-assisted distance.
Ah, but back to baseball (and lets be honest, it really should always come back to our nations past-time). Incidentally, Calc turned professional in 1982 '- the same year that 49-year-old Julio Franco -- now with his ninth major league team; YOUR Atlanta Braves!-- also made his debut in the big leagues. Hmm. Franco had his most productive streak of seasons when he hit over .300 in every season from 1986 to 1989. Guess when Calc put together his most dominant consecutive years? Oh, in that same span: 1986 to 1989! (cue the Twilight zone music). Calc won at least one PGA TOUR event in each of those years, including his sole major victory in 89 at the British Open. What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. Except that age is just a silly number and Brett Favre really is a pansy if hes quitting professional sports at the age of 38.
March to Augusta
Its almost Madness time, which means Gus Johnson is back in our lives. Eeeek! I cant think of anything more exciting in the world of sports broadcasting right now than his return to the national limelight. (unless you were to pit Digger Phelps against Lou Holtz in a televised pep talk duel-to-the-death? Why do we have to endure those, ESPN? ) Yeah, no singular voice rings in those ides of March and the NCAA hoops fever with more passion ' or with more authority! (sorry, Raftery) than the frenetic, hysterical screams of one Gus Johnson. Sadly, however, we only get a shot clock-like ephemeral time with this man of extraordinary vocal dexterity, as CBS utilizes him for only a few rounds of The Dance. But thats where golf should come in and take the lead. Golf needs Gus in the broadcast booth immediately. Set him up on the 18th -- simply on Sundays, if you like, but particularly in your Tiger-less tourneys, and let the mans voice-box explode. Guaranteed ratings-spike! Imagine Gus at Augusta in April! Suddenly, Nantzs Welcome Friends, seems lame and antiquated. Too outlandish a notion, you say? Hey, its not like Im suggesting something as ludicrous as a network hiring Bob Knight to provide tactful, tasteful broadcast-able commentary and analysis on college basketball every night.
The Tiger Woods' Effect
No, not THAT effect! Id like to know what has happened to all those poor souls who have been bonked, bruised, and banged-up by the sheer brute might of El Tigre over the years? While watching the WGC-Accenture Match Play a few weeks ago, I watched a marshal get drilled by an errant Woods drive on 13, and pondered out loud the amount of people Tiger has inadvertently injured over the years. Where are they? And how did that singular (and seemingly minor) event affect their life, if at all? At the Gallery of Dove Mountain that day, all the marshal received was a bloody gaping head-wound, a used Nike golf glove, and a worthless (not really! just kidding!) handshake from Tiger Woods. So where are these people? Did any of them sustain any lasting side-effects? Do they have battle scars about which they brag about to friends and family? And good heavens, how many times do they tell that dang story? [If youve taken a Woods Nike ball to the noggin, or just have a meaningful Tiger encounter you want to share, email me.]
And finally, onto the programming notes for the week ....
Inside the Ropes: Swingin and Rasslin
Our endearing British reporter Tom Abbott ambled into my office late afternoon Monday with hands wringing and a face full of worry. The poor chap was practically stricken with panic. And as it turns out, his anxiety was not completely unwarranted. You see, the bloke from Surrey, England had just received his newest journalistic assignment: play 18 holes with the WWEs Big Show: a 7-foot 2-inch (um, 470 lb.) wrestler whose signature move is, from what I understand, aChoke Slam. Now, I'm not terribly familiar with wrestling, but I can venture a solid guess as to what that procedure might entail. And one doesn't have to utilize the imagination too much, to further envision what could happen to our spindly, sprite Tom Abbott if he were to inadvertently provoke the Big Show (also known as 'The Giant') to anger -- or elicit even mild levels of annoyance. His finishing maneuver is called the 'Final Cut', after all. Oh, poor Tom. (Once the feature is shot -- and provided Mr. Abbott actually survives the ordeal -- it will air at the end of March on Golf Central. Stay tuned...)
DJs Rhythm Has Inspirational Beat
For a guy who was practically sentenced to a wheelchair due to his cerebral palsy, DJ Gregory walks with quite a determined stride. I caught a glimpse of him at Riviera a few weeks ago as I was scurrying about the course for an interview. You see, hes somewhat a celebrity now -- which is the way it should be.
DJ has no abductor muscles in his legs and has to lock his knees every step, creating a unique rhythm as he walks. But as hard as it is on his body, youd never know from his smiling face. Hes living every golfers dream this year: attending all 37 tournaments on the FedExCup schedule on the PGA TOUR. So far, hes walked 195 miles, that's 691 holes. And a total of 13,293 miles traveled. What started out as a dream has evolved into something so much more profound and far-reaching. Our Rich Lerner spent some time with D.J. recently and found out more about this courageous young man in our Golf Central spotlight this Saturday and Sunday. We hope you catch D.J.!
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Schauffele just fine being the underdog
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.
“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.”
Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1
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.
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
Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat
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.
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.
Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16
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.
“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.”