Sean OHair leads Tiger Woods by one at Tour Championship

By Doug FergusonSeptember 25, 2009, 2:29 am

ATLANTA – Sean O’Hair got a putting tip from Tiger Woods and put it to good use Thursday in the Tour Championship, opening with a 4-under 66 to take a one-shot lead in the final FedEx Cup playoff event.

Woods did all right himself. He recovered from a shaky start with three birdies during a four-hole stretch on the back nine at East Lake for a 67, leaving him one shot back along with Padraig Harrington and British Open champion Stewart Cink.

O’Hair played six times last week at home with his buddies. Far more valuable was the nine holes of practice he spent Wednesday with Woods, when the world’s No. 1 player gave him some advice on adding loft to his backswing and releasing the blade through the ball.

“Getting advice like that from good players is obviously awesome, but getting it from basically the greatest of all time is pretty cool,” O’Hair said. “I mean, I’m his competition, and for him to help me out like he did was very classy, I thought.”

Woods response?

“I’m going to go chew him out right now,” he said, laughing.

Sean O
Sean O'Hair chats with his caddie Paul Tesori on the 15th hole during the first round of the Tour Championship. (Getty Images)

 

The tip seemed to work out on firm greens that were far tougher than the 30-man field could have imagined after so much rain.

O’Hair rolled in an 18-foot putt on the 14th hole for the last of his six birdies, and he made one from 55 feet earlier in the round. It was part of what he called a solid day, and it allowed the FedEx Cup possibilities to come to life.

O’Hair is the No. 7 seed and he knows exactly what has to happen for him to cash in on the $10 million prize – win the Tour Championship, and have Woods finish in a three-way tie for second. Oddly enough, that’s how the leaderboard shaped up after one day.

Woods doesn’t regret the advice, which is typical among golfers.

“It’s very simple,” Woods said. “You always help your friends. Sean is a friend of mine, and like all my friends, you always try to make their life better somehow. Sean has been struggling a bit on the greens this year, and I thought I could offer a little bit of help and insight to how he could change that.”

Woods, who is in the best shape to capture the FedEx Cup as the No. 1 seed, could have used some help early in the round. As O’Hair, Harrington and Cink were setting an early pace, Woods was headed in the wrong direction by failing to save par from a bunker on the par-3 sixth, and making bogey on the eighth from the rough to go 1 over.

He was six shots behind at one point, then closed quickly.

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover had a 68, and only three other players managed to break par – Retief Goosen, Steve Marino and Dustin Johnson, who were at 69. Stricker, the No. 2 seed, was among those at 70.

It was hard to believe that a course that was closed Monday and part of Tuesday because of 20 inches of rain over the past week could deliver some of the firmest greens on tour this year. Attribute that to a sub-air system on the greens installed last year, and a hot sun that left players reaching for towels to wipe sweat off their brow.

“The course was playing fairly long, and then the greens are just incredibly firm, probably the most firm we’ve played all year,” O’Hair said. “Maybe The Players Championship is a close second. Kind of ironic since we got so much rain.”

O’Hair was sporty from the rough, too. He made his first birdie with a wedge out of the rough on No. 3 that stopped a foot away, then made another birdie at No. 12 under similar circumstances, from the right rough with just enough spin to stop 2 feet from the hole.

Cink narrowly made the 30-man field at No. 26 and the scenarios are too many to count for him to win the FedEx Cup. All he cared about Thursday was breaking par, like so many other players.

“Under par … the golf course, considering all that rain we had, it’s really dried out, and the greens are like bricks,” he said. “You have to be very smart coming into the greens to give yourself any kind of aggressive birdies.”

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”