Short hitter Donald shows there is other ways to the top

By Doug FergusonSeptember 20, 2011, 11:09 pm

ATLANTA – Luke Donald is unlike any other No. 1 player in golf over the last two decades.

No, he still hasn’t won a major.

What sets Donald apart from Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer most recently, from Tiger Woods for an entire decade, and from Vijay Singh and David Duval during their brief stay at the top, is the way he hits the ball.

In an era of extra large off the tee, Donald still wears a medium.

He is No. 147 in driving distance, and while Donald isn’t exactly a peashooter, no one will ever talk about how he can overpower any golf course except for the Par 3 Course at Augusta National.

The only numbers that matter, however, is that he has been No. 1 in the world longer than anyone else this year. He is No. 1 in Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. He is No. 1 on the European Tour money list and No. 2 on the PGA Tour money list, with a chance to become the first player to win money titles on both sides of the Atlantic.

And along with three wins this year, he has finished out of the top 10 in only five of the 20 tournaments he has played this year.

In some respects, he has become an inspiration to those who don’t fall out of bed and crack 300-yard drives.

“Getting to No. 1, a lot of people wouldn’t have thought I could get there with my kind of a game,” Donald said. “I’m more of a traditional player. That’s kind of my legacy right now, that I’ve been able to get to No. 1 without being a modern-day player. Through hard work and a little bit of thought, I’ve been able to do it.”

Mark Wilson, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year who is No. 132 in driving distance, has been paying attention to his limitations for years. He drew inspiration from Zach Johnson winning the Masters in 2007, when he laid up on the all the par 5s; from Jim Furyk winning the FedEx Cup last year and reaching No. 2 in the world when Woods was at his peak; and most recently, from Donald.

“I remember there was talk 10 years ago how there’s no way a Justin Leonard or a Luke Donald or a Mark Wilson could be No. 1 in the world because they don’t hit it far enough,” Wilson said. “I’ve gotten really mature in the last 12 months to work more on my wedges and realize that’s where the game ultimately lies.

“It is an inspiration to see Luke at No. 1 in the world. He’s always at the top of the leaderboard.”

There’s no reason to think that cannot continue, even if the traditional game is becoming less common. Power will always have an advantage in golf. It was like that for Bobby Jones and for Jack Nicklaus. John Daly made power golf appealing 20 years ago. Woods refined it.

It’s becoming harder to find a promising young player who doesn’t smash it.

“Most of the guys you see coming out now, they all bomb it,” said Dustin Johnson, who does just that. “It seems like that’s kind of a trend now. I don’t know any guys that have come out in the last couple years that were short hitters that are at the top of the PGA Tour.”

The mistake can be chasing after distance.

Matteo Manassero, the 18-year-old from Italy who already has won twice on the European Tour, talks about trying to add distance, even though he has spent his young career making sure his short game is immaculate because it has to be. It has worked so far.

“I chase it every week,” said David Toms, whose 13 career tour wins include a major. “It seems like I ask for another driver every week and always go back to the same one.”

The year after winning the PGA Championship, Toms played the opening round at Hazeltine with Woods and Ernie Els, two power hitters that made him question what he was doing out there. Then again, this has gone on for years, and Toms has lost track of how many times his wife got tired of listening to it. Her message: He’s done all right with what he has.

“It was funny, I had just gotten back from Boston when I played with Bubba the first or second day,” Toms said. “My son asked me something about his golf swing. I said, ‘Don’t worry about your swing, you need to go to the weight room.’ And that’s when she went off on me again.”

The danger of chasing distance is ruining what already was working. Donald tried that himself in 2007, when he was obsessed with more distance to the point it affected a classic swing. He also wonders if it contributed to a wrist injury a year later that led to surgery and kept him out of the Ryder Cup. Those were lean times.

He might not hit it far, but he hits it far enough. And it doesn’t hurt that his work ethic is as strong as anyone in golf.

Few can appreciate what Donald has done better than Justin Leonard, who turned pro just as professional golf was becoming all about power. Leonard went nine years without missing a Tour Championship. He won 12 times, including the British Open. He lost in a playoff at two other majors and was the 54-hole leader in another.

But he never chased length. He went to Butch Harmon to simplify his game and returned to Randy Smith for familiarity.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Leonard said Tuesday. “I’m not trying to hit the ball shorter. But I’m not on this Phil Mickelson quest to see how far I can possibly hit the ball. What’s another 5 or 10 yards going to do for me? Yeah, it can make a difference. But I know my game is to put the ball in the fairway, play low-stress golf, rely on my wedge game and putting, and course management.”

It’s not an advantage over guys who hit it forever.

As Donald has shown, it still works.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.



“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 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:

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.