Notes: Strange 'not rooting against' Rose's defense

By Doug FergusonJune 10, 2014, 2:12 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Justin Rose can expect a phone call of congratulations from Curtis Strange if he were to successfully defend his U.S. Open title this week.

It's just not a phone call Strange wants to make.

This is the 25-year anniversary of Strange winning at Oak Hill to become only the sixth player to win back-to-back in the U.S. Open.

No one has done it since then.

''Do I want to see somebody do it? Not particularly,'' Strange said Monday. ''But I'm not rooting against somebody.''

Strange won his first U.S. Open in 1988 at The Country Club, beating Nick Faldo in a playoff.

A year later, he was three shots out of the lead going into the final round at Oak Hill when Tom Kite stumbled to a 78 and Strange closed with a 70 to win by one shot.

He doesn't know why it has taken so long for the next repeat champion. Tiger Woods won back-to-back at the Masters (2001-02), the British Open (2005-06) and twice at the PGA Championship (1999-2000, 2006-07). He is a three-time U.S. Open champion, but never came particularly close to repeating.

Ben Hogan won in 1950-51, so it was 38 years before the next repeat champion in the U.S. Open. Not even Jack Nicklaus won back-to-back. Strange never gave it much thought about winning two in a row until he shot 64 in the second round to take the lead.

''And then I didn't play well on Saturday, so I was three behind,'' he said. ''So there wasn't anything written on Sunday morning. And I played well on Sunday and prevailed, but there wasn't a lot written that week. And then after the fact, there was a lot written. Then, they thought if I could do it, it can be done a bunch in the future.''

That hasn't been the case.

Woods tied for sixth in 2009 at Bethpage Black in his most recent title defense.

Even so, the closest anyone came was Retief Goosen. He won in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills, and the next year had a three-shot lead going into the final round at Pinehurst. He closed with an 80.

Strange is at Pinehurst this week as an analyst for ESPN.

He is largely indifferent about whether Rose joins an exclusive club, but he made it clear he is not consumed with who wins. He mentioned how the Miami Dolphins celebrate each time an NFL team fails to complete a perfect season.

''I'm not drinking champagne Sunday night,'' Strange said. ''But I've also said if Justin would happen to do it this year, that would be the first phone call. That would be fantastic.''


OLD BATHROOM, NEW TEE: As if Pinehurst No. 2 wasn't difficult enough already, there is a new tee on the par-3 sixth hole that plays about 240 yards. USGA executive director Mike Davis said it probably would be used twice this week.

Oddly enough, the new tee was not part of the plans except for the removal of a bathroom.

Bob Dedman, chairman of the company that owns Pinehurst, never liked the brick bathroom behind the sixth tee and he had it removed. Davis was at the golf course doing advance work when the absence of the bathroom gave him a different view. And he liked it.

All the par 3s are roughly the same distance. This gave Davis options in setting up the course.

''If you look back at '99 and '05,'' he said of the two previous U.S. Opens at Pinehurst, ''they were using the same clubs all four rounds. So two days we're going to play it back, and then one day we'll go 50 yards forward and use a front hole location. For one par 3, they'll have to hit a long iron to a hybrid.

''And the whole reason is because he knocked the bathroom down.''

Davis said the hole location for the longer shot would be the back part of the green. That's one of the few greens at Pinehurst where being long is the best miss.


FIELD SET: The U.S. Open field was set at 156 players on Monday with the recent Official World Golf Ranking. The USGA had set aside five spots for players who moved into the top 60 in the world.

Kevin Na, who lost in a playoff at the Memorial, was at No. 40. Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, who lost in a playoff last week on the European Tour, moved to No. 60.

That allowed three alternates into the U.S. Open – Cameron Wilson, the NCAA champion from Stanford; Craig Barlow; and amateur Brandon McIver.

The USGA still does not publish a list of alternates in case anyone withdraws before the opening round Thursday. According to a USGA official, the priority ranking of the alternates depends on whether the player who withdraws was exempt or had to qualify.


GREENS ARE GONE: USGA executive director Mike Davis said the greens at Pinehurst No. 2 are as pure as he has ever seen them.

Enjoy them while they last – they'll be dead in a month.

Pinehurst No. 2 several years ago installed a hybrid bent grass called Penn A1-A4. Davis said the resort will switch to a Bermuda grass after the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open.

''With a shorter season, it's a much better surface to play, and actually is less expensive to maintain,'' Davis said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.


Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.


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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.