Snedeker ties Open record, leads Scott, Woods

By Doug FergusonJuly 20, 2012, 6:10 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Brandt Snedeker plays fast and talks even faster, and he was on a roll Friday in the British Open. He raced up the leaderboard with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch, tied the 36-hole record for a major championship and looked like he was bent on running away from the field at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Not so fast.

Along came Adam Scott, playing cautiously and picking his spots for three birdies on the back nine to pull within one shot. Not far behind was Tiger Woods, sticking to a conservative game plan and delivering a dramatic finish by holing out from the bunker to set off a wild cheer from 6,000 spectators crammed into the bleachers.

As the second round ended, this Open was just getting started.

On another benign day when the only concern was pools forming in the bottom of pot bunkers from overnight rain, Snedeker became the latest player to match the course record at Royal Lytham with a 6-under 64 that gave him a one-shot lead.

He has yet to make a bogey over 36 holes, the first player to go bogey-free in the opening two rounds of a major since Woods won at St. Andrews in 2000. Snedeker's 10-under 130 tied the 36-hole record set by Nick Faldo in 1992 when he won the Open at Muirfield, and it broke by four shots the 36-hole record at Lytham.

Even more amazing? Snedeker hasn't hit into any of the 205 bunkers in two days.

'No bogeys around here is getting some good breaks and playing some pretty good golf,' Snedeker said. 'My mantra all week has been to get the ball on the greens as fast as possible. Once I'm on there, I have a pretty good hand for the speed of the greens. Just going to try and keep doing that over the weekend.'

Snedeker has never made the cut in three previous trips to the British Open, though this brand of golf is nothing new. As a rookie on the PGA Tour in 2007, he was 10 under through 10 holes on the North Course at Torrey Pines before having to settle for a 61. He picked up his third win there this year by rallying from a seven-shot deficit on the last day.

'Brandt is a momentum-type guy, once he gets going and starting making putts and hitting shots,' said Mark Calcavecchia, another player who doesn't waste time. 'He plays quick and he's got the quick tempo and he putts quick. And they go in quick. That's awesome golf.'

What does that get him?

'A whole lot of nothing,' Snedeker said. 'We've got 36 more holes to go. A lot can happen.'

And that was before Scott, the 32-year-old Australian, began making his steady move up the leaderboard. He bogeyed the third hole for the second straight day, and then turned it around by smashing a 3-wood that bounced off a hillock to the right of the green on the par-5 seventh hole and set up a two-putt birdie. Scott opened the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then hit two beautiful shots to 8 feet for another birdie on the 18th and a 67.

Scott, who had a 64 on Thursday, has never been in such good shape at a major going into the weekend.

'Why I've played good this week is kind of a culmination of everything I've done over the last couple of years,' Scott said. 'I feel like this is the path I've been going down, and just happens to have happened here that I've put myself in good position after two days at a major.'

Much like Snedeker, though, he didn't read much more into it.

'I think you look at the names that are five and six shots back, and it means even less,' he said.

The biggest name was Woods.

Woods mapped out a strategy for navigating the bunkers of Royal Lytham, and not even a change in the weather - only a breath of wind - will take him away from that. He has hit driver only three times this week. On the par-5 11th, where several players hit driver for a chance to go for the green in two, Woods laid back with an iron. He pulled it into the rough, and it cost him. Woods had to get up-and-down from behind the green for a bogey.

That was his lone mistake, however. He holed an 18-foot birdie on the 16th hole, and then fooled by what little wind there was on the 18th, recovered by holing out from the greenside bunker with a shot that rolled into the cup for his second straight 67 and a 6-under 134.

'It wasn't as hard as it may have looked,' Woods said. 'Because I was on the upslope, I could take out that steepness coming off the bunker and land the ball on the flat. So just threw it up there, and I played about a cup outside the left and it landed on my spot and rolled to the right.'

Woods will find out if his record in the majors still means anything. This was the eighth time he has opened a major with two rounds in the 60s, and he went on to win on the seven previous occasions - including all three of his Open titles.

He will be in the penultimate group with Thorbjorn Olesen, a 22-year-old Dane who won for the first time this year on the European Tour. He closed with two birdies, knowing that the last one would give him a 66 and a chance to meet Woods on a Saturday afternoon at golf's oldest championship.

'That was amazing,' Olesen said. 'He's been my idol in so many years. So it's fantastic to have a chance to play with him. And I'm certainly looking forward to it.'

The rest of the field would love nothing more than for the wind to show up.

The forecast, which cannot be trusted in these parts, is for mostly sunny skies and perhaps enough wind to fly a kite on the shoreline of the Irish Sea. The blustery conditions are to arrive Sunday, which would make all those bunkers and the high grass even tougher to avoid and possibly allow others to get into the mix.

Paul Lawrie, who came from 10 shots behind on the final day at Carnoustie in 1999 to win the claret jug, overcame two double bogeys to salvage a 71 and was in the group at 4-under 136 that included Graeme McDowell (69), Matt Kuchar (67), Jason Dufner (66) and Thomas Aiken (68).

'The forecasts I've seen so far have all been wrong,' Kuchar said. 'So I don't put a whole lot of stock in what's coming. I think all of us would like to see some more British Open-like conditions. I think everybody would like to have a little bit more wind just to test us a little bit more out here.'

Ernie Els squandered some chances by missing a few short putts on the back nine, though he still carved out a 70 and was at 137.

Luke Donald's day stated early, and not just with his tee time. His caddie, John McLaren, called to say his pregnant wife was due any minute. No matter. He used Gareth Lord - almost on the bag at Disney last year when Donald won to capture the PGA Tour money title - and he had a 68 to join the list at 2-under 138.

Rory McIlroy bought a hotel room and gave some spending cash to the 16-year-old who was hit in the head by his errant tee shot on Thursday. The teenager watched on Friday as McIlroy only hurt himself. He took two shots to get out of a bunker on the par-3 ninth for a double bogey, had to play sideways out of a water-filled bunker on the 17th and wound up with a 75 to fall 12 shots behind.

The cut was at 3-over 143 - the 13-shot separation speaks to how well Snedeker played. Phil Mickelson never had a chance, taking three double bogeys for a 78 to end his streak of 18 consecutive cuts in the majors that dates to Carnoustie five years ago.

Tom Watson, 62, extended his record as the oldest player to make the cut in the Open by holing a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

It was a fitting end to the day.

Snedeker idolized Watson growing up, and he has just enough freckles under that strawberry-blond mop to resemble the five-time Open champion. He has learned to accept the odd bounces and embrace the Open beyond the links, hanging out in the pubs and appreciating the locals' love of golf.

As for their games? Snedeker doesn't hit the ball on the button the way Watson does - not many do.

'I would love to be like him,' Snedeker said. 'We both make pretty quick decisions. There's no hold-back in either one of our swings. He's one of the best ball strikers of all time. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination. But I think we both hole a lot of putts. Tom in his prime holed a lot of 25- and 30-footers. And when I'm playing well, I tend to do that a lot, too.'

Getty Images

Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

Getty Images

Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

Getty Images

All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”

Getty Images

First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”