Notes: The pains of playing late Thursday and Friday

By Doug FergusonMarch 15, 2016, 10:56 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Even though Sam Saunders has had only one close call at winning on the PGA Tour, he has felt the pressure of playing the final hole.

In his last two PGA Tour starts, Saunders has gone into the dangerous part of the course with no room for error as he tries to make the cut. He made it through the ''Bear Trap'' at PGA National with four straight pars in the Honda Classic. And he closed with two tough par saves last week at the Valspar Championship.

Adding to the difficulty is the time of day.

Saunders plays out of the lowest priority, meaning he often gets the last tee time. With that comes a few distractions, making the task that much tougher.

''There's isn't one guy out here who wouldn't tell you tough it is,'' Saunders said. ''You're dealing with stuff that's ... it's strange. There's some people out on the course that are hooting and hollering. You're dealing with all the volunteers packing up and leaving. It's getting dark, so the rules officials are watching you because they want you to finish. Sometimes it can be a little tough to stay focused and not be distracted. Because there are a lot of distractions late on Friday.''

Last week, he got up-and-down for par on the 17th, and saved par from behind the 18th green to finish at 3 over and make the cut on the number. He didn't realize that because amateur Lee McCoy had made the cut, Saunders could have made bogey on the last hole and made it to the weekend, though with 85 players, there would have been another cut after 54 holes.

''I thought I had to make par and I hit a really good chip,'' he said. ''To hit that shot under that circumstance, it's extremely satisfying and you take a lot from that. And made cut is a made cut. And it's never a bad thing.''

A 67-70 weekend at the Honda Classic gave him a tie for 14th. A 68-72 weekend at Innisbrook gave him a tie for 22nd.

Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, will be taking on more duties at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But it's still a PGA Tour event, and he fully expects to be in the last group no matter what side of the draw he is on.

''I'm always last off, and it's frustrating at times,'' he said. ''I think the earliest tee time I've ever had for Thursday-Friday was third or fourth from the last group. But most importantly, I'm getting a tee time. No complaints.''

Saunders has a tee time at Bay Hill this week. He's in the last group Thursday.


KNOX GOES TO AUGUSTA: Russell Knox is playing in his first Masters next month, and part of him looks as much forward to the Par 3 Contest.

The son of his late coach will be his caddie.

Mike Flemming was the Jacksonville University coach who recruited Knox from Inverness, Scotland, and remained his coach and mentor as he made his way onto the PGA Tour. Flemming died two years ago, and Knox choked back tears thinking about him when he won in Shanghai.

''It was always my coach and mine's dream to get to Augusta,'' Knox said. ''Even on the mini-tours, that was the goal. He would joke, 'Let's get to the Masters before I die.' He obviously didn't make it. So when I did qualify, it only made sense to have him (Neal Flemming) come along for the par 3. My coach's wife will be there as well.''

Knox already has shared the experience with his father, who accompanies him - but did not play - when Knox played Augusta National for the first time in early February. Knox couldn't decide who had the better time.

''He said the word, 'Wow!' about 10,000 times,'' Knox said of his dad. ''So that was cool. It's a great place. I can't wait.''


PADRAIG'S ADVENTURES: Padraig Harrington flew halfway around the world after the Valspar Championship to New Delhi, where he will play the Hero Indian Open. He said it would be his first time playing in India since 1994, a week that marks one of his career highlights.

It wasn't a major. It wasn't a Ryder Cup.

It was his accountant's exam.

''My mother informed me that I got my exam results at home, and they told they weren't going to open them,'' said Harrington, who studied accounting at Dublin Business College. ''They steamed them open. They told me if I failed, they weren't going to tell me. But because I passed, they told me.

''That was the week I became a qualified accountant.''

He never finished what he referred to as ''my articles'' for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and thus never officially was an accountant. Harrington will have to settle for a pair of British Open titles, a PGA Championship, six appearances in the Ryder Cup and 11 times representing Ireland in the World Cup.

He said he has three honorary doctorate degrees.

''I can put all those letters after my name, but I can't put 'ACCA' because I didn't do my articles,'' he said. ''Life is funny. I don't see it as a disappointment. One thing I learned is you have to have an expert look after those things.''


LPGA TO CBS: Five years after the LPGA had only two tournaments on network television, it picked up its seventh of the season when CBS said it would broadcast the final round of the Marathon Classic on July 17.

That means the LPGA will be shown on network TV for four straight weekends in July - the U.S. Women's Open (Fox Sports), Marathon Classic (CBS), International Crown (NBC) and Ricoh Women's British Open (NBC).

The other network events are the KPMG Women's PGA (NBC), the Evian Masters (NBC) and the CME Group Tour Championship (ABC).

''Our team has been focused on expanding our network TV coverage, which gives us a chance to showcase the LPGA to a much broader audience to attract more casual fans,'' LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said.


DIVOTS: The final spot in the 120-man field came down to the 85th position in the FedEx Cup standings. Blayne Barber and Sung Kang were tied at 236.340 points. The tiebreaker was last year, and Barber got the nod because he finished No. 121 in the FedEx Cup, and Kang was on the Web.com Tour. The good news for Kang? He got in, anyway, when Kevin Na withdrew. ... Harrington went from Florida to India and then will return to Texas for the Shell Houston Open, where he would have to win to qualify for the Masters. ''If I sat home and didn't give myself a chance, I would feel I was letting myself down if I didn't try,'' Harrington said. ... Saunders is moving his wife and two young sons from Fort Collins, Colorado, to St. Augustine. Saunders said he loves Fort Collins: ''If I did not play golf for a living, I'd live there for the rest of my life.''


STAT OF THE WEEK: The Valspar Championship at Innisbrook was the first time since the Texas Open that no one shot lower than 66 all week.


FINAL WORD: ''Arnold Palmer made golf sexy.'' – Jason Day.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1