Fowler just one part of young, dominant group

By Rex HoggardMay 12, 2015, 6:44 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Instant analysis is such that anyone with a laptop and hi-def television sat down Sunday night declaring Rickie Fowler golf’s new alpha male following an inspired victory at The Players.

From the game’s most overrated to overlord in a single news cycle. Only in sports.

To be fair, Fowler never deserved the most overrated crown he’d been saddled with in a recent player poll on To be historically accurate, Jordan Spieth was declared the heir apparent following his Masters victory last month, and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy certainly made a statement with his marathon triumph two weeks ago at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play.

A more accurate and even-handed assessment of Fowler’s victory and its impact on the macro is that it officially moved him into golf’s version of a competitive aristocracy.

After top-5 finishes in each of last year’s major championships, the guy in orange vaulted himself into the conversation, and Sunday’s 76-hole performance certainly solidified his place on the game’s upper shelf. But golf, at least in its current form, has far too much parity to award can’t-miss status to a single, albeit singular, talent just yet.

What seems much more likely in the coming months and years is a collective effort of dominance. Consider it the millennial’s version of the “Big Three,” with a revolving cast of characters that currently includes, but is not limited to, Fowler, McIlroy and Spieth.

It’s all part and parcel of an innate fearlessness that the current generation enjoys. Used to be standard for a twenty-something to spend a half dozen years plying his trade and learning the ropes before things fell into place on a consistent basis.

World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson didn’t get on the Grand Slam board until he was 33 years old. Vijay Singh was 35 before he won his first major and David Duval, a former world No. 1, was 29 when he broke through on the biggest stage.

But the current crop arrived on Tour with a unique sense of competitive indifference, or maybe it’s an utter lack of fear. Either way, performances like Fowler’s, who played his final four holes in regulation on Sunday on the Stadium Course in a combined tournament-record 11 strokes, are becoming the norm.

“I think we’re all kind of cut throat when it comes to that,” said Patrick Reed, who also deserves a seat at an expanding table of potential world-beaters. “I mean to hit driver like [Fowler] did on 18, 320, 330 down the left and not bail out right. That shows how bad he wanted it.”

Tiger Woods at his best, think early- to mid-2000s, was so much better than the rest of the pack that he had the ability to separate himself on a regular basis. That gap, however, has been narrowed to the smallest of margins at the highest levels.

On any given week, the likes of Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and, yes, even Reed have the ability to dominate fields and make the game look amazingly easy. 

There is a dominant player in golf right now, but who that is often depends on what day of the week it is.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

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

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

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.

Said Harmon:

“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.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“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.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

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:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open 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.