Tiger Looks to Rebound at Doral

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipMIAMI -- Like death and taxes, Tiger Woods' status as a weekly favorite is certain. Especially this week, at a tournament series and course where he's seen little failure - Doral Golf Resort and Spa and the WGC-CA Championship.
For Woods, Miami and the World Golf Championships have been muy bueno.
Tiger Woods
Tiger has won the last two times he has teed it up at Doral. (WireImage)
The world's No. 1 player has won the last two events at Doral, the Ford Championship, at a combined score of 44 under par -- but only by one shot each time.
He has won 12 of his 23 WGC starts since the series began in 1999, including five CA Championships (previously the American Express Championship). And he's done it all over the world, in places like Spain, Ireland and England.
In a word, Woods' prospect of a good finish this week is simply: guaranteed.
Doral will be hosting a WGC event for the first time, and like the first three legs of the PGA TOUR's early Florida swing, measures have been taken to make the course harder.
Renovated greens on the Blue Course should play faster, and longer rough should make it harder to reach them.
Last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the world's best golfers lost countless shots to Bay Hill's long rough, with Sunday's final round producing the highest average score on the PGA TOUR this season.
Not that we should be expecting this week's winner to score as low as Vijay Singh (minus-8) did in claiming Palmer's event on Sunday. At this event, the winning score hasn't been lower than 17-under since 2000, when Mike Weir won the AmEx at 11 under.
To draw the best players from professional tours around the world, the CA Championship uses specific criteria.
Those eligible include: players finishing at the top of the money list on their home tours; the top 30 players from the 2006 PGA TOUR money list; the top 20 from the 2006 European Tour Order of Merit; and top players from the Japan Golf Tour, Australasian Tour, Sunshine (South Africa) Tour and Asian Tour.
This year, players could qualify through the FedEx Cup standings, as well.
The CA Championship is a co-sanctioned event and part of the official PGA TOUR schedule.
The GOLF CHANNEL will have coverage of the first two rounds, before handing off to NBC for the weekend.
A run down on the players who are, of course, on the hot list:
Tiger Woods
Along with the above-mentioned, mind-boggling stats for Tiger at this venue and in this event, he will also bring something else to the table this week - complete focus. Not that he rarely gets away from that, but coming off a horrendous finish at Bay Hill and the fact that this will be his final tune-up before the Masters, you can see why he will be hitting on all cylinders at Doral.
Jim Furyk
Although he withdrew from Arnie's event in Orlando due to a lingering wrist injury, world No. 2 Furyk assured everyone that is was more precautionary than anything. Mr. Top-10 is back at a place where he as performed rather well over the last half-dozen seasons, which includes his win in 2000. His last six trips to Doral have produced four top-10s and a runner-up in a playoff.
David Toms
David was a runner-up last year at Doral. (WireImage)
David Toms
Much like his personality, it's been another quiet, but good year for the LSU grad Toms. He has posted three straight top-5s at Doral including a runner-up in '06. Currently hovering around the top-10 in scoring average on the PGA TOUR, Doral is a place where scoring is at a premium - in the last seven events at Doral, 17 under is the highest winning final score.
Vijay Singh
Just like prior to last week's event at Bay Hill, Singh has built an impressive resume at a course yet has been unable to get into the winner's circle. At Doral, Vijay has five top-5 finishe, three of which have come in his last four attempts. The first two-time winner on the PGA TOUR this season, the 44-year-old Fijian has plenty of confidence coming in and a top-10 is almost assured.
Ernie Els
The Big Easy hasn't played much on the PGA TOUR this year but has told the world of his plan to someday soon overtake the No. 1 spot in the world. First things first: try and win a tournament. As a former winner at Doral, he would do well to call on memories of his 2002 victory over, you guessed it, Tiger.
Here's another four-pack of players to watch for at the Blue Monster:
Camilo Villegas
Young and brash with the clothes to match, the Columbian-born Villegas has quickly racked up three runner-up finishes in his yet still young career on the PGA TOUR, including at Doral last season. This was his break-out event in his rookie season of '06.
John Rollins
The 31-year-old Rollins has played poorly in his only two starts at Doral, but this is a new year. This season, Rollins is on a roll - two runner-ups and another top-5 have him fourth in both the FedExCup point standings as well as the TOUR money list.
David Howell
With Doral thought of as a bomber's paradise, England's Howell should feel right at home. Currently ranked fifth in driving distance, Howell had a respectable 12th-place finsh last year at Doral.
Phil Mickelson
He sneaks in down here because of the way he both finished at Bay Hill and because of the legendary showdown here with Tiger two years ago. At Bay Hill, Lefty did himself and his fans no favor by closing with a double bogey for a tie for 36th. But, his second-place showing here in'05 is something he will draw on this week.
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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.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.


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    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.