OMeara Can Hold His Head Up Again
OMeara won the Skins Game (sorry, the ConAgra Foods Skins Game) last week. The competitors were Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Woods friend his ownself. O'Meara once was a wonderful golfer, but the last three years he has sort of fizzled.
He finished out of the money (read: missed cut) in 14 of 24 events this season. He finished 97th on the money list, and we can assume that at least one of those 96 who finished ahead of him would have loved to have competed at the Skins. Well, make that one of 94 Woods and Mickelson did compete, didnt they?
Hes 45 now, almost 46, but even as an older player, he was very good. Between the years of 1995 (when he was 38) to 99 (when he was 42), he finished 10th, fifth, 13th, and 45th. That, my friends, is quite respectable, especially when you throw in a Masters win and a British Open ' both of which OMeara accomplished in 1998.
When the year 2000 rolled around, though, OMeara seemingly lost interest. That is perfectly reasonable for a man who has won a total of almost $13 million in tour purses alone, much less what his endorsements, appearance fees and oversees tournament winnings have provided. And it's very understandable when you lose a parent, as O'Meara did. But hes very well fixed, thank you, and he just became better fixed thanks to the Skins winnings.
Now he seems to function mostly as Tigers buddy ' also not a knock, but seemingly selling himself short when he obviously could still be a winning golfer. You look at the totals for the Skins, you look at the competition (Woods, Mickelson and a rejuvenated Couples), and you realize theres still a tremendous competitor in there. At least, there is when he really wants to be.
A personal note, if you will indulge me for a moment: I once had the opportunity to play 18 holes with OMeara, just he and I. I was flabbergasted when he asked me what my handicap was as we rode to the first tee. At the time I was a 12. Fine, he said, he would give me 12 strokes. Then he proceeded to pull up to the members tees where I would be playing ' and played the same course. I will never forget ' he shot 63 that day, made two eagles and a whole lot of birdies, and as we went back to the car I was dreading the money I had lost to him.
He laughed and said, Forget it, bud, when I rather timidly asked how much I owed him. Then, he took off his shoes that he had just pulled out of a box that day and gave them to me. It was an extremely pleasant experience, the entire day.
I say that merely to illustrate the type of human that OMeara can be. He has become much more guarded the last few years as his friendship with Tiger grew closer. Thats understandable ' so many people want to get around him to get to Woods, theres no way he can have the same circle of close friends he once did. He has chosen to be Tigers close buddy, and in so doing hes had to limit his own personal contacts.
But, judging by last weeks results, maybe he should get serious about his own game again. He has to be a lot better than 97th on the PGA Tour, even if he is 45 years old. Actually, he finished 112th and 116th in 2000 and 2001, and theres no question that he is much, much better than that.
How much better? Well, in two days he delivered a good old-fashioned rear-kickin to the other three, including golfs Big Two. He reportedly played the same tees as the other three (and it certainly wasnt the members tees), but he wasnt seen at the end giving away any shoes. The other guys also get theirs free, as it turns out.
OMeara isnt lazy ' far from it. But it takes a lot to get him motivated. Golf of late hasnt motivated him much. He won his majors back in 98, and its been difficult to get back in tip-top condition, as least mentally. If he doesnt have some reason to play well, he doesnt. The money has been there. So have the titles. Now hes working on other things besides hitting a 6-iron ' like being a good friend of Tigers.
Does he want to play championship golf again? Probably not, at least the kind that it takes to be a winner week-in and week-out. But the Skins Game brass doesnt have to be embarrassed to invite him back next year. This time, he will be returning as defending champion.
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”
Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.
Hoylake in 2006.
That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.
So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?
“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”
With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?
“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”