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Hot Seat: Fans now under fire

By Randall MellFebruary 28, 2018, 2:00 pm

Justin Thomas rearranged the furniture in golf last week.

He moved the Hot Seat outside the ropes.

Thomas put the heat under the britches of that obnoxious fan riding him in the final round of the Honda Classic. While Thomas later apologized for having the guy ejected, he intensified focus on the line of decorum being crossed more regularly in elite golf events.

That may be good for the sport, but not so good for Thomas. With that in mind, here’s our special heat index measuring the toastiest seats in golf this week:

Burning britches: Mr. Baba Booey

Golf’s unique culture is being invaded by the more rough-and-tumble norms of football, baseball and basketball.

The barbarians are at the gate.

There’s an unresolvable dilemma in that.

You get more ticket sales, TV ratings and other profitable returns moving outside your niche, but you also get a threat to the integrity of the game’s competition.

You get the possibility that some unruly fan decides the outcome.

You get the possibility a fan ignorant of the game’s customs screams something that wouldn’t affect an NFL kicker, Major League Baseball pitcher or NBA point guard, but totally derails a PGA Tour pro.

Not because the Tour pro’s more sensitive, but because the game is inherently more sensitive, because a golf fan screaming in a player’s backswing is roughly the same thing as an NFL fan sneaking on the field and tripping a receiver racing up a sideline.

Real golf fans want to see great players decide the outcome, not some whiskey-breath yahoo.

Thomas sees that bigger picture, and it’s easy to interpret his reaction as an attempt to defend the integrity of the competition as much as it was an attempt to defend himself. We know that because of what Thomas said at Riviera last week and at Honda before the event even began.

If golf doesn’t push back somehow, this all keeps getting worse.

But Thomas may have put himself in the hot seat along with that obnoxious fan, only because the fan’s sin didn’t seem that egregious heard out of its entire context, because he didn’t actually yell anything in Thomas’ backswing. The fan apparently yelled “hit it in the water” before Thomas hit his tee shot at the 16th and then yelled “get in the bunker” after the ball was struck.

By making it an issue, Thomas risked making himself an easy target for over-served and overzealous fans. That’s a shame, because he is such a bright young star. He puts on a show that is something to behold, not to jeer. He stepped up to protect the integrity of the competition, and now he needs folks to step up and protect him.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Singapore sunburn: Shanshan Feng

The world No. 1 has reigned atop the Rolex rankings for 16 weeks, but Lexi Thompson now looms just 98-thousandths of a point behind her in their ranking averages.

Feng won’t have to look far to see what kind of pressure Thompson is applying this week in a bid to take the top spot for the first time. She is playing with Thompson and world No. 3 Sung Hyun Park in Thursday’s start of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.

Thompson is an interesting study.

How did she move to a whole new level of consistency last year?

You never hear this as the secret to a player’s success, but it might be her lag putting.

Yeah, she improved her wedge play, her chipping and bunker play, but her lag putting took her confidence to a whole new level by taking pressure off the rest of her game. It made the game feel a little bit easier.

Thompson improved her pace, her feel on the greens, and it took so much stress off her putter, leaving herself less work cleaning up pars. That’s no small thing in a player’s psyche. She found that half shot per round that a player is looking for to improve scoring.

Feng may be No. 1 in the world, but she is underrated.

She is one of the most colorful players on tour, but she’s so underappreciated. Her cow-print pants and amusing wit help make her one of the most entertaining players in the game. She’s also one of the most consistent ball strikers out there. She’ll need that to keep fending off Thompson and Park and all the other challengers.

Scalper heat rash: Wannabe Masters patron

If you’re looking to scalp tickets for the Masters this year, you got bad news this week.

With Tiger Woods showing so much promise at the Honda Classic, the average asking price of tickets on secondary markets soared, according to

The average price of a single-day ticket is now $2,948, up from $2,592 last year, when he didn’t play. It was $2,176 when he didn’t play two years ago.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1