Notes: Pinehurst only the start of men's, women's doubles

By Doug FergusonMarch 12, 2014, 2:11 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – NCAA and Olympic officials might want to pay close attention to two weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 this summer, when the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open are held on the same course.

It could be a blueprint for the next two years in how to set up a golf course.

The NCAA men's and women's golf championships in 2015 are being held at The Concession in Bradenton in back-to-back weeks, the first time they are being played on the same course in the same year. And then in 2016 at the Olympics in Rio, the men's competition will be held ahead of the women.

''I believe we were in the middle of the bid process when it was announced by the USGA that they were planning to do back-to-back weeks for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open,'' said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour executive overseeing golf's return to the Olympics.

''The issues that present themselves in that, whether it's obviously tee boxes, landing areas, even the positioning of grandstands in relation to tee boxes from a fan perspective, are all things that we are going to be following and looking at and learning from,'' he said.

Votaw said the idea is to ''make it a fair and good test'' for men and women.

Meanwhile, the International Golf Federation is waiting for approval on eligibility for the Olympics. The IGF has proposed a 60-person field for 72 holes of stroke play, with the field determined by the world ranking. The top 15 in the world ranking at the cutoff would be guaranteed a spot, with a maximum of four from one country, and then no more than two from any country.

Votaw said the idea was to get the most number of nations involved, which would be 34 countries for the men and 33 for the women. He also said the proposal would include a golfer from the host nation if none is eligible from the ranking, and that athletes be represented from every Olympic continent.

Still to be determined is how the worldwide golf schedule will come together around the Olympics, which will run from Aug. 5-21.

The British Open and PGA Championship are likely to be played in July, with the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine to be held after the Olympics. That could lead to a scenario where a player who wins the PGA Championship - and perhaps even the British Open - is not eligible for the Olympics, depending on the qualifying cutoff for making an Olympic team.


GRADUATION DAY: Even though he is coming up on the one-year anniversary of turning pro, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan already has played in all four majors and every World Golf Championship. As a PGA Tour member, one tournament he looked forward to playing was the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

That will have to wait.

The 22-year-old Matsuyama headed home after Doral for a big occasion. He's graduating from college.

Unlike Ryo Ishikawa, who turned pro as a teenager and played big events while working on a high school diploma, Matsuyama went to college and pursued his degree while competing against the world's best. His field of study was social welfare.

Asked if he was excited to graduate, Matsuyama smiled and said, ''I'm more excited about playing here in America.''

He won't play again until Augusta National, which makes him unusual in one respect. It takes most people at least one full year to go from a college degree to a Masters. For Matsuyama, it will only be a few weeks.


NEW SPONSOR: The LPGA is off to a good start even before it starts its domestic schedule next week. JTBC, a leading broadcasting company in South Korea, has agreed to be the title sponsor of what now will be the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix.

The tournament starts next week at Wildfire Golf Club.

JTBC is an affiliate of J Golf, which recently signed a contract extension with the LPGA. Along with being a title sponsor in Phoenix, JTBC will be presenting sponsor at three other LPGA events this year. Those four events will be shown on JTBC's network, which is distributed to more than 21 million households in Korea.

Its first order of business for the Founders Cup was to give sponsor exemptions to Cheyenne Woods and former U.S Women's Open champion Birdie Kim.


OOSTHUIZEN BACK: Louis Oosthuizen was worried about his back after losing in the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship to eventual winner Jason Day.

He's not out of the woods yet, though he was pleasantly surprised by how he felt at Doral last week.

Oosthuizen, whose back injury caused him to withdraw from two majors and not play a third one last season, said tests have revealed disk problems in the L-5 and S-1. He had two cortisone injections during his week off between Match Play and Doral.

Of greater concern is practice.

Oosthuizen said he has only been able to warm up for about 30 minutes before each round. Even with arguably the sweetest swing in golf, ''You can't be consistent with your swing if you only do that,'' he said.

''But it's a lot better,'' he said. ''And that's a good sign.''

Oosthuizen is playing this week in the Valspar Championship.


MASTER PLAN: Roberto Castro, who went to Georgia Tech, played four rounds at Augusta National before he qualified for his first Masters this year.

He already has played twice in the fall, and plans two more rounds during the week of the Texas Open.

How many times can he go before the Masters?

''Within reason,'' he said with a smile. ''They have been very nice to host me.''

He last went with Chris Kirk, who also lives in Atlanta, the week of Thanksgiving. The Eisenhower Tree was still standing, which Castro said presented a problem because he tends to hit a fade off the tee. What he remembers more is playing the championship tees on a cold, soft day.

''When the ball backs up in the fairway, it's like the longest course in the world,'' he said.


DIVOTS: Patrick Reed (twice) and Ryan Moore are the only players to go wire-to-wire, including ties, in 16 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour this year. ... Derek Fathauer, who missed the cut last week in Chile, shot a 59 during a practice round for the Web.com Tour event in Brazil on Tuesday. ... Minjee Lee of Australia, the No. 1 amateur in the world, was among nine amateurs awarded exemptions to the Kraft Nabisco Championship on April 3-6, the first LPGA major of the year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods earned $82,194 in his first three PGA Tour events as a pro in 1996. He has earned $86,919 in his first three PGA Tour events this year.


FINAL WORD: ''There are pretenders on Sunday, contenders and closers. The rarest of all golfers are closers that can actually win tournaments, not win by accident because of other people falling apart.'' - Johnny Miller.

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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.”