Limb-o: Ko's 75 includes ruling for ball stuck in tree

By Randall MellApril 30, 2015, 8:13 pm

Lydia Ko’s caddie hiked high up into a tree Thursday trying to retrieve her ball in an adventure at the 14th hole at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout.

A rules question quickly ensued over whether the LPGA correctly allowed Ko to take an unplayable after her caddie, Jason Hamilton, was not able to identify the ball.

It was that kind of day for the Rolex world No. 1.

After a rough start shooting 4-over-par 75, Ko needs to do some work Friday to avoid missing a cut for the first time in an LPGA event. She entered this week’s tournament at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, having made the cut in all 50 of her tour starts as a pro and amateur. She was tied for 98th when she signed her card after Thursday’s round but had dropped to T-129 late in the afternoon. The cut will be made to the low 70 and ties on Friday with another cut to the low 50 and ties on Saturday. Ko’s 75 was her highest score since she posted a 76 in the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open last August.

With Ko pledging to donate her winnings this week to relief efforts in Nepal, where a devastating earthquake left thousands dead, there’s more at stake than Ko’s bottom line. There are no winnings for players who miss the cut on Friday.

Ko was 2 under par in her round when she hit her approach shot at the 14th hole long and left. She tried to hit a lob over a tree blocking her route to the green, but her ball caught up in a branch and never came down.

“I would never have imagined for it to be stuck up there,” Ko said afterward.

Hamilton scrambled up into the tree, climbing fairly high up to where the gallery could see a ball resting in some pine needles. Hamilton couldn’t reach the ball above him but shook a nearby branch, then repeatedly hit the branch with a club that Ko had tossed up to him, but he couldn’t knock the ball free.

With Hamilton in the tree, Ko asked why they had to free the ball if they were going to take an unplayable.

“We have to identify it,” Hamilton told her.

Shortly after, LPGA rules official Brad Alexander arrived. He told Ko she could take an unplayable lie based on witness accounts of the ball going into the tree. She took a penalty stroke and a drop near the tree. If the ball had been declared lost, Ko would have been required to take a penalty and also return to where she struck the last shot. She would have had to drop and play from there.

In answer to a inquiry about the ruling, LPGA media relations emailed this response from Alexander: “Based on the testimony of multiple spectators and others who witnessed Lydia's stroke and where the ball came to rest on the limb, she was able to determine a reference point in order to take relief under Rule 28c.”

Ko took the unplayable and made triple-bogey 7. She followed that at the 15th hole with a double bogey and then a bogey at the 16th. She shot 41 on the back nine.

“You just get those days where the things that you least expect happen,” Ko said.

The ball-in-the-tree adventure at the 14th derailed Ko’s round. Hamilton said he had never climbed that high in a tree looking for a ball.

“That was probably a record for me,” he said. “I’m too old for climbing trees.”

Hamilton said he thought he was required to identify the ball before Ko could take an unplayable lie.

“I didn't hesitate going up there, because I thought we had to identify the ball to be able to take an unplayable ... but, fortunately, the official came along and told us that if it's unanimous consensus that the ball hitched up the tree, and we know the approximate location, then that's fine, just take an unplayable,” Hamilton said. “So, it was all for nothing in the end.”

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”