Surprise visitor to Shanghai Far East Finchem

By Doug FergusonNovember 2, 2010, 10:10 pm

WGC-HSBC ChampionsSHANGHAI – Not long after Bill Lunde captured his first PGA Tour title at Turning Stone, his agent asked him if he had any interest in going to China the first week in November.

His first question was what tournament was in China. Told that it was the HSBC Champions, that led to another question.

“I said to him, ‘How did I qualify for that?”’ Lunde said Monday afternoon while waiting to hit balls at Sheshan International.

If it was strange to see the bunkers on the range covered in red carpet – the color of HSBC’s logo – Lunde still had a hard time grasping how he had made it into his first World Golf Championship. Because of the number of players who chose not to compete, Lunde got into the 80-man field when the alternate list switched between tournament winners and world ranking.

Little did he realize that winning in Augusta at Turning Stone – the same week as another WGC, the Bridgestone Invitational – would open such doors. This will be the first time the 34-year-old Lunde has played a tournament that didn’t have a cut since he made it to the Nationwide Tour Championship at the end of the 2008.

“It’s hard to pass this up,” Lunde said. “My first world event. All the ranking points. In my position, it’s hard to say no.”

It just goes to show how quickly fortunes can change in golf.

It was only five years ago when Lunde gave up on the game. A member of UNLV’s national championship team in 1998, it took him five years to reach the Nationwide Tour, and he only lasted two years before he decided to move on.

Lunde spent a year working in sales with the Las Vegas Founders, the group that ran the PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas. He then tried real estate just as the market was starting to buckle.

He got back into the game through the Butch Harmon Vegas Tour, where about 50 players from the area ponied up $17,500 to compete in a series of tournaments. Lunde won more than $100,000, earned a spot on the Nationwide Tour in 2008 and finished fifth on the money list to earn his PGA Tour card. He kept his card after his rookie year, but only after a tie for fourth in the Open late in the year.

Then came a one-shot victory at Turning Stone, and Lunde suddenly is places he never thought he would be.

GO (FAR) EAST: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem embarks on a 10-day trip to Asia this week as he tries to strengthen his relationship with the China Golf Association with hopes of adding more tournaments.

In its second year as a World Golf Championship, the Tour has decided that the HSBC Champions will count as an official PGA Tour victory if the winner is a PGA Tour member.

A week ago, Ben Crane won the inaugural Asia Pacific Classic, which counted only toward world ranking points.

Next up? That remains unclear.

“We’ll be meeting with some entities about a couple of tournaments we’re looking at in China in a couple of years,” Finchem said last week. “We’ll also be meeting in China with groups from two or three other countries about additional activities.

“We will be playing some more,” he said. “It’s premature to characterize it as what it will be. In today’s world, there’s lots of different ways for it to happen. If it’s a reasonably sized event, sanctioned appropriately, it can get world ranking points.”

The question is how the Fall Series will blend in with whatever tournaments are held in Asia. Earnings from the HSBC Champions do not count toward the PGA Tour money list.

There has been some speculation the Fall Series, and perhaps any tournaments in Asia, could get FedEx Cup points that would apply to the following season. Finchem dismissed the idea of the PGA Tour starting its new season before a new year.

“We’re not heading that direction right now,” he said.

Q-SCHOOL, STAGE ONE: Brett Waldman didn’t make it out of the second stage of Q-school in 2002. With a family to feed and bills to pay, he decided to work as a caddie for a little while. It turned out to be much longer, first for his cousin, Tom Pernice Jr., then Ben Crane and most recently Camilo Villegas.

Whether he’ll ever return to playing is doubtful, although Waldman at least can consider the possibilities.

He made it through a pre-qualifying stage of Q-school, then last week made it through the first stage. His immediate future? He is caddying for Villegas in Shanghai this week, Melbourne next week for the Australian Masters, then goes home to Dallas to play the second stage of Q-school at the TPC Craig Ranch.

“I have no expectations,” Waldman said. “I know I have a job. I don’t know if that makes it easier or not.”

Villegas recently asked Waldman if he at least had Nationwide Tour status, would he play or caddie. Waldman told him he would caddie, although even he is not sure.

“Playing for a living is what I always wanted to do,” he said. “But at the end of the day, family and finances are a lot more important. But it would be a nice decision to have.”

Others who have advanced to the second stage include Jay Haas Jr., former British Amateur champion Drew Weaver, Stanford grad Joseph Bramlett and Tadd Fujikawa. Among those who failed to get out of the first stage were Casey Wittenberg, Manny Villegas and Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer who missed by nine shots.

MASTERS ROAD: Heath Slocum didn’t have China on his itinerary until winning at Sea Island three months ago. That not only got him into the HSBC Champions, it gave him two weeks – and two different paths – to try to qualify for the Masters.

Slocum is at No. 55 in the world ranking, and the Shanghai field is about on par with the depth found at FedEx Cup playoff events. The winner this week gets 68 points. Slocum plays so many tournaments, however, that he probably would need to finish among the top three to crack the top 50 – and stay there the rest of the year.

He then goes to Disney for the final PGA Tour event. The top 30 on the money list get into the Masters, and Slocum is holding down the 30th spot by $132 over Ryan Moore, who already has qualified for Augusta National.

“I’ve got two weeks,” Slocum said. “I don’t know which way is going to be easier.”

DIVOTS: Wegmans has signed on for two more years as the title sponsor of the LPGA Championship. It again will be held at Locust Grove, with a $2.5 million purse. … There are 13 Americans at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the same number as last year. … Asian Golf Monthly magazine has named Nicklaus Design as Golf Course Architect of the Year in Asia Pacific for the third straight year.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Martin Laird moved to No. 49 in the world ranking, the first player from Scotland to be inside the top 50 since Colin Montgomerie was No. 48 on Oct. 7, 2007.

FINAL WORD: “Everyone wants to be No. 1 in the world, but the only way to get there is to win tournaments.”—Phil Mickelson.

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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

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.”