McGirt takes two-shot lead in NTO

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2014, 11:24 pm

LOS ANGELES – A city known for its star power has a PGA Tour event filled with fairy tales off Sunset Boulevard.

Start with William McGirt, who ran off eight birdies in 13 holes at Riviera on his way to a 6-under 65 on Saturday to build a two-shot lead in the Northern Trust Open. Going into his fourth full season, McGirt has never won on the PGA Tour. His last victory was on the eGolf Tour in the Carolinas, where the $16,000 winner's check paid off his credit cards. Asked to name the mini-tours he played, McGirt said he would run out of fingers and toes counting them.

''When you're around mini-tours for eight years and go through a bunch of heartaches at Q-school, once you finally get here, you really have to appreciate it,'' he said.

He was at 12-under 201, two shots ahead of George McNeill (66) and Charlie Beljan (68).

McNeill was working in a pro shop until giving the Tour one last shot, and it already has produced two wins, though neither was enough to get into the Masters. Beljan lost in a playoff at Riviera last year. He is best known for being wheeled off the course at Disney on a stretcher because of a panic attack, and winning two days later.

And then there's Jason Allred.


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He hasn't played a PGA Tour event since qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. His wife is due with their third child at the end of the month, so Allred came over to try to Monday qualify. After opening with a 73, he followed with a 64 on Friday and a 67 on Saturday and now is just three shots behind.

A victory would give him a two-year exemption, trips to the Masters and PGA Championship, Kapalua and Bay Hill and the Memorial and Firestone, even Shanghai.

He got choked up talking about support from his wife and the treat to be able to have a week like this.

''Making the putt on 18 is probably the most excitement I felt from the crowd ever in my career,'' said Allred, who holed a 10-footer on the final hole. ''I can't tell you how much it means to me to be able to be at a place in my life. I just have so much to be thankful for with my amazing family. It just feels great to be out here and soak it up.''

One of them could emerge a big winner Sunday, though there are plenty of stars right behind them.

The leaderboard at times was more crowded than the 405, which has been reduced to two lanes this weekend because of construction, causing traffic that is bad even by LA standards. When the third round ended, 15 players were within five shots of the lead.

That's not much at Riviera, on Sunday, chasing someone who has never had a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

The group at 8-under 205 featured Jordan Spieth (67), Dustin Johnson (69) and Jimmy Walker (67), who is going for his fourth win of the season after winning last week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am. Also in that group were a pair of Masters champions, Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (68).

Behind them were a pair of former champions at Riviera, Bill Haas and Aaron Baddeley.

''I've just got to go play my game tomorrow and hope that it's good enough,'' McGirt said.

McGirt held up nicely the last time he had a chance like this. He was in the last group at the 2010 Canadian Open, one shot out of the lead, and stayed near the lead all round until making bogey on the tough 18th hole at Hamilton Golf and Country Club to finish one shot behind Scott Piercy.

The 34-year-old from South Carolina has much at stake Sunday. McGirt has played in only one major, the PGA Championship two years ago. He hasn't won a proper event in nearly seven years, and even his one claim-to-fame comes with a caveat. McGirt made two aces in one round at a charity event, the second one worth a car.

Turns out the event failed to pay for insurance in case a professional made the hole-in-one. McGirt received a weedwacker shaped like a golf club, instead.

First place at the Northern Trust Open is worth $1,206,000, which is $22,000 short of his best season on Tour.

McGirt is among four players from the top 12 who have never won on Tour. The others are Brian Harman, who had a 68 and was three shots behind, Cameron Tringale, who had a 67 and was in the group four shots behind, and Allred.

This week already has been more than Allred could have dreamed, and he dreams a lot.

''I need to be honest, it's totally blown them out of the water,'' he said of his expectations. ''But also to be honest, even when I go out to practice, whether it's to prepare for a gate way tournament or this week, I still have that belief in me that I have in me to win big golf tournaments. At times, even I have a hard time believing that over the years, but it sure is fun to be out here and be able to have a chance.''


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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”