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TT postscript: Tiger, spending time at the top

By Tiger TrackerMarch 9, 2018, 6:32 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – On a chilly morning at a tournament he’s never played before this week, Tiger Woods took his biggest step yet on the comeback trail. Here are a few observations from walking alongside the man himself as he tamed the Copperhead Course and moved to the top of the leaderboard:

• What. A. Day. For almost the entire morning, Woods was in control of all facets of his game. The tee shots were crisp, the irons controlled, and the putts found the bottom more often than not. In just his 12th competitive round of 2018, this was the most comfortable he has looked in years.

• While he said after the round that he didn’t get a chance to see it on the leaderboards around Innisbrook Resort, Woods took sole possession of the lead with a sand-save birdie on the par-5 fifth hole, his 14th of the day. He stayed alone at the top until a bogey on No. 9, his final hole of the day, that dropped him into a share of the lead at the time and served as his first blemish in 24 holes. By the end of the day he was in a five-way tie for second, two shots behind leader Corey Conners.

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• According to Woods, the key to his success was distance control with his approaches that yielded a bevy of uphill birdie chances. Of the four birdie putts he rolled in, none was longer than the 12-footer he holed on the second hole. Proximity paid off in a big way.

• Tiger’s final stat line: 8 of 13 fairways, 11 of 18 GIR and 26 putts. That’ll do.

• After a 3-under 68, he admitted that his strong performance came after a shaky warm-up session when temps on the range barely got above 50 degrees and playing competitor Jordan Spieth was hitting balls next to him in a ski cap. “I was freezing out there,” Woods said.

• Following a 12th-place showing at the Honda Classic, Woods said the key was “cleaning up a few things here and there” with his game. Consider the aisles well-swept, given that he’s ahead of the field in every strokes gained category available.

• Tiger’s takeaway from a good day at the office, which ended for him when he had a share of the lead: “It means I’m there with a chance to win on the weekend.” He’s in search of his first top-10 in an official event since the 2015 Wyndham, and his first win since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”