Notes: Americans grab Intl. Crown's top spot

By Doug FergusonApril 1, 2014, 10:19 pm

The International Crown on the LPGA Tour has all the trappings of the best team event in golf until the Olympics in 2016. And considering there will be no team medal awarded in Rio, the LPGA event might be best team format in golf after the Olympics.

The Americans nudged South Korea as the top seed for the International Crown, which features eight teams of four players on July 24-27 at Caves Valley in Maryland. The combined world ranking of their four players – Stacy LewisPaula CreamerLexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr – added to 32. South Korea's ranking added to 33 with Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim.

Japan is the No. 3 seed with 131 points, illustrating a large gap after the top two countries. The other teams are Thailand, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Australia.

A new tournament, which required more planning than usual, means England and teen star Charley Hull will have to sit this one out.

The eight teams were locked in when the International Crown was announced in November. England's four best players amounted to No. 9. Over the last four months, Hull won her first pro tournament on the Ladies European Tour, and her ranking went from No. 119 to No. 67. Holly Clyburn moved up 23 spots to No. 98 with two good finishes. If the teams were determined Sunday – the cutoff for players – England would have been the No. 7 team and Australia would be out.

But there was reasons for teams to be locked in eight months in advance: sponsorship, promotion and television.

''If we waited until later, you can't knock on someone's door and say, 'How would you like to support the International Crown in three weeks?' '' LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said Tuesday. ''And we wanted to make sure we had quality television deals in the countries that are playing. ... We have good TV deals. But this event is more significant for a lot of countries than a regular tour event.''

He plans to start announcing some of the sponsors this week at the LPGA's first major of the year.

As for players who qualify for the teams, Whan said he could see moving the deadline back as the International Crown gets more traction. For the first year, however, he thought it was important for players to have more than enough time to build their schedules around it. These aren't just LPGA players; eight of the 32 players who qualified for the International Crown are not LPGA members.

Three players from the top 10 in the world will not be at Caves Valley because their countries did not have enough highly ranked players: Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Shanshan Feng (China).

Whan expects there to be some flaws, and he would be prepared to identify them after the first year.

''When you bring a brand new idea to the game, be prepared to be critiqued. And on the flip side, reach each one and don't be put off,'' he said. '''New' doesn't come easily.''


BUBBA AND BAY HILL: Bubba Watson was last seen at Bay Hill making an 11 on the par-5 sixth hole, posting an 83 and then withdrawing because of allergies.

That changed Tuesday.

After a brief telephone interview, Watson said he was calling from the sixth hole at Bay Hill.

''I joined Bay Hill yesterday,'' he said. ''The funny thing is I'm in a greenside bunker in two.''

Watson lives primarily in Orlando, Fla., and he already is a member at Isleworth and Orange Tree.

''My thing is I love to play golf. I don't like to hit balls on the range,'' Watson said. ''So when I have friends in town, I like to take them different places.''


WILLIE MAC: Will MacKenzie felt more nervous than he has in years, the best sign yet of how well he is playing.

MacKenzie tied for second in the Texas Open, extending a superb spring for golf's free spirit. He was finished two shots out of a playoff in the Honda Classic (tie for sixth), three shots out of the lead at the Valspar Championship (tie for fourth), and one shot behind Steven Bowditch on Sunday in San Antonio.

He missed a few reasonable birdie chances that could have made the final few holes far more interesting at the Texas Open. And he felt it.

''I got a little nervous out there,'' MacKenzie said. ''I don't know why. It just the forethought. It's thinking in the future and not taking care of business. But yeah, I got nervous a couple of times when I got to 6 (under). I went, 'Man, here I go, I'm back in this a little bit.' And I got really excited. And it was awesome, it was just a great feeling. ... I don't think I gave shots away because of thinking like that, but it's a wonderful feeling. It means I'm playing really good golf.''

Indeed he is.

MacKenzie, a two-time winner who spent the last two years on the Web.com Tour, already has five top 10s this year. He had 10 in his previous seven seasons on tour. He already has a career-best $1.7 million, and is 11th in the FedEx Cup.


KOEPKA FALLS SHORT: Brooks Koepka had a four-shot lead with 11 holes to play in the season-opening Frys.com Open. He made a few mistakes, was chased down by Jimmy Walker and wound up in a tie for third. It looked like he would be a shoo-in to get at least special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

Now that's on hold.

Koepka used his final sponsor exemption at the Texas Open and came up two strokes short of earning enough points to be at least equal to 150th place on the FedEx Cup last year. That would have given him unlimited sponsor exemptions the rest of the year.

Now, the only chance to add to his total is if he qualifies for majors, or cracks the top 50 in time to get into The Players Championship. Or he could try to Monday qualify on the PGA Tour in a bid to pick up an additional seven more points for special temporary membership.


DIVOTS: Jack Nicklaus found another charitable avenue for his brand of golf balls. In a program announced Monday, Nicklaus Companies is donating at least $1 to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation for every dozen Nicklaus Golf Balls that are sold. And if FedEx ships the golf balls, Nicklaus will donate an additional $1 per dozen to St. Jude. ... Richard Sterne is the only player from the Presidents Cup team last October who has not qualified for the Masters. ... Chesson Hadley had a chance to crack the top 50 in the world going into the final round of his last two tournaments. He closed with a 79 at Bay Hill and an 80 in the Texas Open. ... Matt Jones had an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the BMW Championship last September. It hit the lip and stayed out, keeping him from advancing to the Tour Championship and earn a spot in the Masters. Now he would have to win the Shell Houston Open to get in.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Only two men under 30 are in the top 10 in the world ranking. Only two women over 30 are in the top 10 in the world ranking.


FINAL WORD: ''There's not one guy winning all the time, so more guys get talked about. That's how it is until one guy starts winning as much as Tiger. It's hard to see someone at the moment doing that.'' – Retief Goosen.

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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.”