Ol Man River Still Rolling
Hale Irwin ' that is, 60-YEAR-OLD Hale Irwin ' spent last week doing the same things he did as a 25-year-old. He got up, went through a couple hours of golf tournament preparation, went out and walked a rugged Pebble Beach layout, spent four hours each day formulating strategy ' and won a golf tournament. No, he didnt rely on a golf cart. No, he didnt forget his socks. And no, he didnt even think about needing a cane.
Irwin won for the third time this year. But the other two came while he was only 59. He was 60 in June. To think that a 60-year-old could still be winning at this kind of a clip is ' well, just incredible.
For a decade, he has stared down the best that Champions Tour golf could offer, and whipped them all. He started out in the era of Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd and Jack Nicklaus, and he beat them. He faced Tom Kite and Tom Watson, and he beat them. Now hes facing Craig Stadler Loren Roberts, Peter Jacobsen, Bruce Lietzke ' and he beat them. And when Tiger Woods turns 50, want to bet that Irwin will still be grinding em out?
Those 43 wins are far more the No. 2 man ' Trevino with 29. And to think that Irwin the past three years has been struggling with a tricky back that occasionally goes out for months at a time.
That means, of course, that his practice time is severely limited - sprinkled in among his three victories are a T-52, T-46, a T-42, a T-26 and a couple of 25s. But when his back lets him play, he has repeatedly shown why he is one of the best elder athletes on the planet.
'I think it's because of my athleticism that I'm able to compete with these younger guys,' Irwin said. '... I relish the challenge. I challenge myself to go out at 60 and play the same golf I did at 50.'
AND ' he still isnt in the maximum physical condition that he expects to be in next year. 'I've gotten away from my conditioning because of my back, but I've got to get back to that this winter,' Irwin said.
The guys who were contesting him at last weeks tournament were awestruck at what they had just witnessed. Stadler, for one, couldnt quite fathom it. 'I don't think it matters how old he is, he said, because he keeps playing the same every week. He's a very good athlete with a great mind-set and a great game. That's a nice combo.'
Irwin, like Old Man River, just keeps on rolling. He won twice last year, twice in 2003 since the back problems really hit him. Before that, he was a four-time winner as late as his 57th year in 2002.
And he keeps testing whether he still can do it ' win against the men who are sometimes nine or 10 year younger . And the answer is still, Yes.
'I'd be telling a tall one if I said I wasn't nervous down the stretch,' said Irwin. 'The win only confirms to me that I still can play, that I have what it takes to compete at this level.
'I think experience helped out there,' Irwin said. 'I tried really hard not to get too distraught or too caught up in the moment.'
But, even 60-year-olds get excited. Sixty-year-olds still sweat a little under the heat of contending. That has never, ever changed for Irwin.
Oh, yeah, he said. If you don't feel some anxiety, if you don't feel some pressure, if you don't get excited about the moment, then why are you here? When I don't feel that, you'll see me driving down the road and I won't come back. That's certainly part of why I do what I do, because I enjoy that competitive moment.
I like going up against Greg Norman. I like going up against Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. I wish Tiger Woods was here. I think we'd all play better. I enjoy that.
He still gets the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, and thats something that has never gone away, not in 40 years of playing.
Let's put it this way, Irwin said: I'm not as nervous on the first tee on Thursday as I used to be, but I'm probably, if I'm in contention, as anxious on the first tee on Sunday (as) I was in the past. It just takes a little longer to get the engine wound up to get there. But it's still there.
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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.
How The Open cut line is determined
Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.
The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:
• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.
• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.
• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.
The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.
The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.