The Day European Golf Came of Age
The PGA Tour granted it special status, declaring it an invitational, the same as Arnold Palmers Bay Hill. The Memorial was patterned after the Masters with green the dominant color. The past three years, the champion has been Tiger Woods, one of the greatest players in history. But to look at Muifields defining moment in golf history, one would probably have to look past the tournaments and go to 1987, when the Ryder Cup was held there.
Nicklaus was to captain the American squad, pitted against Tony Jacklin of Europe. Jacklin and his team bolted to an impressive 16 - 11 victory the preceding match at The Belfry in 1985. The U.S. had chafed about the loss for two years.
Everybody on this side of the ocean believed it was just a quirk, that Muirfield and Jack would right the ship and the U.S. would resume its winning ways. After all, America had never lost on its home soil in the Ryder Cup in the 60-year history of the matches. And absolutely no one believed that now would be the first, not with Nicklaus as captain.
That September morning in 87, the first two matches went as expected. Englishman Howard Clark popped his opening drive into a bunker to start the Ryder Cup. Curtis Strange birdied the second. He and Tom Kite were out quickly to a comfortable 4 and 2 victory, followed immediately by Hal Sutton and Dan Pohl ' 2 and 1 winners over Ken Brown and Bernard Langer.
Then, things quickly got interesting. Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam ' one of the most successful pairings in European history ' went up-and-down all morning with Larry Mize and Lanny Wadkins. The Americans birdied the first hole and went on to make the nine-hole turn 4-up ' surely a winning effort to match the first two.
Faldo nailed a 3-iron to begin play on the backside, however, and Woosnam sank the five-foot putt for a birdie. Wadkins found sand with his drive at the 12th and the European team won another ' 2-down. Wadkins missed another drive at 14 and the visitors were now just one behind. The Brits squared the match at 15 with a beautiful 1-iron to the center of the green from 250 yards, then went 1-up at 17 when Wadkins putt hit the hole and ricocheted, and Mize missed the ensuing shorty. The Americans lost the final hole with a bogey and the Europeans, who were down four with nine left, won going away.
What was the visitors motivation? We dont need any motivation, said Faldo. We are playing for history. Its like playing for your life.
From that point on, Europe was a formidable opponent, indeed. Larry Nelson had a perfect 9-0 Ryder Cup record, but when he was matched with Ryder rookie Payne Stewart, the pair fell to another veteran who was playing with a rookie ' Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Ballesteros and Olazabal would go on to post the highest win percentage in European team history, and they started with a 1-up win in the closing match of the first day. The Americans, who early on looked like certain winners, were suddenly tied at 2 - 2.
The afternoon matches were all Europe, the visitors winning all four matches to a 6 - 2 lead.
This has nothing to do with money, American Tom Kite would say. Its bigger than that. This is playing for Uncle Sam. And Sam expects a lot.
Nicklaus sent out a warning to his players. Everyone of my team has played now, he said. From now on, Ill pick only the best players. Ive told them, If you dont win, you dont play.
Day 2 was the day the U.S. determined to reverse the slide, but the reversal wouldnt come. The morning result was 2 - 1 Europe, the afternoon matches were split, 2 - 2, and going into the final day, Europe was comfortably ahead, 10 - 5.
Could America actually lose, on a great American course with a great American ' Nicklaus - as captain? For the first time, that possibility appeared legitimate. And in five of the first seven singles matches, the European made bogey. Was it possible that the Americans could change possibly their biggest defeat into their biggest comeback?
Andy Bean defeated Ian Woosnam in the opening match, but Howard Clark turned it around by beating Dan Pohl in the next match, both players struggling home with 75s. Sam Torrance and Larry Mize halved, which was a virtual European victory considering the visitors now needed just 2 points.
The news from the course, however, was encouraging for the Yanks. The U.S. led in six of the nine matches, and in the three they did not lead, they were either tied or very near the lead.
Mark Calcavecchia defeated Faldo for another U.S. point, but Olazabal nudged Europe closer to its goal when he defeated Stewart on the 18th green. Kite performed beautifully in outdueling Sandy Lyle, but a tough break doomed Ben Crenshaw in his match with Eamonn Darcy. Crenshaw snapped his putter and had to putt most of the match with an iron.
I remember breaking my putter on the sixth green, said Crenshaw. I just tapped it down on a walnut, and it snapped. It was like somebody shot me.
Crenshaw actually holed a couple of long putts to keep the match going until the final hole, but bogeyed the 18th to lose the match. Europe now needed just two more wins.
Larry Nelson and Bernhard Langer halved, and Europe was a single point away from victory. There was some criticism over the Nelson defeat since he accepted Langers offer of a half at 18, though both players stood about three feet from the cup. However, Ballesteros won the Cup on the very next match, defeating Curtis Strange on the final hole.
They (the Americans) almost pulled it out, but we did not win the 18th hole in any match, and we lost the 18th in three crucial matches, said Nicklaus. We just werent as touch in the stretch as the European guys.
The U.S. won the matches Sunday, 7 - 4, but lost the war, 15 - 13. I never thought Id live to see golf played at the level it was played Friday and Saturday, said European captain Jacklin. Today? Ive never been so worried.
The Muirfield of Scotland has become famous as a legendary venue for the British Open. But the Muirfield of Ohio became legendary for Europes first success in America, a signal that golf had truly became a world sport.
Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie
While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.
There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.
According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)
Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.
McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1
They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.
McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.
On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.
Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
12/1: Tony Finau
14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
20/1: Francesco Molinari
25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner
30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka
40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day
50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate
80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na
100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman
Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience
Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.
It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.
Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.
“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.
“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.
At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.
Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.
“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.
“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.
“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”
After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.
“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”
Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.
“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.
“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”
On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.
Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.
“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”
Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.
At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.
At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.
Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.
“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”
Her overall assessment of her day?
“It was a great experience,” she said.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.