Tough to Root Against Captain Langer
German-born Langer has kept a home in the United States for a number of years now. He lives in South Florida with American wife Vikki and their four children ' all of whom are typical suburban kids with typical American tastes. He is intensely religious and a regular attendee at the PGA Tours weekly Bible-study classes. In 1985 he won the first of his two Masters and three days later he was converted after he was persuaded to go to the religious chats by Bobby Clampett.
Sounds like millions of Americans, doesnt it?
Anyway, Captain Langer has been surprising even himself with his good play this year in America. He teed it up in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and finished eighth. He was en route to a similar finish in the FBR Classic at Phoenix when he hit a roadblock in the final round and shot a 76.
Come to think of it, maybe he really is doing the Americans a big favor. Thank goodness he is just captain. His play the first two tournaments of the year has been pretty impressive indeed ' this guy would be sticky if he were playing in the Cup instead of just riding around in the cart spouting European exhortations.
That situation, of course, has already come up, been batted around, and put to bed. Langer was asked late last year if he unequivocally, totally ruled out the possibility of playing. And he refused to say no.
This evoked quite an outburst from Nick Faldo ' one of the men in the final running for the captaincy. Faldo wondered when Langer would set a deadline for deciding ' would it be after the European shirts had been selected? Langer, within the last month, made the announcement that he would be the captain and not a player. Presumably, that was good enough for Faldo.
Whew! Up went a collective sigh from the Americans. Langer has performed brilliantly in the past for Europe. Langers 10 Ryder Cups trails only Faldos 11. A tested, steady hand like Langer would no doubt be a valuable addition to the European squad.
He announced his decision in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago.
That's exactly what I have announced, yes, said Langer. I made up my mind that I would not play, no matter what. It's so much work and so much effort that goes into the Cup, so much of a personal touch as well, and I've thought already a lot and I don't want to give that up. So I'm going to be a captain, yes.
So even in the remote event that he leads the European Ryder Cup standings, he will not play. He had been saying that it would be rare possibility, indeed, if he were to consider it. Now he has slammed the door altogether.
But the captaincy hasnt affected his play this year, it seems.
I've put a lot of work into it over the off season and the winter, worked very hard on my swing with my coach (David Leadbetter), Langer said. And then playing a new ball, as well, which seems to give me a little more distance, and a new driver, so I'm hitting it out there a little bit further, which makes it easier.
He is popping his driver out there 285 yards, which is good for 41st on the tour. And his adjusted scoring average is 28th. He actually has averaged 68.00, which is seventh in actual figures, but adjustments are made for the relative ease of the Hope courses.
Langer is 46 now, but he says this rejuvenation has hit a lot of players. The guys playing well in their 40s, they're good players, they've been out here a long time, they have a lot of experience, he explained.
The only difference now compared to 30 or 50 years ago is we do realize with the equipment and staying fit that you can expand your career. A lot of guys are looking forward to the Champions Tour, as well, so they're taking better care of themselves. They're exercising, eating better, looking out for themselves more and that's why they can compete longer.
Langer will spend much more time playing the U.S. tour this year because his children are of an age, he believes, that he needs to be near them. That means, of course, he will be in closer contact to the demonstrative U.S. fans. But thats OK, he says. He even had a good time with the rowdy Phoenix fans on the famous par-3 16th.
It's an unbelievable atmosphere, Langer said with a smile. It's just surrounded by people and all they want to do is yell and scream. It's fun when you hit a good shot. It's not so much fun when you don't hit the green.
Someone suggested that the crowd at No. 16 may be good for the game. I don't know if it's good for the game, said Langer, but it's certainly good for this tournament to get a lot of people to come out here, and they seem to enjoy themselves.
Langer is in the field at this weeks Buick Invitational near San Diego. Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Fredrik Jacobsen, Jose Maria Olazabel, Jesper Parnevik, Mathias Gronberg a lot of European players will also be there, within eye-catching distance of their captain. Langer will pay close attention, of course. But he also will be concentrating on his own game. Ryder Cup or not, this guy can play!
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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1
They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.
McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.
On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.
Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
12/1: Tony Finau
14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
20/1: Francesco Molinari
25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner
30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka
40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day
50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate
80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na
100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman
Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience
Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.
It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.
Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.
“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.
“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.
At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.
Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.
“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.
“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.
“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”
After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.
“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”
Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.
“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.
“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”
On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.
Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.
“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”
Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.
At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.
At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.
Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.
“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”
Her overall assessment of her day?
“It was a great experience,” she said.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.
Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.
Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.
The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.
“Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”
Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.
But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.
“I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”
Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.
“It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”
There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.
It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.
“It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”