Fact Pack: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational & Reno-Tahoe Open

By Will GrayJuly 31, 2012, 6:00 pm

This week many of the best golfers in the world head to Akron, Ohio for the third WGC event of 2012, the Bridgestone Invitational. Those not fortunate enough to make the field in Ohio will take a trip west to Nevada for the Reno-Tahoe Open, employing a modified Stableford scoring system for the first time this year. With only three weeks until the FedEx Cup playoffs, many players in both fields will be jockeying for postseason positioning this week. With that in mind, here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title and help your Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:

Over the past few years, finding the greens at Firestone CC in regulation has consistently been a key for success. Since 2007, every eventual WGC-Bridgestone champion has hit at least 50/72 greens in regulation during the event, and each finished T-9 or better for the week in GIR percentage. Thus far in 2012, Bubba Watson leads the Tour in this category, hitting the green in regulation 71.46% of the time.

• Of the 74 career PGA Tour wins for Tiger Woods, 21 of them have come across just three golf courses - Firestone, Bay Hill and Torrey Pines, where Woods has won seven times each. This week he looks to join Sam Snead, who dominated the Greater Greensboro Open during his illustrious career, as the only men to ever win the same Tour event eight times.

Pat Perez heads to Reno this week hoping to improve on his runner-up finish from a year ago. Before withdrawing from the John Deere, Perez had finished in the top 30 in five of his previous six Tour starts dating back to The Players. He is currently 19th on Tour in birdie average and ninth in par-5 birdies or better, two stats which could lead to success under the modified Stableford scoring system that tends to reward aggressive play.

Josh Teater officially has some momentum on his side, having carded back-to-back top-10 finishes on Tour for the first time in his career. Teater's 2012 stat line is an impressive one: 12th on Tour in total birdies, 15th in ball-striking and 15th in birdies or better on par-5 holes. He finished T-10 in Reno last year and is positioned well for another high finish this week.

• While making few starts in the U.S., Francesco Molinari has amassed an impressive record in 2012. The Italian recorded back-to-back runner-up finishes in Europe leading up to the British Open and currently ranks second on the Euro Tour in GIR percentage and sixth in driving accuracy. Last year Molinari led the field at Firestone in fairways hit and was T-8 in GIR percentage en route to a T-15 finish.

• Another player in strong form heading into the Reno-Tahoe Open is Billy Horschel. Placing a season-best third two weeks ago in Mississippi, Horschel has now made six consecutive cuts dating back to the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He ranks seventh on Tour in total driving and 10th in ball-striking, both indicators that he should be in position for plenty of birdies this week, and finished T-10 at Montreux a year ago.

Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker have all won on Tour in 2012, but all three are looking to move off the Ryder Cup bubble with a good performance this week in Ohio. Fowler, last year's runner-up here, is currently 10th in the standings. Johnson, currently 12th, enters off a T-9 finish at the British Open, while Stricker, currently 15th, will look to build upon two top-10 finishes in his last three trips to Firestone CC.

Tune in to Golf Channel Thursday-Sunday from 6:30P-8:30P ET for coverage of the Reno-Tahoe Open.

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Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.