U.S. Women's Open has stage to itself this week

By Doug FergusonJuly 6, 2016, 1:14 am

The stage is set for women's golf to finally get the attention it deserves.

The U.S. Women's Open is the biggest prize on the LPGA schedule and has been for years. It starts Thursday at CordeValle Golf Club, located among the vineyards a few hours south of San Francisco, only the third Women's Open to be played in California. No other major sporting events are scheduled for late afternoon this weekend, golf included. Devastating flooding forced the PGA Tour to cancel The Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.

The cast of characters is stronger than ever.

Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson might be the latest rivalry to take root in women's golf, both teenagers, each claiming a major championship this year. Not to be overlooked is Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who won three straight times in May and probably should have won the ANA Inspiration in California, the first major of the year.

What can go wrong? Historically, there is reason to worry.

The last time the LPGA had the stage to itself was in 2005 at Cherry Hills (Colorado) for the U.S. Women's Open, and the tour promised a great show and a big future.

Among those tied for the lead going into the final round was a pair of teens in ponytails, 15-year-old Michelle Wie and 17-year-old Morgan Pressel. One shot behind was 18-year-old Paula Creamer, fresh off high school graduation. Still in the mix was Annika Sorenstam, the dominant player in her sport going for the third leg of the Grand Slam on the very course where Arnold Palmer charged to victory for his only U.S. Open.

Lights, camera, struggles.

On a Cherry Hills course with brutal rough and fast greens, the lasting image was Wie missing putts inside 3 feet on three out of four holes on her way to an 82. Sorenstam, five shots behind, tried to drive the first green just like Palmer did in 1960. She hit a tree, went into the creek and made bogey. Creamer struggled to move the ball more than 10 feet out of the rough. Lorena Ochoa snap-hooked a tee shot into the water on the 18th right when it looked like she was the winner.

This was not a celebration of women's golf it should have been. It was an occasion to cringe.

That wasn't the only time when the elements won out over timing. Go back to 2001 to find the mixed-team version of the ''Battle at Bighorn'' in California featuring a quartet of the best in golf - Tiger Woods and Sorenstam against David Duval and Karrie Webb. They had won five of the six majors that had been played that year.

The LPGA commissioner at the time was Ty Votaw, who said the Monday night exhibition on a network (ABC Sports) in prime time would be the biggest day in LPGA history ''based on the number of eyeballs that are going to be on our product.''

What he couldn't predict was that 30 minutes before they teed off, the notorious Santa Ana wind showed up. It brought 30 mph of hot air that came roaring over the mountains and created some of the toughest conditions of the year for men or women.

Webb hit a 20-foot birdie putt some 60 feet beyond the hole when a gust showed up at the wrong time. Sorenstam hit a 25-foot birdie putt some 30 yards into the fairway because of the slope and a gust. It looked bad.

The hope was that another moment like Cherry Hills would arrive, and here it is.

What makes it the most successful women's sport is that the LPGA has been going at it alone for six decades. They are not subsidized like the WNBA. They do not share the golf course with the men during the Grand Slam events. They have to work harder, and they do.

The LPGA survived the retirement of Sorenstam and Ochoa two years apart and now has the potential for a most compelling rivalry.

Ko won her first LPGA event at age 15, and she might as well have ''the youngest'' as part of her name for all the records she keeps setting. She won two majors at 18, and the question now is when her LPGA victories (13) will catch up to her age (19).

Henderson won for the first time last year when she was 17 and not even eligible to be an LPGA member. The Canadian delivered the most clutch moment in a major this year when she tracked down Ko in the final round of KPMG Women's PGA Championship in Washington with a long eagle putt and a tough par, then won in a playoff by coolly stuffing her approach into 3 feet.

They are Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. Nothing could lift the LPGA like those two battling at CordeValle.

What women's golf needs now are plenty of eyeballs and predictable weather. And for the USGA to do better than it did at Oakmont, with the Dustin Johnson final-round rules debacle.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.