Punch Shot: Best finish of the top 4 at The Open?

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 13, 2016, 12:20 pm

TROON, Scotland – Golf's oldest major returns to Royal Troon for the first time in more than a decade. Less than 24 hours from Colin Montgomerie striking the opening tee shot at the 145th Open, we know that weather is expected to play a large role in the festivities. What else do we know? Read below, as the GolfChannel.com team at Royal Troon weighs in with answers to the following three questions:

Americans have won 41 of the previous 144 Opens including 13 of the last 21. They’ve also won the last six at Troon. Will an American win this week?

REX HOGGARD: Yes. History is on the red, white and blue’s side. Two out of the last three Open champions were American and five of the last six major champions were born in the Lower 48, so it statistically stands to reason that this week’s winner would emerge from the far side of the Atlantic. That the hottest player in the game today, Dustin Johnson, is American also gives the USA an advantage when play begins on Thursday.

RYAN LAVNER: No. The claret jug has gone to the red, white and blue each of the last six Troon Opens, but the hunch here is that trend stops. Sure, it would surprise little if Dustin Johnson continued rolling or Jordan Spieth picked off the major that eluded him last year, but that’s where the strong list of American contenders ends. Will Zach Johnson go back-to-back? History isn’t on his side. Will Phil Mickelson capture another Open? He hasn’t won anywhere in three years. Will Rickie Fowler nab his first major? He hasn’t been a factor in months. There are far better bets among the Europeans (Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, etc.) and international contingent (Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, etc.) to predict another U.S. winner.

BAILEY MOSIER: Yes. There are six Americans in the top 15 in the OWGR with The Open defending champion Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson (who has two runner-ups and an additional three top fives this season) and Jim Furyk not far behind rounding out the top 20. You could make a strong argument for any one of the Americans in the top 20 to win and an even stronger one for them collectively.

MERCER BAGGS: Yes. You won’t get great odds on them at the betting parlors, but Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are too good to pass up. Johnson is coming off back-to-back, big-time wins. Spieth has the short game to work magic around Royal Troon. They might not get a lot of help from the rest of the U.S. contingency, but they should be able to shoulder the load.

JAY COFFIN: No. Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth obviously would be the two best options but there are too many others who have a chance to think another American wins. Day, McIlroy, Stenson, Scott, Grace and Garcia would be the group that could deliver a claret jug for the non-Americans. The list of contenders just seems deeper for those not bleeding red, white and blue.

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The top four players in the world have won six of the last eight major championships. Who will have the best finish among the top four?

HOGGARD: Dustin Johnson. He appeared unbeatable through two rounds last year at St. Andrews, finished runner-up at The Open in 2011 and got on the major board with his Grand Slam breakthrough at last month’s U.S. Open. Although you could make a solid argument for any of the top four players in the world, the easiest thread to weave would be for DJ.

LAVNER: Dustin Johnson. He’s on the kind of roll that many have expected for years. DJ has overcome distraction (U.S. Open) and a large weekend deficit (Bridgestone) to win his last two events, and now he heads to The Open, where he has four top 15 finishes. Johnson’s excellent driving gives him a massive advantage at a course that is playing softer than the R&A probably anticipated, and the small, relatively flat greens lessen the effectiveness of great putters like Day and Spieth. The Summer of DJ should continue here.

MOSIER: Dustin Johnson. Coming in with seven top fives in his last nine starts including back-to-back wins (U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone), he’s showing no signs of slowing. Since the 2010 Open, no one has more rounds in the 60s (10) in The Open than DJ. Don’t forget he was in contention through 36 holes last year and now that he’s broken through to capture his first major, weekend ballooning will be a thing of the past. Early reports from players are that they haven’t been able to reach some of the par 4s in two. DJ’s length will serve him well.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. He’s highly motivated and coming off a T-3 finish in Akron. The last two winners at Royal Troon have been Texans who have relied on short game and grit, rather than power. Let’s make it three. Friday’s conditions are supposed to be messy. As long as Spieth doesn’t get bad luck with the draw, he is prime to win the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. Something tells me he is going to have a little extra motivation this week. He had a chip on his shoulder on Tuesday, is sick of the talk that he’s a distant member of golf’s Big 4 and missed The Open last year at St. Andrews because he was injured. So, no, he’s not the defending champion, but the last time he played The Open, he won. I like Rory with an edge, and I like him to finish better than the other three, if not win it all.

Pick a player outside the top 50 in the world who can contend?

HOGGARD: No. 242, Ernie Els. At 46, Els’ best golf is behind him and he hasn’t exactly blazed a trail this year with just a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. But the World Golf Hall of Famer can still have his moments. He’s four years removed from winning the claret jug and finished runner-up to Todd Hamilton the last time The Open was played at Troon. As Tom Watson proved in 2009, the game’s oldest championship brings out the best in ageless champions.

LAVNER: No. 52, Martin Kaymer. Predicting success for Kaymer has been a difficult task in recent years – see his red-hot May and June in 2014, after a miserable slump – but he’s back on an upswing, with five top 15s in his last eight worldwide starts. His Open record includes only three top-25s in eight career appearances, but all of those went for top 12s, including last year at St. Andrews. He also has plenty of motivation this summer, as he currently sits outside the qualifying bubble for the Ryder Cup.

MOSIER: No. 55, Jason Dufner. The major champion and world No. 55 got back in the winner’s circle this year at the CareerBuilder Challenge and has quietly notched four other top-10s this season including a T-8 at the U.S. Open last month. His best finish in The Open is a T-26 in 2013, but he’s making his seventh start at golf’s oldest major and I expect that experience to bode well for him this week.

BAGGS: No. 74, Graeme McDowell. G-Mac has a steady record in this major, with a pair of top-10s in the last four years. He tied for 10th last week at the Scottish Open and needs to play well during this huge stretch to earn his way onto the European Ryder Cup team.

COFFIN: No. 52, Martin Kaymer. He has quietly played well over the past two months, with three top-10 finishes in his last five events. His worst finish in that span was a 37th-place tie at the U.S. Open. Kaymer has only one top-10 finish in eight Open appearances but he’s also made seven cuts. So I’ll take a guy in decent form who should easily qualify for the weekend. He won’t win, but a top-10 finish is quite possible.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.