News of OMearas Demise Seems Premature
But I dont believe either could have been as unexpected as Mark OMearas week in Dubai. He visited an American aircraft carrier with Tiger Woods, then teed it up against Woods, world No. 3 Ernie Els, and a host of the European Tours finest practitioners of the game. Forget that he was No. 201 in the world on Thursday. Forget that most people understood his Dubai visit was just to accompany Tiger. Forget that he was 143rd on the PGA Tour last year and had missed his last two cuts this year
OMeara has done this several times before, you know ' playing lousy for weeks, even years on end before suddenly getting serious about the game. The first was 20 years ago after he had finished 76th on the PGA Tours money list in 1983. The following year, 1984, he shot up to second.
He puttered along in the tours upper echelons for 10 years when in 1994, he slid all the way down to 86th. He then righted the ship for five years until 2000, when he went spiraling down to 112th. He was entering his early 40s, and when he didnt apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding the last four years, it was widely assumed that he was finished.
The low point, OMeara conceded, was at the 84 Lumber tournament last year. I hit the ball probably the best for two days I've hit it at any time in my career, and I shot 4 under - and I missed the cut, he said. I putted as badly as a human being could putt with no confidence. I was trying everything. I was closing my eyes. I was watching my putter go back, just trying to take your mind and the hit out of the stroke.
But when you're doing all of those things, you're fighting a losing battle.
Some speculated that he would quit to become Tigers coach. Others said he would become a TV analyst.
Unfortunately, the competitive nature one has inside themselves to get to that level, it's hard to just all of a sudden walk away, OMeara said. I felt like I could still play. What no one figured was that he could bolt into the winners circle again.
His old bread-and-butter, though, had gone AWOL the last few years. Long regarded as one of the tours most masterful putters through most of his career, he had begun missing with regularity. He clanked down to 143rd last season. He was 47 years old now, and the only question was how ' and when - the end would finally come.
The putting malaise was a serious development. It had happened in the latter years to lots of great golfers ' Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Tom Kite now it was happening to OMeara.
OMeara, though, just might prove to be the exception. In the offseason, he ran into his old instructor, Hank Haney, and Haney had some rather strong words. 'You need a new grip,' Hany said, and he wasn't talking about the way he held the driver. He meant the putter.
So OMeara relented and tried it. And so far, it has re-invented the OMeara of old.
He had gone over the cliff with the roller over the last five years, steadily going down: from 45th in 1999 to 112th on 2000, to 116th, back up to 97th, then last year falling out of sight at 140th. But with this new grip ' he calls it The Saw ' he stands 18th on the U.S. putting rankings, and thats not even counting his win at Dubai.
I would explain it, but I have to confess I havent seen the grip and I dont understand OMearas verbal description. But The Saw has had a dramatic impact on his game. And even though he has had nagging back problems the last month, OMeara looks like he can win again in his late 40s.
If you feel like you can make the putts, it just frees up the rest of your game, OMeara said.
Granted, I'm more confident now, certainly, because I'm starting to see some results. Confidence comes from results.
Last month, putting guru Scotty Cameron had a look at Marks unconventional Saw grip. He said it's the best he's seen me stroke the ball in five or six years, OMeara said proudly.
Well, maybe this is another ageless wonder story that has become so prevalent in golf the last couple of years. After all, Woods is the only player under 30 who has won this year. And OMeara beat Woods ' and Els ' in his march through the Dubai field last week.
Do you have putting woes, watching the ball avoid the cup like it has a severe case of halitosis? Better listen to Mark OMeara.
Any of you guys or gals that have a little yip in the stroke and may not want to admit this, that's cool, I'm down with that, he said.
But you might want to try this. Trust me, it works.
Email your thoughts to George White
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open at Carnoustie. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was one of dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even continuing to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.
Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.
There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.
Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.
“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.
In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.
“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.
“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”