Koch Playing With Air of Quiet Desperation

By George WhiteAugust 6, 2004, 4:00 pm
The Champions Tour season is a little more than halfway over and Gary Koch is playing now with an air of quiet desperation. As he tees it up this weekend at the 3M Championship near Minneapolis-St. Paul, he realizes he has got to make some money ' or else.
Koch is a fulltime announcer for NBC. Hes a part-time golfer. But he dearly wants to continue his golfing career. Hes 52 now and into his second year on the Champions. If he doesnt finish in the top 30 this year, he loses the exempt status that he got from being a winner on the regular tour (he won six times.)
Ive always known that is a very important year for Gary Koch of the Champions Tour, he said. I knew at the start of the year that it was make-or-break time. I knew I had to play well and finish high enough on the money list if I wanted to continue to play.
Presently he stands 32 in the money race and he needs to climb up two more places to the No. 30 spot.
Koch came within an eyelash of winning the ACE Classic this year, a victory that would have given him an automatic exempt status for next year. But Craig Stadler nosed him out in a playoff at the ACE and its been somewhat of a struggle ever since.
In Kochs case, its been far too long a time in the announcers booth - first for ESPN and then with NBC. And he still tries to maneuver his schedule around playing when NBC isnt doing golf tournaments. And that is very difficult.
You know, in my case, I was away from competition for a long time, he said. There were 13 years where I literally didnt play very often. There is something to having nerves that used to be there versus nerves that arent.
But regardless of whether Koch actually plays or not, many would argue that he still has the ideal job. After all, he IS a golf broadcaster, and as such he never misses a cut, never has to worry about non-exempt status to do his job. Koch knows hes very fortunate.
You know, I really dont look back, he said. At the time when I got into doing television, I did not enjoy playing. I was not playing that well, and I was at a point in my life where I had two small children and a wife at home, I was on the road a lot by myself, I was going back to hotel rooms by myself after shooting 73 and 74s. The television thing came along and I got involved.
Its very different ' for a guy who plays an individual sport, doing television is more of a team effort. There are anywhere from 120 to 200 people are involved.
So no, I dont regret at all going into television. If I suddenly had a lot of success as a player, I still would hold onto the television.
Koch thinks there is a definite advantage to working upstairs before going downstairs onto the course.
It certainly made me aware that the guys who win tournaments dont necessarily always hit the shots perfectly and dont always make a lot of putts. Youve got to have a lot of patience, he said
It was certainly something I was aware of when I got started. Unfortunately, last year, for whatever reason, I just got lost. I didnt know what I was trying to do with my golf swing, I was seeing all the courses for the first time. A lot of things compounded for me to not perform the way I felt I was capable of.
I tried to do the telecast and then come right out and play, and I found out in a very rude way that that isnt so.
So hes going to try this, and if it works out that he cant serve two masters, so be it. At times this year hes been exceptional. But at times, hes been run-of-the-mill. He was one of the games most brilliant putters as a regular-tour member. Now, putting has been a real problem at times.
I definitely feel I have not putted anywhere near as well as I used to, said Koch. The good news is, I probably hit the ball better now than I did then.
I think part of it is time, age ' I dont think theres any question about it. Talking to Ben Crenshaw ' who is still a very, very good putter but Im sure would tell you not as good as he once was ' we were kidding around and we agreed that you probably are allowed to make so many in a lifetime.
But I think age certainly has something to do with it. Personally I think eyesight ' as your eyesight changes ' I look at some pictures now of my setup during my regular-tour days and my setup has changed. Now, it hasnt changed consciously ' I havent purposely tried to set my head in a different position from what I used to. But it is different. And I think that has to do with your eyesight changing.
Koch, though, has already improved tremendously from last year, when he finished 73rd on the money list as a rookie. Hes getting adjusted to what it means to be a player again, and if he finds he can comfortably fit that in with the broadcasting ' well, hell be a broadcasting golfer.
I think this year what I really was able to do was set some pretty specific goals, he said. And I look back on last year and yes, I wanted to play well and yes, I kind of expected to come out here and play well.
But I really didnt set enough specific goals, things that I can get focused on. And the nice thing starting this year, I had to have some specific goals ' there was no choice. And I think thats really helped a lot.
Patience has never been my forte. So consequently the highs are usually higher and the lows are usually lower. Something Ive been working on very hard this year is not to get too high and not to get too low. So far this year, its been a little better.
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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 golfodds.com.

    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.”