Poulter (67) regains confidence, rekindles magic

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2017, 1:15 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – Never mind where Ian Poulter was three months ago — out of options on the PGA Tour, outside the top 200 in the world ranking, and seemingly headed back to Europe before a calculation error.

How about last year?

Out of action because of a foot injury, he spent the first two rounds of The Open as a commentator for Sky Sports.

“One of the most difficult things I’ve done,” he said Thursday.

It was all part of a trying year. He didn’t play five consecutive majors, a stretch that was so upsetting that he couldn’t even bring himself to watch the coverage on TV.

“It’s too easy to get down,” he said.  


The Open: Full-field scores | Live blog: Day 1 | Full coverage


But the Tour’s recalibration of his FedExCup points in late April gave Poulter, 41, new life. He tied for second at The Players, which secured his playing privileges for next season. He called that tournament a “huge turning point,” and said that he’s now a “freer player,” knowing that each time he tees it up his competitive future isn’t at stake.

After making five consecutive cuts worldwide, Poulter shared the 54-hole lead at last week’s Scottish Open before a flat Sunday, when he shot 74 and finished ninth. That disappointment didn’t last long – he opened with 67 Thursday at Royal Birkdale to conjure memories of 2008, when the flamboyant Englishman fist-pumped his way to solo second here.

“My last two rounds on this golf course have been good ones,” he said.

To return to Birkdale, Poulter, who is now No. 78 in the world ranking, needed to go through a 36-hole Open qualifier that proved plenty stressful — it was at his home club, Woburn. Playing in front of several thousand people, he shot rounds of 70-68 and, after an excruciating 45-minute wait, learned that he’d grabbed one of the three available spots.

Poulter conceded that there was a point over the past year when he wondered whether he’d be able to return to top form, whether he’d once again play in some of the world’s biggest events.

“It’s easy to be down when you feel you’re a great player and all of a sudden you’re hampered with a bit of injury or you’re not getting the results you want,” he said. “It’s very easy to slide away.

“So I’m proud of the way I’ve been able to refocus, get things back on the straight and narrow, clear away some of the noise in the background, and get back to really focusing hard on what I need to do to get the level of golf back that I think I can play.”

Getty Images

Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

Getty Images

Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

Getty Images

Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

Getty Images

Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.