Palmers Party Long on Big Names

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalThe PGA TOUR remains in Florida for the third of four straight events in the Sunshine State for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Formerly known as the Bay Hill Invitational, this event was renamed after TOUR legend Arnold Palmer. Palmer owns the fourth most PGA TOUR wins with 62, including seven major championship crowns.
Palmer played in this event for 35 straight years from 1970-2004. He won the title just once, 1971, and last made the cut in 1993 at the age of 64.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods would like nothing more than getting back into the winner's circle at Bay Hill. (WireImage)
Rod Pampling walked away with the title last year, thanks in large part to Greg Owen's gaffe. The two were playing together and at the 17th, Pampling stumbled to a bogey, seemingly to fall two behind.
However, Owen pushed his par putt. Then without lining up his bogey try, that putt lipped out. Owen tapped in for double-bogey as he and Pampling headed to the last tied for the lead.
Pampling two-putted for par at the last to earn the win as Owen could not save par from a greenside bunker. Pampling, who hails from Australia, became the second international player to win this crown. Ernie Els was the first in 1998.
A strong field is on hand this week with seven of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 players from the latest world rankings teeing it up at Bay Hill. Jim Furyk, the second-ranked player in the world, is the highest ranked player not playing this week. He is taking the week off with a sore wrist.
The GOLF CHANNEL has coverage of the first two rounds, while NBC will cover the final two rounds.
Next week the TOUR plays the last of four straight events in Florida with the World Golf Championships - CA Championship, which will be played at Doral.
This replaced the Ford Championship at Doral and fell under the World Golf Championships umbrella. Tiger Woods fended off Camilo Villegas and David Toms to win the Ford Championship by one stroke in 2006.
But, as for this week, big names rule at the Arnie Invitational. Here are five not-so-surprising names to watch for:
Tiger Woods
Hey, the streak isn't dead yet. Well, at least the one that states he has won seven straight PGA TOUR stroke-play events. At one time Mr. Woods owned this event, racking up four straight wins from 2000-03. But the last three years Tiger has been anything but, well, Tiger. He's gone T-46, T-23, T-20 and has only broken 70 once in that span. It's a good bet, however, that he'll get his mojo back this week at his hometown event.
Phil Mickelson
Despite not playing at Bay Hill for the past four years, Lefty has built quite a resume in Arnies event, winning once and having three other top-5 showings. But in true Mickelson form, he has also missed the cut in three other starts. And so it goes for Phil, like always. Which Phil will show up ' miss-the-cut Phil or battling-for-the-lead Phil? Hes gone 1-2 in his last two starts, but with Augusta just around the corner, his mind might be elsewhere.
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia is hoping to be in the hunt come Sunday. (WireImage)
Sergio Garcia
Much has been made about the 26-year-old Spaniards inability to score well in final rounds of events and here at this event is no different. In his seven starts at Bay Hill, Garcia has four top-10 finishes, including a T-10 last year. But, as stated above, his fourth-round scoring average is a glaring problem. He was tied for sixth heading into Sunday in 06 but posted a 1-over 73 and never threatened. He trailed Tiger by one in 2001 and closing 74 dropped him to fourth.
Geoff Ogilvy
It will be interesting to see how the new and improved Ogilvy will play at Arnies event this year. He has teed it up five times previously at Bay Hill with his best showing a T-26 that came last season. He has since won the U.S. Open and has now climbed to seventh in the world. Ogilvy played well at the Sony Open in Hawaii at the start of the season and made it to his second straight WGC-Match Play final before falling to Henrik Stenson.
Vijay Singh
Mostly, Vijay is about winning. But in his 14 starts at Bay Hill he has yet to visit the winners circle. He has come close, though, several times ' three to be exact ' with runner-up finishes. The most recent was two years ago when he fell to champion Kenny Perry by two strokes. Singh is having a curious year thus far in 2007; he opened with a victory in Maui, but has since dropped to ninth in the world rankings.
But beware big dogs, as the past three weeks the PGA TOUR has seen winners come from outside the top-50 in the world rankings. Here's four others, inside and outside the top 50, to keep an eye on:
Charles Howell III
Howell looks to be simply coming into his own - finally. Standing atop the FedEx Cup point standings, Chucky 3-Sticks closed with a 65 on a tough course at Innisbrook Resort to finish sixth last week. Add a win and two other runner-ups in '07, and the Augusta native is licking his chops on his way to the Masters.
Lucas Glover
The star-in-the-making Glover held the 36-hole lead last year in Orlando before an awful weekend left in a tie for 17th. His back-to-back 67s in the first two rounds shows promise. Better yet? He finished fourth last week in Tampa, just two back of Calcavecchia.
Zach Johnson
Johnson had a decent result at the PODS Championship with a 14th-place finish and could parlay that new found confidence coming back to Arnie's place. In three starts, Johnson has two top-10s - a T-6 and a T-8 in '04 and '05, respectively.
Greg Owen
We all know what happened to Owen last year on the 17th green - two-shot lead vanished following a sickening three-putt double bogey. How will he try to cope with those demons upon his return to Bay Hill? So far this season, in six starts he has five missed cuts. But the ray of hope? A T-4 at Pebble Beach.
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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.