A Little Late-Season Magic

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World ResortVijay Singh was like a dominant college football program a year ago. He was the hot knife. His fall schedule was butter.
From August to November, the Buick Open to the season-ending Tour Championship, Singh competed in nine tournaments. He won six of them.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh has won 19 PGA Tour events over the last four seasons.
One of those three tournaments in which he did not prevail was the Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort. He tied for second, finishing three shots back of Ryan Palmer, who closed in 10-under 62 for his first tour title.
When Singh made his way to the Magic Kingdom last season, he had eight wins to his credit, including a major championship, and was officially ' and undisputedly ' the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
Fast-forward a year, and Singh is a four-time winner ' with no majors, and is much, much closer to the third position on the Official World Golf Ranking than the first.
Its not that Singh has had a terrible campaign. Hes second to Tiger Woods in both victories (4) and earnings ($7,733,503).
The difference between 04 and 05, however, has been The Close.
Singh repeated his victory at the Buick Open, but unlike last year, it didnt catapult him to greater heights. Though he has four top-10s in his five starts since leaving Grand Blanc, he doesnt have another win.
He looks to reapply the glass slipper this week in the shadows of Cinderellas Castle.
The event takes place on two courses: the Palm (par 72, 7,015 yards) and the host Magnolia (par 72, 7,516 yards). The 'Mag' is played exclusively over the weekend. It has been lengthen by over 300 yards.
Singh won this event in 2003. But its a fellow past winner ' a two-time champ ' who will likely be his chief opponent.
Five for the Title:
Tiger Woods
Woods has once again distanced himself from the rest of the golf world. He captured his sixth event of the season in his last start, a playoff victory over John Daly in the WGC-American Express Championship. In eight fewer starts this year, he leads Singh by over $2 million on the money list. Woods has had 42 opportunities to play on tour this season, but, including the Presidents Cup, has teed it up only 20 times. He certainly loves his time off. But he loves returning to competition even more. He is most dangerous when taking off just one week. He has played in 10 events this season after taking a one-week hiatus, and has returned and won four of those tournaments and finished runner-up in three of them. Thats again the scenario this week. Woods, who is still nursing some sore ribs he injured at the Presidents Cup, won this event in 1996 and 99, and was runner-up to Singh in 03.
Vijay Singh
Singh has again been impressive ' just not quite as impressive as a year ago. While the most glaring numerical difference between this season and its predecessor is in the win tally, a closer look shows why there is such a discrepancy between the two. Singhs statistical numbers are just a little bit worse this year in just about every major category: greens hit in regulation; putting average; birdie average; scoring average; scoring average before cut; third-round scoring average; final-round scoring average. It might sound bad, but he still ranks in the top 10 on tour in six of these seven categories. It just goes to show you how incredibly he played a year ago ' and how hes not too far removed from that form.
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is playing for the first time since the Presidents Cup.
Retief Goosen
Goosen is ready to return to action after being forced to pull out of the AmEx due to a groin injury. With his win in this years International, he continued a streak of five consecutive seasons with at least one tour title. Now hes in search of his second straight multiple-win season. He has played this event once before, tying for 18th in 2003.
Jason Gore
This would be the perfect place for Gore to win, as his year seems like it was scripted by Walt Disney himself. Gore has already had a dream season, but he would love to cap it by qualifying for the Tour Championship. He is currently 88th on the money list, almost $1 million behind No. 30. He has two more opportunities ' this week and next weeks Chrysler Championship ' to punch his ticket to Atlanta.
Chris DiMarco
DiMarcos search for that elusive fourth tour title continues this week, right down the interstate from his Orlando home. DiMarco has had some success in this event. He looked like a runaway victor in 2002. But after opening in 64-63, he closed in 69-68 and finished one shot higher than Bob Burns. He tied for 16th last year.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more to keep an eye on
*Fred Couples, who is trying to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time since 1998. Couples is currently 32nd on the money list.
*Charles Howell III, who is also trying to earn a trip to compete at East Lake. The Orlando resident, whose only tour title came in 2002, has four top-5s this season and is 30th in earnings after his fifth place finish in Vegas.
*Briny Baird, who finished tied for second here a year ago. Baird was in danger of losing his card until a strong performance in last weeks Michelin Championship at Las Vegas. He may be able to ride the momentum of his eighth-place showing to his first tour win.
*Ryan Palmer, who is the defending champion. Palmer has amassed over $1 million for the second straight year. He tied for 12th last week in Vegas. He is trying to become the first repeat winner of this event since Tim Simpson in 1990.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort
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    "The Men In Blazers" Hosting Nightly Show From The Open, July 18-22 on NBCSN

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 1:55 pm

    Show to Include Off-beat Interviews, Unique Features and Men In Blazers Distinctive Takes on The Open

    VIDEO: Men In Blazers: Carnoustie Through the Years Hosting The Open

    Culminating in France’s thrilling win on Sunday, NBC Sports’ critically-acclaimed The Men In Blazers – Roger Bennett and Michael Davies – have spent the past month breaking down all of the action surrounding the FIFA World Cup. However, there will be no rest for the duo as they leave behind their Panic Room studio in the “crap part of SoHo” in Manhattan to host a nightly show in conjunction with The 147TH Open. The show will feature the pair’s signature, unconventional style in providing unique takes on golf’s original championship while “sporting an arsenal of the finest golf sweaters that could be found on eBay.” Originating from Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, Men In Blazers will air nightly on NBCSN Wednesday, July 18 through Sunday, July 22.

    In addition to delivering a series of features for NBC Sports’ coverage surrounding The Open, the nightly Men In Blazers show on NBCSN will offer expanded highlights following each round; off-beat interviews, special guests and cameos; along with non-traditional stories highlighting cultural elements relevant to Carnoustie and The Open.

    “Both Davo and I grew up with The Open being the heartbeat of our sporting year,” said Bennett. “To cover it from that beautiful monster that is Carnoustie is the honor of a lifetime. We look forward to savoring every attempt to tame Hogan’s Alley, the futile battle between man and nature, and all those ‘subtle’ Ian Poulter wardrobe changes, in equal measure.”

    Dedicated features being showcased over the duration of the week include: a retrospect on past Opens having been staged at Carnoustie; an in-depth recollection of the unforgettable 1999 Open; an introduction to the second-oldest golf shop in the world; a history lesson on Carnoustie and its influence on golf around the world; and an examination of Carnoustie’s local delicacy known as “bridies”.


    Wednesday, July 18               11-11:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

    Thursday, July 19                   11-11:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

    Friday, July 20                        1-1:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Saturday overnight)

    Saturday, July 21                    11:30 p.m.-Midnight (NBCSN)

    Sunday, July 22                      10-10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

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    Woods delofts 2-iron to use off Carnoustie tees

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 1:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods has been effective this season hitting a 2-iron off many tees, reverting to a version of the stinger shot he made so popular.

    This week at baked out and brown Carnoustie he went to the next level, adding a new 2-iron to his bag that he bent to 17 degrees, down from his normal 20-degree version.

    “I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there,” he explained on Tuesday.

    Woods said he still carries the club about the same distance, from 245 to 250 yards, but “it gets to its final destination much differently [on the ground].”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I've generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option,” he said. “This one's not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It's more of a driving club.”

    After playing two practice rounds, Woods said he wasn’t sure how much he would use the new 2-iron given the dry conditions which have led to ridiculously long tee shots, and he said he might adjust the club more if the course doesn’t slow down.

    “If it softens up, it could be a good club,” he said. “If it doesn't soften up, then I might just add a degree to it and keep it a little softer and not have it so hot.”

    The Open is the second consecutive event where Woods has added to his bag. At The National earlier this month, he went with a new mallet-headed putter that he plans to continue to use this week.

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    Europeans out to end the recent American dominance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 12:59 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In golf’s biggest events, the Americans have left the rest of the world feeling red, white and mostly blue.

    If you’re wondering whether the U.S. currently holds a meaningful title, the answer is probably yes.

    Golf’s four majors? Yep.

    The Ryder Cup? Indeed.

    The No. 1 player in the world? Absolutely.

    The Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Palmer and Curtis Cups? Uh-huh.

    It’s been a popular talking point at the men’s majors, as Europe’s finest players have been peppered about why they’ve all seemingly fallen under Uncle Sam’s spell.

    After all, the Americans haven’t ripped off five major wins in a row like this since 1981-82 – when Justin Rose was still in diapers.

    “I don’t know what I’d put it to down to,” the Englishman said Tuesday, “other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong.”

    Since 2000, the Americans have taken titles at eight of the nine courses on the modern Open rota. The only one they’ve yet to conquer is Carnoustie, and that’s probably because they’ve only had one crack at it, in 2007, when an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, prevailed in a playoff.

    Not since Tom Watson in 1975 has a U.S. player survived Carnoustie, arguably the most difficult links on the planet. But Americans ranging from Dustin Johnson to Tiger Woods comprise six of the oddsmakers' top 10 favorites, all listed at 25/1 or better.

    “America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, other than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.

    “You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors.”

    Indeed, there’s not a fluke among them.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Since this American run began last summer at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka (twice), Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have hoisted trophies. All were inside the top 25 in the world when they won. All were multiple-time winners on the world stage before that major. And all, most ominously for Europe, were 29 or younger.

    “There’s a bit of camaraderie amongst all of them,” Rose said. “I know Brooks and Dustin are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”

    That’s why there’s even more anticipation than usual for the Ryder Cup. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil in a quarter century, but this band of brothers is better and closer than those who have tried and failed before them. Couple that with a few aging stars on the European side, and there’s a growing sense that the Americans could be on the verge of a dominant stretch.

    That should sound familiar.

    During an eight-major span in 2010-11, the most common refrain was: What’s Wrong with American Golf? International players captured seven consecutive majors, including six in a row at one point. They took over the top spot in the world rankings. They turned the Ryder Cup into a foregone conclusion. In the fall of 2010, Colin Montgomerie pounded his chest and declared that there’d been a “changing of the guard over to Europe,” and it was hard to find fault in his reasoning.

    “European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”

    Because it wasn’t.

    So even though it’s been more than a year since an International player held any title of consequence, these types of runs are cyclical, and Europe in particular has no shortage of contenders.

    Major drought or not, McIlroy is a threat every time he tees it up. Rose turns 38 in two weeks, but he’s playing arguably the best golf of his career, recording a top-10 finish in a ridiculous 17 of his past 21 starts. Fleetwood is fresh off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, where he closed with 63. Jon Rahm is a top-5 machine. Alex Noren just won on the Ryder Cup course in France.

    “I think Tommy, clearly, showed how close the Europeans are to challenging that dominance as well,” Rose said. “So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just that they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week.”

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    Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 12:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.

    It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

    “I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”

    During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.

    During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.

    He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.

    In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.

    This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.

    “It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”

    If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.

    “[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”

    Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.

    “Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”

    It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

    More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.

    “It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

    Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.

    Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.