Notes: Donald a bubble boy with Opens around corner

By Doug FergusonMay 12, 2015, 11:59 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Open is a month before the British Open.

Qualifying through the world ranking is in a different order.

The British Open takes the top 50 in the world ranking that is published after next week, and with two tournaments left, a few players have some work to do.

That starts with Luke Donald, who has qualified for every Open Championship since 2002 (he missed in 2008 with an injury).

Donald is No. 60 in the world ranking and plays next week in the BMW PGA Championship.

Ben Martin, who missed the playoff at the TPC Sawgrass by one shot, moved up to No. 51 this week. He is playing in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Players still have other avenues for which to qualify for St. Andrews, either by top finishes at select tournaments or by being ranked high enough in the European Tour or PGA Tour money lists. The world ranking figures to be the best bet.

As for the U.S. Open, the cutoff to reach the top 60 and earn an exemption is May 25, which is after the two Texas events on the PGA Tour, and after the Irish Open on the European Tour schedule. Kevin Kisner has lost in playoffs twice in the past month, though that at least moved him to No. 66 and within range.

The U.S. Open also has another cutoff for the top 60 on the Monday of the U.S. Open (June 15). Two players got into the U.S. Open after the final ranking cutoff a week ago, including Kevin Na, who tied for 12th.

THOMAS TURNAROUND: Justin Thomas is averaging right at 300 yards a drive in his rookie year on the PGA Tour.

But he wasn't always this long a hitter. Far from it.

''He would call from an AJGA tournament and I'd say, 'What's the number?' And he'd say it was six,'' said his father, Mike Thomas, a former PGA of America director and the longtime pro at Harmony Landing outside Louisville, Kentucky.

''That was the number of holes he couldn't reach.''

Most of them were par 4s, though Justin Thomas said he was all but certain to hit driver on at least one of the par 3s.

''I hit it so short,'' he said.

His father recalls one tournament where Thomas was paired with kids who were being recruited. The coaches watched a young teenager unable to get to three or four holes and still shooting 69. ''Typical of him being so competitive, he said it should have been 67,'' his father said.

Somewhere around his junior year in high school, Justin Thomas began to move it through a combination of getting stronger and technique. Distance is no longer is an issue, and Thomas continues to amaze with his power despite being only about 5-foot-10 and barely 160 pounds.

And that led to another story about his size.

Thomas recalls his freshman year at Alabama when a friend called concerned over what he had read on the school's website. It listed Thomas at 6-foot, 180 pounds. His buddy asked what happened to him. Thomas went to the coach.

''He said he wasn't going to have recruits looking at some guy on the team who was 5-10, 130,'' Thomas said.

PACING HIMSELF: Geoff Ogilvy tied for 24th at The Players Championship, his highest finish of the year. Even more notable is that it was only his eighth tournament.

The Players was the start of what likely will be four in a row, which is rare for the former U.S. Open champion. But there's a purpose to it.

''I've been underplaying on purpose, because I very often feel that in the summer I'm spent,'' Ogilvy said. ''This was the year to experiment and toy with the schedule a little bit. I don't think I've played enough tournaments to this point.''

He goes from Quail Hollow to Colonial and likely will play the Byron Nelson. If not, he would go to Memorial. And after the U.S. Open, he's headed for a holiday at home in Australia before going to St. Andrews.

There's only one problem.

By saving himself for the summer months, what if it's a short summer? Ogilvy is No. 159 in the FedEx Cup. His season could end in August. What if he doesn't even qualify for the playoff events?

''I figure there's always time,'' he said. ''And if I don't, I don't. It's not the end of the world. I've spent so much time worrying about that, and it's not conducive to playing well. Last year proved that. I had a horrific year. I win one week and it changes everything. One week and 27 holes.''

The one week was a win in Reno. The 27 holes were at the TPC Boston, which led to a runner-up finish and put him into the Tour Championship.

''Maybe I have that one week at St. Andrews or Chambers Bay or next week, whatever,'' he said. ''Stop chasing it. Stop worrying.''

DIFFERENT ROADS: On the same day that Rickie Fowler won The Players Championship and its $1.8 million prize, Rhys Davies of Wales won a Challenge Tour event in Turkey. It was his first victory in more than five years.

Fowler and Davies played at Royal County Down in 2007 at the Walker Cup, and Davies must have left quite an impression. He beat Fowler, 3 and 2, in the Sunday singles. If that wasn't enough, Davies had no trouble in the Saturday singles with his 5-and-4 victory over Dustin Johnson.

Davies' previous win was the Hassan Trophy, when he rallied to beat Louis Oosthuizen. That was in 2010, when he climbed as high as No. 44 in the world.

''Sometimes it's been really horrible in the last couple of years, I'm not going to pretend,'' Davies said. ''It's been quite dark sometimes. But I always felt that if I could get in the mix, I could win again. Sometimes it was so bad I didn't know where the next good round was going to come from. That's all I've been looking for, one good score. I know that seems crazy, but it was as simple as that.''

DIVOTS: One year after he was No. 1 in the world, Adam Scott is no longer in the top 10. Scott dropped to No. 11 this week. The previous time he was out of the top 10 was the week before his runner-up finish in the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. ... After missing the cut in his American debut this year, Rory McIlroy has finished out of the top 10 only one time in five starts. That was at Bay Hill, where he tied for 11th. ... The USGA accepted a record 1,873 entries for the U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania. That breaks the record of 1,702 entries for last year's Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2. ... Sergio Garcia's 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass was the fourth time he had made a birdie putt of 30 feet or longer on the island green. ... Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle have become honorary members of the Royal & Ancient.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Going into the final round of The Players Championship, No. 18 was the only hole at the TPC Sawgrass that Rickie Fowler had failed to birdie in his career. He made birdie that wound up getting him into a playoff that he won.

FINAL WORD: ''This game is too dad gum hard to get caught up in who's rated where. Just go play your butt off and see what happens.'' - Kevin Kisner.

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Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

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Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.