Notes: Webb faces uphill battle for Olympic dream

By Doug FergusonJune 29, 2016, 1:43 am

AKRON, Ohio – One of Karrie Webb's greatest thrills was carrying the Olympic torch on the eve of the Sydney Games in 2000. She had a cousin who played for the Australian women's basketball team in the 1984 Olympics, and she has been a huge fan since then.

It's the reason Webb, a Hall of Famer with nothing left to prove, keeps a full schedule at age 41. Golf is back in the Olympics for the first time in 112 years, and Australia's greatest female player wants to be there.

But in a sudden shift in the world ranking, Webb now faces an uphill battle.

Minjee Lee is the highest-ranked Aussie at No. 13 and a winner in Hawaii this year. Webb appeared safe to earn the second spot until Su Oh was runner-up at the Kingsmill Championship and then tied for eighth in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Sahalee.

Oh is No. 42 in the world, while Webb has slipped to No. 60.

Webb is playing the Cambia Portland Classic this week (Oh is not playing), and the final tournament before the July 11 deadline to qualify is the U.S. Women's Open.

''The Olympics is pretty much why I'm still playing full time, so I guess that's a pretty big driving factor for me to be working as hard as I am,'' Webb said in March.

She started the year by finishing third in the Women's Australian Open, but has not had a top-10 finish since then. Oh, who won the Australian Ladies Masters in 2015, is helped by being an LPGA rookie, meaning she has fewer tournaments on her ledger that gives her a built-in advantage.

Lee and Oh, both 20, were on the Australian team that won the World Amateur Team title in 2014. They also were members of the Karrie Webb Scholarship team while growing up in Australia's junior golf program.


MICKELSON IN THE FALL: Phil Mickelson hasn't played a domestic PGA Tour event in the fall since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. He was on the Ryder Cup Task Force that came up with a new points formula, and the fall events were left out because Mickelson said it would be giving ''the bottom half of the tour'' a head start.

He will be joining them in October.

The Safeway Open, the first event of the 2016-17 season, announced Tuesday that Mickelson will play at Silverado Resort in Napa, California, on Oct. 13-16. It will be the first time Mickelson plays a PGA Tour event in America since 2005 in Las Vegas.

The Safeway Open is in its first year as title sponsor, replacing Frys.com.

''When we made the decision to be the title sponsor of the Safeway Open, Phil is one of the players we hoped would play and support our new event,'' said Bob Miller, chairman and CEO of Albertsons Companies, the parent company of Safeway.

Mickelson referred to Miller and the grocery company as ''one of our best PGA Tour sponsors for over 25 years.''

''Amy and I love going to Napa and now we have an even better reason to spend a week with the players and their wives,'' he said.

The Safeway Open is run by the golf event management division of Lagardere Sports and Entertainment, which also manages Mickelson.


HURLEY'S CHOICE: Billy Hurley III won the Quicken Loans National on Sunday and earned a spot in the British Open. That left him in a tough spot because his sister, Megan, is to be married in Virginia on the Saturday of the Open.

It wasn't a tough decision.

Hurley called R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers to tell him he would not be coming to Royal Troon.

''I wouldn't miss my sister's wedding for the world,'' Hurley said Tuesday. ''And I think that at this point in time for me and my family and the trajectory of our family, it's very important for me to be there to support her and her husband.''

The Hurley family has been through a lot in the last year. He sought public help a year ago at the Quicken Loans National finding his father, who had gone missing. His father was located, but then died of a self-inflicted gunshot a short time later. Weddings are emotional enough.

''It was a pretty easy decision at the end of the day,'' Hurley said.

He said the topic didn't come up on Sunday night. Hurley was still trying to soak up his first PGA Tour victory. He played a practice round at Firestone on Tuesday and called her from the golf course.

''She started crying,'' he said. ''So she was pretty thrilled that I'll be there.''


TIGER'S SON: Tiger Woods was asked during the telecast of his Quicken Loans National if he was close to returning, but before Jim Nantz of CBS Sports could finish the question, Woods replied, ''Close to what? Yeah, I'm close to beating Charlie?''

That would be his son, Charlie. And there might be some truth to that.

The 7-year-old son of the 14-time major champion tied for second in the Boys 7 division of a U.S. Kids Golf event. It was his first tournament.

''It was pretty neat, very special to get to watch that,'' Woods said.

Charlie Woods shot a 55 in the nine-hole event at Mayacoo Lakes in West Palm Beach, Florida. He finished five shots behind Henry Crowe.


WORLD CUP: Bubba Watson loves playing for the flag, and he would really like to do that three times this year.

He is set to qualify for the Olympics and said he was committed to going to Rio. He is No. 6 in the Ryder Cup standings and has played on every team since 2010. The tough one might be the World Cup at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

Jordan Spieth is the highest-ranked American and can choose whoever he wants as a partner. Watson is No. 3 on the American list behind Dustin Johnson. Spieth and Johnson have not indicated whether they plan to play, although Spieth will be Down Under for the Australian Open.

''I'm pleading my way into the World Cup,'' Watson said.

Spieth said how he feels that late in the year depends on whether he stays in Australia for an extra week to play in the World Cup.

''I don't know what my schedule is going to be right after the Ryder Cup, if I'll play before the Aussie Open,'' Spieth said. ''There's a chance I'd play one of the Fall Series events. ... I'll probably have to make a decision somewhat soon on the World Cup.''

Meanwhile, Jason Day and Shane Lowry both plan to play in the World Cup. They withdrew from the Olympics on Tuesday citing concerns over the Zika virus.


DIVOTS: Keegan Bradley picked up his first victory of the year on Tuesday when he teamed with fellow New Englander Jon Curran for a playoff victory in the CVS Charity Classic over Bill Haas and Billy Andrade. ... The PGA Tour is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross to help those affected by the West Virginia floods. The flooding forced The Greenbrier Classic to be canceled next week. ... The PGA Tour Champions is off this week, but not John Daly. He is playing the Barracuda Championship, only his second PGA Tour start of the year. ... The 61-man field at the Bridgestone Invitational is the smallest since 2001, when the World Golf Championship was only for current Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup players and had a 39-man field.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Only 13 players in the World Golf Championship at Firestone are eligible and still planning to play in the Olympics.


FINAL WORD: ''There's not going to be an asterisk, I don't think. You go win a gold medal, you're going to win a gold medal.'' - Jason Day, on the weakened field at the Olympics with 10 players having withdrawn.

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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.”