Harrington: 'I owe a few people favors'

By Doug FergusonMarch 4, 2015, 2:39 am

DORAL, Fla. (AP) - Padraig Harrington's game slipped so badly last year that he failed to keep full status on the PGA Tour for the first time. He wrote letters to tournaments asking for a sponsor exemption and received one from every tournament but the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

Some of the tournaments responded within an hour of his request. It was easy to see why, and not just because he's a three-time major champion.

The Honda Classic was the fifth straight tournament Harrington played, and he wound up winning in a playoff for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2008 PGA Championship. The immediate perk is a spot in the Masters through 2017.

And he's about to be very busy.

He has received exemptions to the Valspar Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Valero Texas Open and Shell Houston Open. That's followed by the Masters, and it might be prudent for Harrington to return one of the exemptions so he's not worn out before Augusta National. That won't be happening.

''I've got four invites the next four weeks, and I'm committed,'' he said. ''One thing about getting an invite. I said, 'If you give me an invite, I'll be there.' While it's terrible preparation for the Masters to play four, I took the invite to Tampa, Bay Hill, San Antonio and Houston. And I will honor those invites because I got them. And I do appreciate them. ... It doesn't change it now because I'm busy. I owe a few people favors.''

His solution was to play the tournament and perhaps do less in the days leading up to the events. Except for one thing. Sponsor exemptions typically are asked to fill in on Monday pro-ams, or perhaps attending a sponsor party, sometimes both. Harrington now will be a draw for the Wednesday pro-am.

''I'll be taking most Tuesdays off,'' he said.

Harrington said he played 35 times last year - 32 were official world ranking events - and he wouldn't be surprised if he played that many or more this year because of his commitments and tournaments for which he now is eligible, such as two World Golf Championships, the Masters and The Players Championship. He also plays in Europe to keep his membership. One tournament he didn't get in was the Cadillac Championship at Doral.

And he was relieved.

''I couldn't do it,'' he said.

Some 20 hours later, he was home in Ireland with a trophy and a much-needed rest.

BUBBA'S BIG SHOT: Bubba Watson is famous for that sand wedge he hooked out of the trees on the 10th hole at Augusta National to win his first Masters. He hammered a drive over the dogleg on the 13th last year when he won another green jacket. He holed a bunker shot at the HSBC Champions to force a playoff that he won.

His best shot? None of the above.

Watson went back some half-dozen years ago to Bay Hill when he hit a shot that no one remembers, though it does sound vaguely familiar.

He said he tried to clear the bunker on the 16th hole and hooked it into the trees, with rough and leaves all around.

''Had a tree in front of me,'' he said. ''Had roughly 202 (yards) to carry, 210 (to the) hole over that little creek. And I said, 'I'm going to hit a low 6-iron.'''

The plan was to hit it low, feeling it would carry that far. His caddie was skeptical and finally stepped out of the way.

''That was probably the best shot,'' Watson said. ''It probably got 10 feet off the ground at the most. Hit a low 6-iron out of the thick rough, punched it, just kept it under the tree, hit it to about 15 feet.''

Why does it sound familiar?

Another lefty, Phil Mickelson, was in that area in 2002. He was trailing Tiger Woods by one shot and felt his best option was a thin 4-iron under the branches and over the water. He didn't quite pull it off and wound up finishing with three straight bogeys.

WHO'S NO. 2: The top 50 players in the world are at the Cadillac Championship, making this the first time all top 50 are in the same tournament since the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. The ranking points are high and it could shake things up.

It won't change anything at the top, of course. Rory McIlroy has a stranglehold on No. 1.

However, the next seven players - Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose - all have a mathematical chance to be No. 2 if they were to win at Doral.

All of them have reached No. 2 or higher at some point in their careers except for Day and Rose.

THE BLACK DOTS: Those black marks seen on Padraig Harrington's golf ball at the Honda Classic are there for a reason. He likes to have a mark on which to focus during his swing, and the black dots provide that. Because he can't move the ball except on the tee and putting green, the additional dots ensure that Harrington can see at least one of them (except for lift, clean and place).

This was not new.

A year ago, caddie Ronan Flood sat by his bag on the range at PGA National and marked each ball with the black dots. Harrington is known for peculiar drills, so the explanation wasn't all that surprising.

About that time, Harrington walked onto the range. When asked what his caddie was doing, Harrington smiled and said, ''That Ronan. He's obsessive compulsive, isn't he?''

DIVOTS: The American Society of Golf Course Architects said that Jay Moorish died Monday at age 78. Moorish was a past president who worked on golf course design with Jack Nicklaus and more famously with Tom Weiskopf. The 12-year partnership with Weiskopf included designing Loch Lomond. ... Both years Bubba Watson has won the Masters, he was runner-up at Doral. So maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing to finish second this week? ''Two different styles of golf courses. You can't even compare them,'' Watson said. ''I don't think about it. It's just one of those weird things that it just happened that way.'' ... The Golf Club of Tennessee has been selected to host for the 2018 U.S. Women's Amateur. ... The BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour, is raising its purse to 5 million euros ($5.6 million).

STAT OF THE WEEK: The last two winners on the PGA Tour, James Hahn and Padraig Harrington, both were at No. 297 in the world. Both finished at 6 under par, and both won in a playoff.

FINAL WORD: ''Winning is so much better than anything else. I'd rather win in Indonesia than finish second anywhere else.'' - Padraig Harrington.

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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.”