Schniederjans ends amateur career with 67 at St. Andrews

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2015, 2:05 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Ollie Schniederjans birdied the final hole at St. Andrews in his last start as an amateur to cap a 5-under 67 that vaulted him into the top 15 (for now) at the Open Championship. In other words, it was just about the perfect way for the former world No. 1 to declare that, yes, he’s ready to take the next step. 

“Amazing final day,” he said Monday. “Couldn’t ask for anything more special, feeling like I belonged out here and watching my name go up the leaderboard.” 

Schniederjans, who earned his spot in the field after winning the McCormack Medal last year as the No. 1 amateur in the world, will make his pro debut at next week’s RBC Canadian Open.

The 22-year-old will also receive sponsor exemptions into the Quicken Loans National, Barracuda Championship and Wyndham Championship. If he earns enough FedEx Cup points to move inside the top 200 in the standings, he will be exempt into the Tour Finals. Once the Tour’s new wraparound season begins, he will be eligible to receive the full allotment of seven sponsor exemptions for non-members.

Schniederjans has gained plenty of pro experience in the past year. He played the European Tour’s Scottish Open last summer, Abu Dhabi at the start of the year, the Valspar Championship in March, last month’s U.S. Open (where he tied for 42nd) and last week's Scottish Open (T-77). 

This was the most confident Schniederjans has ever felt during a tournament, and it showed at the Old Course. By making the cut, he joined Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only two amateurs since 1960 to play the weekend in both the U.S. Open and British Open. 

Schniederjans played a practice round with Mickelson in the run-up to the Open – and then beat him in the year's third major, after finishing at 9-under 279.

“You’re on the range with those guys, and it’s a little bit like you don’t feel like you’re belonging at first,” he said. “You’re like, 'I’ve got a long way to go.' … I feel like I’m ready to be out here (now).”

Schniederjans, who lost a playoff at the 2014 NCAAs, wasn’t at his best during his final season at Georgia Tech as he tried to manage both his future plans and his own expectations.

Now that he’s graduated, Schniederjans says he can devote more time to his putting and his short game, which had fallen off during the spring season.

“When you lose your ball-striking, you lose everything because it takes up all of your time,” he said.

Schniederjans also worked hard to implement a few “big” changes with swing coach Sean Foley and was thrilled with the results.

“My game is in the best place it’s ever been,” he said. 

When he finished his round, Schniederjans was one of four amateurs inside the top 20, three of whom have played college golf; if they finish there, it’ll mark just the second time that’s happened in the past 100 years. 

“It’s fun again,” he said. “It’s not fun when you have no control over your golf game. I’m not searching every day. I’m working on the same things every day. I kind of lost myself, my game a little bit. I’ve gained some tools in my game, and I’ve gotten better, and I feel like I can compete at any level playing the U.S. Open and the Open here.”

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.