Stat attack!: British Open preview

By John AntoniniJuly 15, 2014, 5:14 pm

The Open Championship is the tournament Father Time forgot. It’s the one major championship won more often than not by a veteran player. Since 2004, when 38-year-old Todd Hamilton took the title at Royal Troon, only Tiger Woods in 2005 and Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 were less than 30 years old. Woods was all of 29 at the time and Oosthuizen was 27, so it’s not as if they were young guns. Since Oosthuizen, every winner has been at least 35, with the last three champions – Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson (above) – having surpassed their 42nd birthday. Age might just be a number, but more 40-somethings and fewer 20-somethings have won the British Open than any other major in the last decade.

Age of major champions: 2004-2014

 Major Youngest age 20-25 26-29 30-34 35-39 40+ Oldest age
 Masters 26 0 3 4 4 0 39
 U.S. Open 22 1 4 3 3 0 37
 British Open 27 0 2 1 4 3 43
 PGA 23 3 0 2 4 1 41

When Phil Mickelson won in 2013 it marked the first time in memory that the last three winners of any major were over 40 years of age, and when you’re talking about the players with the most tree rings at the British Open, who can forget Tom Watson’s near miss in 2009 at age 59 and Greg Norman’s close call a year earlier at age 53.

Angel Cabrera (44) and John Senden (43) are the only 40-year-olds to win on the PGA Tour this year, but that doesn’t mean other veterans aren’t able to take home the claret jug. Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson are 38; Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald are 36; and Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker are 35. They all rank among the top-10 players age 35 or older who have accumulated the most world ranking points in 2014.

World Ranking points gained in 2014 by players currently age 35 and older

 Player Age Points gained in 2014
 Bubba Watson 35 236.61
 Matt Kuchar 36 178.58
 Jimmy Walker 35 156.56
 Jim Furyk 44 139.18
 Stephen Gallacher 39 124.98
 Zach Johnson 38 114.83
 Henrik Stenson 38 103.09
 Thongchai Jaidee 44 99.31
 John Senden 43 92.04
 Luke Donald 36 97.79

Even Tiger Woods is the right age to break his major slide. The 14-time major champion is 38 year’s old, right where you’d want to be to take the British title. Woods, as you know, has had incredible success at the year’s third major with three victories – 2000, 2005 and 2006 – and seven top-10 finishes since 2000. Only Ernie Els has more top-10s than Woods at the British Open since 2000.

Most top-10 finishes at the Open Championship since 2000

 Top 10s Player Best finish
 9 Ernie Els Won 2012
 9  Tiger Woods Won three times
 7 Sergio Garcia 2 in 2007
 6 Retief Goosen T-5 in 2005 and 2009
 4 Lee Westwood 2 in 2010
 4 Thomas Bjorn 2 in 2000 and 2003

Goosen is not in the field this week, but the other five are, and three of them finished in the top 10 at Royal Liverpool in 2006, the year Woods taught the field a lesson in course management, his 18-under 270 beating Chris DiMarco by two strokes. Woods led the field in driving accuracy, having shunned his driver on all but one hole. Not once did he hit into a fairway bunker. He hit 85.7 percent of the fairways, and that led to him hitting 80.6 percent of his fairways, tied for the second-best total in the tournament. Regardless of whether those numbers are a result of the course layout at Hoylake, only one other winner since 2003 – Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 – has hit more than 80 percent of the greens and fairways at the British Open. Els was third in 2006 and Garcia was T-5. Westwood and Bjorn both made the cut finishing T-31 and T-41, respectively. There are 26 players in this week’s field who made the cut in 2006, including six who finished in the top 10.

British Open competitors who finished in the top 10 at Liverpool in 2006

 Player Finish Scores
 Tiger Woods 1 67-65-71-67—270
 Ernie Els 3 68-65-71-71—275
 Jim Furyk 4 68-71-66-71—276
 Sergio Garcia T-5 68-71-65-73—277
 Angel Cabrera 7 71-68-66-73—278
 Adam Scott T-8 68-69-70-72—279

Scott and Furyk are also among the group of seven players who have finished in the top 15 at each of this year’s first two majors. Scott, in fact, has made the cut at the last 12 majors, and has been in the top 15 in 10 of them.

Players with top-15 finishes in the 2014 Masters and U.S. Open

 Player Masters U.S. Open
 Rickie Fowler T-5 T-2
 Matt Kuchar   T-5 T-12
 Jimmy Walker T-8 T-9
 Henrik Stenson T-14 T-4
 Adam Scott T-14 T-9
 Jim Furyk T-14 T-12
 Justin Rose T-14 T-12

You might have noticed that many of the players listed above are the “right” age for the Open Championship, and have been playing well in 2014. But the list of British Open champions who also played well at the year’s first two majors isn’t a very long one. Since 1990 only Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo have finished in the top 15 of both the Masters and U.S. Open and won the British Open. Woods did it in 2000 and 2005 (he missed the cut in the 2006 U.S. Open in his first tournament after the death of his father), and Faldo did it in 1990 and 1992. Since 2006 only two players have made the cut at the Masters and U.S. Open, and then won the British Open. Here’s how the Open Champion has fared at the year’s first two majors since Woods in 2005.

British Open winner in the year’s first two majors: 2006-2013

 Year British winner Masters finish U.S. Open finish
 2013 Phil Mickelson T-54 2
 2012  Ernie Els DNP 9
 2011 Darren Clarke DNP DNP
 2010 Louis Oosthuizen MC MC
 2009 Stewart Cink MC T-27
 2008 Padraig Harrington 5 T-36
 2007 Padraig Harrington 7 MC
 2006 Tiger Woods T-3 MC

One final note: The only player to win the British Open in his first appearance since Tom Watson in 1975 was Ben Curtis in 2003. Erik Compton is the only first-timer who was in the top-10 at a major this year, having finished tied for second at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.