Els hands over claret jug, wants to win it back

By Doug FergusonJuly 15, 2013, 12:52 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Two dozen cameras were in position Monday morning to capture the first big moment of this British Open, only they weren't anywhere near the golf course. They waited in the driveway as a silver station wagon pulled through the gate and stopped in front of the clubhouse at Muirfield.

Ernie Els climbed out of the back seat holding the shiny claret jug he won last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and he promptly handed it over to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson.

''Thank you,'' Dawson told him. ''You've been a great champion.''

Now it's up to the 43-year-old South African to reclaim the silver prize, and that doesn't figure to be easy.

Els won last month in Germany. He won the last time the Open was played at Muirfield in 2002. He has more top-10s in the British Open than any other major. But he has this piece of history working against him – the last major champion in his 40s to successfully defend his title was Old Tom Morris, and that was 151 years ago.

The Big Easy is not a betting man, but he was asked to pick someone to wager a pound on at Muirfield.

''I'd have to look at the odds, wouldn't I?'' he said, trying to buy time. ''Maybe a long shot. I like to go for the long shots.''

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That's what he might have been considered last year at Royal Lytham. He was winless on a major tour in two years, failed to qualify for the Masters for the first time in nearly two decades and was No. 40 in the world. But he was close to flawless on the back nine and was the recipient of a shocking collapse by Adam Scott, who made bogey on his last four holes to finish one shot behind.

Back to the wager. He was asked who should be considered in the pole position.

''To name one, I'm going to have to name 20,'' Els said. ''That's how close it is. I don't know. A guy who likes the layout. A guy who likes the bounces. I'm not sure.''

That was a good start.

There is nothing like links golf, with its humps and mounds along the fairways, a landscape framed by tall grass and dotted with pot bunkers. It can be played in the air when the grass is green during wet summers, or played on the ground when the course is crusty and yellow, which is the case this year at Muirfield.

Els remembers his first experience with links golf, and he loved it right away.

''The sound is different. The divot into the fairways are different. The whole experience is different than anything else around the world,'' Els said. ''So it's something you're either going to really like or you're not going to like. I was fortunate enough that I really fell in love with it.''

A long shot?

Maybe someone like Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old Texan who was headed toward another top finish on the PGA Tour until he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the last hole at the John Deere Classic, got into a playoff when Zach Johnson made bogey on the 18th, and won on the fifth extra hole. Next thing he knew, Spieth was on a charter flight to Scotland for his first British Open. He has experience with links golf, having played the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.

And for those who believe experience is required, Ben Curtis won in 2003 in his first major championship, let alone his first time playing links golf. Curtis reunited this week with Andy Sutton, the local caddie he hired at Royal St. George's. Sutton was told of an American player looking for a caddie 10 years ago and had never heard of Curtis. Not to worry. A lot of Americans had never heard of him, either.

Tiger Woods is always a favorite, and he has the best odds this week, even though he hasn't won the claret jug since Hoylake in 2006.

Els is well aware of the quality of champions Muirfield tends to produce, from Harry Vardon and James Braid to Walter Hagen and Henry Cotton, from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to Lee Trevino and Tom Watson, along with Nick Faldo and Els.

And yes, he believes the course has something to do with that.

''It's just a wonderful design,'' Els said. ''The par 3s are unbelievable. The par 5s have been changed a little bit – they're longer. Each and every hole is a little bit different. There's left-to-right, right-to-left, and it all happens out there. Every links shot that you can imagine, you're going to play it this week.''

Els returned to Muirfield a few weeks ago, and he played a quiet nine holes Sunday evening. He remembers much about Muirfield, a course where he tied for fifth in his professional debut in 1992 and won a decade later. And there are some shots he is trying to forget, such as the double bogey on the 16th hole that nearly cost him a chance at having his name on that claret jug.

Els had to make birdie on the par-5 17th and close with a par just to get into a four-man playoff over four holes, and he won in the first sudden-death moment in Open history over Thomas Levet on the fifth hole. Even then, Els hit into a bunker on the 18th and had to save par for the win.

He certainly is not ruling himself out this week, not after the victory in Germany and his tie for fourth in the U.S. Open. Els might not win as much as he used to, but he plays the hard courses well. And with a forecast for dry weather and strong wind, this might be hard.

The claret jug is the oldest trophy in golf, first awarded in 1873. Els took it around the world over the last year, as he did after winning in 2002. The jug stayed outside London the last two weeks, cleaned and buffed so it was shiny when he handed it back to the R&A.

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 22, 2018, 5:30 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm: 0-0-1 (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat: 1-0-0 (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie: 0-1-0 (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley: 0-0-1 (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia: 1-0-0 (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman: 0-0-1 (20) X. Schauffele: 1-0-0 (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas: 0-0-1 (41) D. Frittelli: 0-1-0 (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma: 0-1-0 (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 1-1-0 (10) P. Casey: 1-0-0 (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick: 0-1-0 (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-1-0 (45) K. Stanley: 1-0-0 (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley: 0-1-0 (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 2-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-0-1 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello: 1-0-0 (24) G. Woodland: 0-0-1 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-2-0 (40) S. Kodaira: 0-1-0 (37) W. Simpson: 0-0-1 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-0-1 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1
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Romo starts hot, stumbles to 77 in PGA Tour debut

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 5:14 pm

There was plenty of good, but also plenty of bad for Tony Romo in his PGA Tour debut.

Playing in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship on a sponsor exemption, Romo shot an even-par 36 for his opening nine holes in the Dominican Republic. The former NFL quarterback bogeyed his first two holes, but steadied the ship with three birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 4-8.

The early highlight of the round came at the par-4 fifth hole, where Romo drained a putt from across the green for his second straight birdie:

But the back nine wasn't as kind for the 37-year-old, who dropped five shots in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 13-16. It added up to a 5-over 77 in the opening round, which left Romo ahead of only Guy Boros among the players who had finished in the morning wave.

"I hit two poor tee balls. Just didn't commit to it, and ultimately just got put in a tough spot where you're just trying to make par," Romo said. "I hit a lot of good shots, and they ended up a couple times in some poor spots. But you learn the golf course as you play it throughout the week."

Romo has played as an amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and has played individually in U.S. Open local qualifiers and mini-tour events as an amateur. But this marks his first attempt to gauge his game against the best players in the world who are not in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Romo was even par through 12 holes before a three-putt bogey from the fringe on No. 13. A nasty lie in the rough led to a double bogey on the par-5 14th, and Romo had to hit provisional tee shots on both Nos. 15 and 16. While he ultimately found his original ball on both holes, he left with a pair of bogeys.

"I really hit some good shots, and I'm close," Romo said. "I had a chance to be under par pretty easily there for a while, and then two or three shots on the back nine cost me. But that's golf."

Romo will tee off at 1 p.m. ET Friday in the second round alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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Horschel, Kisner & Perez join "Feherty," Monday, March 26 at 9 p.m. ET

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMarch 22, 2018, 5:10 pm

PREVIEW: Perez details rocky collegiate golf experience at Arizona State

Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner and Pat Perez – each winners of multiple events on the PGA TOUR – will join David Feherty on his self-titled, Emmy-nominated series Feherty presented by Farmers Insurance®, Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.

“This might be the biggest group of benign social deviants I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking to,” said Feherty. “They’ve been responsible for nine career wins on TOUR collectively, but they’re each also capable of getting into some mischief.”

The episode – filmed in Naples, Fla. – will touch upon several topics, including:

  • Their respective upbringings and corresponding introductions to golf.
  • Reflections on their junior golf and collegiate playing days, and how it helped prepare them to compete as a professional.
  • Contemplating which mulligan(s) they’d take in their life if given the opportunity.

Future guests on Feherty this year include Paul Azinger, Stewart Cink, Boo Weekley and Paul Goydos, among others.

A two-time Emmy-nominated host (Outstanding Sports Personality – Studio Host) Feherty has been described as “golf’s iconoclast,” by Rolling Stone, and “the last unscripted man on TV,” by Men’s Journal. His all-star lineup of golf-enthused and culturally relevant guests feature celebrities from across entertainment, sports and politics. To date, Feherty has sat down with four U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump); sports legends Charles Barkley, Nick Saban, Stephen Curry and Bobby Knight; Hollywood icons Matthew McConaughey, Larry David and Samuel L. Jackson; World Golf of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson; and a host of current golf superstars including Paula Creamer, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Michelle Wie. Feherty is produced by Golf Channel’s original productions group, which also oversees production for Driver vs. Driver and Golf Films.

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 2

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play. Click here for Day 1 match results:

Group 1: Dustin Johnson (1) vs. Adam Hadwin (38)

Group 1: Kevin Kisner (32) vs. Bernd Wiesberger (52)

Group 2: Justin Thomas (2) vs. Patton Kizzire (48)

Group 2: Francesco Molinari (21) vs. Luke List (60)

 Group 3: Jon Rahm (3) vs. Chez Reavie (43)

Group 3: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) vs. Keegan Bradley (63)

Group 4: Jordan Spieth (4) vs. Haotong Li (34)

Group 4: Patrick Reed (19) vs. Charl Schwartzel (49)

Group 5: Hideki Matsuyama (5) vs. Cameron Smith (46)

Group 5: Patrick Cantlay (30) vs. Yusaku Miyazato (53)

Group 6: Rory McIlroy (6) vs. Jhonattan Vegas (44)

Group 6: Brian Harman (18) vs. Peter Uihlein (57)

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) vs. Dylan Frittelli (41)

Group 7: Xander Schauffele (20) vs. Shubhankar Sharma (62)

Group 8: Jason Day (8) vs. Jason Dufner (42)

Group 8: Louis Oosthuizen (25) vs. James Hahn (56)

Group 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9) def. Kevin Chappell (33), 7 and 6: Avenging an opening-day loss, the Englishman won the first four holes and needed to make only three birdies in a monster rout of Chappell. The 2017 Presidents Cupper made five bogeys and conceded two other holes but still has a chance to win the group.  

Group 9: Daniel Berger (26) vs. Ian Poulter (58)

Group 10: Paul Casey (10) vs. Kyle Stanley (45)

Group 10: Matthew Fitzpatrick (31) vs. Russell Henley (51)

Group 11: Marc Leishman (11) vs. Bubba Watson (35)

Group 11: Branden Grace (23) vs. Julian Suri (64)

Group 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12) vs. Brendan Steele (36)

Group 12: Charley Hoffman (22) vs. Alexander Levy (55)

Group 13: Alex Noren (13) def. Thomas Pieters (39), 5 and 4: Noren made quick work of Pieters in what could be a match of future Ryder Cup teammates. Noren built a 4-up lead after seven holes and then cruised from there, moving to 2-0 this week and eliminating Pieters. In 30 holes this week, Noren has made 12 birdies and no bogeys.

Group 13: Tony Finau (29) vs. Kevin Na (61)

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) vs. Satoshi Kodaira (40)

Group 14: Rafa Cabrera Bello (17) vs. Charles Howell III (59)

Group 15: Pat Perez (15) vs. Webb Simpson (37)

Group 15: Gary Woodland (24) vs. Si Woo Kim (50)

Group 16: Matt Kuchar (16) vs. Yuta Ikeda (47)

Group 16: Ross Fisher (27) vs. Zach Johnson (54)