Grill Room Blogging the PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Hunter's hopes all-but shot down
Aug. 7, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

Congratulations, Hunter Mahan. You are thisclose to assuring yourself of having the week of Sept. 15-21 all to yourself, free to do whatever you want whenever you want.
Forgo fancy dinners for a Whopper and onion rings. Sit around in your boxers and watch re-runs of Will & Grace instead of getting all dressed up in a too-tight tuxedo and mingling with boring, old Scrooges. Heck, play in the Viking Classic, if you so desire.
Have no fear; the Ryder Cup reaper is near.
Mahan, of course, made derogatory comments regarding the Ryder Cup, which were revealed last week. He subsequently apologized, but you cant put toothpaste back in the tube.
He started this week two spots removed from earning a place onto the U.S. team, with the top eight players in the standings (not including Tiger Woods) following the PGA Championship automatically qualifying for the biennial matches, to be held Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club outside Louisville, Kent.
And then he went out and shot 11-over 81 Thursday at Oakland Hills, thus all-but assuring himself of a missed cut and a missed opportunity to make the team on his own merit.
Now he is at the mercy of U.S. captain Paul Azinger, who has four wildcard picks to use at his discretion.
You would think (I would think) that Azinger would sooner pick himself to be a playing member of his team than Mahan but, you never know. Azinger is desperate to try and end the Americans 3 Cup losing streak (theyve lost five out of the last six). And with still four events remaining until he has to announce his selections, Mahan has time to impress Cap with his play.
Azinger wants winners on his team. Should Mahan prove to be one over the next month he may well earn one of those picks.
Assuming he accepts it.
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Phil it up -- and down
Aug. 6, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

According to odds-makers, Phil Mickelson is the favorite to win the PGA Championship this week. Apparently, they didnt pay attention to the events of last week.
And neither should they have.
Everything about Mickelsons game is bi-polar. Its peak followed by valley followed by peak, and so on.
There is no comprehensible rhyme or reason, no reliable way to predict how he will perform ' and Im sure Dave Pelz has tried in vain to come up with some kind of scientific formula to do so.
How Phil fares at one event means little to how he performs at the next; its just like him making a three-putt bogey on one hole and miraculous up-and-down birdie thereafter.
Granted, he made three bogeys over his final four holes to bottom out at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but that just means hes due for another peak.
Earlier this year, he missed the cut at Pebble Beach and then won his next event, the Northern Trust Open. He also shot 78 to close his title defense at THE PLAYERS, and then captured Colonial right after that. Last year, he took off early at the FBR, but then took home the title the next week at the AT&T.
So dont count out Mickelson at Oakland Hills just because he played poorly down the stretch at Firestone. Of course, you cant count on him to win either.
The only thing you can count on is that, win or lose, hell make it entertaining to watch.
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Building momentum at Oakland Hills
Aug. 5, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

The PGA Championship has a history of producing some of the most compelling golf on an annual basis, which is why Im willing to stay patient as we ease into this seasons final major.
Thus far, the excitement level seems to be lower than the McCain approval rating in the Hilton household.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that the two-time defending champion is on his couch. Or on his yacht. Or maybe in custom-build home on the moon. Wherever he is, hes not at Oakland Hills.
Another issue may well be the venue. The PGA is often the most forgiving major championship, allowing for lower scores and more drama. The last time this course hosted a regular major championship, though, Steve Jones won the U.S. Open at 2 under par.
Weve already seen 1 under force a playoff at this years U.S. Open; and 3 over win the British. Some red numbers would be a welcome sight this week.
But theres no reason to panic just yet. After all, no one remembers a major for what happens Monday-Wednesday.
Some good golf come Thursday and well be looking forward to Friday. Get a few big names in the mix Friday and well be anticipating the weekend. Keep those names near the top after Saturday and well be glued to our couch come Sunday ' or on our yacht or in our custom-built moon home.
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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.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.