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Notes: Knox takes slow road back to top 50

By Doug FergusonJuly 10, 2018, 10:09 pm

Russell Knox entered the world ranking in 2009 when he played his first Web.com Tour event at age 24. A year later, he cracked the top 1,000 with a tie for seventh in Knoxville. It took another four years before Knox cracked the top 100 following a top 10 at Hilton Head. And then two years later, he cashed in by winning a World Golf Championship in Shanghai to move into the top 50.

And that's where he stayed for 93 consecutive weeks, reaching as high as No. 18 after his victory in the Travelers Championship in 2016. Life was good. He was in all the majors, all the WGCs, and he even played in the Hero World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts in the Bahamas.

''I saw how good a place that was,'' Knox said after his playoff victory in the Irish Open. ''I think I tried to get better too quickly. I've kind of preached to myself and younger players my whole career that you get better slowly without forcing it, without trying to get better.''

His golf got worse. Knox had only eight top 10s in his next 55 starts after winning the Travelers. He fell out of the top 50, and then he fell out of the top 100, dropping to No. 137 before slowly - there's that word again - working his way back up until it culminated with a runner-up finish in France and a victory in Ireland.

Knox now is No. 49 heading into the Scottish Open this week.

''You just naturally evolve as a golfer,'' he said. ''I think I got to the point where I was really close to being right where I wanted to be - top 10 in the world - and I just pushed too hard and I got worse. It's just hard. Once you lose your confidence, which I did a little bit - and I was tinkering with equipment - I just didn't quite get it right. But I knew starting this year, I'd played good golf and I knew that eventually, something about was going to happen.''


HERMAN'S TOES: An injury that might sound small turned out to be plenty big for Jim Herman. Imagine trying to play golf for a living and needing surgery on your toes.

Herman was last seen trudging up the hill on the 18th at Riviera in the second round of the Genesis Open, and then facing an even steeper walk up the steps to the clubhouse. He immediately withdrew and didn't play again until last week on the Web.com Tour in what amounted to rehab assignment.

The issue? Herman noticed the nails on his baby toes (both feet) would fall off, grow back awkwardly, and then fall off again. It eventually became too painful to walk, and because he couldn't shift his weight to his left side, it began affecting his swing.

''It got to point where I couldn't make a swing without pain,'' he said.

Along the way, he developed plantar fasciitis, leading to a miserable year. Herman had surgery on his toes and wore a boot to deal with the plantar fasciitis. He returned last week at the Lecom Health Challenge, where he tied sixth.

''I've missed it. It was good to get back out,'' Herman said. ''And it was nice to get this resolved.''

He plans a few more Web.com Tour starts to make sure his feet can handle a full schedule. Because he won't be in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Herman plans to take a major medical for next season, in which he will get 18 starts.


CONSISTENCY PAYS: Kevin Na went 158 starts on the PGA Tour in nearly seven years before winning at Greenbrier for his second title. That puts him in a small, but peculiar group of players who shows that consistency pays off, even if that doesn't meant a case full of trophies.

Na joins Charles Howell III and Tim Clark as the only players with two victories to have at least $20 million in career earnings.

Howell leads the way with $35,527,655, and while his only victories were at Kingsmill and Riviera, he has 16 runner-up finishes and 88 finishes in the top 10. Na now has $27,283,596 in official earnings. He has been runner-up six times since his previous victory in Las Vegas.

Tim Clark, who hasn't played in more than two years and now spends most of his time coaching, has $23,942,321. His two victories were the Canadian Open and The Players Championship. The South African had 13 runner-up finishes in his career.

All three of them recorded top 10s roughly 17 percent of the time.


RETURN TO THE OLD COURSE: Mark Calcavecchia is among those from the PGA Tour Champions who have three straight weeks of majors - the Senior Players Championship outside Chicago this week, the British Open at Carnoustie next week, followed by the Senior British Open at St. Andrews.

Calcavecchia skipped the trip across the Atlantic last year, mainly because Royal Birkdale (Open) and Royal Porthcawl (Senior) are not among his favorites. St. Andrews is hosting the Senior Open for the first time, which will be Calcavecchia's seventh time competing on the Old Course.

The question is whether he'll play the first hole ahead of Thursday's opening round.

Calcavecchia has a habit of walking out of the Old Course Hotel to the second tee and heading back to his room when he finishes the 17th hole. The only time he sees the first tee is when he has to show up at the clubhouse to register.

Will history repeat itself?

''I don't know,'' he said. ''We're not staying at the Old Course Hotel, so maybe. That would be a first for me.''


SOMETHING FOR NOTHING: The Open Championship announced a $10.5 million prize fund this year, with $1,890,000 going to the winner. And to think golf's oldest championship once had a hard time attracting top Americans because they wound up losing money from all the travel expenses. Sam Snead, for example, won 150 pounds when he won at St. Andrews in 1946.

Times have changed, and so has the money.

Majors now pay even the players who miss the cut.

The R&A says last place will receive $13,500. The top 10 pros and ties who miss the cut will get $7,375, and the next 20 pros and ties will get $5,900. Everyone else gets $4,950. The U.S. Open and the Masters pay $10,000 to everyone who misses the cut.


DIVOTS: Thomas Pieters was among five Europeans who took up PGA Tour membership this season, though the Belgian is not likely to last. Pieters has played just nine PGA Tour events going into the British Open and is No. 172 in the FedEx Cup. ... Aaron Wise has missed the cut in four straight tournaments since winning the AT&T Byron Nelson. ... Canadian Pacific has extended its title sponsorship of the Canadian Women's Open for five years through 2023. The purse next year will increase to $2.25 million. ... Players from the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour will compete separately next year for a $1 million bonus based on how they play select holes on their tours. It's called the Aon Risk Reward Challenge. Players will be measured by how they play the risk-reward holes that are selected. Scoring and which holes will be highlights are among the details still to be sorted out.


STAT OF THE WEEK

In the eight years of the PGA Tour at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na (No. 65) and Angel Cabrera (No. 90) were the only winners ranked among the top 100 in the world.


FINAL WORD

''Only difference really is the competition is a little bit steeper.'' - U.S. Amateur runner-up Doug Ghim, on the difference between college golf and the PGA Tour.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.