Notes: Why Britain has the best fans

By Doug FergusonJuly 16, 2011, 4:43 pm

SANDWICH, England – Gary Woodland was in the right rough on the 13th hole as he stared at the green, trying to figure out how to play his next shot. Then he broke into a big smile, and it had nothing to do with anything at Royal St. George’s on Saturday.

Beyond the green is a fence, and on the other side is Prince’s Golf Club.

It was pouring rain. The gusts topped 30 mph. And the club next door was filled with players in every fairway. Woodland smiled at the idea that while those competing at the British Open were suffering, these people were finding pleasure.

“I was shocked,” he said. “There’s no way back home people would be playing today. And it was packed over there.”

Even more impressive were the number of fans on such a miserable day.

Matt Millar was the first to play, in the worst of the weather, yet he was followed around by fans who took their hands off the umbrella long enough to applaud whatever good shots they saw.

“I just can’t believe how many volunteers, spectators, people who were just so encouraging. Would you spend your free weekend out there on this weather? There’s nowhere like it in the world, that I’ve seen,” Millar said. “That made it a lot easier to keep your head up and keep battling on.”

Rickie Fowler drew on the largest crowds, partly because he has treated the fans so well all week, and partly because he was playing with Rory McIlroy. Still, he was stunned to see bleachers full in the driving rain.

“I probably wouldn’t have been out there. I would have been home watching on TV,” he said. “It just shows you how great fans they are of golf to stick out in those conditions and the amount of people that were following our group.”

Most telling was Woodland’s adventure on the 14th hole.

After hitting his first tee shot out-of-bounds, Woodland’s next one went 50 yards to the left in grass so high that not even spectators walked there. A search party of nearly 40 people scoured the rough until they found the ball.

That begged this question: For an American who is not well known in these parts, who barely made the cut and was in the fourth group out, on the farthest end of Royal St. George’s, why were there that many people following him in the first place?

“These fans are unbelievable,” Woodland said. “For them to be out there watching, it was good to see.”

WHERE HAS HE BEEN? Having a half-dozen Americans among the top 12 on the leaderboard is not surprising.

Anthony Kim being among them was what caught so much attention.

Kim is having his worst year, with only one top 10 finish. He keeps saying that his game feels as though it’s good enough to compete, but disappears from the practice range to the first tee. But after an even-par 70 that was anything but even – 4 over his first eight holes, 4 under his last 10 – Kim was in a tie for seventh and only five shots behind.

“I’ve found my game, it’s just I haven’t brought it to the tournaments,” Kim said. “I’m excited that this is the tournament I brought it to. Other tournaments are very important, but to play well at major championships is what I work for. So to be able to put up some good rounds – probably my best rounds I’ve played all year at the British – is pretty rewarding.”

KEEPING DRY: Ryan Moore started out with six small towels and one big towel. After 18 holes, all of them were wet. Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen didn’t wear any extra layers except for his rain suit, and he kept his towels to four for the round.

That was the trick for the players who faced the worst of the weather in the morning—staying warm and staying dry.

“That’s why I just laughed, because I’ve never played in it like this,” Oosthuizen said. “Whenever you have social rounds and it just starts raining a little bit, you say, ‘I’m out of here, boys.’ But I couldn’t do that today.”

Oosthuizen shot 74.

WOODLAND’S RIDE: For a 25-hole stretch, Gary Woodland said it was the best golf he played all year.

It would be difficult to disagree.

Woodland appeared to be headed home early on Friday when he was 7 over at the British Open through four holes of the second round, and the wind was getting stronger by the minute. He made four birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way for a 68 to make the cut on the number, then looked even better Saturday morning in whipping wind and lashing rain.

Woodland was 2 under through 11 holes of the third round in the worst of the weather, five shots out of the lead. Then came a few bogeys, which was no shame on this day.

“The tee shot on 14 was the toughest shot out there for me today,” he said.

It turned out to be his undoing. His drive started some 30 yards left and rode the wind to the right out-of-bounds. Then came a tee shot into rough so deep that Woodland took a lob wedge and “swung as hard as I could” to get back to the fairway.

He did well to make a triple bogey, then came back on the next hole with another superb shot, this a 3-iron into the wind that bounded onto the green and touched the left edge of the cup as the gallery rose in the grandstands, thinking it might see an eagle.

From 7 over early Friday, Woodland played that 25-hole stretch in 6 under with no bogeys. On the last seven holes Saturday, he was 6 over and right back where he had started. He wound up with a 74.

But that start on Saturday?

“Some of the best golf I’ve ever seen,” said Ryan Moore, his playing partner.

RAIN READY: Matthew Millar of Australia didn’t mind playing alone as the first to tee off in the third round. He chose not to take a marker, not wanting anyone else to have to suffer through the conditions.

As for the weather? He was among the few looking forward to it.

Millar has spent the last few months playing alone in freezing, wet and windy conditions in his home city of Canberra to get ready for the British Open. What he found was 30 mph wind and a steady rain.

“It’s been quite cool back home. We’ve had quite a lot of rain and a lot of wind, so I’ve been practicing in that,” Millar said. “But you don’t spend five hours in it like we are doing here. This place is something else. It’s hard enough when it’s dry.”

He wound up with an 80.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: Bo Van Pelt called Saturday the second-worst conditions he has ever faced.

The first was in Kansas.

His senior year in college, Van Pelt went to Prairie Dunes, a classic design by Perry Maxwell. It was blowing about as hard as it was Saturday, except that it was 40 degrees. And he had to play 36 holes.

“I was having a flashback to that,” Van Pelt said. “This is the second-worst day. But at least you’re playing in a major. This is what it’s all about. You come here and know this is part of the deal, and if you’re not going to embrace it, you might as well go home.”

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

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''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”