Notes: How one putt could start Olympic domino effect for Kuchar

By Doug FergusonJuly 5, 2016, 4:07 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Matt Kuchar finished with a 12-foot birdie at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which had no bearing on the outcome but still had a few ramifications.

Kuchar tied for third, so that putt was worth an additional $249,250. It cost Jordan Spieth enough world ranking points that Dustin Johnson moved ahead of him to No. 2 by the slimmest of margins.

And that birdie putt could send Kuchar to the Olympics.

Whether he earns a spot in Rio de Janeiro is now out of Kuchar's hands. The Americans are allowed the maximum four players because all of them are among the top 15 in the world ranking, and the birdie allowed him to move to No. 15. Still to be announced is which four Americans will go to Rio.

Of the top four in the world ranking – Johnson (2), Spieth (3), Bubba Watson (5) and Rickie Fowler (7) – Watson is the only one who has said he is going. The biggest question marks of that group are Spieth and Fowler. That's why Kuchar's birdie putt was so important, because if two Americans choose not to go, those spots could end up going to Patrick Reed and Kuchar.

Kuchar wants to play in the Olympics, though it's still a long way off. Not only does he need at least two players to withdraw, he has to be sure he stays among the top 15 in the world ranking after this week.

Olympic qualifying is based on the world ranking published next Monday, and that brings Phil Mickelson into the equation. Mickelson would have to finish alone in second at the Scottish Open – he won the last time it was held at Castle Stuart – to move ahead of Kuchar and be in position for any Olympic withdrawals. If Lefty were to win, he would have a mathematical chance to move ahead of Reed as the first U.S. alternate.

J.B. Holmes, Shane Lowry and Chris Wood also are at Castle Stuart and could bump Kuchar from the top 15 if they were to win. A victory by Wood likely would be enough for him to reach No. 15 and give the U.K. three players.


HURLEY NOTES: Billy Hurley III already delivered one of the most inspirational stories of the year when the former Naval officer won the Quicken Loans National at Congressional not far from his Virginia home, a tournament created to honor the military.

Then, he chose to give up his spot in The Open to honor a family commitment – his sister's wedding.

And it keeps getting better.

For the last few years, PGA Tour rules officials and other key employees have been receiving handwritten notes from Hurley thanking them for their work. When asked about this, Hurley smiled and said, ''I write a lot of notes.''

It's a lost art that goes back decades. Arnold Palmer once showed the way to a young Jack Nicklaus on writing thank-you notes to tournament directors in the 1960s. Hurley goes beyond that.

''I write to the tournament director, the superintendent and title sponsors, at least at the tournaments I'm playing,'' he said. ''And then the whole Tour staff. There's a lot of people that make this possible.''

Hurley doesn't know where he picked up this habit.

''I just think it's the right thing to do,'' he said. ''They work hard for us. I don't know what their salaries are, but it's not what ours are.''


HOME SWEET HOME: Shane Lowry is playing the PGA Tour as a member for the first time this year, and what he hopes is many years to come.

But he has no plans for moving his home base away from Ireland. His role model is Padraig Harrington, a PGA Tour member for more than a decade who has never followed other Europeans by getting a home in Florida.

''I can't see myself moving to the States at all,'' Lowry said. ''As everyone knows, I'm quite friendly with Padraig, so he's done it for the last 15 years, traveled over and back. I'm not finding it too difficult.''

Lowry typically plays two or three weeks in a row before going back to Ireland. He usually can get out Sunday night and be home Monday.

''Dublin is my home now in Ireland, and I see that being the case for the next while,'' he said.

And how does he practice in the winter?

''I don't,'' Lowry said with a laugh. ''The weather is obviously not great. You can get out and hit shots for an hour. I just need to keep the rust away for me. ... I might play nine holes with my friends. I'm not one of these guys that feels like I need to practice all every day. If I play nine holes four, five times a week, I'm pretty happy.''


McGIRT DOES EUROPE: Memorial winner William McGirt is excited about his first trip to The Open, mainly because of links golf, but also one other oddity.

''I've never been to Europe,'' McGirt said.

Yes, he has a passport. McGirt played in South America when he was on the Web.com Tour, and he played in Malaysia in 2012. He qualified for the Open by being in the top 20 in the FedEx Cup, and he's going over on the charter from Philadelphia.

''I'm looking forward to playing a completely different style of golf,'' he said. ''I grew up playing a golf course not manicured anywhere close to what we have out here. So I learned to play bump-and-run shots. Being able to use your imagination, that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to, where there's no such thing as a standard shot.''


DIVOTS: Bubba Watson is all in for the Olympics, but he is leaving caddie Ted Scott at home. Watson said longtime friend Randall Wells will be on the bag for him in Rio. ... Jean Van de Velde, who lost a three-shot lead on the final hole in The Open in 1999 at Carnoustie, is making his PGA Tour Champions debut this week in the Dick's Sporting Goods Classic. ... The Greenbrier Classic has been canceled because of deadly flooding, but the charter flight to the British Open is still going. The same plane that takes players and others who would have been at The Greenbrier is the one that takes them from Scotland to the Canadian Open. The only difference? It now leaves Sunday night from Philadelphia. ... John Daly will be keeping a busy schedule the next two months. He begins his stretch of majors at Royal Troon for The Open and Carnoustie for The Senior Open. Then, it's back over the ocean to New Jersey for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Two weeks later, he has the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto in Ohio before heading back across the Atlantic to play the Czech Masters on the European Tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of the three World Golf Championships this year all won in their previous start – Adam Scott (Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship), Jason Day (Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play) and Dustin Johnson (U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).


FINAL WORD: ''I work in the Army 14 years. ... And training every morning, that's why we come to play golf, I think really easy.'' - Thongchai Jaidee, a former paratrooper in Thailand, after his eighth European Tour victory in the French Open.

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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.”