Shigeki Stands Tall at Byron Nelson

By George WhiteMay 12, 2002, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Is he really that short? Is he really that funny? Is he that professional a singer? Is he really that good?
 
Shigeki Maruyama, all 5-foot-8 of him, is the new Verizon Byron Nelson Classic champion. He won it Sunday by shooting 2-under-par 68, finishing with a 14-under 266 and gaining a two-shot victory. In the process, he answered all those questions ' especially showing that he is that good ' with a resounding yes.
 
Not bad for a man who loves to sing karaoke. I was singing, Tears in Heaven, the Eric Clapton song, said a grinning Maruyama through an interpreter. I dont sing English songs too much, but I knew that I would like to do that sometime at the Presidents Cup. Therefore, I studied and practiced quite a bit.
 
Maruyama on his win.

Maruyama hung on rather shakily in mid-round, making a bogey on No. 12 when he hit water on his approach shot, then missed the green with his tee shot on the par-3 13th. But he made par on the 13th to regain his three-shot lead, then scrambled for another par on the par-3 17th after missing the green by 20 feet. The victims Sunday were relative unknown Ben Crane and a charging Tiger Woods.
 
Maruyama won for the second time in the United States in two years. Last year, he got his first victory in the America at the Greater Milwaukee Open.
 
This was a big difference compared to Milwaukee, he said, feet still not reaching the carpet while sitting in the interview chair. I was leading (through so much of this tournament.) At Milwaukee, I remember I was so much like, coming back. This time was completely different.
 
The first time winning, I couldnt believe myself. This time, things are so different. I feel like my effort and my talent came out.
 
The 17th was the critical hole for Maruyama Sunday. He hit what looked like a good tee shot at first, but the ball carried over the back left. It rolled down a slope perilously close to water, but stopped about a yard short of a lake.
 
Facing a very difficult chip, uphill to an elevated green with a pin cut 20 feet from the edge of the green, Maruyama hit a delicate chip to within three feet. He sank the putt, and that par meant he would stay comfortably ahead of Crane, who was having to make par from a pitch shot on 18 to stay within two shots of Maruyama.
 
As soon as I hit the shot, I felt like, Oh yeah, it was good, he said of the swipe at 17. But I could hear the (gallery) going, Oooo. And then I almost fainted when I saw (where the shot had ended.)
 
The wind quieted down somewhat from Saturday. Maruyama saw it and knew he was going to have a more difficult time than if he had been battling the contrary breezes of the day before. I said, OK, the wind has stopped and all the players will start playing really good.
 
The only thing to do, decided Shigeki, was to play well himself. He opened with a birdie on the very first hole and played the front side in 1-under-par. He grimly hung on on the backside, making a birdie on No. 10, making a bogey at No. 11, but then putting brilliantly with clutch saves on the next three holes. As it developed, he would have just enough of a margin of error.
 
Woods rallied to shoot a 5-under 65, but an over-par round Thursday when he struggled with a 71 (par 70) doomed him. Crane, who tied for fifth at the 2001 qualifying school, shot a 65 also and threw a scare into Maruyama.
 
Just to be here and be playing on the weekend, I was so thankful, said Crane. I really had an amazing couple of days. Being in the hunt ' and playing with Ernie Els ' was awesome.
 
Crane is indisposed next week. He is getting married to Heather Heinze in Portland, Ore., May 18.
 
Woods, despite the failure to win, is pleased with where his game is after taking a long vacation since his win at the Masters.
 
Ive gotten better every day, said Tiger. Thats what you want to see when you take some time off. You want to see some progress, and Ive been able to do that. If I could have progressed every day, I feel like it would have been a successful week, which I have been able to do.
 
Final results from the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

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

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

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.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


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.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

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.


Full coverage of the 147th Open 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.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

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?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“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.”