Could an international major help golf grow?

By Doug FergusonNovember 5, 2013, 7:08 pm

SHANGHAI – Consider a couple of scenes from the golf world this year, with emphasis on ''world.''

Inbee Park began her bid to become the first golfer to capture four straight majors in one season by teeing off at 7 a.m. in the opening round at St. Andrews. It was a strange starting time for the star attraction, except that was prime viewing in South Korea.

Luke Guthrie had just started his second PGA Tour season when he packed his bags, along with a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew for his caffeine fix, and flew from Las Vegas to Shanghai for a European Tour event with little more at stake than experience in a new environment. He nearly won. Hello, China.

One of the rules officials at the HSBC Champions was a Chinese woman who has a Ph.D. in golf. Tiger Woods has only a Masters (OK, four of them).

Jordan Spieth wandered down to the caddie's bar Saturday night with his Texas Longhorns cap turned backward and his eyes on a TV showing the USC-Oregon State game from Friday night that had ended eight hours earlier. He was a long way from home, but for a moment, it sure didn't feel like it.

One of the biggest celebrations of the year starts this week in Australia – Adam Scott finally returns home with his green jacket.

Americans can be found over the next month from the Pacific Rim to Down Under. Rickie Fowler went from Malaysia to Shanghai to Australia, and then he was headed to Los Angeles for intense gym work before returning to Thailand. Tiger Woods was in China, Macau and Singapore doing corporate outings and an exhibition before going to Turkey this week for his second regular European Tour event of the year. Matt Kuchar is representing his country at Royal Melbourne again, this time in the World Cup.

Graeme McDowell, who grew up in Northern Ireland and lives in Orlando, Fla., spent two weeks in Shanghai, and then flew home to Florida for a week going back across eight time zones to finish his European Tour season in Dubai. Then he goes to Australia and Los Angeles.

Now, throw out 153 years of championship history and ask yourself this question: If golf were starting from scratch and there could be only four majors, would three of them really be in America?

That's why it makes perfect sense for the PGA of America to explore the possibility of occasionally taking the PGA Championship overseas. The key words are ''explore'' and ''occasionally.''

''I would say we're more than halfway through a serious analysis,'' PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua said over the weekend. ''What's important is we boil down our missions to two pillars – serve our members and grow the game,'' Bevacqua said. ''The ultimate test will be can we check both boxes? Does it make sense to occasionally play the PGA Championship overseas? Would growing the brand globally help our members? Would it grow the game? Part two is easy.''

The assumption would be to look at Asia, though the HSBC Champions already bills itself as ''Asia's major'' and likely will be even further established when or if the PGA of America ever decides to start accumulating stamps in its passport.

The most obvious hindrance is television, which was driven home by a tweet from Bob Estes to Dustin Johnson. ''Just woke up to find out that you won.'' The tweet was sent Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Texas time, about five hours after Johnson completed his three-shot win in the HSBC Champions. Estes missed an extraordinary display of golf – Johnson, Ian Poulter and McDowell each closed with a 66 from the final group.

Then again, if the PGA Championship were to leave America on occasion, that's at least a decade out. It wasn't long ago when the Masters showed only three hours of the final round. Or when golf in America was only televised on the weekend. How will sports even be broadcast a decade from now?

Bevacqua has only to look at other sports to identify a trend.

The NBA is playing preseason games in China. The NFL is making London a regular part of its schedule (yes, that team from Jacksonville really is part of the NFL). The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will open the 2014 baseball season in Australia.

''The world is getting smaller,'' PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. ''Things are coming together. It's more a question of the best players in the world are going to play, and it's going to be a big deal wherever it goes. What's best for that tournament long-term? And what's good for golf globally given the options? I don't think there's any reason not to think of those things.''

It's a new world of golf. It's a big world, yet one that is shrinking.

For years, the PGA Championship has been looked upon as the ''other'' major because it lacks a clear identity the other three enjoy. The Masters and Augusta National. The Open Championship and links golf. The U.S. Open historically as the toughest test in golf.

The PGA Championship has a chance to identify itself as the only international major. It's worth exploring, because it's clear that's where golf is going.

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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 golfodds.com.


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.”