Lets Let the Skins Die a Merciful Death
The 2003 edition was worth a peek only because it matched Annika Sorenstam against the men. And the men?
Well, there was Fred Couples, a lovable figure battling a shaky back ' but still a retread. There was Phil Mickelson, who probably looked pretty good when this Skins was put together at the beginning of the year ' but at seasons end just hanging onto the ropes. And there was Mark OMeara, who now is a long-lost shadow of the O'Meara of five years ago.
Couples was moderately compelling because he had rebounded from the depths the last two seasons ' seasons in which he finished 131st and 108th on the money list. This year, at age 43, he actually won a tour event and finished 31st in cash won. But he has long since passed his prime, and his presence alone isnt nearly enough to make you want to leave the football games and tune in to golf.
Mickelson is even less a reason, considering that in his last 16 events, he cracked the top 10 only twice. He is in the midst of a dreadful slump ' and his play in the Skins was a clear indication.
And OMeara ' well, OMeara is winding down a career that has seen a multitude of ups and downs. In 1998, he won two majors. In 1999, he still played well enough to finish 45th on the money list. Then he turned his attention to other things ' including the tragedy of his mothers death and the excitement of a budding design career ' and basically tuned out of active golf. He was in here solely because he happened to win it last year ' and he was in it then largely because of his association with Toyota, one of the Skins sponsors. A nice guy, OMeara, but he was totally out of place here. But, so probably was Mickelson.
Then there was Sorenstam. She alone made it worth dropping in on the telecast occasionally, just to see how she would do against the gents. Is that reason enough to drop the lawn mover or snow blower, or to change channels from your Sunday pro football game? As it developed, Annika won two holes, one with a hole-out from a bunker on a par-5, another with a 15-foot putt. That gave her five skins with the carryovers, good for second place behind Couples.
The telecast by ABC was anti-climatic, too. Because it was tape-delayed, it was chopped Sunday to fit the time slot. Therefore, you knew it was going to extra holes when they were on No. 18 with 30 minutes still remaining.
But then came a ridiculous shortening of the three playoff holes, showing only a shot or two of each before Couples winning putt on the third. Much better to have some other means of playing off a tie than to grind it out in hole-by-hole competition. The playoff holes should have been the most exciting part of the day. Instead, they were summarily kissed off to fit neatly into the time package.
Lets face it, after T. Woods, there isnt another compelling face in the sport that could draw us away from other mundane activities. And then he is compelling only if he has competition. Ernie Els would have been a reason to watch. So, possibly, would have been Vijay Singh. And Annika certainly was reason. But the field that was there last weekend? No way.
That, though, is the big problem with having to pick a field long before November. There originally was no dearth of interesting subjects ' the first Skins back in 1983 had Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson. Im not so sure that that field wouldnt have more interest today than what was served up to us last weekend.
Curtis Strange, Ian Baker-Finch, et al tried mightily to make it sound interesting and captivating. But it wasnt. Not even remotely. Couples won and piled up more cash on his already money-leading total. Annika won her two holes and was in the mix for a couple of others. Other than that little bit of drama ' zilch!
Its hardly fair to criticize the participants ' after all, they didnt request to be here. And its hardly fair to criticize the announcers ' they get paid to do this one, just the same as they get paid to do the majors. But its more than fair to criticize the event. Lets let the Skins Game die a merciful death, at least as far as a big-time television event is concerned. It has run its course.
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.
“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.
Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.
Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.
“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.
“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”
It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.
“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.
“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”
This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.
Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.
Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.
Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).
Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.
“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.
Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”
“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”
Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.
“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.
Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.
“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.
To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.
“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”
Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.
“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”
The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.
“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.