Notes: Another rookie miracle?; Calc's love affair with the Open

By Doug FergusonJuly 14, 2011, 11:43 pm

SANDWICH, England – He’s a PGA Tour rookie who had not finished in the top 10 all year until his most recent tournament, which came at the right time because it made him eligible for the British Open at Royal St. George’s.

That was Kyle Stanley on Thursday.

It also was Ben Curtis in 2003, when the unheralded American won the claret jug.

Is there a repeat performance in the works? Stanley has a long way to go, and he played in the favorable conditions Thursday afternoon, but he still managed a 2-under 68 despite a bogey on the final hole.

“I didn’t expect to be here,” Stanley said. “But now I am, and I just hope I can take advantage of the opportunity.”

Stanley was still optimistic enough that he took his passport with him to the John Deere Classic last week in Illinois, which offered a British Open spot to the leading player among the top five who was not already eligible. Stanley thought he had to win, so he was disappointed when Steve Stricker birdied the last two holes for a one-shot victory.

Before long, he was on a charter flight to England for his first British Open. He has been able to do some laundry, although he had to buy some warm clothing in the pro shop.

“It took me a day to adjust, but I’m sleeping well, and I’m pretty tired in the evenings,” Stanley said. “So that’s good.”

The real adjustment comes on the links course of Royal St. George’s. Stanley, who went to college at Clemson, grew up in Washington state. He’s used to a little rain, but not on bumpy turf like a seaside links.

But he feels his game is in good shape for any kind of golf.

AN ACE OF A RECOVERY: Dustin Johnson felt his British Open chances slipping away, mostly because he couldn’t make a putt.

He got right back in the game with a shot that didn’t require a putt.

Coming off back-to-back birdies, Johnson hit a wedge from 161 yards that bounced hard toward the cup and vanished into the hole for an ace, the third of his professional career. He added another birdie on the 17th, then watched a par putt catch the lip on the 18th for an unlikely 70.

“Standing on 14, I wanted to make a few birdies and give myself a chance to get back in this thing,” Johnson said. “If you would have bet me money that I would be 1-under par standing on the 18th tee, I wouldn’t have taken it.”

The hole-in-one looked as though it might run some 20 feet by the hole. Ian Poulter said Johnson turned to him and said, “I don’t care, as long as it’s 4 inches under.”

Johnson tossed the ball into the gallery. He doesn’t get too excited about moments like this, and when someone asked if it was hard to calm down on the next tee shot, the laid-back Johnson stared back blankly.

“I’m not very excited,” he said. “I’m going to go home and sleep.”

Moments later, he showed a large lump on his neck, the produce of swollen glands. Johnson said he has an infection and began taking antibiotics on Wednesday. The finish was a good tonic in its own way.

CALC’S BRITISH: Mark Calcavecchia doesn’t get in any other majors anymore unless they’re of the senior variety. That makes him appreciate his annual trip to the British Open even more.

Not to say Calcavecchia still can’t play a bit. His 69 in Thursday’s opening round would have been a good score even if he wasn’t a member of the Champions Tour.

“I just get fired up coming over here, and even if I hadn’t won the thing once, I would have told you it was my favorite,” said Calcavecchia, who won the British in 1989 at Royal Troon.

Calcavecchia arrived on Tuesday and played only five holes of practice at Royal St. George’s before going out early and posting his 1-under-par round. The 51-year-old Calcavecchia said he plans to take advantage of his former champion’s exemption as long as he can.

“Just coming over here, the atmosphere, the one week here of links golf and wind and weather and bounces, the stands, everything about it I love really,” he said.

Calcavecchia said his dream would be to win the Open again, but that he would take what he gets.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t get mad and just do the best I could every hole,” he said. “So one day down and three to go.”

LEADING OFF: History suggested Jerry Kelly might not have been the best guy to lead off Thursday morning at Royal St. George’s. The last time he played the first hole here in the British Open he shot an 11.

Kelly was better in the first round this year, making a bogey 5 after bouncing a sand wedge over the green. Still, thoughts from eight years ago were on his mind.

“I recognize the irony in it after what happened last time,” Kelly said.

Kelly shot an 86 that day and withdrew from the Open. He got around in 74 on Thursday, finding Royal St. George’s to be a much different course than it was then.

“The rough at No. 1 (in 2003) was up to the waist,” Kelly said. “Now it’s just up to the knees, but it’s the coverage underneath that was so heavy before. It’s much more playable this time.”

THE ONE-TWO PUNCH: Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the top two players in the world, each had 71 on different sides of the draw. Donald wasted a strong start in the tough morning weather, while Westwood had to birdie two of his last five holes in the afternoon.

Donald said his putting, not the pressure of playing before a home English crowd as the world No. 1, was to blame.

“I felt like I played a pretty solid round other than some missed opportunities on the greens,” Donald said. “I had three or four lip-outs and a few other opportunities that went amiss. It really could have been a very good round. A 71 is still solid, but it certainly could have been a little bit better if I’d have had the putter going.”

Westwood made three straight bogeys early in his round and made the turn in 38. He was helped by birdies on the 14th and 15th, and not dropping any more shots coming in.

“It could have been a lot worse - 3 over through five holes is a poor start, and you don’t want to be chasing in major championships,” he said. “My game was pretty good today. I hit a lot of good shots. Like I say, on the greens I didn’t capitalize on it.”

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Tom Lewis is named after Tom Watson. To show a sense of the golfing tradition in his family, his younger brother was named Jack.

“You can imagine who that’s after,” Lewis said, referring to Jack Nicklaus if it’s still not clear.

That led to a natural question of whether his brother plays golf, and how well. Lewis showed some humor when he leaned forward into the microphone and made sure he understood the question.

“Is he any good? No,” he said, as the room broke into laughter.

Then came some perspective.

“I think he (plays) off about 7, so he can play,” Lewis said. “I’m sure he’ll beat half the people in here.”

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Pros share condolences for slain Iowa State player

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 19, 2018, 5:01 pm

As details continue to emerge surrounding the murder of 22-year-old Celia Barquin Arozamena, multiple professional athletes took to Twitter to share their condolences for the former Iowa State star.

Arozamena was found dead Monday at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa, where she was playing a round of golf by herself when she was allegedly attacked by a nearby homeless man. Twenty-two-year-old Collin Daniel Richards is charged with first-degree murder after allegedly stabbing Arozamena and leaving her body in a pond on the golf course.

Arozamena was the 2018 Big XII champion and Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year, and she was a native of Spain. As the Iowa State community mourned her death, fellow Spanish athletes shared their thoughts, including former Masters champ Sergio Garcia and NBA star Pau Gasol:

Arozamena's amateur accomplishments extended beyond the collegiate setting, as she also won the European Amateur Championship in July. Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam tweeted a photo she took with Arozamena at a previous event, calling the incident "horrendous."

Iowa State is planning to honor Arozamena Saturday during their home football game against Akron, with the team wearing "CBA" decals bearing her initials.

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'It's been fun': Tiger embracing this year's moral victory

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 3:52 pm

ATLANTA – The aura of Tiger Woods has always demanded that his accomplishments, or failures, be graded on a unique scale. When your only competition is a record book and a guy named Jack, normal benchmarks just won’t cut it.

When you’ve won 14 major championships and 79 PGA Tour titles, there’s no such thing as a moral victory.

Well, there didn’t used to be. But this is different.

It was a year ago next week that Woods first offered an unfiltered glimpse into the state of his body and his game following fusion surgery on his lower back in April 2017.

“The pain's gone, but I don't know what my golfing body is going to be like, because I haven't hit a golf shot yet,” he said at last September’s Presidents Cup. “So that's going to take time to figure that out and figure out what my capabilities are going forward, and there's no rush.”

As timelines go, it’s telling that it was shortly after those matches in New Jersey that Woods reached out to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to ask about the possibility of being the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team in 2019. With Tiger, it’s always about reading between the lines, but it’s a relatively straightforward message that less than a year ago he was contemplating life as a captain, not necessarily a player.

Tiger has spoken often this year about the uncertainty he felt entering this season, about the unknowns that awaited him during this most recent comeback. He’s even suggested that for the first time in his career, he began a season with dramatically tempered expectations.

Yhat outlook began to change, albeit slowly at first, following a pedestrian West Coast swing that included a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

“The beginning of the year was such an unknown, I didn't know if I would be able to make it to Florida and to play the Florida Swing. Let's just start out at Torrey and see how it goes,” Woods explained on Wednesday at the Tour Championship.

He not only remained upright throughout the spring, but he also showed flashes of his former self with a runner-up showing at the Valspar Championship.

Unlike Justin Thomas, who studiously thumbs a lengthy list of goals into his cell phone each season, Woods keeps his vision board largely to himself. Nonetheless, there have been milestones throughout the season that have checked the right boxes.

For starters, Tiger will finish this season with 19 starts, the most he’s played since 2012. In fact, just once since 2000 has he played more than 19, which is as good a sign as any that his health, if not his game, is up to the task.

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His performance on the course has also steadily progressed. Although he’s not won since 2013, and that will always be the standard by which he’s judged, his world ranking tracks quite steeply in one direction. When he finished 15th at the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial, limited-field event in December, he was 650th in the world. Before the season’s first major, he cracked the top 100. Last month, his runner-up showing at the PGA Championship moved him back into the top 30.

That progression paved the way for a return to the World Golf Championship at Firestone and this week’s Tour Championship.

“Just to have that opportunity to be able to add a tournament, I thought I was going to be taking tournaments away, but to have added a couple and to have earned my way into Akron, I look at this year more as I've exceeded a lot of my expectations and goals because so much of it was an unknown,” he said.

This week’s start at East Lake is particularly rewarding considering it’s been five year’s since he played the finale. To Tiger, the Tour Championship is a straightforward meritocracy.

“What I've missed most about playing this event is that in order to get into this event, I would have earned my way being part of the top 30 most consistent players of the year and the best players of the year,” he said. “No exemptions into this event. Either you get here or you don't. It's a very hard line.”

There’s still plenty of work to do. On Wednesday, he talked of getting all of the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place at the same time, something that’s been an issue even during his best weeks.

The scale is always going to be wildly tilted when it comes to Tiger and for many that’s not going to change. It’s the price he must pay for unparalleled success. But for Woods and those around him, it’s impossible and frankly unfair to grade this season based entirely on wins and loses.

In sports, you are what your record says you are. Maybe when Woods calls it a career, 2018 will be nothing more than a bridge to bigger and better things. But as Tiger took mental inventory of his 22nd full season on Tour on Wednesday, the smile that spread across his face went well beyond the standings and statistics – “It’s been fun,” he beamed.

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Stanford suddenly a potential Solheim captain

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 3:06 pm

Angela Stanford’s first major championship brought more than a large trophy, a large paycheck and an extra-large jolt of confidence going forward.

It bolstered her hopes for a larger Solheim Cup future.

Stanford, 40, wondered if her Solheim Cup days were over when she failed to make the American team going to Iowa last year, but Sunday’s victory at the Evian Championship vaults her into the picture to make the team going to Scotland next year.

More than that, it bolsters her burning ambition to one day lead the U.S. Solheim Cup team as its captain.

“When you’ve played in some Solheim Cups and you miss one, it hurts,” Stanford told “They’re very special.

“Hopefully, next year, I’m playing well enough to help the team win. I would like to play in another one, and, yes, I would like to be a captain someday.”

It was fitting Evian officials wrapped Stanford in the American flag during the trophy presentation Sunday in France. She loves team golf and playing for her country, but before winning there she wondered about more than her prospects for making another U.S. team.

She wondered about her qualifications to be captain.

“I always heard winning a major was one of the requirements,” said Stanford, a six-time LPGA winner “I don’t know if that’s true or not.”

While it’s not a requirement, LPGA officials acknowledge it’s a consideration.

There have been 11 different American captains in Solheim Cup history, and Rosie Jones is the only one who didn’t have a major on her resume, though she did have 13 LPGA titles.

So Stanford’s victory Sunday in France opens a door. She needed it because her Solheim Cup record isn’t the most stellar. She’s 4-13-3 in the matches, but the record almost doesn’t matter now with her major. Plus, Stanford created a Solheim Cup memory that trumps her playing record. She prevailed in one of the most monumental singles matches in Solheim Cup history. She took down Suzann Pettersen in the historic American comeback in Germany three years ago. That’s the year Pettersen, the undisputed European leader, was embroiled in controversy over American Alison Lee’s mistake scooping up a putt that wasn’t conceded. Pettersen was the heart and soul of the European team that appeared to be rolling toward a third consecutive team title that year.

Stanford beat Pettersen 2-and-1 during the epic American comeback.

“That really changed how I felt about how I performed on the Solheim stage,” Stanford said. “I was really hoping to make last year’s team, to ride that momentum. Hopefully, I will get another chance.”

Stanford has the memory of her role in that comeback to draw upon forever. She arrived on the first tee to play Pettersen with the same attitude she took to Evian on Sunday. Her record didn’t matter; she was going to fight to the end.

“I came out that morning in Germany with the attitude that, 'I’m sick of losing. I’m sick of being pushed around. I’m sick of coming up on the short end,'” Stanford said. “I showed up with the attitude, 'This isn’t going to happen to me again. I’m not going to be the reason we don’t pull this off.’

“I didn’t like what happened to Alison, and I really wanted to help the team.”

Juli Inkster will captain the American team for an unprecedented third time in Scotland next year. When Inkster’s reign ends, Stanford’s name will move up the short list of future candidates.

It’s a list that should include Dottie Pepper, Pat Hurst and Sherri Steinhauer, though Pepper’s history with today’s players and her heavy criticism of the Americans in the past makes her future selection highly doubtful, if she even wanted the job.

After that, the most relevant choices are Cristie Kerr and now Stanford. Like Stanford, Kerr is 40 and still very much focused on playing.

“I probably have one of the rougher Solheim Cup records in history, but personally I never looked at it like that,” Stanford said. “I look at our team record. I’ve been on three winning teams and three losing teams. I want to make it on another team and make that a winning record.”

Stanford’s confidence after winning Evian and her desire to win another Solheim Cup should make for potent fuel to drive her over the next year.

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Tiger: Back was an issue in 2012 Ryder loss at Medinah

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 2:39 pm

ATLANTA – On Tuesday at East Lake, Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round with Bryson DeChambeau, adding to the notion that the two could end up partnering at next week’s Ryder Cup.

Of course, he also played with Tony Finau. And - let’s face it - there are no shortage of potential teammates for Woods in the U.S. team room.

But DeChambeau does seem to have his interest.

“I've gotten to know Bryson very well, and what an amazing talent, and an unbelievable hard worker,” Woods said. “He has figured out a way to play this game his own way, and he's very efficient at what he does, and he's not afraid to think outside the box on how he can become better.”

After missing the last two matches because of injury, finding the right partner is a good problem to have.

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Being one of Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks is particularly rewarding for Woods, who endured one of his toughest losses in the matches in his last start in 2012, when the U.S. team took a four-point lead into Sunday singles but lost, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.

The ’12 matches were where Woods' back prompted him to request a late tee time Sunday, rendering his anchor match with Francesco Molinari ultimately irrelevant once Europe retained at least a share of the cup. Woods eventually conceded the 18th hole to Molinari, ending their match in a halve and allowing Europe to win outright. 

“I wasn't feeling physically well at that Ryder Cup, and it's where my back started bugging me,” Woods said. “That's the only wave I've ever missed was [that] Saturday afternoon wave, because I told [U.S. captain Davis Love III] I just really couldn't go. And I said, 'Can you put me out later on Sunday? Because I need the time to get my back organized here.'

“It was tough watching them celebrate in the 18th fairway when I thought we should have won that one."

Woods actually missed the morning foursomes session on Day 2 in at Medinah. It marked the first time in his Ryder Cup career he didn’t play all four team sessions. He finished with a 0-3-1 record for the week.