The Great National Divide

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Tiger Woods is back to defend his title ' and doing so after missing his first cut as a professional in a major championship. Phil Mickelson is playing in a major for the first time since giving away the U.S. Open. Colin Montgomerie is doing the same thing.
The 135th edition of the Open Championship has a bevy of intriguing storylines just waiting to be played out this week near Liverpool, England. But the most intriguing of them all may well be the course itself.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hopes to keep hold of his claret jug.
For the first time since Robert De Vicenzo won in 1967, Royal Liverpool will play host to the seasons third major. Because it hasnt been in the Open rota for nearly 40 years, most players know little if anything about the venue.
I haven't been there, haven't seen any photos of it. All I know is it's in Liverpool, Woods said at the Western Open two weeks ago.
Not that he seems too concerned.
'I honestly don't know anything about Royal Liverpool, but I'll play three or four practice rounds and that should be enough time to prepare. The key is to make sure you do your homework and find out what the golf course will allow you to do,' he said last week in his monthly newsletter.
'It was the same with Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Carnoustie and St. Andrews. It's not like I haven't done it before. We play around the world and learn different golf courses in a day or two. It's part of playing golf. I think people are making too big a deal out of the fact that the tournament hasn't been played at Hoylake since 1967.'
Like most everyone else in the field of 156, Woods will be getting his first look at the location which hosted the first British Amateur in 1895 this week.
Mickelson, however, is not arriving to Royal Liverpool sight unseen. He came a few weeks ago, prior to the Western Open, doing his usual preparatory routine for major championships. And he skipped this past week's Scottish Open, which he normally plays prior to the British, in order to get in a few more practice sessions.
Surprisingly, Royal Liverpool has a lot similar shots required as Cog Hill (site of the Western) than what I had expected. I thought it would be a lot more run-up shots, but full shots will be working out very well there, said Mickelson, who didnt want to divulge too much of his inside knowledge.
Mickelson said he was using the Western as a chance to sharpen his game for the British, but he will have to greatly improve upon his tie for 65th to have a chance to hoist the claret jug for the first time.
Woods, meanwhile, tied for second at Cog Hill.
Does that make Tiger the favorite this week to repeat as champion? Perhaps with the betting public, but not necessarily with us. Here are our favorites ' with a twist. We have picked one player from five different groups, based on national and continental affiliation.
Unfortunately for countries like England, Spain and Ireland, they all get lumped into one big continental group. Obviously, there are plenty of names from which to choose, given the deep, Olympic-size pool of talent here. Scotlands Paul Lawrie was the last European to win this event, in 1999 ' making him the last European to win any major, for that matter. It would be poetic if fellow Scot Montgomerie ended that drought this week ' but thats probably not going to happen.
Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke looks to become the first European to win a major this century.
The best European player may be David Howell, the Englishman who leads the European Tours Order of Merit. But, as evidenced at the U.S. Open where he stormed to an early lead and then melted like Icarus wings, he doesnt appear ready to handle the pressure of contending in a major championship. The same thing could be said for most European players, but eventually one of them has to win a major. Right? If it is to happen this week, were going to go with Northern Irelands Darren Clarke. He is one of the few players familiar with the course. And this is by far the one major above all others that he plays best, with six top-20 finishes -- as many as in the three other majors combined.
Americans have claimed nine of the last 11 Opens. But, on paper, they might not be the collective favorite this year; that distinction might go to the Australians or the South Africans. Obviously, two Yankee names immediately come to mind: Woods and Mickelson. But, take away St. Andrews and Woods is a guy with almost as many finishes outside the top 20 as inside the top 10 at this event ' and no wins. And Mickelson is a guy who has all of one top-10 in 13 career Open appearances. Between the two, Woods will likely have the better result. But will he beat everyone else? Probably not ' yet hes still Americas best bet. He looked like a much different player at the Western Open than he did at the U.S. Open. If he can continue his improvement along those lines, he could claim his third claret jug, and his second in a row.
Five different Australians have won seven different tournaments on the PGA TOUR this season: Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Rod Pampling, Aaron Baddeley, and John Senden just last week at the John Deere to earn an invitation to the Open. Appleby and Ogilvy have each won twice, with Ogilvy capturing the U.S. Open. Ogilvy will be making his first start since becoming the great benefactor of Mickelsons and Montys collapses at Winged Foot. He tied for fifth in last years Open, but it will probably prove too great a task to win back-to-back majors ' especially when he cant sneak up on anyone. Greg Norman was the last Aussie to win this championship, doing so in 1993 (he also won in 86). Countryman Ian Baker-Finch was victorious in 1991. There are no fewer than 20 Aussies in this field. And though there are the likes of the previously mentioned, as well as Adam Scott and Robert Allenby and Steve Elkington, were going with Mark Hensby. He has four top-25s in seven career major championship starts, including a tie for 15th in his Open debut last year.
South Africa
South Africa may have only about half the representation as does Australia, but they pack plenty of power in their smaller number. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini lead the charge. And unlike with Australia, we dont expect one of the lesser known countrymen, like Louis Oosthuizen, to outshine the notables. If someone is to join Els as the only South Africans to win this event since Gary Player in 1974, then it will most certainly come from the top of the class. Then again, that person may very well be Els. The countrys most recognizable player of this era has gotten far more publicity for his knee injury than he has for his play over the last year. The head says go with Immelman, who won the Western Open two weeks ago, but the heart says Els ' and the heart always seems to win out. Els has a remarkable record in this tournament in even-numbered years. He tied for second in 1996; tied for second in 2000; won in 2002; and finished second in 2004.
Rest of the World
It would be easy to say that Fijis Vijay Singh is the favorite in this group. But that would be wrong. Singh has been way too inconsistent this year ' particularly on Sundays ' to be considered a favorite to make this the third leg of his career Grand Slam. Since most of the field falls into one of the four other categories, there arent many options in this one. But, pick we must. And pick Michael Campbell we will. The Kiwi has a lot to prove after missing the cut in his title defense at the U.S. Open. He talked a big game prior to the tournament, but came up small, shooting 12-over 152. Campbells win at Pinehurst a year ago came as a surprise to most. Not because hes not talented, but because if he was to ever win a major, it figured to be at the Open Championship. Campbell almost claimed the claret jug in 1995, when he held the 54-hole lead but ultimately finished tied for third. He tied for fifth last year.
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
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    McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

    By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

    They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

    McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

    Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

    On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

    Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

    10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

    12/1: Tony Finau

    14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

    20/1: Francesco Molinari

    25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

    30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

    40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

    50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

    60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

    80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

    100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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    Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

    By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

    Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

    It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

    Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

    “I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

    “I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

    Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

    At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

    Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

    “I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

    “Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

    “Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

    After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

    “I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

    Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

    “It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

    “Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

    On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

    Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

    “She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

    Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

    At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

    At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

    Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

    “I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

    Her overall assessment of her day?

    “It was a great experience,” she said.

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    Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

    NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

    Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

    Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

    1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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    Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

    Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

    The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

    “Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

    Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

    But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

    Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

    “It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

    There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

    It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

    “It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”