DJ leads delayed Open Championship; Spieth 5 back

By Doug FergusonJuly 18, 2015, 8:27 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - For all the debate over whether the British Open should have started Saturday, Dustin Johnson only cared about the finish.

A second round that lasted nearly 39 hours because of rain one day and a raging wind the next finally ended with Johnson driving the 18th green and taking two putts from 150 feet for birdie and a 3-under 69.

That gave him a one-shot lead over Danny Willett of England, who for the second straight year did not hit a single shot in the British Open on Saturday. Last year it was because he missed the cut. This time it was because he finished his second round Friday.

Even a championship with 155 years of history can deliver a strange twist.

And there were plenty on the Old Course. Brooks Koepka refused to play when his ball wouldn't stay still on the 11th green. Jordan Spieth three-putted five times in one round. Tiger Woods posted his highest 36-hole in the British Open.

Rarest of all is that the wind delay that lasted more than 10 hours forced the first Monday finish in 27 years at the British Open.

Not so peculiar was Johnson atop the leaderboard at 10-under 134.

Paul Lawrie, the 46-year-old Scot who won a crazy Open at Carnoustie in 1999, played bogey-free over the final 14 holes for a 70 and was two shots behind. Louis Oosthuizen (70) and Jason Day (71) joined the large group at 7-under 137 that included Adam Scott and Zach Johnson, who finished Friday.


Full-field scores: 144th Open Championship


Spieth, going after the third leg of the Grand Slam, shot 72 and was five behind.

One month after a three-putt from 12 feet cost him a shot at the U.S. Open, Johnson walked the Old Course with a swagger. He did enough damage Friday that even a couple of bogeys didn't get him off track, and he showed in the short time he played Saturday he could handle the wind.

"Every aspect of your game is challenged," Johnson said.

As gusts began to top 40 mph when the second round resumed in the morning, Johnson chose to chip up the steep slope at the front of the par-5 14th green. He didn't hit quite hard enough. And then, the player with a reputation of being in too much of a hurry at the majors made the mistake of taking his time. An inch away from placing his coin behind the ball to mark it, a gust moved his ball and it picked up enough momentum to roll off the green and cause Spieth to jump out of the way.

Three putts later, Johnson had his second bogey of the week. One hole later, the R&A realized it was too windy to continue.

Johnson returned nearly 11 hours later, made two solid pars and finished with his birdie. It was the fourth time in the last six rounds at the majors that he has had at least a share of lead, though not when it mattered - at the end.

This might be his best chance yet.

Spieth three-putted for par on the 14th hole and swiped his putter in disgust at leaving two of those putts short. He had another three-putt from about 90 feet on the 17th hole. But he stayed in the game by driving the 18th green for a birdie.

"I believe I'm still in contention. I still believe I can win this tournament," Spieth said.

But after spending two days playing alongside Johnson, he also realized a third straight major will require some help.

"I need a really solid round tomorrow because Dustin is not letting up," Spieth said. "Dustin is going to shoot a good round tomorrow with less wind, and I'm going to need to shoot a great round to really give myself a chance."

The second round didn't finish Friday because a burst of heavy rain flooded the course. That was nothing compared with the gusts off the Eden Estuary, and the R&A knew it was going to be on the edge to play. R&A officials said they spent an hour on the 11th green - the most exposed part of the golf course - to make sure golf balls weren't moving. And then it started, and Koepka's ball wouldn't stay put.

He took nearly 30 minutes to hit one putt. He kept marking his golf ball and protesting with a rules official and finally said he wouldn't play when his ball moved a couple of inches on three occasions. A few holes ahead, Oosthuizen putted up to 3 feet on the 13th. A gust blew it a few feet away and, as the South African laughed at the absurdity, it moved about 8 feet away.

About that time, play was halted and didn't resume until 6 p.m.

It was the third straight time that an Open at St. Andrews was halted by wind - 2010 for the British Open and 2013 for the Women's British Open. The fullest grandstand was behind the driving range as players kept trying to stay loose in case the wind subsided, and it finally did.

Ultimately, what mattered was the finish.

Just not for Woods. He never had a realistic chance of making the cut. Needing mostly birdies, he resumed his round with three straight bogeys and shot 75 to finish his two rounds at 7-over 151. That was his highest 36-hole ever in the British Open, one month after his highest 36-hole total ever (156) to miss the cut in the U.S. Open.

Willett, meanwhile, also came to the golf course to practice.

"We had it yesterday, but they've had an extremely long day today," Willett said. "It's not ideal for the guys."

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.

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Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

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Woods does everything but win at The Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

Sure, after a round in which he took the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

“Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

But here’s where we take a deep breath.

Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.

Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

The scenario was improbable.

Inconceivable.

Impossible.

At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

“Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

“For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, the ball ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

“It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

“Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing The Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

“She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

“To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.

Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:

LOVE THE HATERS.

After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?